Showing posts with label #EndTimes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #EndTimes. Show all posts

15 May 2024

The implications of being the Son of Man.

John 5.24-29.

On occasion I’ll hear some Christian preacher claim that Jesus referring to God as “Father”—whether he’s talking about God as his Father, or God as our Father—was a wholly unique thing in history; that somehow the Jews had never before imagined God as their Father. It’s not true—

Deuteronomy 32.6 KJV
Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
Psalm 89.26 KJV
He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
Isaiah 63.16 KJV
Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.
Isaiah 64.8 KJV
But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
Malachi 1.6 KJV
A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?

—but man do preachers like to claim it.

Anyway, Jesus regularly refers to God as our Father, and specifically his Father… but whereas we humans are just creations and adoptive children of our heavenly Father, Jesus is something significantly different. He’s the Son of God. And no, not just “Son of God” in the sense we see in Psalm 2, where the king of Israel is especially adopted by God as his son, and therefore “Son of God” is just a royal title like Messiah. Nope; in the trinity there’s a Father and Son, and the Son became human, and that’s Jesus of Nazareth. He’s fully God same as his Father is fully God.

In John chapter 5, Jesus explains some of that idea. And it’s a doozy of an idea. Pretty sure it broke the brains of most of the Judeans he said it to. Because Jesus is making some pretty cosmic declarations about himself. He already said in the last bit the Father shows the Son everything he does, Jn 5.20 the Son’s gonna raise the dead, Jn 5.21 the Son’s gonna judge the world, Jn 5.22 and you’d better recognize the Son’s authority if you respect the Father. Jn 5.23

Oh, and at the End, the coming in the clouds of the Son of Man? Da 7.13 That’s Jesus. He’s the Son of Man. Did you not notice he constantly calls himself “the Son of Man”? He doesn’t do it to remind people he’s human; anybody who looked at him could tell he was human. He does it to remind people he’s that guy. The guy who does all this:

John 5.24-29 KWL
24 “Amen amen! I promise you the one who hears my word,
and trusts the One who sends me,
has life in the age to come
and doesn’t go into judgment.
Instead they passed from death into life.
25 Amen amen! I promise you the hour comes, and it’s now,
when the dead will hear God’s Son’s voice,
and those who will hear it, will live.
26 For just as the Father has life in himself,
likewise he gives life to the Son to have in himself.
27 The Father gives the Son power to make judgments,
because he’s the Son of Man.
28 Don’t be amazed by this, because the hour comes
in which everyone in the sepulchers
will hear the Son of Man’s voice
29 and come out—
those who do good, into resurrection life;
those who do little, into resurrection judgment.”

You realize this discussion started because some people got bent out of shape over Jesus curing the sick on sabbath. And people think I go off on tangents. Jesus went from, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” Jn 5.17 KJV to “Oh and just to remind you, I’m the Son of Man.”

It’s weird how various pagans will insist Jesus was only a great moral teacher and nothing more, when Jesus straight-up tells people he’s going to raise the dead, judge humanity, and rule the world. And people don’t dismiss him as a demonized madman and stone him to death, because he just cured a guy who was unable to walk for 38 years, and demonized guys can’t do that. The only ones who can do that, outside of hospitals, were empowered by God—and for all you know, might actually be the great End Times figure whose everlasting kingdom shall not be destroyed. Da 7.14

09 May 2024

Ascension: When Jesus took his throne.

This happened on Thursday, 15 May 33—if we figure Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 wasn’t an estimate, but a literal 40 days.

Acts 1.6-9 NRSVue
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

I usually translate ἐπήρθη/epírthi (KJV “he was taken up,” NRSV “he was lifted up”) as “he was raptured.” ’Cause that’s what happened. Jesus got raptured into heaven.

From there Jesus ascended (from the Latin ascendere, “to climb”) to the Father’s throne—to sit at his right hand, Ac 2.33, 7.55-56 both in service and in judgment. We figure Jesus’s ascension took place the very same day he was raptured, so that’s when Christians have historically celebrated it: 40 days after Easter, and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday.

Some of us only focus on Jesus’s rapture—“Yay, he’s in heaven now!” And yeah, there’s that. But the way more important thing is Jesus taking his throne. When we say our Lord reigns, you realize his reign began at some point. Wasn’t when he died, and defeated sin and death; wasn’t when he rose from the dead, and proved he defeated sin and death. It’s when he took his throne. It’s his ascension day. Which we observe today.

12 February 2024

𝘛𝘩𝘦 Antichrist.

When I write about antichrists, I of course mean people who are anti-Christ. They’re not just pagans who apathetically want nothing to do with Christ Jesus if they can help it; these folks actively oppose Christ and fight Christianity.

But when I write about antichrists, your average Evangelical gets confused. Because antichrist is a word they’re very familiar with… but they regularly define it wrong. They don’t mean just any individual who’s anti-Christ. They mean the Beast.

Θηρίον/Thiríon is the word the apostle John used to describe various animals in the visions Jesus gave him in Revelation. There are multiple thiría in his visions, same as there are weird animals in Daniel and other biblical apocalypses. None of them are literal animals; they only represent a literal being. Like the lamb with seven horns and seven eyes who looks like he’s been killed. Rv 5.6 That’s Jesus, who doesn’t literally have seven horns and eyes in his heavenly form; he’s been human since 7BC. Likewise this Beast isn’t literally as John described him below. (My translation. The dragon, by the way, is Satan. Rv 12.9)

Revelation 13.1-10 KWL
1 I see a Beast rising up from the sea,
which has 10 horns and seven heads,
and on its horns, 10 diadems;
and on its heads, slanderous names.
2 The Beast I see is like a panther;
its feet like a bear’s,
its mouth like a lion’s mouth.
The dragon gives it its power,
its throne, and great ability.
3 One of the Beast’s heads is as if maimed to death,
and its deadly wound is cured.
The whole world admires the Beast,
4 and worships the dragon which gives its ability to the Beast,
and worships the Beast, saying,
Is anyone like the Beast?”
and “Is anyone able to fight it?”
5 A mouth is given to the Beast
to speak great and slanderous things,
and it’s given power to do things
for 42 months.
6 The Beast opens its mouth to slander God,
to slander his name and his tabernacle
—the one in heaven he encamps in—
7 and the Beast is allowed
to make war with the saints and conquer us.
It’s given ability over every tribe,
people, language, and ethnicity.
8Everyone who dwells on earth will worship it—
everyone whose name wasn’t written
when the world was founded
in the life-book of the Lamb who was slain.
9 If one has an ear, hear:
10 If one is going into captivity,
they’re going into captivity.
If one is going to be stabbed to death,
they’re getting stabbed to death.
So should be the endurance and trust of the saints.

