- Religion and Philosophy
Christ's Return is Imminent
Much of what the institutional church teaches incorporates the idea that the time of the return of Christ is unknowable and that the church will be raptured away either at the beginning of the Great Tribulation or in the middle of it. The significance of which suggests that whenever Christ does return, the Christians have assurances that they will avoid most if not all the calamity to follow. This is exactly what Christ predicted would happen.
He suggested that leading up to his return it will be as it was in the days of Noah. People will be eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage - essentially giving a summary of what is required for the survival and thriving of humanity - and this is exactly what the people in Noah's day were participating in - the business of being human and a race of humans. What could be wrong with that? Well except for this one little part he left out - there was a flood coming and they were given 120 years to prepare for it. But they did not. Only one family built a boat and they spent 100 years doing it. The rest of humanity got "Ginoskoed" as I like to say - well that and it is also what the scriptures suggest. That word just has that special ring to it that captures the intensity of what is being described - I will explain what it means when I unpack the text.
The point Christ was making was that as his return approaches, it will be as in the days of Noah - nobody will be preparing for what is coming. Ironically, when I ask people if they are preparing for the return of Christ, they have no idea how to prepare, much less that they should prepare. Jesus gives one instruction on how to prepare for his return and I have never heard it spoken of in the church in all my fifty plus years. Tragically millions of people may again get "Ginoskoed" as a result.
The great unknown in this is to know when to begin preparing. Did Jesus expect us to be preparing in the way he suggested for the past 2000 years. Some have suggested that to be the case - especially those that interpret our preparation in a spiritual sense - being spiritually prepared for the return of Christ in other words. But that is not what the passage indicates in this regard. Not so much as even a hint of it in that regard.
This brings us to the impasse of the ages - the forbidden fruit of eschatology - knowing the day and hour of Christ's return. Now I could just use the logic that many do and suggest - that maybe we can know the year or the month, if not the day or the hour. No, that just seems to side step the issue. I think it is time to expose the fallacy of the assumptions incorporated into this type of thinking. In fact it might save your life.
This is a huge subject to attempt to resolve in one hub. NT Wright would demand several thousand pages to unpack it to his satisfaction in a book format. Fortunately, I am not as hard to please, so a hub just might do. I will try to be brief but thorough, however I can assume you will have many unanswered questions - but may I suggest that you pursue them with all haste - time is short.
And De-Bate Goes On and On And On
For those who have hung around the institution we call church for any length of time, we soon discover there are some subjects that bring that special kind of intensity with them. You know the ones. While most are busy trying to defend, support, and argue their position in these discussions, very little time is given to understanding the text. In fact if there is a lot of debate over a subject or the subject is unresolved and forces people to take a position on one side or another, you can be sure that there is a misunderstanding issue underlying it.
Case in point Ephesians 1 - lots of debate and misunderstanding - people forced to take sides on the issue - a few of them are called Armenianism, Calvinism, and Universalism. In the end all are pagan and argue on a flat earth type premise - tragically they all paint God out to be a monster and the world is left saying to us - "you want me to believe what about a loving God?" But no matter, we are off and running defending and promoting our flat earth theology position.
Matthew 24 is another such passage, especially for those who spend a lot of time in prophetic arenas. Matthew 24 is a lot like Ephesians 1 - one of those dreaded passages pastors hate getting questions on because they know where it can lead - will lead. In fact if they see you coming they are quickly looking at their options in the "how do I avoid this conversation" booklet.
In many cases the issues with these passages are simple to clear up, but we have built so much on the wrong premise, it is difficult to go back and undo it, not to mention all the effort involved. Fear not for behold I have done it for thee - yeah right. In all seriousness though, I do believe there are some simple things to understand regarding Matthew 24 that will help us understand what the passage is suggesting. If you want to fit that into whatever belief system you already have - go for it. However, you might be surprised how much of it just dissolves away.
The context of the chapter puts Jesus and his disciples visiting the temple and the disciples showing Jesus around. I just love that picture - showing God around the temple. It brings a smile to my face. In the midst of the trainees temple tour, Jesus suggests something outrageous:
"See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."
