Eschatological Discourse: Gospel Analysis
Advent 1A, Matthew 24:36-44
Advent 1B Mark 13:24-27
Advent 1C Luke 21:25-36
Pentecost 24B: Mark 13:1-8
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.
Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, pp. 255-264.
Before reading the specific gospel text for the coming sermon, it is beneficial to look at the whole section of Scripture that Aland (SYNOSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS) calls “The Eschatological Discourse.” It consists of Mark 13 and its gospel parallels of Matthew 24 and Luke 21.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
As we recall from earlier lessons, Matthew gathered not only taxes but the teachings and events of Jesus’ life. We remember that Matthew was the organizer, the systematizer, the arranger of the stories about the life of Jesus. We see how clearly Matthew organized his material into sections such as the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7, the miracles in chapters 8-9, teachings on discipleship in chapter 10, teachings about John the Baptist in chapter 11, teachings against the Pharisees in chapter 12, parables in chapter 13. Similarly in chapters 24 and 25, Matthew gathers material about the End of the World into one section.
According to Aland in his SYNOPSIS OF THE GOSPELS, there are several teaching and events in this segment. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the eight stories listed below.
Chapter 24: The Eschatological Discourse
- The prediction of the destruction of the temple.
- Signs before the End.
- Persecutions foretold.
- The Desolating Sacrilege.
- False Christs and False Prophets.
- The Coming of the Son of Man
- The time of the Coming: the Parable of the Fig Tree
- Conclusion: Take Heed, Watch
Chapter 25: Parables about the Coming which supplement the Eschatological Discourse.
- The Parable of the Flood and Exhortations to Watchfulness. (Q. Matthew and Luke.)
- The Parable of the Good Servant and Wicked Servant (Q, Matthew, Luke)
- The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew only, long story form)
- The Parable of the Talents (Q, Matthew, Luke)
- The Parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew)
There were two factors that enormously influenced the lives of early Christians:
- The destruction and leveling of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 CE and the pervasive thought that this event felt like the End of the World.
- The delay of the Second Coming. The Second Coming did not occur in the earliest disciples’ lifetime as they had erroneously thought it would. These earliest Christians had to deal with their misinterpretation of the timing of The End. Several of the teachings in Matthew 24 and the parables in Matthew 25 deal with these concerns
The early Christians struggled significantly with both of these issues. The End of the World did not come when Jerusalem was destroyed and the Second Coming of Christ did not come as early as they thought. Their personal timetable was wrong for both: for the End and for the Second Coming.
#287. PREDICTION OF THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2, Luke 21:5-6.
The following Scripture (Mark 13:1-8) is for Pentecost 24B.
Notice that the next six sections of Scripture (#287-293) have the same wording and sequence, with a few variations. There are three parallel chapters: Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21.
-As he came out of the temple, From earlier lessons, we recall that Jesus often taught in the temple. His confrontations with the Pharisees were often in the temple. Some of his greatest teaching came when he was teaching in the temple. We can easily imagine Jesus walking out of the temple after teaching there.
We recall from earlier classes about the grandeur of the temple. The following pictures are from an earlier lesson, Lesson 35, in this course. By examining the diagram below, we can clearly identify the temple area in the first century. We remember that Herod the Great rebuilt the temple. King Herod's incredible remodeling project began in about 19 BCE and continued long after his death in 4 BCE. It was finally completed in 63 CE, only seven years before the Romans came and destroyed the Temple in 70 CE.
The diagram below is a picture of Herod’s Jerusalem. A person can feel the grandeur of the city.
The picture below is a model of the temple at the Jerusalem Hotel. It is a model and not a full sized reconstruction. You can see the figures of people standing near the model in the picture below.
-One of his disciples said to him,
-‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ This grand temple was composed of large stones and other large buildings that were part of the city of Jerusalem at that time of history.
“The structures of earthly empires often are very impressive. They give the sense that they and what they represent will last forever. Visiting the great ruins of civilizations from Babylon to the Aztecs, one imagines the people must have assumed that their glory would endure forever. Humanity tends to suffer from delusions of immortality.”