John then describes a Second Beast which gets everyone to worship both this first Beast, and an εἰκόνα/eikóna, “ikon,” of the first Beast; Rv 13.13-15 and forbids trade among everyone who isn’t personally marked with the Beast’s name or number. Rv 13.16-17 And so many people are fixated on the number, 666, I gave it its own article.

23 October 2023

Zechariah’s prophecy “about the Israel-Hamas War.”

Zechariah 12.

After the Israel-Hamas War began on 7 October 2023, this highlighted bit of Zechariah started making the rounds on social media, usually captioned, “This is going to happen very soon. Watch.”

Zechariah 12.2-5, Living Bible.
From the 1971 edition of The Living Bible.

Memes like this are very popular with people who worry about the End Times, who want to know when it’s time to start buying the food buckets and guns for their bunkers.

The way Darbyist “prophecy scholars” interpret the End Times, every time they come across a passage of scripture which appears to be about anything in their End Times Timeline, they immediately declare that’s precisely what it is. God said it, and his prophets recorded it, not for the people of their day; not for the ancient Israelis of millennia ago. Oh they might’ve thought it was for them, but they were just illiterate foreigners who lived in mud huts without electricity and science, and didn’t even speak English—it’s for us, for the people of our day, for God’s actual chosen people.

The actual context of the scripture doesn’t matter. It only means what we want it to mean. It shall accomplish that which we please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto we sent it. As for what God meant by it?… well surely he thinks like we do.

Yeah, it’s pretty darned arrogant of these interpreters. But they’re so desperate to find End Times puzzle pieces in the bible which fit into their timelines—however awkwardly—they’re often not even aware what they’re doing. It’s like a child who’s so intent on drawing the perfect picture of a unicorn… she doesn’t realize she’s using permanent markers on the penboard. Or, really, care. Rebuke her for it, and she’ll wonder what all the fuss is about—it’s such a good picture! Why should you want to erase it?

So, Zechariah 12. What’s it historically about? Glad you asked. Let’s take a look at it.

19 October 2023

Those accused of heresy for their End Times views.

That’d include me.

My view of the End Times is preterist—meaning most of the prophecies in Daniel, Revelation, and the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled by the second century of the Christian Era. Obviously Jesus has yet to return, the millennium hasn’t yet started, and New Heaven and New Earth have not yet replaced the current heavens and earth. So not everything has been fulfilled; duh. But just about everything else has.

And when I tell certain Christians this, they’re horrified. Horrified. It’s like I sprouted horns and a tail right in front of ’em, and suddenly I have a pitchfork in my hand, and the flames of hell burst forth behind me as I laugh evilly.

’Cause somehow it got in their heads that if you believe any differently than they about the End Times—or believe any variant other than “premillennial dispensationalism”—generally meaning the various Darbyist End Times timelines proposed by Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, or your favorite prognosticating TV and internet preachers—you don’t believe the bible. Because all their beliefs come from bible. True, they had to massage, finesse, tweak, ditch the historical context, overlay a whole new context, bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate it till it finally means what their favorite “prophecy scholars” insist it means.

Interpreting it in its actual interpretive context, like I do… well their “prophecy scholars” have regularly told them any systems of interpretation other than theirs, are flat-out wrong. They’ve never even heard of “apocalyptic literature,” or think “apocalypse” only means “the very End.” And if they haven’t heard of it, surely it must be wrong. Surely I must be wrong.

And if I’m teaching people wrongly about the End Times… well that’s just extra wrong, in their minds. Why, I might convince people to not watch out for evil. To ignore all the signs of the times. To dismiss the Beast when he finally appears; maybe even convince people to follow him! To not look for Jesus’s second coming, like we’re supposed to.

In short, they think I’m heretic. Worse—that I’m deliberately interpreting bible wrong, deliberately leading people astray, deliberately working for the devil. They think I’m going to hell. When I tell ’em I’m preterist, some of them physically back away, as if at any second the fire and sulfur will fall from heaven to consume me, and maybe scorch them a little if they’re too close.

Their favorite “prophecy scholars” don’t discourage this attitude and behavior at all. They kinda share it. They’re entirely sure they’re right and every non-Darbyist is wrong; they’re helping lead people to Jesus, and every non-Darbyist is hindering, and that’s as good as following Satan.

Okay. Lemme first of all remind you heretic is simply the opposite of “orthodox.” There are certain non-negotiable things every Christian oughta believe. We oughta believe in God; we oughta follow Jesus; we oughta believe he’s alive not dead; we oughta believe he’s returning. These basics are spelled out in the creeds. Some churches add to the creeds, but no churches should be taking doctrines away from them. And the creeds expect us to only believe the following five things about the End:

  • Jesus is coming again in glory.
  • There’s a bodily resurrection of the dead.
  • Jesus will judge the living and the dead.
  • There’s eternal life in the world to come.
  • Jesus’s kingdom will have no end.

Those are non-negotiable. Everything else is negotiable.

But, like I said, plenty of Darbyists are entirely sure their beliefs are just as non-negotiable as the creedal, orthodox stuff. And if you don’t believe as they do, you’re not Christian, and going to hell.

Yep, they think I’m going to hell. And if I convince you Darbyism is all wet, they think I’m dragging you to hell with me.

13 September 2023


HEAVEN 'hɛ.vən noun. The dwelling place of God, his angels, and debatably good humans after they die. Traditionally depicted as above the sky.
2. A euphemism for God himself. [“Sin displeases heaven.”]
3. The sky, perceived as a vault containing the sun, moon, planets, and stars.
4. A place of bliss. [“This is heaven!”]
5. Short for the kingdom of heaven, i.e. God’s kingdom.
6. The state of being in God’s presence, namely after death.
[Heavenly 'hɛv.ə adjective.]

As you can see, there are multiple definitions of our word “heaven.” But when Christians talk about heaven, we mean the dwelling place of God. Right?

Not really. In fact not usually.

In my experience, when Christians talk about heaven, we’re actually talking about the kingdom of heaven. In other words, God’s kingdom. Which is meant to happen here on earth. We Christians are supposed to be already living like it’s here—and when Jesus returns, he’ll fully set it up and run it. But too often Christians act like this kingdom does not happen on earth, and never will: It’ll happen in heaven. In the future. After we die. When we do stuff in heaven, “heaven” is always way later. Or we describe the stuff we’ll be doing in New Jerusalem… which is actually in New Heaven, which is not even the same heaven the scriptures typically mean.

I listed six definitions of heaven. No, I’m not gonna therefore say there are six heavens, like C.S. Lewis did when he wrote about four loves. There are likely more definitions of heaven than even that.

But there are Christians who claim there are multiple heavens. Not just the current heaven, and the New Heaven of Revelation 21. There’s the seven heavens of Dante Alighieri’s Paradisio, the 10 heavens of the Pharisees, and the three heavens which you’ll hear Evangelicals talk about ’cause they’ve neither read Paradisio nor 1 Enoch.