Well that puts some new mojo onto the event. Hello! Awkward! It was just a tour. Maybe even a three hour tour. Talk about a shipwreck. It's like watching a nice feel good movie and all of a sudden a horror flick breaks out. What this temple - the foundation of Jewish culture and religious practices - our identity - gone - not one stone unturned - not even a foundation left - our foundation for everything - what is a Jew to do with that?
It seems some time passed before the disciples recovered their senses regarding what Jesus suggested. Imagine that conversation among themselves. As Jesus sat down to rest for a moment the disciples approached him and they asked him three questions which they thought were related to what he had said.
1. Tell us, when shall these things be? (referring to what he said regarding the temple earlier)
2. What shall be the sign of thy coming?
3. What shall be the sign of the end of the age?
In order to properly understand the rest of Matthew 24 we must understand that Jesus answers these questions in the order they were given.
And What Do We Have Behind Question Number One
We know from history the fulfillment of question one happened before or during 70AD, which includes all the things Jesus suggests to the disciples in answering their question and what he said regarding the temple earlier, which prompted the question. Here is the passage that answer their first question:
" And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:"
It is very important to understand this in its context. I come from a family of multiple generations of missionaries - what you might even call pioneer missionaries. Now I know many missionary organizations which take a verse like "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" and apply that to this present age - the verse was not written in that context. What the verse suggests is that the gospel would spread to the entire region - not the entire world - and it did - mission accomplished - when it was, the temple was destroyed and every stone over turned in it. I realize this is a hard pill to swallow for many, especially those who have devoted themselves to take the gospel to the entire world. This does not diminish your efforts in any way - it just is not the context here - I am not trying to rain on anyones parade - in fact my desire is to see millions of people who will begin preparing for the return of Christ so they and others don't get "Ginoskoed." i could spend a lot more time here but the the main focus of the hub is what comes later in the text.
I do want to address one other thing before I go to the next question. Jesus suggests that the fulfillment of this first question related to what he suggests about the temple will be the beginning of a new era or context of life - here are the verses:
"For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened."
The text might be better translated "For then shall begin great tribulation." In other words, the 70 AD events marks the beginning and it will continue until the coming of the son of man and the end of the age - following this - during the millennium, things will never get as bad as they will from 70AD forward to the coming of Christ. He even suggests that the days leading up to his return will be shortened or the possibility exists that nobody would survive.
I think we have little understanding of what is coming - what is upon us - the stage is set - the actors in place - things are about to get way more real than we could ever imagine and yet most are eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage and not preparing. Not being alarmist here - it is just the way things are as Jesus suggested they would be - in that I am suggesting we prepare as Jesus also suggested. We don't have to live in fear, but we do have to be engaged - be about the Father's business - being prepared as Christ suggests is one of those things.
The Feast invites people to engage in conversation regarding the return of Christ, feel free to post your comments below and we would love to hear feedback.
Let The Signs And Wonders Begin
The next question Jesus answers in the text is in regard to the coming of the son of man - the disciples second question. Here is what the text says:
"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
Again I will only take the time to highlight a few things here. First up is the great signs and wonders show that permeates Christianity today. The description here describes false prophets and false Christ's who may have the best motives in mind and what they believe to be beneficial for people. In fact the same word "didomi" in the Greek - translated "show" in the text here - is also used in Epheions 4 regarding what God did for the benefit of the Body of Christ. There the word is translated "given" as in "unto every one of us is given grace" as well as "gave" as in "and gave gifts unto men," or "he gave some." In other words these are well meaning folks, but what they are teaching is false. The text also suggests what they will be offering - signs and wonders - this is not a reference to two separate things but two separate aspects of the same thing. These folks will offer people what we might describe as miraculous looking events (signs), but also memorable and not soon forgotten (wonders). Ultimately the real issue is not so much the signs and wonders, but what they are teaching. The signs and wonders will emerge because of what they are teaching. In other words if it is not the overflowing life God offers they will have to figure out ways to keep people coming back for more. Whatever substitutes you offer, they will always require more and more work and effort to keep them going.
