Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triomphe

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for Nov 6, Mt 24

Today's reading is Mt 24. Tomorrow's is Mt 25.

In this chapter Jesus relates prophecies as to what will happen after His death. In short, the temple will be ruined, judgment will come upon all the nations then He will return.
The disciples seem to think all these things will happen simultaneously. Jesus makes it clear they are mistaken. 

First, in Mt 23:4-14, we see signs that will characterize life in what will be known as the church age, the age that will commence immediately after the temple is destroyed. Jesus depicts the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem and the razing of the temple in Mt 24:15-29. Then we see an allusion to a period of great tribulation (Mt 24:21-28). After that time of tribulation, we see the return of Christ prophesied in Mt 24:29-31.  

After telling them about the signs that will occur prior to His return, Jesus says, quite clearly, that "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Mt 24:34). "This generation" refers to the men standing in front of Him, their generation. If this is true, once the signs are completed, it will leave them waiting for Him to return. This is why they thought everything would happen at the same time. Jesus never tells them how long it will be until He returns. He simply states that He will return sometime after the signs are completed. They assume it will all happen in quick order.  

Knowing all the signs have been fulfilled allows every generation to eagerly await His imminent return. We don't have to see all the signs again in order for Him to come back. That means no modern day event indicates the day is nearer or farther away. 

This has been difficult to accept for those who believe we're still waiting for the sign to appear. Oddly, the disciples mistakenly thought everything would happen in the near-future while many others mistakenly thought it would all occur in the far-future. The truth of the matter is that most of it happened back then in the first century. Now, we await His return. Still, there are those who believe Jesus can't come back until some significant events take place. 

For instance, some believe that the return of Israel as a nation in 1948 was a sign marking the beginning of the end. Those folks claim the final generation began in 1948. But to the Jews of the first century, when the text was written, a generation was 40 years. 1948 was nearly seventy years ago. The generation that saw Israel made new has already passed, according to tradition. Yet, the end has not occurred. 

Either Jesus was wrong about His time frame--or there is a human misunderstanding about the prophecy. We know Jesus was not only right but perfectly accurate. The only available option to those of us who believe in the inspired word of the Bible is to assume we have misread or misapplied the passage. Since the generation passed, 1948 must not have been the last generation. For this reason and others, we should be cautious about how much spiritual value we place on modern Israel. 

There are all manner of books and articles written on analyzing the times and predicting the end. Yet, Scripture tells us it will happen in the "twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor 15:52) and when the people cry "Peace and safety!" (1 Thes 5:3), coming "like a thief in the night." (1 Thes 5:2). This should keep the body in high anticipation of His imminent return. 

There is no scenario that should cause us to think it could not happen in the next moment. Yet, we hear things such as "The Temple has to be rebuilt!" Or, "We haven't seen the two witnesses of Rev 11:3 yet so it can't happen until they appear and get killed like in Left Behind." The identities and timing of the two prophets or "olive trees" as they are described in Rev 11:4 is so vague it would be a mistake to think their appearance or lack thereof trumps Christ's imminent return. 


BTW, speaking of "Left Behind," a book very loosely based on Mt 24:40, the ones "left behind" in Mt 24:40-41 are the blessed ones. This verse is closely tied to Mt 24:38-39, where all the wicked get "swept away" in the flood. In this scenario, we actually want to be left behind! The evil ones are the ones who are taken away. The entire series of novels is based on a misreading of the text. 

We should be careful of which resources we use to influence our theology. We should be equally careful not to read into a passage our preconceptions. It is upon us to conform our thinking to the Scriptures, not the Scriptures to our thinking. 

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