“The rebuilt temple of Herod created such an impression. When the disciples praised its grandeur to Jesus (v. 5), the temple was in the midst of an eighty-three-year building program. Started about 20 B.C., it continued until A.D. 63-64, just a few years before Jerusalem's fall in A.D. 70. Assuming an A.D. 33 date for the crucifixion, the program was over fifty years old at the time the disciples marveled at it. The temple clearly made a deep impression on all who visited it. Josephus gives detailed descriptions of its beauty (Jewish Wars 1.21.1 401; 5.5.1-6 184-227; Antiquities 15.11.1-7 380-425). The Roman historian Tacitus also describes the temple as containing great riches (History 5.8.1).
Some of its stones were 12 to 60 feet in length, 7.5 feet in height and 9 feet in width (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.1-2 189-90 gives these measurements in cubits; a cubit is eighteen inches). The temple loomed over the city like a "snow clad mountain" (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.6 223). Not only was the building impressive, but it was decorated with gifts from other countries and had elegantly adorned doors and gates of fine craftsmanship (Josephus Jewish Wars 5.5.3-5 206-18).” http://www.biblegateway.com/cgi-bin/webcommentary?language=english&version=niv&book=luke&chapter=21
The Western (Wailing) Wall in the Model
“The Western (Wailing) Wall is indicated in the red box in the above photo of the Temple model wall in the center of the picture. The Wall aboveground consisted of 24 rows of stones of different dressing and age, reaching a total height of 18 m. with 6 m. above the level of the Temple Mount. In 1867 excavations revealed that 19 more rows lay buried underground, the lowest being sunk into the natural rock of the Tyropoeon Valley.
The Western (Wailing) Wall is all that remains of the Jerusalem Temple where Jesus ministered. This wall formed part of the Plaza within the Temple area. King Herod's incredible remodeling project began in 20 B.C. and continued long after his death in 4 BC. It was finally completed only seven years before the Romans came and destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.”
-Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’ Jesus had this uncanny prophetic ability to understand what was going to happen in the future. Jesus knew that he was going to die; Jesus knew that he was going to die on a cross; and Jesus also knew that Jerusalem was going to die. That is, Jesus knew what the city and temple of Jerusalem were going to be destroyed. The city and temple were destroyed in the year 70 CE.
The people living in and near Jerusalem in the year 70 CE must have thought that the End of the world was occurring in their lifetime, in that moment, in that leveling of the city of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora throughout the world. There are times in life when the warfare is so intensive and so destructive that a person thinks that this moment in time is the End of the world.
#288. SIGNS BEFORE THE END Matthew 24:3-8, Mark 13:3-8, Luke 21:7-11
-When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, The gospels identify the specific location of Jesus as he taught about the End of the world: the Mount of Olives. Jesus often went across the valley from the city of Jerusalem to the gardens of the Mount of Olives. It was a short, twenty-minute walk from the walls of Jerusalem to the olive grove. After Jesus had been teaching in the temple and came out of the temple and prophecied that the great temple would be destroyed, he then took a short walk to the Mount of Olives and continued the conversation about what was going to happen in the future.
We remember that Jesus was on the Mount of Olives on many occasions.
- The Mount of Olives was the location of the village of Bethany and the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
- The Mount of Olives was where Jesus “camped overnight” after his debates with the religious authorities in the temple.
- The Mount of Olives was Jesus’ point of departure for the Palm Sunday Parade. .
- The Mount of Olives was where Jesus taught his disciples about the End of the world.
- The Mount of Olives was the location of the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and was arrested.
- The Mount of Olives was the place of his resurrection appearance in the Gospel of Matthew.
- The Mount of Olives was where Jesus left this earth and began to ascent into heaven.
At the conclusion of Jesus’ teaching about the End of the world in the Gospel of Luke, 21:37-38, it says, “Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple.”
-Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, The other disciples were not present. Peter, James and John were there and we have seen the “big three” at other significant occasions. Andrew was also present for this conversation. We recall that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. James and John were the “hothead” sons of thunder and children of Zebedee and Salome who was mother Mary’s sister. So James and John were first cousins of Jesus. These four men were the first four names in the list of the original twelve disciples. We see the “big three” disciples at other special moments in Jesus’ life such as the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane (which was on the Mount of Olives).
-‘Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?’ When will this be? What is the antecedent of “this?” Is it the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem? Is it the End of the world? Is it both?
-What will be the sign of your coming and of the close the age? (Matthew only). Write down, “the second coming.” The second coming of Christ will usher in the close of history. The Gospel of Matthew makes explicit what is implicit in the other gospels: the second coming.
-Then Jesus began to say to them, Jesus began teaching about the End times. Mark 13 and its gospel parallels are called “the little apocalypse.” Mark 13 is known as the ‘little apocalypse” and the Book of Revelation is known as the “big apocalypse.”
Think of a pan of water with a lid on it, and the pan of water is sitting on an oven. The word, “apo” means lid; “calypse” means off. The Greek word means, “off with the lid” in order that you can see into the pan and see what is in the pan. In Mark 13, Jesus was taking off the “lid” to the future so his disciples could see inside the future and what the future was going to bring.
-‘Beware that no one leads you astray. Underline this. Highlight it. Circle it. Throughout history, there have always been “false teachers” who thought that they knew the end of the world was coming in their lifetime and or shortly thereafter.
Notice the exact parallels in certain sentences in all three gospels. It is clear that someone is copying from someone. Gradually, it has been learned the Mark is the earliest source. Sometimes Matthew and Luke copy “word for word” from Mark. You can see the “word for word” copying both in English and in Greek. Sometimes Matthew and Luke do not copy “word for word” but copy a precise sequence of thought. We find this process (of copying a sequence of thought) in this section from Mark 13 and its parallels. If Matthew copies 90% of Mark and if Luke copies 50% of Mark, this is one section that Matthew and Luke are both copying from Mark.
A contemporary example of being led astray was Hal Lindsey in the early 1970s. In the early 1970s, Hal Lindsey was the most popular “fanatic” on the globe. Lindsey was a tugboat captain from New Orleans who attended Dallas Theological Seminary. He wrote the book, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH in 1971. It was THE rage of that era, as I distinctly recall. That book sold over 28 million copies and was made into a movie narrated by Orson Welles. THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH interpreted the Book of Revelation as pre-written history from twenty centuries ago, that the Book of Revelation and the Bible specifically prophecied about Lindsey’s time in history. The beginning of the End began on May 14, 1948, when the land of Israel was officially established. By reading closely and carefully the Book of Revelation and other similar prophecies in the Bible such as in Mark 13, Lindsey and similar “fanatics” thought that the End was coming soon, that there would be a final battle of Armegeddon fought in the Middle East between Russia and Western Europe, that Russia was “Gog and Magog,” that the ten horns in the Book of Revelation represented the ten nations of the common market of Western Europe, etc. He also thought the swarms of 30 million Chinese soldiers swarming the Middle East was prophecied in the Book of Revelation. The book, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, was the rage in the 1970s, and people actually thought the contents of that book were true, that it was an accurate interpretation of the Book of Revelation and other similar prophecies. The popularity of the book, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, was so great that you could not say a word against it, without offending the enormous horde of true believers who believed Lindsey’s interpretation of the End Times.
Just because a religious book sells millions of copies, that does not mean the contents of that book are accurate. It may simply mean that there are millions of Christians out there who believe that particular interpretation of Mark 13 and the Book of Revelation. I suspect that most of the 28 million people who bought THE LAST GREAT PLANET EARTH believed in its interpretations of the Book of Revelation. I am not one of them.
-Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. The Book of Revelation talks about these “false messiahs” who claim to be the universal savior for humankind.
-When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. War and the threat of wars become the cause for alarm. Whenever there is the threat of war, that particular war makes people feel as if the End of the world is coming soon in that very generation and time in history. World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war, the threat of war in the Middle East: these recent wars and past wars and future wars are occasions for people to think that the End of the world is near.
The fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE must have convinced many people that the End of the world was happening right before their eyes as Jerusalem was leveled to the ground by the Roman armies. That event of the leveling of Jerusalem became symbolic of each generation thinking that the End of the world was coming in their generation as they themselves experienced the awfulness of war in their lives. When wars get really nasty, people think that the End is very near.
-For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; This has been happening for as long as there have been nations on earth.
-There will be earthquakes in various places; There have always been earthquakes on Earth since the Earth was formed over billions of years ago.
-There will be famines. There have always been famines. Notice the exact parallel of phrases and progression of thought in the three gospels.
-This is but the beginning of the birthpangs. The image of birth pangs and birth labor are very powerful. As a pregnant mother is delivering her baby, she feels incredible pains, and so it will be at the end of time. In the future, at then End of time, there will be intense pain and suffering, just like a mother who is in intense labor and is feeling her excruciating pain.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: SOME DENOMINATIONS LIKE THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH AND OTHER NON-DENOMINATIONAL CHURCHES EMPHASIZE “THE END OF THE WORLD.” WHAT TEACHINGS DO THEY EMPHASIZE ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD? WHY DO THEY DO THIS? HOW TO YOU FEEL ABOUT THEIR TEACHINGS?
Here ends the gospel lesson for Pentecost 24B.
#289. PERSECUTIONS FORETOLD Matthew 24:9-14, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 21:12-19
-As for yourselves, beware; This is the issue. Underline the phrase, “for yourselves.” We as Christians are to be aware that we are always living in the last times, that we are always to be prepared to “meet our maker.” We will hear other similar words e.g. “watch, be alert, don’t fall asleep.” When you see those words in the text, circle them. That is what Mark 13 is all about: “Always be watchful and alert to meet your Maker.”
-For they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. Jesus knew what was going to happen to himself in the near future. He was going to be handed over to councils and beaten and stand before governors. But it was not only Jesus who was going to experience this persecution and suffering and even death, but so were his disciples. The testimony of the early church is that the persecutions became increasingly nasty during the reigns of the Roman emperors Nero and Domition (65-96 CE).
Why would these first Christians be persecuted by the culture and the political powers of the day? Because those first Christians stood up and testified to their loyalty to Jesus Christ.
This text especially speaks to generations who experience physical and emotional persecution because of their faith. If you talk to people who were Christians in the USSR during the time of Marxism, they were persecuted. If you talk to people who became Christians in India in the face of Hinduism, they often were persecuted. If you become a Christian today in an Islamic state, you and your family will be persecuted. It is against the law to become a Christian in a Muslim state. Throughout all of history, there have been those moments/times when Christians faced enormous political and family persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. That is still a reality around much of the globe today.
-And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. Jesus Christ taught that the gospel was to be preached to all nations. As we come to Jesus’ final words before his Ascension, both in Luke and Matthew, we hear Jesus’ words of the great commission: “As you are going about in life, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe/do/live out all my commandments (of love.) I will be with you as you do this, to the end of the age.” Before the End of the world comes, the gospel will be preached to all nations.
Some more fundamentalist/fanatical interpreters of this passage are more keenly motivated to send missionaries out to the whole world, hoping that this will lay the ground work for the second coming of Christ. It is as if these interpreters have a list of things that need to be accomplished before the End comes, and the concept of preaching Christ to all nations is on that list.
Notice that the Gospel of Matthew does not have this phrase (e.g. the “good news preached to all generations”) here but on the next page.
-When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul became the primary example in the early church of how to live with persecution. Paul was repeatedly brought to trial and he relied on the eloquence of the Holy Spirit inside of him to speak the appropriate words for his situation. So it would be for all disciples: if and when disciples are brought on trial because of their faith, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, will give them the right words to speak.
These principles are true for Christians today. Christ will give us the right words to speak when we are ridiculed or persecuted for our faith.
It is not only when we are on trial that the Holy Spirit gives us the right words to speak. Also, in delicate human relationships, we ask the Spirit of God for the right words. We prayer, “Lord, help me to say the right thing in this situation. Lord, I am counting on you for the right words for this fragile situation.” We also ask the Spirit of God to embolden our tongues so that we can speak the Word of Christ to others who are not Christians. We pray, “Lord Jesus, touch my tongue that I will have the courage and the wisdom and the words to speak to this friend or family member who does not believe in you.”