Confused yet? Maybe a little. Hope not. Let’s start with the bible’s descriptions of the heavens.

11 September 2023

The Dives and Lazarus Story.

Luke 16.19-31.

This story is often called the Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, or Lazarus and the Rich Man, depending on who oughta come first. Since it’s actually not about Lazarus, stands to reason the rich man should come first. Traditionally this man’s been called Dives (usually pronounced 'daɪ.viz instead of like the verb) ’cause that’s what he’s called in verse 19 in the Vulgate; dives is Latin for “rich.” So I’m gonna call him Dives; it saves time.

Every once in a while some literalist insists this story is not a parable. This is the only story where Jesus refers to someone by name—so they figure this must mean something, and claim Jesus is straight-up talking about a real-life guy named Lazarus, who lived in first-century Israel. Some of ’em even claim the Lazarus of this story is Lazarus of Bethany, Jesus’s personal friend whom he later raised from the dead, Jn 11.1-44 and this is how Lazarus died. Which makes no sense, because Lazarus’s family asked Jesus to come cure him; they didn’t just dump Lazarus at Dives’s door, hoping this idle rich guy might uncharacteristically do something charitable.

On the other extreme, we have people who insist this story is pure fiction. Primarily because they have very different beliefs about afterlife. Jesus, they insist, is not accurately describing what happens when people die. We go to heaven. Or hell. Some insist we’re immediately resurrected and live in New Jerusalem from now on; others claim we live in some glorified spiritual form while we await the Resurrection. Hindus and Buddhists believe we get reincarnated, and of course pagans and Mormons believe we become angels.

In some cases, the Christians who insist Jesus isn’t accurately describing afterlife are dispensationalists who believe this used to be the way afterlife worked—maybe—but not anymore. There’s a popular Christian myth called “the harrowing of hell,” which says before Jesus died to atone for our sins, God saved nobody by his grace—therefore nobody but the most saintly people ever, like Job or Abraham (and here, Lazarus), could make it to paradise. Nobody had the karma! So they were forced to wait in hell till Jesus died. Once he died, Jesus went to hell, same as them… but with keys! He unlocked the gates, stepped on gatekeeper devil Belial’s neck, freed all the Old Testament saints, and took ’em with him to heaven. And now, nobody experiences anything like Jesus describes in this story. Christians go to heaven.

Considering that God isn’t limited by time whatsoever, it makes no sense that he can’t apply Jesus’s then-future atonement to the sins of the people who existed before Jesus. In fact there’s every indication he did: Their sins, which were many, never hindered him with instigating relationships with them!

Nah, both the literalists and the myth-believers have it wrong. This story is a parable. Lazarus isn’t a literal guy. But this is, loosely, what the afterlife looks like. Then, and now. And it’s meant as a warning to those of us who are wealthy, but don’t bother to use our wealth to further God’s kingdom. If all we care about is our own comfort, we may not experience any such comfort in the afterlife. Billionaires beware.

Luke 16.19-31 KWL
19 “Somebody is wealthy.
He’s wearing purple and white linen, partying daily, in luxury.
20 Some pauper named Lazarus was thrown out by the plutocrat’s gate,
covered in open sores,
21 desiring to be fed with whatever fell from the plutocrat’s table,
but the dogs which came are licking his sores.
22 The pauper comes to die,
to be carried off by the angels to Abraham’s fold.
The plutocrat also dies and is entombed.
23 In the afterlife, the plutocrat lifts up his eyes—
he’s getting tortured in the pit—
and sees Abraham far away,
and Lazarus in his folds.
24 Calling out, the plutocrat says, ‘Father Abraham!
Have mercy on me and send Lazarus,
so he might dip his fingertip in water, and might cool my tongue,
because I suffer great pain in these flames!’
25 Abraham says, ‘Child, remember:
You received your good things in your life,
and Lazarus likewise received evil.
Now, here, he is assisted—
and you suffer.
26 In all this space between us and you, a large gap was fixed
so those who want to come to you from here, can’t.
Nor can they pass from there to us.’
27 The plutocrat says, ‘Then I ask you, father,
might you send Lazarus to my father’s house?
28 For I have five siblings—so Lazarus might urge them,
lest they also come to this place in the pit.’
29 Abraham says, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Heed them.’
30 The plutocrat says, ‘No, father Abraham!
But if anyone comes back from the dead to them, they’ll repent!’
31 Abraham tells him, ‘If they don’t heed Moses and the Prophets,
neither will they be convinced when someone rises from the dead.’ ”

14 August 2023

We’re all going to die, y’know.

I know, I know. “Unless the Lord tarries.” It’s a phrase preachers love to say, which reminds us there is Jesus’s second coming yet to take place—and because he can return at any time, he may very well return in our lifetimes. And if he does return in our lifetimes, we’re not gonna die: We’re getting resurrected without dying, like the apostles described.

1 Thessalonians 4.16-17 NLT
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.

Although I have heard some theologians argue that having our old bodies transformed into our new bodies means our old bodies pass away—they die. But that doesn’t jibe at all with the way Paul and Sosthenes put it when they wrote, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” 1Co 15.51 KJV Sleep is a euphemism for die, so they’re saying we won’t die. The preachers are right: When Jesus returns, those who are alive aren’t gonna die.

But are we gonna be alive when Jesus returns? Statistically, no. We’re gonna die.

Yep. You and me, and our kids, and our grandkids, and our great-grandkids, and all our descendants. People die, and we’re no different. We’re gonna die. You’re gonna die. Deal with it.

Yeah, I know. I’m gonna get accused of all sorts of heresy and apostasy and unbelief for saying this. Jesus can return at any time! How dare I give people the idea he won’t?

Well, I dare because thus far he hasn’t. For thousands of generations of Christians, he hasn’t. For good reason!—he’s trying to save everyone he can. 2Pe 3.9 And if it takes him a thousand more generations of Christians to save everyone he can, I’m okay with that. We should all be okay with that. I don’t want him to let other people perish just so I can avoid the uncomfortability of dying. I may be a dick sometimes, but I’m not that big a dick.

So Jesus is trying to save everyone he can, but despite this, every generation of Christians has claimed, “He’s coming back in my lifetime.” True, there were some generations where many of ’em weren’t saying this. Postmillennialism was really popular among Evangelicals for a few centuries, and postmil Christians thought it was their job to start the millennium—and Jesus wouldn’t return till it was over. But the majority of Christians still believed Jesus can and would return at any time, and return for them, and they wouldn’t die.

So they didn’t deal with it. And, y’know, died.

