24.3 + a little Henri Nouwen

May 7, 2009 at 9:47 am 1 comment

Before I jump into Matthew 24 here is this morning’s Henri Nouwen devo.  It has Kingdom all over it: 

The opposite of a scarcity mentality is an abundancy mentality. With an abundancy mentality we say: “There is enough for everyone, more than enough: food, knowledge, love … everything.” With this mind-set we give away whatever we have, to whomever we meet. When we see hungry people we give them food. When we meet ignorant people we share our knowledge; when we encounter people in need of love, we offer them friendship and affection and hospitality and introduce them to our family and friends.

When we live with this mind-set, we will see the miracle that what we give away multiplies: food, knowledge, love … everything. There will even be many leftovers.

Now on to 24!

Question #1.  When will these things happen?

The disciples ask Jesus three questions in Matthew 24: …Tell us, when will these things happen and what will be the sign of your coming, and (what will be the sign) of the end of the age?

Some translations, maybe even yours (for example the KJV) ends this sentence with the word “world” and in doing so makes the 3 questions into an inquiry about the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world.  What happens when the word is translated world is it moves the focus of these questions on to a summary of what the world will be like just before it comes to an end, rather than a “simple” asking of questions related to what Jesus has just spoken about.

But the Greek word aion can also be translated, and in my opinion should be translated,age“.  By translating aion as age, or a period of time, and not world, we are not tempted to move the fulfilment of this text from its first century setting into the 21st century.  The ending of an age and the ending of the world are two very different things.

The Kingdom view attempts to read nothing into the text, to not see a summary, but 3 distinct questions about how the current age, the age the disciples were living in when the questions were asked, would end.  1. When will these things happen?  2. What will be the sign of your coming? 3. What about the end of the age? 

When we make a decision, to let the text say what it says without adding or summarizing,  it frees us to understand the answers Jesus gives to these questions in a very different way than the futurist sees them.

So, first question; When will these things happen?  What are “these things”?  If you have been taught, like I have the futurist view, we immediately think that “these things” refers to events that will happen right before the second coming of Jesus.  But what does the context of Matthew 24 tell us?  Many of you have been reading it and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach you, so before you read my answer to the question, ask yourself, what is the context here? What is the conversation about?  What is Jesus talking to His disciples about?  Take a minute and read the chapter.  Start back in chapter 23 and let it lead you into 24.

Jesus is speaking in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  The first thing He does is warn the crowd and the disciples to be very careful about the Jewish Temple leadership.  You can see this in vv.2-12.  Next Jesus turns to His disciples and, with no mincing of words, rips the religious leaders.  The flavor of His comments are clear: v.13 … woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.  v.14…Woe to you… v.15…Woe to you… v.16 Woe to you blind guides.  Jesus is ripping into the Jewish Temple religious leadership (and cultural leaders) with an intensity that can’t be missed.  He repeats these same words in vv.23-29.

With even greater intensity, Jesus winds up His beat down in vv.33-36 with a scathing rebuke of these phony and controlling leaders: You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?  Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will beat in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the alter.  Truly I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation. (33-36)

Jesus is passing judgment on a generation of religious leaders who have spilled the blood of “every righteous person, from A-Z, Abel to Zechariah” (in the Hebrew Bible Abel is book 0ne and Zechariah is the last book)  Jesus is telling these religious leaders that the blood of every righteous person in their Holy Book, from start to finish is on them.

Typically in the Scriptures a generation was considered to be 40 years.  So if we assume that the judgement Jesus is passing is going to come true in a literal sense (why would we not take it literally) then those who heard Jesus speak these words could expect judgment to fall on them. (Jesus began this rebuke and judgment back in Matthew 23 and some of the specifics of the judgement are included there (vv.37-38).

A literal reading of these verses makes it really hard to see this judgment happening at any other time than during the generation (40 years or so) immediately following the speaking of the words.

Question 1.  When will these things happen?  What things?  Answer: These things= vv.33-36 23:37-38)  When?  Answer: Over the next 40 years or so, from the time they were spoken. 

I find it hard to make this text say anything at all about the time we are living in today.  How about you?

Almost all prophesy writing of a futurist nature (Left Behind series, Scofield Study Bible, Dispensational theology, popular prophetic writing, etc) moves Jesus’ answers from the 40 years immediately following His speaking to the time we are currently living in.  That is really poor hermenuetics (logical guidelines for interpreting historical writings) and there is no reason for it.  Let the text and the historical evidence speak for “themselves”!

Next post.  Did the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, come true during the next 40 years or so, or are we still waiting for them to happen?

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Entry filed under: Authority, Belief, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Church, End of the world, End times, Eschatology, Faith, Henri Nouwen, Holy Spirit, How will the world end?, Jesus, King Jesus, Kingdom, Kingdom Life, Matthew 24, Revelation, Supernatural, The Father, Theology, Thoughts.

24.2 24.4

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jeff  |  May 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Thank you, Greg, for allowing the texts to speak for themselves.

    I’m looking forward to your next posting and what you have to say is the answer as to when these events actually took place. The CONTEXT of these texts contains the answer to the disciples’ questions. (I know what I believe is the answer to this question.)

    As you know, it is most often the case that the context of these texts is ignored in favor of some future event concerning the timing of the Rapture and the Second Advent of Christ.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

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