-I will give you a mouth and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. (only Luke). Notice that Luke 12:11-12 are also on the same page in the text. Luke 12:12 says, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what your ought to say.” The Holy Spirit will give us both words and wisdom. Highlight those words. Write them on page 362, “God, the Holy Spirit will give us both the words and wisdom for every situation.”
-Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; In the years of the birth of Christianity, it was offensive and illegal for members of a family to become Christian. There was enormous conflict within households if someone became a follower of Christ in that original Jewish culture. That still happens today when someone becomes a Christian within a culture which is hostile to Jesus Christ.
-And you will be hated by all because of my name. Particularly in the life of the earliest church in the earliest centuries of Christianity, it was offensive for people to become Christians/followers of Christ against the wishes of their family, friends and other people. This still happens today across the globe where people are punished and ostracized for becoming a Christian. People from India, China, Saudi Arabia and other nations can tell personal stories of the sacrifice that they had to make when they became Christians. This still happens today.
-But the one who endures to the end will be saved. These words sound like the words in the Book of Revelation. The number one quality of a Christian in the Book of Revelation was “patient endurance,” in the face of the virulent persecutions during the time of Nero and Domitian.
We as Christians are to have patient endurance about every suffering in life. The longer a person lives, the more you realize the depth of suffering that is part of everyday life.
#290. THE DESOLATING SACRILEGE Matthew 24:15-22, Mark 13:14-20, Luke 21:20-24.
-‘But when you see the desolating sacrilege set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), What is the desolating sacrilege? This seems important but what is “the desolating sacrilege.”
“Let Scripture interpret Scripture.” This is a fundamental assertion of all Biblical study and so we want to “let Scripture interpret Scripture” about the identity of the “desolating sacrilege.”
Look carefully at what the gospel parallel in Luke says: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.” Luke is very specific in interpreting Mark and says that the “desolating sacrilege” is the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Mark and Matthew are more vague in identifying what this “desolating sacrilege is.” But not Luke. Luke was specific. For Luke, the desolating sacrilege was when people saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem. That happened in the years 68-70 CE. Jerusalem (and all of its buildings including the temple) was destroyed and finally leveled by the Roman armies in 70 CE.
We Christians are to understand that when Jerusalem was destroyed, this was not the End of the world although many Christians of that generation thought it was. The End will come after the Second Coming of Christ. The End of the world was not the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE although many people erroneously thought it was.
-But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are the days of vengeance to fulfill all that is written. (only Luke). Notice the comments that are unique to Luke: “Those who are inside the city are to leave it. Those who are outside the city are not to come in.” For Luke, the destruction of Jerusalem was a specific point/moment in God’s grand design for human history; but Jerusalem’s destruction was not the End of the world. Many people erroneously thought the destruction of Jerusalem was the End of the world. Remember that Luke’s gospel story continues after the annihilation and leveling of Jerusalem with its sequel, The Book of Acts.
-Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; When this time of great suffering and persecution come, people will flee to hiding places in the mountains.
-The one on the housetop must not go down or enter the house to take anything away; Get out of town quickly. Do not stop to take anything.
-The one in the field must not turn back to get a coat.
-Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! In moments in life when you feel it is the End, this will be most difficult for women who are pregnant and nursing children.
-Pray that it may not be in winter. We know that the winter is the coldest part of the year. We recall images of soldiers in war, slugging and slogging their way through frozen streets on the way to another day of grubby war. The End of the world will be even worse.
-For in those days there will be suffering (a great tribulation ) such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. Jesus was talking not simply about war, famine, and earthquakes that happen in all generations, but Jesus was talking about the intensification of the worst evil imaginable at the End of the world. Circle the words in both Matthew and Luke: “a great tribulation or great distress.” This is place in the New Testament where the concept of “a great tribulation” originates.