And you’ve likely seen what happens when people don’t prepare for their own death: Chaos. Family members who don’t know what to do. Wealth which they squabble over. Greedy opportunists who swoop in and take as much of that wealth as they can get their grubby hands on. Things left unsaid. Tasks left undone. Hurt feelings. And Christians who never, ever expected them to die—’cause Jesus was supposed to return first!—and now they go through a big unnecessary faith crisis because they thought Jesus was gonna return on their schedule.

I’ve seen this happen way too often. It’s entirely not necessary. It’s because Christians, and our teachers, aren’t dealing with reality. “Unless the Lord tarries” is likely gonna happen. It’s happened for 20 centuries; what’s another century? You’re not getting raptured before your 90th birthday. Or before Grandma’s 90th birthday. You’re gonna die.

Deal with it. Deal with it in a much better, healthier way than one of those pagans who don’t believe in resurrection and have no hope, but deal with it. Prepare for your demise. Get your family ready.

What, you figure you’re too young? You’re not. No one is. Accidents happen. Disease happens. People too stupid to take preventative measures because they don’t believe in science, happen—and sometimes happen to those of us who do believe in science, and we catch something deadly from these selfish morons. Even if you figure Jesus is returning within the next seven years, some driver fiddling with his phone could plow into you tomorrow, and nobody will be ready for that. So get ready for that. Practice some basic common sense, wouldya?

23 October 2022

The “abomination of desolation.”

Mk 13.14, Mt 24.15-16, Lk 21.20-21.

Up to now in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus only spoke of the events leading up to the Roman-Jewish War in the year 70. The first Christians would get persecuted, but the gospel would spread all over the Roman Empire. And then these events would happen—the events his students first asked him about; the events where not one of the temple’s impressive stones would be on top of another. Mk 13.2, Mt 24.2, Lk 21.6 The events which’d happen during 37 years later, within lifetime of the very first Christians… though James, Simon Peter, and Andrew wouldn’t live to see them.

Jesus starts by mentioning the βδέλυγμα ἐρημώσεως/vdélygma erimóseos, “disgusting spoiler”—not in the sense of ruining the ending of a movie, but ruining whatever you place it upon. It’s a term from Daniel, which was actually fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 141BC, but Jesus brings it up again ’cause history is about to repeat itself.

Mark 13.14 KWL
“When you see ‘the disgusting spoiler’
placed where it mustn’t be” (understand, reader?)
“then those in Judea: Flee to the hills!”
Matthew 24.15-16 KWL
15 “So then when you see ‘the disgusting spoiler’
as said to the prophet Daniel,
put in the holy place” (understand, reader?)
16 then those in Judea: Flee to the hills!
Luke 21.20-21 KWL
20 “When you see Jerusalem encircled by army units,
then know this: Its spoil has come near.
21 Then those in Judea: Flee to the hills!
And those in the middle of it: Leave!
And those in the fields: Don’t enter the city!

If you’re alive to see these things—and you might be—get out. Don’t even go back to get your stuff. Mk 13.15-16 It’s gonna be awful. The worst.

Jesus is speaking of the Roman-Jewish War, but a number of Darbyist “prophecy scholars” are absolutely sure he’s not. Or not entirely; some will confess he’s speaking of the Roman-Jewish War too. But they insist he’s primarily speaking of a future disgusting spoiler, an End Times “abomination of desolation” to be committed by the Beast in the temple.

What temple? Well I’ll get to that.

16 October 2022

The gospel preached to all before the end.

Mt 24.14.

Last week I discussed the verse about not completing all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes, Mt 10.23 and how that’s neither part of Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, nor a prophecy of the End: It’s about Jesus sending out the Twelve to preach the gospel, Mt 10.5-7 and how he’d catch up with them at the end of this specific mission. Christians who project End Times stuff onto this passage are quoting it out of context—a common practice among End Times “prophecy scholars,” who aren’t actually scholars.

Some of the reason these “prophecy scholars” quote that verse is because of this verse, which is in the Olivet Discourse. They think it’s a parallel verse. It’s also found in Matthew, and to help you understand it better, I’ll also quote the verses right before it.

Matthew 24.9-14 KWL
9 “Then they’ll hand you over to tribulation and kill you.
You’ll be hated people to every ethnic group because of my name.
10 Then many will be tripped up,
will betray one another, will hate one another.
11 Many fake prophets will be raised up,
and will lead many astray.
12 Because of the exponential spread of lawlessness,
the love of many will grow cold.
13 One who perseveres to the end—
this person will be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom
will be proclaimed to the whole civilization
as a witness to every ethnic group.
Then the end will come.”

The “prophecy scholars” claim the whole of the Olivet Discourse is about a great tribulation right before the second coming. It’s not. After Jesus told his students the temple would be destroyed, they wanted to know when, so he told ’em what’d happen before it was destroyed… in the year 70, during the actual great tribulation of the Roman-Jewish War. All this stuff was fulfilled by that war. If “prophecy scholars” know anything about the Roman-Jewish War (and too often, they don’t) they’ll claim Jesus’s prophecies are actually gonna happen again during the End Times; that the Roman-Jewish War is just a foreshadowing of what the Beast will do to the entire world. But Jesus’s prophecies about the Beast are in in Revelation, not the gospels. These “prophecy scholars” are trying to add details to what Jesus disclosed in Revelation—and hey, isn’t there a curse upon anyone who tries to add or take away from that book? Rv 22.18-19 Illegitimately adding the Olivet Discourse to End Times prophecy definitely sounds like something that’d activate that curse.

But back to the Discourse. Jesus says the gospel of God’s kingdom is getting preached to the whole civilization before the end comes. Does he mean the End-end?—the end of the End Times, the days before his second coming, the last few years before the millennium? Or does he simply mean the end of the temple, which is entirely what the Olivet Discourse is about? As you’ve likely guessed, I’m gonna say it’s that second thing.

“Hold up,” a hypothetical prophecy scholar is gonna object, “the gospel wasn’t preached to the entire world by the time the temple was destroyed. It hadn’t reached the Germans, nor the sub-Saharan Africans, nor the Chinese, nor the Russians, nor the indigenous Americans and Australians and Pacific islanders. Only the Roman Empire had heard the gospel. That’s it.”

Well yeah. That’s what Jesus said would happen.

09 October 2022

Going city to city till the Son of Man comes.

Mt 10.23.

Today’s verse isn’t actually part of Jesus’s Olivet Discourse. But plenty of Christians think it is, and a number of Christians have shoehorned it into their End Times views.

In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the Twelve in teams of two, to share the good news that God’s kingdom has come near, with Israeli towns. Mt 10.5-7 He instructs them on how they’re to do it, and to be wary because people can be awful. Mt 10.8-16 And then Jesus starts to say some stuff about the students getting persecuted.

