Monday, August 14, 2006

Thoughts on the Return of Christ, Part I

Not because I wanted to get into this stuff, but because I'm committed to preaching them as they come, we've been looking at Matthew 24 these last two weeks.

By way of review. . .

The first week, we asked the question, "Could Christ come at any moment?"

Matthew 24 mentions three things that must happen before the return of Jesus:

  1. Birth Pangs (3-14)
  2. The Abomination of Desolation (15-20)
  3. A Great Tribulation (21-22)
The question is which, if any, of these things have happened and does it matter?

It matters . . . because of the difficulty raised by Matthew 24:34:

Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Jesus is emphatic here with this "Truly, I say to you. . . " He's making a point, but what is it?

I layed out three views held by Biblical Christians today:
  1. None of these things have taken place.
  2. Some of these things have taken place.
  3. All of these things have taken place and are continuing to take place. (yes, even "a great tribulation!")
In views 1 and 2, "generation" in 24:34 is understood to mean "race of Jews" or "last generation living when these things start to happen."

The upshot of views 1 and 2 is that the coming of Christ described in Matthew 24 could not come at any moment because these things must happen first, which kind of pulls the punch on Jesus' instructions to be alert and ready in v. 36 and following.

Those who subscribe to view #1, believe that a rapture of the church, which is not mentioned in Matthew 24, makes Jesus instructions to alertness and readiness still relevant. But it seems crazy that since the disciples are asking about the unfolding of the end times in v. 3 that Jesus wouldn't tell them about the rapture. Isn't this a bit misleading?

But according to view #3, all these things really did take place in the generation of the disciples around the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 66-70 AND they are continuing to take place throughout the church age. Jesus, then, is describing the general characteristics of the church age between His comings. The upshot of view #3 is is that 24:34 is straightforwardly fulfilled and Jesus might return at any moment. We are living in the last days.

Do you see the rub? Do you sense the tension? Do you see the implications? Which view do you hold?

I've held all three views at one time or another in my Chrsitian walk and study of the Scriptures. Shockingly. . . at present, I lean toward and loosely hold to view #3 for the following reasons:
  1. It’s the most natural reading of the text in its original historical and cultural context. Jesus means what He says. We take Jesus' words as his disciples would have heard them. We don’t have to reengineer or explain away the word “generation” to fit our interpretation.

  2. View #3 supports the NT teaching that Christ could indeed come again at any moment. This seems to fit with the text that immediately follows where the exhortation is “be on the alert for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” We really should be alert. (I believe that views #1 and #2 undermine our need for alertness.)

  3. View #3 explains the Apostolic expectation that preserves the reliability of Scripture. The Apostles, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, expressed their belief that it was "the end of all things was near" (I Peter 4:7). . . that it was the last hour (1 John 2:18). . . and that the coming of the Lord was near (James 5:7 & 8). It was. . . then and now because all that needed to happen before Jesus comes again has happened. They were near then. We are nearer now.
So, this is a brief summary of August 6. If you missed it, you can listen online.

I've received a bunch of emails and I'll share some of the questions and responses in future posts, but first I'll summaraze August 13 in the next post.

In the meantime, you can tee off in the comments section. . . . let's be charitable and humble with one another since these are non-essentials.


GDL Wong said...

Hmmmm..was wondering when you were going to get to this subject - especially in light of what's going on in Israel Tim!

Glad the Lord is keeping his people up on the times!

Seven Star Hand said...

Understanding the Fatal Flaws in Judeo-Christian-Islamic Prophecy

Hello Tim and all,

As certain world leaders strive to instigate a fabricated "battle of Armageddon," it is vital to understand and spread the truth about these ancient texts to help bring about an end to such abominable evil.

You can never expect philosophies based on lies and great error to lead to peace and harmony. How many more millennia of terrible proof is necessary before humanity finally gets a clue that most have been utterly deceived by the very concept of religion.

Remember the saying that "the truth will set you (and others) free?" How does "opening one's eyes to the truth" relate to "making the blind see again" or "shining the light" or "illuminating a subject?" Notice the inherent symbolism associated with this supposed New Testament "miracle?"

Pay close attention, profundity knocks at the door, listen for the key. Be Aware! Scoffing causes blindness...

Here's the key to proving that the rapture and related expectations are complete nonsense based on the failure to understand (and the purposeful confounding of) the ancient Hebrew symbology used to construct all of these prophecies. Consequently, Christian timelines and interpretations of these prophecies are verifiably wrong on many key points.

Did you ever consider that Christianity is the False Prophet symbolized in the Apocalypse, that Rome (Vatican/Papacy) is the so-called anti-messiah, and Jesus Christ is the false messiah? I have produced stunning and comprehensive proof that this is the true interpretation of pivotal prophecies long confounded by Christianity's founders and leaders. Recasting the symbolism of earlier Hebrew texts as literal events in the New Testament is one of the central deceptions associated with Christianity.

The symbolism of seven years (tribulation, etc.) refers to seven 360-year cycles on the Hebrew calendar. Ezekiel 39.9 is referring to the 10th to 16th cycles inclusive, while the Apocalypse symbolizes the 11th cycle (second temple period) until now, the beginning of the 17th cycle (seventh angel/star/seal, etc.). Greece (Alexander the Great) conquered the Persian Empire and Judea during the 10th cycle and Rome did so again during the 11th cycle. Both Ezekiel and the Apocalypse are symbolizing an overlapping period of time that starts during ancient Judea and ends now. Gog refers to Greco-Romans (...from the "isles"), which means Magog is Eurasia and the "army" that besets "Israel" for seven "years" refers to the activities of the nations of the Greco-Roman/Vatican Empire over the previous two-plus millennia.

It is completely wrong to interpret any of these prophecies as literal timelines and events. Unlike Christian assertions, they symbolize long periods of time, pivotal situations, and the flow of activities during that period. Remember, they were written by ancient Hebrew sages, not Romans or other Europeans, and Revelation is the most symbolic of all prophecies. Consequently, in this context, "years" and "times" are symbols for 360-year cycles on the Hebrew calendar and days symbolize literal years. Therefore "Judgement Day," "Great Day" and "in that day" all refer to a year-long period. Accordingly, the so-called "Seven Years Tribulation" began in ancient Judea and is now nearing its end, not starting. The nations and followers of all three faiths of Abraham have been thoroughly deceived by Rome during the previous age, which ended in year 2000 (5760). A new age began in 2001 (5761) and now the seventh angel has begun to sound!

Read the full article below:

Here is Wisdom