The words, “the great tribulation,” occur three times in the New Testament:
Matthew 24:21 “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”
Revelation 2:22 “Behold, I will throw her on a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her doings.”
Revelation 7:14 “I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
-They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke only) “Edge of the sword” means war.
Focus on the word, “Gentiles.” The Gentiles will trample on Jerusalem. A Gentile is anyone who is not a Jew. Luke is the author of this book to the Gentile Theophilis. We will learn in the Book of Acts that the Apostle Paul was to become the missionary to the Gentiles. The development of the church will be the time of the Gentiles.
-And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days. This intensification of evil will be so great that everyone would feel the awfulness of the suffering. But for sake of the chosen, God will cut short these days.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE WILL BE A GREAT TRIBULATION? WHY OR WHY NOT?
#291. FALSE CHRISTS AND FALSE PROPHETS Matthew 24:23-28, Mark 13:21-23, Luke 17:23-24
-And if anyone says to you at that time, “Look! Here is the Messiah!” or “Look! There he is!” —do not believe it. That is what happens far too often during the centuries of history. The most recent “scare tactician” of our century was Hal Lindsey who shouted from his book, “Look there. Look here.” He said that the pieces of the puzzle for the End of the world are falling into place: the land of Israel was established (1948), Russia is Gog and Magog, the USA is the Eagle, the ten members of the common market are the ten horned beast of Revelation. Just like Americans are attracted to horror movies and thriller movies, so some people seem to be attracted to the thoughts of Hal Lindsey and other fanatics who seem to want to indulge themselves in the worst evil possibilities for the coming near future on earth.
-False messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. From my point of view, it seems fundamentalist, fanatical Christian interpreters of the Book of Revelation are the false prophets who lead astray the church, the elect, with their false interpretations of the Book of Revelation. Such interpreters are convinced that the historical events in our times are the specific fulfillment of the New Testament prophecies. Such interpreters have been wrong for centuries.
Rather than spending time and energy trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together about the End, we are to be alert, ready, on edge, always prepared for Christ to come unexpectedly like a thief in the night. That is the focus of Jesus’ teachings about the End.
-But be alert; I have already told you everything. The issue is this: we Christians are always to be alert for the End, our own End and the End of the earth as we know it. Circle the phrase, “be alert,” and any other similar words in the coming texts such as “don’t fall asleep” and “be ready.” This is the theme of Mark 13 and its parallels.
-So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness,” do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms,” do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. (Matthew only) In Matthew’s gospel, the Son of Man will be seen panoramically as Christ comes, from the farthest place in the east to the farthest place in the west. Everyone will know when the Second Coming of Christ is occurring.
The following Scriptures (Mark 13:24-37, Luke 21:25-36) are for Advent 1B, 1C.
#292. THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN Matthew 24:29-31, Mark 13:24-27, Luke 21:25-28
-But in those days, after that suffering, (Mark, Matthew, not Luke)
-The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. There will be signs in heaven.
-Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Finally, we get to THE issue: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the End of history, the End of the world, THE END. The plan of God has been moving slowly forward from before time began and the plan of God will have a consummation, an ending, a finale. The Second Coming of Christ will be the primary signal that the End of the world is happening.
The Second Coming of Christ is found deeply embedded at the very earliest layers of the Christian faith. Christ will again in all his glory and then the End will begin. The End of history will be the consummation of God and God will unite all things into himself. (Ephesians).
-Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. The “he” is the Son of man.
#293. THE TIME OF THE COMING: THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE Matthew 24:32-36, Mark 13:28-32, Luke 21:21-29
-From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Many first Christians thought the End was going to occur in their lifetime.
-So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Circle the word, “he,” and write in, “the Son of man, the Second Coming.” The Son of man will come and then the End of the world. And that time is near.
-Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Highlight it. It was Mark’s expectation that the End of the world would occur before his present generation had passed away. The two other gospel parallels of Matthew and Luke repeat this sentence. It appears that the authors of the gospels thought that the End of the world was going to occur in their generation. It appears that even Jesus thought that the End of the world was going to occur in his generation. But it did not.