Most scholars believe the synoptic gospels were written together thisaway: Mark was written in the late 50s, and Matthew and Luke quoted it for their gospels in the mid-60s. (Those who think Matthew was written by the Matthew in Jesus’s Twelve, and not by some different guy named Matthew, theorize Mark is a condensed version of Matthew… but if that’s true, Mark is garbage; he took out the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus’s great commission! Nah; other way round.)

Now. When Jesus talks about persecution, Matthew takes the verses from Mark’s version of the Olivet Discourse. Some of it’s word for word. It’s why I’ve been quoting these verses in my previous Olivet Discourse articles; it’s because they’re parallel. But in Mark, Jesus says it to only four students in his Olivet Discourse, and in Matthew, it’s to all the students as they prepare for their mission. Different contexts altogether.

Matthew 10.17-22 KWL
17 “Be aware of the people.
For they’ll hand you over to senates,
and have you flogged in their synagogues.
18 You’ll be brought before leaders and kings
for my sake, for testimonies of me, to people groups.
19 Whenever they hand you over,
don’t fret over how or what you should say,
for what you should say will be given to you
at that hour.
20 For you aren’t to be the speakers.
But your Father’s Spirit should be speaking in you.
12 Sibling will betray sibling to death,
and parent to child,
and children will revolt against forebears,
and put them to death.
13 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name—
and this person will be saved
when they endure to the end.”

So… when did Jesus actually say it? At the Olivet Discourse, or years earlier when he sent out his students to evangelize?

Personally I don’t see why Jesus can’t have said the same thing twice. I’m sure he did! We all do. Dig through TXAB’s articles and you’re sure to find me repeating myself from time to time. I have a book of assorted C.S. Lewis articles which he wrote for various publications: Not only does he repeat certain ideas in multiple articles; you’re gonna find those ideas in his other books too. He had pet issues and ideas which he loved to talk about—or always felt he had to talk about. We all do. So does Jesus.

So Jesus certainly could’ve said this stuff dozens of times, and at the Olivet Discourse he simply said it again. But now let me get to the verse we find in Matthew which we don’t find in Mark or Luke—one which is wholly unique to Matthew’s gospel, and isn’t included in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse either. It’s in chapter 10, not chapter 24.

Matthew 10.23 KWL
“When they persecute you in this city,
flee to another.
For amen!—I promise you,
you ought not complete the cities of Israel
before the Son of Man might come.”

In context, Jesus is talking about the Twelve at that time; however long they were meant to travel from Israeli city to Israeli city, sharing the gospel. Long enough to hit many of the cities by the time he caught up with them. Not all, but he didn’t expect them to finish. Although, since Jesus was using subjunctive verbs (“ought not complete” and “might come,” which indicate it’s likely, not definite) he allowed for the possibility that—who knows?—maybe they might get to all of ’em.

But as I said, Christians frequently ignore the context.

02 October 2022

Friends and family may turn on you.

Mk 13.12-13, Mt 10.21-22, Lk 12.16-19, Jn 16.2-3.

In Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, he warns his students of the tribulation they’d undergo in the near future. Not just the Romans destroying the temple, but specifically how the first Christians themselves would be persecuted. Here are some of those specifics.

Mark 13.12-13 KWL
12 “And sibling will betray sibling to death,
and parent to child,
and children will revolt against forebears,
and put them to death.
13 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name—
and this person will be saved
when they endure to the end.”
Matthew 10.21-22 KWL
12 “Sibling will betray sibling to death,
and parent to child,
and children will revolt against forebears,
and put them to death.
13 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name—
and this person will be saved
when they endure to the end.”
Luke 21.16-19 KWL
16 “You’ll also be betrayed by parents, siblings,
relatives and friends,
and they’ll put some of you to death.
17 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name.
18 But if every hair on your head isn’t destroyed,
19 save your souls by your endurance!”

Rough stuff, right? But something Jesus’s students needed to hear. Something all Christians need to hear. ’Cause if we’ve grown up in not-so-dysfunctional families, where parents and siblings don’t stab you in the back on a regular basis, we’ll assume that should continue to be the case when times get rough. But the reality is this isn’t always so. Parents turn on their kids all the time. Even “good Christian parents.”

Give you an obvious example: All the “good Christian parents” who disown their gay kids. Now these parents will use the argument, “But the kids are sinning.” So what? When has sin ever been a justification for disowning one’s kid? Did King David ben Jesse disown his son Absalom after the young man not only tried to overthrow his dad, but publicly raped his dad’s concubines? 2Sa 16.21-22 If you wanna talk sin, that’s sin. God regularly forgives much bigger sins than that… but “good Christians” regularly don’t.

So the day will come (and already has, multiple times) when self-described “good Christians” will get suckered by some fascist into following him, and the fascist will want to go after anyone who rightly refuses to follow him instead of Jesus… and these “good Christians” will immediately take the side of the fascist. What if their loved ones get killed? “Oh, they brought this on themselves.” They’ll mourn their dead—but they won’t give up their idol.

18 September 2022

Warnings when persecution comes.

Mk 13.9, Mt 24.9-13, Lk 21.12-19.

In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus warned his students what’d happen before, as he predicted, the Romans destroyed the temple in the great tribulation in the year 70.

But fearful Christians insist this passage isn’t at all about ancient Jerusalem, but our future: A seven-year worldwide tribulation. Darbyists manipulate the Olivet Discourse to defend their beliefs, and people believe ’em because they don’t know first-century history, don’t know their bibles, and aren’t depending on the Holy Spirit to help them defeat fear, paranoia, peacelessness, and the lack of basic discernment in interpreting scripture.

Today’s passage especially triggers their fears, because here Jesus speaks of the active persecution of Christians. Which, when Jesus taught this discourse in 33, was coming soon. Really, really soon. Probably before the year was out, Peter and John would cure some guy on the temple steps, Ac 3.1-10 and the Sadducee head priests would arrest and try ’em before the Judean senate for it. Ac 4.1-22 Things would only escalate from there.

Because when you legitimately follow Jesus—even in a country which considers itself predominantly Christian, even in a country full of Christian nationalists who want to make it officially Christian—you’re gonna get pushback. Just as Jesus himself did, from Pharisees who thought he was heretic. Who’d have him killed five days later.

It’s only common sense to expect Jesus’s active followers to be treated like our Lord, so that part doesn’t take the Holy Spirit to foretell. What does are the details Jesus included in his warnings about persecution. Christianity was gonna advance despite persecution. It always has, despite the careful plans of persecutors.