There is another interesting Greek word in the text translated "secret chambers" which actually captures the two distinctions of the word - it depicts place and type. First in terms of place it is used in texts to describe things from small closets to large warehouse or storage facilities. It also suggests a type of facility that can be dark, personal, or private.
Now I will allow you to decide what churches you might want to apply them to - I lean toward almost all of them. Much of our worship centers fit these basic criteria - all seem to be attempting to offer a memorable and personal experience no matter what the size might be. But for me this is not the issue - these are signs that result because of the issue that exists - the important real issue that effects us.
Notice the context of the verse - Jesus suggests that people will suggest "if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not" - he even repeats the issue in the text "Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not." Why would he say this? The bible suggests we seek the kingdom of heaven - first. Jesus suggests that those that seek him will find him - what gives?
What is at stake is the gospel - Christ is in all - in each person - in him we live and move and have our being - he is in and through all things - when he died, we died, when he rose we rose, when he ascended, we ascended - this includes all humanity or it includes none. To suggest that one needs to go here or there to discover God is pagan. To suggest that a non-relational institution - and all institutions are by nature not relational - can offer you an encounter with God is pagan - God is in you - the encounter has already taken place - this is the new life we walk in and participate in. Churches are suggesting to people to come to them for a God experience - that is paganism.
Many will suggest that what I am suggesting above has its roots in Universalism, but that makes assumptions based upon a flat earth theology the church incorporated 1700 years ago - meaning we have built our theology on a false premise - Universalism paints God as a monster and it needs to go away. But that is a topic for another day.
The key issue to understand is that Christ is in you - where ever you show up he shows up - it is Christ who lives in us and it is his life that he has given you and that resides in you that we participate in. You do not have to look any farther than the mirror to see this. As Paul suggests:
"For we all now with eyes wide open, behold once again, as one looking into a mirror, the glory of God in the glory of our original creation in the image and likeness of God, but now also in the glory of our inclusion in the uncreated spirit life of God through Christ." (2 Cor. 3:18)
The institution we call church deceives you when it suggests that you come to them to experience God - to see God show up - to have an encounter with God - or any number of ways churches want to put it. In some denominations they even have things called "the blessing" or "the anointing" - people and church leaders traveling the world to find it, see it and get some of it. Let's consider ceasing from all the God-chasing and enter his rest - the rest which he invites you to - the eternal rest that God entered into on the seventh day of creation and never ceased from it. It is this life of peace that Paul discovered that sent him racing around the Roman empire in order to get the word out. Don't allow yourself to be deceived. Know and believe and participate in the reality that Christ is in you - he is your hope of face to face relationship with the Father in heaven as Jesus now enjoys - the first human to experience a face to face relationship with God. There is nothing wrong with signs and wonders and coming together to celebrate what we have in Jesus - the theatrics gets a little old, but Jesus himself participated in these things and encouraged them, but not to put people in bondage to institutions like the church as dispensers of God - but to set people free to live in the reality of Christ in them - we no longer seek God out there some where - we now seek ways in which to participate with him out there, knowing he is already in here - in me - in you - in all.
Today's Forecast: To Dark To Tell
There is one more thing to address regarding the second question and the coming of the Son of man - I will leave the issue of eagles gathering at carcasses for another hub. But the issue that remains is a sequence of events described in the later portion of the passage - here is how it breaks down:
1. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days"
2. "Shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:"
3. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven:"
4. "And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn
5. "and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
Now I did not get all hyped about the whole 2012 thing that many people participated in hyping, but 2012 is not a bad marker for the transition from the first point made above. We have good historical astronomical evidence of cycles that link the stars and the heavens to this time frame. It is not inappropriate to consider this since the scriptures suggest the stars, Sun, and Moon were given as signs, seasons, and calendaring.
The point is immediately following a time of tribulation, something happens - number two above - Interestingly this is happening right before our eyes. Are the events I am going to describe what is suggested in the text - or will there be another - that will be left for you to decide - however the timeline to Christ's return is short as you will discover later in this hub. Here are the events broken down for you from number 2 above:
1. The stars shall fall from heaven: Comet Ison discovered Sept. 21, 2012 - also the Chelyabinsk meteor lands in Russia Feb 15, 2013 - as well many other large meteors have been sighted and filmed recently.