Only God the Father knew and knows the timing of the end of the world. Not even the Son, not even the angels, not even the gospel writers: none of them knew or know when the End of the world was coming.
-Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Highlight. What a profound statement. The world around us will pass away, but not the words of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, the promises of Jesus, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus will never pass away.
-‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Underline it. Highlight it. Learn it. No one knows the time when the End will occur. Not even angels. Not the gospel writers. Not even Jesus, the Son. But only God the Father and Creator. Only God knows when the End will come. It is amazing that the gospel writers acknowledge that even Jesus did not know when this End would come.
#294. CONCLUSION: TAKE HEED, WATCH (MARK) Matthew 25:13-15, Mark 13:33-37, Luke 21:36, 19:12-13, 12:40
-Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. This is the key. We are all to remain alert. Circle the word, “you.” You and I personally don’t know the time of the end.
-It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Jesus gives an analogy or parable to explain what he is saying. In the next lesson and next chapters in the Bible, we will study several parables. But the Gospel of Mark has none of these parables. We find those great parables in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark. Instead, we have a short, “marcan” parable here and this parable summarizes several of the coming parables that we will hear in Matthew and Luke.
-Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. Circle the words, “keep awake,” and “may not find you asleep,” “suddenly.” This is the great temptation for Christians: to fall asleep at the car wheel, to fall asleep at the stern, to fall asleep when the world around us is falling apart and we sleep right through the disasters of the world around us.
Christ will come suddenly, like a thief in the night. We are to ready and alert at all times for the coming of God.
And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’ That is Jesus’ theme: We are all to keep awake. We do not know when the end of time and history is occurring. This is the theme of Mark 13. KEEP AWAKE. BE ALERT.
This ends the gospel lesson for Advent 1B.
These texts are not an invitation for us to waste time and energy trying to figure out the correlations between the “signs of The End” and contemporary historical events.
#295. CONCLUSION: TAKE HEED, WATCH (LUKE) Luke 21:34-36
The following Scriptures (Luke 21:25-36) continue for Advent 1C.
-Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. Circle the phrase, “be on guard.” In this modern world, our hearts are easily weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and worries. We all know that story with our personal lives.
-For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.
-Be alert at all times, Underline the phrase: “Be alert at all times.” Every single word of that statement is important. It is like when you are driving a car: you had better be alert at all times or there will be a wreck. Sometime that wreck is called an accident. Not to be alert at the wheel of a car is to invite an accident. Not to be alert at the wheel is to cause other people to get hurt
-Praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, We Christians are people of prayer, praying for the strength to be alert and not weighed down by the anxieties of life. We also pray for strength and patient endurance to handle the nastiness of life.
-And to stand before the Son of Man.’ Someday, we will also face the final judgment. The Son of Man is coming to judge the living and the dead. This is the issue. This is the last statement of Jesus in Luke’s little apocalypse. We are all going to stand in judgment before the Son of Man. In Jesus’ previous teachings during his lifetime, we repeatedly heard that the Son of Man was coming at the End of history to judge. After the Second Coming, we will finally stand in front of the judge, the Son of Man.
-Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. These are good details from the gospel of Luke: Jesus would begin teaching in the temple early in the morning and would teach all day there. At night, he would go and spend the evening sleeping at the Mount of Olives. We end this section where we began: Jesus teaching by day in the temple and sleeping by night in the Mount of Olives.
Here ends the gospel for Advent 1C.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHAT DO JESUS’ TEACHINGS ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD HERE IN MARK 13 MEAN TO YOU?
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHAT DOES JESUS MEAN THAT WE ARE TO BE ALERT AT ALL TIMES?
The following Scripture (Matthew 24:36-44) is for Advent 1A.
#296. THE PARABLE OF THE FLOOD AND THE EXHORTATION TO WATCH Matthew 24:37-44, Luke 17:26-36; 12:39-40
Q or Quella or Source. Notice the parallels between Matthew and Luke. Sometimes, there are exact parallels in the wording. Sometimes there are exact parallels in the phrasing. Sometimes there are parallels of progression of thought. A theory that we have used before in this course is the theoretical possibility of a document called, “Q.” “Q” stands for “Quella” or Source. It may be that the authors, Matthew and Luke, copied from this Q document. Whenever a student sees parallels in Matthew and Luke but there are no parallels from Mark, it is assumed that Matthew and Luke are copying from Q.