Mark 13.9 KWL
9 “Look out for yourselves.
People will hand you over to senates
and you’ll be flogged in synagogues.
You’ll stand before leaders and kings because of me,
to testify of me to them.”
Matthew 24.9-13 KWL
9 “Then they’ll hand you over to tribulation and kill you.
You’ll be hated people to every ethnic group because of my name.
10 Then many will be tripped up,
will betray one another, will hate one another.
11 Many fake prophets will be raised up,
and will lead many astray.
12 Because of the exponential spread of lawlessness,
the love of many will grow cold.
13 One who perseveres to the end—
this person will be saved.”
Luke 21.12-19 KWL
12 “Before all these things happen,
they’ll throw their hands on you;
they’ll hunt you down,
handing you over to synagogues and prisons,
dragging you away to kings and leaders because of my name.
13 It’ll turn you into witnesses,
14 so determine in your hearts to not prepare a defense:
15 I’ll give you a mouth and wisdom
which every one of your adversaries
will be unable to withstand or dispute.
16 You’ll also be betrayed by parents, siblings,
relatives and friends,
and they’ll put some of you to death.
17 You’ll be hated by everyone because of my name.
18 But if every hair on your head isn’t destroyed,
19 save your souls by your endurance!”

11 September 2022

Stop prematurely freaking out over the End!

Mk 13.7-8, Mt 24.6-8, Lk 21.9-11.

No doubt you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount. (You are Christian, right? It’s kinda required reading.) So you’re aware Jesus orders us followers not to worry.

Matthew 6.31-34 NRSV
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Kinda straightforward instructions. But when we’ve not surrendered our lives to Jesus—our entire lives, not just the religious bits and beliefs—we’re gonna suck at obeying them. We’re gonna worry. If we’re poor, about the necessities of life; if we’re wealthy, about staying comfortable and influential.

Professional End Times prognosticators try to make us worry about both. If we’re wealthy, they want us to worry about losing our wealth; if we’re poor, they want us to worry about losing our freedom. Believe it or don’t, it’s not because they’re trying to con us into buying their lousy books—or worse, their lousy food buckets for our End Times bunkers. It’s because they’re preaching out of their own paranoia. They worry even more than you do about the rubbish they write about. They write it because they believe it.

And they write it because they don’t believe Jesus. “Don’t worry about tomorrow”? That’s all they do. Because tribulation is coming. Oppressive governments, cashless societies, stealth drones that could blow you up when you least expect, spy cameras in every computer and phone, people trying to rig elections… They’re everywhere. Read the times, man!

All of ’em ignore today’s passage. Or in many cases flip its meaning over entirely.

Mark 13.7-8 KWL
7 “When any of you hear wars
and the noises of wars,
don’t panic. It happens.
But it’s not the end yet.
8 For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes will happen various places.
Scarcity will happen.
These are first birth pangs.”
Matthew 24.6-8 KWL
6 “You’re all about to hear wars
and the noises of wars.
Look, don’t panic, for it happens.
But it’s not the end yet.
7 For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes and scarcity will happen various places.
8 All these are first birth pangs.”
Luke 21.9-11 KWL
9 “When any of you hear wars
and instability,
don’t panic, for these things happen first.
But the end isn’t at hand.”
10 Then Jesus told them,
“Ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
11 Both great quakes and scarcity in various places,
and plagues will happen.
Both terrifying events
and signs from heaven will happen.”

I translated μὴ θροεῖσθε/mi throeísthe, “don’t wail aloud in terror,” Mk 13.7, Mt 24.6, Lk 21.9 as “don’t panic.” I could also go with “don’t freak out,” and have in the past.

’Cause people do. Did back then. They’d hear of violence, earthquakes, signs from heaven, and immediately think, “What does it mean?” Then spend a whole lot of time speculating what it might mean. Is it a sign from the gods, like ancient pagans insisted?—or like “prophecy scholars” still do?

Well I just showed you three synced-up Jesus quotes which say no it’s not. And if you don’t trust my translation, fine; read others. They’re all gonna mean the same thing though. Stop prematurely freaking out over the End!

04 September 2022

Kingdom against kingdom.

Mk 13.8, Mt 24.7-8, Lk 21.10-11.

“Wait, you already did this text.” Some of it, yeah. Not all. I’m kinda going line by line through it. Last time was about “nations,” i.e. ethnic groups. Today’s about kingdoms.

And while the word “nation” in most bibles is more accurately translated “ethnic group,” the word “kingdom” comes from the Greek word βασιλεία/vasileía, meaning “the domain of a king.” In short, kingdom. It’s an accurate translation.

Lemme quote Jesus in the scriptures again.

Mark 13.8 KWL
“For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes will happen various places.
Scarcity will happen.
These are first birth pangs.”
Matthew 24.7-8 KWL
7 “For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes and scarcity will happen various places.
8 All these are first birth pangs.”
Luke 21.10-11 KWL
10 Then Jesus told them,
“Ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
11 Both great quakes and scarcity in various places,
and plagues will happen.
Both terrifying events
and signs from heaven will happen.”

I tend to structure Jesus’s words as poetry, because that is how he talks when he teaches people; he does it on purpose to make his teachings more memorable. He’s doing the Hebrew poetry thing where one repeats ideas, or builds off previous ideas. “This against that” in line 1; “another thing against yet another thing” in line 2. Ethnic fighting, then kingdoms fighting.

Again, Jesus is not listing the “signs of the times.” He makes this clear, even though many an End Times prognosticator totally ignores Jesus and claims these things are indicators—really clear ones!—that the End Times are upon us, and the great tribulation is near. These are the normal activities you’re gonna see in our fallen world. Humans are gonna be awful to one another, and both natural and manmade disasters are gonna happen. They don’t mean it’s the End. This is life. And life is suffering.

When Jesus says “Ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group” in line 1, he doesn’t supply a verb in line 2; in all three synoptic gospels it’s βασιλεία ἐπὶ βασιλείαν/vasileía epí vasileían, “kingdom against kingdom.” He means for us to borrow the verb from line 1, ἐγερθήσεται/eyerthísete, “it’ll be raised up [against],” meaning somebody else is gonna provoke these ethnic groups and kingdoms to fight. You can speculate it’s the devil, and End Times prognosticators will speculate it’s the Beast. Me, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this is the result of humans trying to manipulate other humans for profit and power. It’s what we do.

28 August 2022

Nation will rise up against nation.

Mk 13.8, Mt 24.7-8, Lk 21.10-11.

You notice the title of this piece is “Nation will rise up against nation,” yet when I translate the gospel passages which usually get interpreted that way, you’ll notice I render ἔθνος/éthnos as “ethnic group.” Because that’s what an éthnos is.

Mark 13.8 KWL
“For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes will happen various places.
Scarcity will happen.
These are first birth pangs.”
Matthew 24.7-8 KWL
7 “For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes and scarcity will happen various places.
8 All these are first birth pangs.”
Luke 21.10-11 KWL
10 Then Jesus told them,
“Ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
11 Both great quakes and scarcity in various places,
and plagues will happen.
Both terrifying events
and signs from heaven will happen.”