2. The powers of the heavens shaken: Comet Ison disintegrates as it rounds the Sun on Nov 28, 2013
3. The Sun shall be darkened: two solar eclipses will occur on Jewish holidays - one full and one partial - the dates are - Mar 20, 2015 and Sept 13, 2015
4. The Moon shall not give its light: four full lunar eclipses will occur or have occurred on Jewish holidays - the dates are: April 15, 2014, Oct. 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and Sept 28, 2015.
So in the space of 3 years and 7 days all these events will occur - in biblical terms that qualifies for "immediately after." The next thing to look for is the appearing of the sign of the son of man in the heavens. I have no idea what this might be, but if you recall when Jesus came the first time there was a sign that appeared in the sky as well - we will have to wait and see.
It's Time To think Differently
The Forbidden Fruit Of Eschatology
Yes that nagging fruit. If preparation for the return of Christ is what Christ suggests, then it makes sense that some type of time frame would be appropriate or forthcoming. Yet that declaration by Jesus that no man knows the day or hour of his return, that must be addressed - not only that, but only the father seems to know is the implication of the text. let me deal with the Father issue first. The word "only" included in the text is really important as it turns out. If it were not there we would have further questions - like where does the Holy Spirit fit in? Why wouldn't or couldn't he know as well. That little word "only" changes the context - what the text suggests is the Father is the only one who concerns himself with it - Christ who did not know at the time realizing also he and the Holy Spirit had other things on their mind and on their plate.
The harder issue that seems to be before us is this idea that no one can know the day or the hour, but somehow we are to prepare any way. Now 2000 years later that seems pretty unreasonable - even in the flood story they were told the flood would come in 120 years.
The issue is quite simple as it turns out - in fact a Greek student in his first year of study and his second day of class could expect to have the tools needed to resolve the issue. The word "know" in the the verse in question is in the present indicative active form and has a meaning of having knowledge of something – learned, taught, or by intuition even (common sense if you will). This is "eido" knowledge. The present indicative active form suggests to us then that while the person is speaking the words no one knows (has eido knowledge) when Christ will return - however more information may come available so that we can know when Christ will return -making the statement no longer true - it was true when Christ said it, but it may not be true later as more information comes available.
So the next question is to ask is - if the possibility exists that we can know is there more information available now that allows us to know when Christ will return or at least narrow it down a little. In fact that is exactly what Jesus includes in the text - more information that would come available - signs as they are sometimes called.
At this point it is important to understand that there are two different Greek words in the text translated "know" I already mentioned "eido" - and have actually mentioned both. The other word used in the text and translated "know" is "ginosko" which means to know by experience. It can refer to a process of beginning to know something by experience or in a completed sense of knowing by experience. You may recall I mentioned this word at the beginning of the hub. One more consideration regarding the text is the way the word "watch" is used - it implies "eido readiness." All these things are important to understanding the text and what Christ is suggesting to us. Here is the text that that answers the question "what will be the sign of the end of the age? I have broken it up into four paragraphs and will comment on each paragraph as I go along:
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
A fig tree when it begins to branch out in spring will put out leaves along with buds and flowers which will become figs in time for the summer harvest. So in the context we see two things introduced - the spring sprouting of leaves and buds that become fruit ready for summer harvest.
In the Old Testament the fig tree is frequently associated with Israel. It was part of a phrase referring to the promised land - "every man under his vine and under his fig tree" or drinking and eating from them. It specifically identified them with the promised land. The fig tree put out its leaves in 1948. Over the next three and a half years the buds and flowering continued as over 600,000 Jews returned to Israel between 1948 and 1952. - the leaving and budding has begun - 1948 marks the spot. The summer draweth nigh.