-For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. People of the Old and New Testament knew the story about Noah. The story of Noah was popular and well known among the Jews. The world had become incredibly evil before the time of Noah, and God had vowed to destroy that evil world. Noah was to prepare the ark and when the time was right and the ark was completed, God would send a flood. Meanwhile, the population of the earth kept on being exceedingly vicious and evil, oblivious to the coming floods and the building of Noah’s ark. Similarly, the world will become extremely evil and be oblivious to the coming of the Son of Man at the End of history.
-For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. In and of themselves, eating, drinking and marrying are not wrong. No, not at all. Eating, drinking and marrying are good qualities. Those qualities are necessary for life. But the phrase, “eating, drinking and marrying” became a symbol for those people who lived primarily for the pleasures of this life rather than living a life of love for God and others. The problem was that the people had fallen in love with eating, drinking and marrying and those qualities had become ends in themselves. The purpose of their lives was only to eat, drink and marry rather than worship God and love their neighbors. Like people in the ancient Old Testament were unaware that Noah was building his ark and they were simply eating, drinking and marrying, so also before the Son of man comes at the End of history, people will be eating, drinking and marrying and be obvious to the disaster which would soon fall upon them.
“So too will be the coming of the Son of man.” This is the issue. The Second Coming, the coming of the Son of man, the final judgment, the End. The Second Coming will come unexpectedly like the flood came unexpectedly on the people of Noah’s day.
-Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them—it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke only) Luke adds another story, the story of Lot. During the time of Lot in the Old Testament, people were again eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, and they were unaware of the disaster that was soon to be upon them. The image associated with the flood was water; the image associated with Lot was fire. The image associated with the Second Coming would be that the heavens would “rain fire” and the stars would fall.
-On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. (Luke only) Biblical scholars report to us that the flat roofs of people’s houses had outside staircases up to the roofs. On that day of impending disaster, if someone came down from the roof, it would be foolish to go inside the house to obtain some special belonging. It would be much smarter to flee their home and save their lives. To flee for their lives would be more important than to go back into their homes and get some trinkets or special belongings. Similarly, if anyone were in a field, it would not be wise under the circumstances to go back into one’s home to get a special blanket or shawl.
- Remember Lot’s wife. (Luke only) Lot’s wife turned back to look at the burning of Sodom and she was turned into a pillar of salt.
-Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. (Luke only) Luke inserts this teaching of Jesus here and this teaching fits with the circumstances of the text.
-Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. When the Son of man comes, he/Christ will be the judge. One person will be taken; one will be left. It is the same theme as the separation of the sheep and the goats, the wise virgins and the foolish virgins, the wheat from the chaff and the good fish from the bad fish. There will be a final separation, a final judgment, a final division. That is what the Son of man does: he will be THE judge who separates the true believes from the false believers.
-Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Underline it. Circle it. We do not know the time of Jesus’ coming. Therefore, as we live life day to day, we are always to be alert, ready, on our toes to meet Christ, to meet our End suddenly and unexpectedly. In this section of Scripture, there are ten different warnings for each of us to be alert/on guard/ready.
-But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. That is obvious. If you knew what time of the night a thief was going to break into your home, you would be ready. Circle the words, “stay awake.” Christ wants us to “stay awake” and “not fall asleep” on the job called life.
-Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Circle the phrase, “must be ready.” There is a “must” to being ready and alert. If you aren’t, you will be like the foolish young women who were not ready when the bride groom arrived. When the foolish young women finally got oil for their lamps, they came to the door of the bridal party and it was closed and they were on the outside looking in. Christ does not want us to be on the outside door of heaven, looking in.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: WHY IS IT SO EASY TO BECOME ABSORBED IN EATING, DRINKING AND MARRYING AND FORGET ABOUT GOD AND ETERNITY?
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