Éthnos tends to be translated “nation” because for the longest time, people presumed a nation was a country consisting of a homogenous people-group. Ancient Israel consisted only of the descendants of Israel ben Isaac, and ancient Edom of the descendants of Esau ben Isaac, and Moab of the descendants of Moab ben Lot, and so forth. They all had the same ethnic background and race.

Racists especially liked this theory. Even though it’s not wholly true. The LORD let people immigrate, y’know, and become Israeli. Like Ruth the Moabite, or Uriah the Hittite. Like Moses’s Cushite wife. Nu 12.1 (This isn’t the same woman as Zipporah the Midianite, Ex 2.21 even though many Jews insist she is; this is someone from Cush, which is south of Egypt.) Like any of the various Hebrews and Canaanites with whom Israelis intermarried till Ezra ben Seraiah cracked down on the practice in the fifth century BC. Every culture has had intermarriage with neighboring countries and foreigners—and sometimes it was a scandal, and sometimes not. Pretending it never happened, of course implies it’s scandalous.

But racists still think of nation as meaning the very same thing as ethnic group. So whenever they talk about “this nation,” their nation, that’s what they believe it oughta be: A country which only consists of people like them. They wanna purge the country of other races—or at least make ’em second-class citizens. It’s not natural, they insist, for a country to be made up of, or led by, multiple races.

21 August 2022

Wars and the noises of wars.

Mk 13.7, Mt 24.6, Lk 21.9.

I grew up during the Cold War. As a result I grew up with Darbyists like Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye, who were absolutely convinced the United States’ disagreements with the Soviets and Chinese were somehow gonna escalate into the great tribulation. Lindsey in particular offered a lot of scenarios about how it might happen—which he had to update every few years as the international situation changed. Basically you take what everybody’s already anxious about—nuclear war—and tell ’em all their worst fears will come true, whip ’em into a panic, and use it to sell vitamin supplements… whoops, sorry, wrong conspiracy theorist. He sold books. Millions and millions of books. It made Lindsey a wealthy man.

Thing is, once the Cold War ended, Darbyists had to find a new boogeyman. Some of them never gave up on their polemics against the Soviets (now the Russians), and insisted Boris Yeltsin or Vladimir Putin had to trigger the End Times somehow. The current Russia-Ukraine war has borne them an awful lot of scaremongering fruit. Other Darbyists pointed to China, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, or any other nation which they personally didn’t like, and dug up out-of-context bible verses which helped ’em connect the dots and “prove” their theories. I’ve lost count of all the crackpots I’ve heard through the years.

Every time the United States got involved in war since, Darbyists and Darbyist-adjacent “prophecy scholars” insisted this was it. This was the war which’d lead to the tribulation, the rapture, the tribulation, the Beast, Armageddon, and the second coming. Thus far they’re batting .000, but just you wait: Next time we get tangled up in a war, they’re gonna claim that’s the war which triggers the End.

This behavior has been going on long before my time. Dwight Wilson, in his 1991 book Armageddon Now! The Premillenarian Response to Russia and Israel Since 1917, can give you a rundown of all the End Times-triggering world events since Darbyism got popular in the United States in the late 1800s.

The current crisis was always identified as a sign of the end, whether it was the Russo-Japanese War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Palestine War, the Suez Crisis, the June War, or the Yom Kippur War. The revival of the Roman Empire has been identified variously as Mussolini’s empire, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the European Defense Community, the Common Market, and NATO. Speculation on the Antichrist has included Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, and Henry Kissinger. The northern confederation was supposedly formed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Rapallo Treaty, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and then the Soviet Bloc. The “kings of the east” have been variously the Turks, the lost tribes of Israel, Japan, India, and China. The supposed restoration of Israel has confused the problem of whether the Jews are to be restored before or after the coming of the Messiah. The restoration of the latter rain has been pinpointed to have begun in 1897, 1917, and 1948. The end of the “times of the Gentiles” has been placed in 1895, 1917, 1948, and 1967. “Gog” has been an impending threat since the Crimean War, both under the Czars and the Communists. Wilson 216.

Evangelicals just can not stop themselves from “discerning the news,” and trying to find the threads which lead to the End. Sometimes ’cause they wish Jesus would return as soon as possible (and I wish that too; maranatha!)… and others, believe it or don’t, because they don’t wish Jesus would return. They’re happy with things as they are. They’ll fight tooth and nail to delay his coming, delay any tribulation, delay delay delay—till their lives are in a good place, and they’re ready. Whenever that is.

Every little chaotic event makes ’em speculate the End is near, and of course nothing grabs their attention quite like war. Which is why Jesus, right after he warned his students of false Messiahs, warned ’em of war.

14 August 2022

“Watch out. Don’t be misled.”

Mk 13.3-6, Mt 24.3-5, Lk 21.7-8.

Nope, not talking about Christian nationalism today. Although good gracious, it surely feels like American Christianity has been utterly misled by power-hungry Sadducees who don’t know the Holy Spirit, and don’t know how to do anything with bible other than misquote and mangle it. But I suspect it mostly feels this way because of the company I keep.

Anyway, enough ranting about that. Today’s passage isn’t about our present-day drama anyway. The Olivet Discourse is almost entirely about the first century, and very little touches upon the second coming. Primarily it’s about what that generation of Christians would experience within four decades of Jesus saying this.

It began during Holy Week in the year 33, when Jesus was in temple and people commented on how nicely the fourth temple’s construction was coming along. Jesus’s reply was there “won’t be stone upon stone which won’t be pulled down.” Lk 21.6 KWL

Which stunned Jesus’s hearers. This isn’t at all part of the popular first-century Pharisee teachings about the End Times. In most of the rabbis’ timelines, Messiah came to Jerusalem, worshiped God at temple, then turn round and conquer the world. (Most Darbyists have pretty much duplicated the general Pharisee scenario—but swapped out Messiah for the Beast, who they claim will pettily desecrate a still-has-yet-to-be-built sixth temple instead of worshiping there. Where’s this warped idea come from? Well, we’ll get to that.)

Okay. So pulling the temple down is a big, big deal. It’s as if someone blew up the world trade center of a Mammonist country. You wanna cut the heart out of every devout Judean, no matter their denomination? This’d be how.

Understandably Jesus’s students wanted to know where on earth this falls within the End Times timeline. ’Cause they unthinkingly expected things to play out the way Pharisees taught. Since Messiah himself says it’s not gonna be the way, okay; how does it work? Luke makes it sound like they questioned Jesus right there, but Mark and Matthew say it was on Olivet Hill east of the temple. Mark also says only four of ’em asked, while the other eight were… I dunno, off playing soccer or something.

