Whatever your views about end times, here’s a way to hear Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 within the temple-versus-kingship conflict that is its context.
Open Matthew 24.
“Signs of the end” is the heading in many versions of Matthew 24, and there are almost as many interpretations as there are interpreters. That’s the irony of eschatology: we tend to divide over something God intends to bring us together in Christ.
So, I’m writing cautiously, not wanting to contribute to the division. I’m not about to fit the Olivet Discourse onto world events of our day. Can we agree together that the starting point for understanding Matthew 24 must be its context in Matthew’s Gospel?
Matthew’s message is that Jesus is the Messiah. The temple leaders didn’t see it that way. The conflict of kingship and temple escalates with Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem, culminating in his crucifixion and resurrection. As our previous post showed, the temple/kingship conflict forms the framework of Matthew 21–28, including Chapter 24.
Listening from this position, we hear the Olivet Discourse with a clarity any audiophile would love, the counterpoint of temple and kingship.
Continue reading “Olivet Discourse: temple and king (Matthew 24)”
Same apocalyptic problem (mystery); unexpectedly awesome answer (reveal)
After Babylon invaded Jerusalem and terminated the Davidic kingship, Israel was ruled by other nations. Floating adrift among the nations, they clung to their ancient stories of how God had delivered them from Pharaoh’s tyranny, committing himself to be the sovereign of their nation (covenant), giving them his wise law (Torah), and living among them to lead them (tabernacle).
But generations of Jacob’s descendants remained under foreign domination, rising and dying like the grass of the field. As nations fought and conquered each other, as empires rose and fell, Israel remained the meat in their sandwich.
They wondered how God would resolve this injustice. When would the day of the Lord arrive? How would the sovereign Lord overpower the evil that oppressed them and destroy the power of the nations? Continue reading “The apocalyptic framework of Ephesians 3”
A dark future? The “four horsemen of the Apocalypse” tell a different story.
Does the church have a message of hope for the world?
Netflix has loads of post-apocalyptic movies, portraying a dark future. To be honest, these dystopian disasters seem a bit overblown while I’m sitting back in a comfy chair, connected to the internet, streaming to a big TV. But movies allow us to explore alternative realities, and that experience can help us shape our choices today.
So where will technology take us? When the industrial revolution took off, the mood was unbridled optimism, the expectation that technology could solve all our problems. Today the mood is darker. Post-apocalyptic movies explore the destructive power of war. We build underground bunkers to survive after we’ve nuked earth’s surface. We search for another planet to call home after messing up this one. We imagine a violent world where people kill for what little is left. Perhaps we’ll face extinction if the machines evolve faster than we do. Only the most brutal survive in this post-apocalyptic world.
You know what bothers me most about this dark picture? This is how the church’s message has been heard. The word apocalyptic comes from the Bible. The Apocalypse is the Book of Revelation. People imagined that Revelation was about the end of the world, so post-apocalyptic has come to mean after the end of the world as we know it.
Continue reading “What will the post-apocalyptic world be like?”