This is NOT the End – Matthew 24

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This is the sermon series I am working on for the summer at Bethany EFC .

How often have you heard about wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters being signs that we are at the end of days. One has to notice some things – we can capture more of these events than in past decades because of the advance of technology.  Are there more earthquakes? Are there more by you or in the world at large?

Then when I read Matthew 24, there is a list of “signs” that do not indicate the end of days.  I have compared my listed and compared it to R. T. France and Craig Blomberg and here they are

NOT SIGNS OF THE END – Matthew 24

  1. False Messiahs v. 5
  2. Wars and Rumors of wars v.6
  3. International Hostility v. 7a
  4. Famines and Earthquakes v. 7b
  5. Persecution and martyrdom v. 9
  6. Apostasy and betrayal v. 10
  7. False Prophets v. 11
  8. Cold spiritual life v. 12
  9. The Extension of the Gospel v. 14

Note in verse 6. “but the end is not yet” and v. 8 “these are the beginning of the birth pains.”  Verse 13 talks of persevering through these signs to the end and v. 14 speaks of the end coming after all of these, but not how soon after.

Several have noted that by 70 AD all of these things had occurred. That year was marked by the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  So it would seem to be that these are signs of normalcy in the age between Christ and his return.  It would seem that these signs do not tell us how close the end us, but to remind us that there is an end.  As I like to quote Bob Dylan, “there’s a slow train coming.”

DIS(my con)CORD(ance)!

Sheep

Dis(my con)Cord(ance)?

A concordance is helpful for finding how a word is used in the Bible.  One has to take care to check that the English is an accurate reflection of the original Hebrew or Greek and so a scholarly (i.e. fat) concordance will give you that ability.

Even so, there is some discord with my concordance.  What this kind of study is in the danger of missing is the literary context of each use of the word.  Verses do not float free from the Bible, but are each attached to a context.  The meaning of words is narrowed by it’s use in context and in literary form.

I am thinking about the “little ones” in Matthew 18.  In the chapter there are two words for child (“paidion” v. 2, 5 and “pais” v. 3). One is child the other is little child.  There is another word for offspring (“tekna”) and a word for little ones (“mikron”) are all used.  Then if we wonder how these relate to the “least” (“elaxistos” Matthew 25:40,45) we see a cluster or words around the idea of small, children or insignificant.

We notice that the child in Mt 18:2 is used by Jesus as a metaphor for a quality of faith – “unless you then and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

He had said previously, “I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children…” (Mt 12:25 “nepios”)

Now then does the child become a disciple after that?  Are the “little ones” in verse 6 to be understood as literal children or converts to Jesus?  Is the one lost sheep a “little one” in the sense of a child or in the sense of a disciple?

We wander now to the Olivet Discourse in the passage in Matthew 25 where Jesus states that when the disciples would do acts of charity to “the least (“elaxiston”) of these my brothers, you did it to me” (v. 40,45). Is that saying that we should do acts of random kindness to anyone? or is it saying that we should to acts of kindness to those humble and poor followers of Jesus (Matthew 5:3-10)

We now have gathered four words for children and two words suggesting smallness and associated all of those with ideas such as poor in spirit, the meek and the persecuted.

What we must have is the idea that true following of Jesus is not about becoming rich and powerful, but admitting, if not becoming, poor, meek and small. And that following Jesus is not accomplished by serving the powerful and the popular but by serving those who are poor, meek and small in this world, but who are also members of the Kingdom.

What is more we should not cause stumbling for any weak and frail follower of Jesus, nor should we write off any wandering lost ones from the flock.  Rather the reliable 99 can be put into safe hands while we go searching for the lost and lonely 1.

Yes, that sounds like Jesus talking.

The End could be the End of Me!

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I grew up with these sorts of prophecy charts. I think that they are good in that they give some clarity to various theories of how the End Times will occur.  I think they are misleading on two fronts.

First, the primary point of prophecy is not to give us a time table.  In fact, the thing that is the least clear about prophecy, in the sense of prediction, is the timing of things.  I point out that Jesus cited a passage from Isaiah 61 when he gave his message at the Synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16ff), he ended the reading at a comma in Isaiah 61, what follows the comma still awaits the future Last Judgment, which is now 2,000 years in waiting.  A comma can be two millennia. Other scriptures got the other way and events that seem far apart are brought together.  We call this sort of thing telescoping. The time frame telescopes freely in prophetic and apocalyptic literature.

Second, the charts do not indicate that even those who are in the same “camp” – eg Premillennial – do not agree on the sequence of events.

So with a certain amount of fear and trepidation, this preacher will speak on “The End” from the two chapter long “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24 and 25 this summer.  Fear and trepidation is not a bad thing in a preacher, as this quote from Isaiah 66:2 makes clear:

These are the ones I look on with favor:
    those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
    and who tremble at my word.

So I will try to chart the future without charts in this series.  The first fun thing we discover is that the signs people speak about, wars and earthquakes, are not signs of the end…   Matthew 24:6-8

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains….”

Sermonizer

amphib.car

I joke about having a sermonizer.  It changes in appearance from a race car to a ray gun.  today I was taking a cup of coffee along the river by the church when this amphibious cars when by. I said, helpfully, “I think you missed the blacktop.”  they just waved.

Well, right after that I settled on the sermon outline that looked like this.

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the semon is on the Bag.