Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Olivet Discourse Part 1

I recommend you read Matthew 23 and 24 for yourself before reading this blog. I think you'll get the best out if you do.

Talk to a preterist about the eschaton and they will invariably take you to the olivet discourse. Talk to a pre-millenailist about preterism and they will go on and on about the words 'generation' and 'world.' The fact is that the olivet discourse is an important text, since Jesus himself is making a prophetic utterance. In addition, the disciples as a very important question.

We begin where Jesus has just left the temple proclaiming seven (or 8) "woes" upon the Pharasees. He has issued them with some harsh judgement and left them with these words: "See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

1Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2But he answered them, "You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down."
[Matthew 25]

This happened in CE 70. There is no question in history or in anyone's mind that Jesus is predicting something that happened within a generation (40 years) of here. Take note of a few things:
  1. He is looking down on Jerusalem
  2. He is talking directly to the disciples

No one scholar dares to try and make symbols out of these words. They happened in such a manner that it was fulfilled directly and precisely. It turns out that when Titus sacked Jerusalem in CE 70 the flames roared so fiercely that it melted the gold on the temple. The gold then ran through the cracks of the bricks and when the Roman soldiers came to plunder, had to render each brick separate from another [REF].

3As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the [world]?"
[Matthew 24:3]

Huh? What kind of a question is that? I can understand the first part, to ask when these things will be (Matthew 23-here), but to ask when the end of the world will be? Who mentioned the end of the world? The honest answer is no one did. This is where pre-millennialism starts, and it makes me sick. [Tyrell] makes a good point when we look at how an author uses a word, but what is shocking is that most translations do not even translate this word properly.

You notice the square brackets in my quote of the text - academically that is saying I altered the original. I use an English Standard Translation, which actually uses the word "age" for world. Why is that so? Well, the Greek word, 'ahee-ohn' literally means:

"properly an age; by extension perpetuity (also past); by implication the world; specifically (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future): - age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end)"
[Strongs Hebrew and Greek Dictionary]

Well, the definition, in this text, seems to be weighted towards 'age,' but we have to look at how the author uses this word. It's amazing to see that "The devil showed him all the kingdoms of the WORLD" and "you are the light of the WORLD" BOTH use the Greek word kos'-mos, which mean world far more than the current word. However, we have to keep in mind that the other uses of this word in Matthew tend towards 'world' as well.

"And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." [Matthew 12:32]
"and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels." [Matthew 13:39]
"So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous" Matthew 13:49

Every single verse is chock-full of apocalyptic language. It seems that we cannot escape the fact that Matthew has a lot to do with the end. But praise the Lord for cross references. We must be convinced from all scripture.

"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?" [Mark 13:4]
And they asked him, "Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?"[Luke 21:7]

This is where things get interesting. The gospels of Mark and Luke do not ask when the end of the world / age will be at all. Just when the destruction will take place and the sign of it's accomplishment for Mark, or the sign of the beginnings (Luke). Mark asks "when will it start and HOW will it [the destruction] end?" Luke asks "when will it start and what will that look like?" The disciples are asking here when is it going to start, and how will we know when it is finished. The questions have nothing to do with the age or the world.

So lets compare the prophecies found in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Please click on [THIS LINK] to view the table of comparison I constructed.

Notice that they are all very similar, but one things stands out that MUST shout to the believer: Jesus seals EVERY prophecy with the words: "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." So we need to find out what "THIS GENERATION" means and then we have solved the TIMING issue. Then it's a matter or research to discover what the rest means.

I would like to add to this long post that these three texts are equally valid as the next. Where two agree they trump a possible re-definition of the third, where the third is vague. For example, you cannot support a pre-tribulational rapture from comparing these texts. The tribulation clearly comes before any 'rapture' texts. (I'm not sure I agree with rapture theology, today I'm feeling opposed...)

A story I like

The analogy falls apart a bit, but it is a good story:

A preacher and an atheistic barber were once walking through the city slums. Said the barber to the preacher: "This is why I cannot believe in a God of love. If God was as kind as you say, He would not permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He would not allow these poor bums to be addicted to dope and other character-destroying habits. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things."

The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkempt and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. Said the minister: "You must not be a very good barber because you wouldn't permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut and shave." Indignantly the barber answered: "Why blame me for that man's condition? I can't help it that he is like that. He has never come in my shop; I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!"