Mark 13.3-6 KWL
3 While sitting himself at Olivet Hill opposite the temple,
Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew
are asking Jesus privately,
4 “Tell us when these things will be.
What’s the sign when all these things should end?”
5 Jesus begins to tell them,
“Watch out lest someone mislead you all:
6 Many will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Messiah,’
and will mislead many.”
Matthew 24.3-5 KWL
3 While sitting himself upon Olivet Hill,
the students came to Jesus on their own,
saying, “Tell us when these things will be.
What’s the sign of your second coming,
and the end of this age?
4 In reply, Jesus tells them,
“Watch out lest someone mislead you all:
5 Many will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Messiah,’
and will mislead many.”
Luke 21.7-8 KWL
7 They inquired of Jesus, saying, “Teacher,
so when will these things be?
What’s the sign when all these things should happen?”
8 Jesus says,
“Watch out. Don’t be misled:
People will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Messiah,’
and ‘The time has come.’
You ought not follow them.”

Okay. The most obvious sign the Olivet Discourse is about the first century, and neither our present nor the time before a future great tribulation, is right here in Jesus’s first warning of the discourse. “Don’t be misled; people are gonna come in my name and claim they’re Messiah.”

07 August 2022

The Olivet Discourse: The temple’s destruction, and preterism.

Mk 13.1-2, Mt 24.1-2, Lk 21.5-6.

In the synoptic gospels there’s a narrative we Christians have historically called the Olivet Discourse, named for Olivet Hill (KJV “the mount of Olives”) where Jesus told his students about the near future and his second coming.

Christians spend a lot of time analyzing and discussing it. For good reason; we wanna know about the second coming! (And want it to happen sooner rather than later.) We wanna know the future. We wanna know our futures. Should we make grand plans for our lives, or is the great tribulation gonna get in the way?

I grew up in churches which had adopted the Darbyist view of the End Times. It’s a futurist interpretation of the scriptures: It insists everything in the bible about the End Times takes place in our future, and none of it has yet happened. Yeah okay, there might be historical events which look like they fulfilled it, but they didn’t really. Darbyists have a timeline of the seven years before Jesus returns, and End Times prophecies are only to fit within that timeline. Anybody who claims otherwise is, depending on the zeal of the individual Darbyist, either naïve, seriously wrong, heretic, or secretly working for the Beast and intentionally trying to lead us astray. Feels like it’s usually that last one.

Thing is, when I grew up and studied history, I quickly came to the conclusion the historical events which look like they fulfilled it… in a ludicrously obvious way, do fulfill it. Everything Jesus said would happen, did. (Except his actual second coming. ’Cause come on.) That’s why the Holy Spirit inspired the gospel authors to include this lesson in their books: The gospels were written, and widely circulated, less than a decade before these events happened. Which meant Christians were ready for these events to happen, got out of the way, and could point out to every pagan around this proves Jesus knows the future. It’s a mighty useful evangelistic tool.

Of course people of our day don’t know ancient history, so of course this goes right over our heads.

We Christians who believe the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the first century, and that most of the stuff in Revelation was also fulfilled by the second century, are called preterist 'prɛd.ər.ɪst —a word that’s related to the grammar word preterite, “past tense.” Some nitpickers call us “partial preterists,” because we don’t claim the second coming has also already happened. Yeah, on very rare occasion you’re gonna find a “full preterist” who does believe it—who claims Jesus appearing to John in Revelation somehow counts as his second coming. It doesn’t. Nor does “pretrist” automatically mean “full preterist”: It only means we believe the bulk of the bible’s End Times prophecies were fulfilled, so the only things yet to come are Jesus’s return, probably the millennium, and New Earth. Contrary to Darbyist fearmongers, there are no seven years of mayhem delaying his return.

If you wanna know about the events Jesus predicts in his Olivet Discourse, I refer you to the very useful Bellum Judaicum/“The Judean War,” written by Flavius Josephus in the years 75 to 79. He’s an eyewitness to when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in the year 70, and tells of it in gory detail. William Whiston’s translation is in the public domain, and is a bit of a slog to get through; there are better ones. I’m partial to G.A. Williamson’s The Jewish War for Penguin Classics.

07 March 2022

Aren’t we living in the last days?


But you may not realize what that answer means. Usually because most people don’t realize what the question means.

In the scriptures, “the last days” does not mean the End Times, the world right before Jesus returns, the reign of Jesus which follows, and the end of the world which comes right after that. But that’s what most people think it means; pagans and Christians alike. So when they ask, “Aren’t we living in the last days?” what they really mean is “Aren’t we living in the End Times?” Do the current events we see on the news, correspond with John’s end-time visions in Revelation?

The answer to that question is no. We’re not living in the End Times. Because the End Times actually don’t start till Jesus returns. It doesn’t consist of any pretrib rapture and one-world government and great tribulation. It starts and ends with Christ Jesus.

When we’re living in the End Times, you’ll know it. Everybody’s gonna see that second coming. Whether they believe it, or insist it’s fake news ’cause they have an entirely different-looking second coming in mind—one which better aligns with their terrifying, vengeful views—is another thing.

So if the last days aren’t the End Times, what are they?

Well y’know how the western calendar divides human history into BCE and CE? (Or the older terms, BC and AD?) The Common Era, or Christian Era, is the division we live in; the Before-Christian Era is the division which came before. In the BCE humanity looked forward to Messiah’s first coming; in the CE we look forward to his second. And before these eras were formally made part of the calendar, Christians thought of these periods as the “first days” and the “last days”—and in these last days, God sent us his son. He 1.2

The guys who put the western calendar together got the year of Messiah’s birth wrong; it’s six years off. The last days actually began 2,028 years ago.

And yeah, when you tell people this, they freak out a little. Because they thought the last days are the End Times. And the longer people believe something that’s not true—especially when we’ve made it a core belief!—the bigger the upheaval when someone finally corrects us. In fact, as you might’ve seen, some people refuse the correction, and insist they were right all along. You’re the one who’s wrong. You’ve been misled by evildoers. Maybe you’re an evildoer. And so on, right down the paranoid rabbit hole.

Usually when someone asks me “Are we living in the last days?” they want or expect me to answer “Oh obviously we are,” and confirm all their fearful beliefs about how all the current events have perfectly lined up with their End Times Timeline. In fact they’re kinda hoping I know some other connections between current events and the Timeline. Anything which supports their views.

They don’t want me to correct ’em with, “Actually the last days began when Jesus was born.” In fact I’ve found some of them already know this—“Yeah, yeah, I know the ‘last days’ began when Jesus was born; I mean End Times.” They don’t care that they’re using the wrong term; they’re just using the same term everyone else does. It doesn’t even matter to them. The only thing which matters is there’s evil out there. The Beast is putting together his evil, evil schemes. But they’re on the righteous side—and ready and eager to fight everyone who’s not.

Yeah, they wanna fight. Are we fighting alongside them? Or are they gonna fight us too? ’Cause honestly, they could go either way. We’re either a source of ammunition, or conflict.