This brings us to the last part of the paragraph that suggests the generation that is alive to see this will not pass away until all is fulfilled - the end of the age and return of Christ in other words. So how long is a generation? Lots of suggestions have been made here, but Psalm 90:10 seems to be the most straight forward answer in the scriptures regarding a generation - it says:
"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."
In other words a generation is 70 years and 80 to the strong. In calculating this out then - Christ suggests that he will return sometime after 1948 and sometime before 2029. This is as specific as this passage will get in determining a time frame of Christ's return. From other passages and the events and signs unfolding the scripture points to 2027 as the year of Christ's return. I do not have the space to develop that here, but will post a hub specifically regarding what the scripture suggests in this regard. Other passages actually reveal the day as well which I will include in the hub describing the year as 2027. However, for the purpose of preparing for Christ's return we have enough information here in Matthew 24. We have the when to prepare and the how to prepare - that is what will keep us from getting "ginoskoed" as they did in the days of Noah - however there is not much time left.
But of that day and hour knoweth (eido) no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew (ginosko) not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
I have already covered most of this but just to note the "eido' knowing - in terms of not having the knowledge at the moment, compared to the "ginosko" knowing that came when they experienced the flood itself. Those in Noah's day were given "eido" knowledge a flood was coming and chose not to prepare and they were "ginoskoed' - reality struck. In the context we have been given "eido" knowledge in the form of a sign to watch for (the fig tree) and when we "ginosko" experience it we will then gain further 'eido" knowledge that indicates when Christ will return. Christ even uses an example in the next paragraph to illustrate what I am describing here.
Watch (have "eido" readiness) therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But (we) know (have "ginosko"of) this, that if the goodman of the house had known ("eido") in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched (had "eido" readiness), and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready (have "eido" readiness): for in such an hour as ye think not (have not eido readiness)the Son of man cometh.
So let me illustrate this with a silly illustration. Let's suppose I told you that 20 minutes after I shoot a flair off the sky would fall. In other words the flair was a sign. I know it's silly, but play along. Now I just gave you "eido" knowledge that required a "ginosko" experience in order to know ("eido') exactly when the sky is falling. Thus you would watch (have "eido" readiness) using the "eido" knowledge I gave you regarding the flair (sign), so that when you had the "ginosko" experience of seeing the flair go off you could "eido" know exactly when the sky would fall.
Putting it back into the text. Christ gave us a sign in the fig tree to watch for so that when we saw it we would have a context in which to know and understand the time frame when Christ would return. In other words if you knew when a robber would break into you house you would be ready for him. Well Jesus is coming as a thief in the night and he has told us the time frame in which he will come - so watch - have "eido" readiness. the obvious question then is - How do we have "eido" readiness. This brings us to paragraph four.
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods."
The faithful and wise servant is the one who is prepared to provide his household "meat in due season." It is the only instruction Christ gives in the passage regarding preparation. The word "meat" simply means the required provisions to live and sustain yourself. That will look different for every family. There are all kinds of individual needs in this regard from medicine to equipment to food. Whatever your family needs in order to sustain themselves is the context.
The phrase "in due season" simply means "when the time presents itself." We entered into the time frame in 1948 and in that context the world could have been provided for. However with just a few years left, the world inventories and infrastructures suggest that it will be difficult at this point. At the moment we are 13 years from 2027 and should expect 5 to 10 years of increasingly worse tribulation. This may include a scarcity of food and resources.
Do not mistake this with some "prepper" idea - this is a Joseph idea. In fact I started Joseph Project 2027 last year for this specific reason. If you recall God told Joseph that a 7 year famine was coming and he had 7 years to prepare for it. Joseph stored up food so when the famine hit he could use what he had stored. We find ourselves in a similar situation. Unlike "preppers" we can specifically prepare on the basis of the information we have and the knowledge of when the crisis will end - this is a significant advantage - no supplies or food will need to go to waste - we will use up what we have stored up and will know how much we can use and how fast we can use it.
If it is as in the days of Noah millions are positioned to suffer badly. I won't give you the grim statistics of what can happen - but they don't have to suffer - they can prepare - you have the eido information needed to do so. You can share it with others. What say you? Choose wisely.