Giving the barber a penetrating look, the minister said: "Then don't blame God for allowing the people to continue in their evil ways, when He is constantly inviting them to come and be saved."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Revelation: Defence vs. Definition

I have begun to dig into my revelation study. I think some points need to be made here: I am not looking for an excuse to believe what I think. I am looking for valid textual evidence from the text of scripture. If scripture does not prove it, then I will remain unswayed on the issue.

There is a difference between my approach and other approaches. Mine seems far more scientific. Please remember I am undoubtedly biased in my interpretation. I have my church to thank for that, and my history. Even though I do not know what my interpretation is, I am by far sure that I know what I am not.

I have listened to arguments on both sides and have decided to look at this myself. In addition, my interpretation will require revision, since I am blogging first and determining the whole of my eschatology last. I do this in order to prevent bias.

I will approach the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ in this manner: scripture and my hermeneutic. I wish to study key words, genres, history and geography that surround the text, keeping in mind that SCRIPTURE tells me the truth and anything else is subject to scripture. I am using the same technique I use to read Genesis that I use to read Revelation, without trying to add to or make incorrect inferences from the text, which is what I fear is going on altogether too much.

My defence versus definition approach is thus: I am determining my values regarding the eschaton from the beginning. I am fortunate enough in that no one has had any major impact on my view. This makes me far more able to be clear on the text than people who go in with too many pre-suppositions.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The beginning of my Eschatology

I realized the other day I am being slow in fulfilling a vow I made to God. Two years ago I was asked to write a paper for a conference. I was not impressed with the request and rushed the writing. However, I was careful since I determined that I would use the paper as a chapter. The day I finished the first paper, I was asked to complete a second, summarizing my work. This new request annoyed me greatly, since I only was required to complete one paper for my degree. The second paper had far less effort put into it.

A few months after submission I heard results on the first paper. Not only was the paper accepted, but for full publication (as opposed to having to write a short paper - half the length). This news humbled me greatly. I realised I was wasting opportunities given to me by God. What made matters worse is that the second paper had been submitted prior to the news. So there was nothing I could do.

Now the problem is that writing papers is an end in itself. There is prestige in being a published scientist, especially at my age. However, there is a bonus: you get to present at an international conference! My university pays for the plane ticket, conference fees and accommodation, so it is, in essence, a free trip. Now for the first paper I presented in Bangkok 2007 and I had a wonderful time. In August 2007 I had just joined my church, Brackenhurst baptist.

Now my new church had been in suffering a few years back. The pastor had changed his eschatology from a dipensational pre-millennialist (believing that all of the book of the Revelation has not been fulfilled, with the exception of chapters 1-3) to a partial or moderate preterist (believing that Revelation 1 - 20 has been fulfilled). Many left the church and the church had received a very bad name as a result.

So eschatology was on my mind, plus the fact that I was wasting my opportunities. Then I learned that the second conference was to be held in Turkey. But not just anywhere in Turkey, but Izmir, really close to Ephesus.

Ephesus! One of the seven churches! I literally threw away an opportunity to stand on the same paths as Paul the apostle. So I prayed and vowed that if I got accepted to the conference for the second paper, that I would ensure that the book of Revelation was a dominant topic of study for me.

I got the publication. I walked on the same paths as Paul. I stood where he stood. I saw the place of the church who had forgotten her first love. I did not deserve it and I know it, plus I have a vow that must be paid.

Myself and Grace (Work colleague) at Ephasus

This comes at an opportune time. [Tyrell], a brother who knows his interpretation, has started looking into the eschaton. I am sure of what my interpretation will be, but I am not sure under what categories it will fall. There are so many terms describing different things, I'm not going to try. Rather than trying to defend a position, like Tyrell, I am rather going to try and define a position.

And I will do it soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Tyrell Haag, a dear friend to this blog, engaged another friend, Ainsley Smith, on Friday. I wish them a happy and wonderful marriage, with the strength of God binding them together.

I owe much to Tyrell, friendship in times when friends were few and guidance when I could not see things clearly. Tyrell was the instrument of God's providence in my life, without which I would not have ever been exposed to the teachings which literally changed my life. He also nurtured both learning and evangelism in the area in which I live, both of which are missed since he had to move north.

God bless!

New Year

My verses for the new year have come from my daily sequential reading:

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
but a wise man quietly holds it back." [Proverbs 29:11]

"Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you." [Ecclesiastes 7:21]

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." [Ecclesiastes 12:13-14]

If I can follow these, I think I may accomplish something this year. God bless!