Wow! There were twice as many folks in my class tonight – 12! Let’s see … we started the first half last week with just three, then it doubled to six when more came in … if my math is right, we’ll need to meet in the 750-seat auditorium by the end of July!
We talked about being careful not to apply passages of Old Testament prophecy to Christ’s return just because they talk about “the day of the Lord.” Some of them refer only to a day of vengeance against Egypt, or Cush, or Put, or Libya or some combination thereof. Others refer only to God’s judgment against Israel and/or Judah, specifically Jerusalem – because of disobedience (like offering flawed sacrifices). And some are clearly Messianic, because Jesus or New Testament writers draw from their language.
That sets the stage for our discussion in two weeks (church picnic next week, remember?): how Christ speaks of His return as a time of judgment and calamity … but His followers – from the perspective after His death and resurrection – also add to it the dimension of hope and salvation.
I’ll just post the part of my handout for then with the quotes from Matthew and save the other quotes from Jesus for later posts:
Matthew 3:2 – In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Also Mark 1:15)
Matthew 4:17 – From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Matthew 10:7 – As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’
Yes, I know these don’t specifically refer to the return of Jesus, but to the coming of the kingdom. Bear with me. I hope to remember to tie this in to other citings later in this series! – It’s also interesting to me that there’s a progression here: John the Baptizer begins with this message; Jesus takes it up after John is arrested; then He commissions His followers to preach it.
Matthew 24:1-ff – Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now?and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect?if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.
“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
“Immediately after the distress of those days
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I think Matthew 24 has been sliced and diced to fit any and every kind of interpretation about the order in which these events fall. The trouble is, in parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21 (plus an extra teaching in Luke 17) they’re all muddled together in no particular order.
And the clincher is, in all three accounts of this Olivet Discourse (as it’s called by them what knows) He says, “… this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32)
Now we can quibble about what the word “generation” means, but what He says on the Mount of Olives seems parallel (to me) to other passages like Matthew 16:27-28:
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
See? I told you I’d try to tie them together later! There are similar passages in Mark 9:1 (“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”) and Luke 9:27 (“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”) Was He talking about His ascension? Pentecost? The obliteration of the temple and most of Jerusalem in AD 70? Or some coming of the kingdom yet to take place?
Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
And we can quibble about the word there translated “age” meaning that or “world” or “era.” But it doesn’t help. To me, the key word is “end.” The guarantee is absolute: He is with us. Surely. Always.
So does that imply that the word “parousia” is more likely to mean “presence” than “coming”?