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Showing posts with the label #EndTimes

Getting ready for the second coming?

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1 Thessalonians 3.11-13. If you read 1 Thessalonians 3 in its entirety—and maybe read the whole book like the letter it is, instead of breaking it up into paragraphs, then analyzing the crap out of each paragraph, much like preachers in a sermon series, or me in these articles—you notice how Paul, Silas, and Timothy went on and on and on about how they missed the Thessalonians, fretted about the Thessalonians, wanted so very badly to visit the Thessalonians (well not so much Timothy; he was just there), and were thrilled to pieces about how well the Thessalonians were doing. So in today’s paragraph, they finally wrap all that up. 1 Thessalonians 3.11-13 KWL 11 God himself, and our Father, and our Master Jesus, has hopefully directed our path to you. 12 The Master hopefully provided more than enough for you, in love for one another and for all, just as we also have for you. 13 All to strengthen your blameless minds in holiness before God our Father. Namely at t

Satan’s fall.

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Revelation 12. One of the popular myths about the devil is how Satan used to be an angel. Not that it pretends to be one, 2Co 11.14 but straight-up was one—the mightiest angel in the heavens, named Lucifer. Got deposed, but it used to be a big, big deal. I’ve challenged many a Christian to actually read their bibles and prove any of this theory from scripture. And I gotta give ’em credit; they do try. But they don’t succeed. It says nowhere in the scriptures Satan used to be an angel. Doesn’t even say Satan was a heavenly being; we just presume so because Satan appeared before God in Job , and we’re kinda assuming they were all in heaven, or thereabouts, at the time. ( Job never says where they were.) Satan’s species is never once identified. Given Satan’s reputation as a liar, Jn 8.44 I’m mighty suspicious about any stories about its origin, like the Lucifer story, which try to make Satan look like it was a big deal at one time. Or still is. During Jesus’s temp

The Wheat and Darnel Story.

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Matthew 13.24-30, 13.36-43 Elsewhere in Matthew Jesus tells a story often called the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, from the word tares used in the King James Version to translate ζιζάνια / zidzánia , “darnel.” It’s a specific weed, Lolium temulentum , frequently called “false wheat.” In ancient times darnel was constantly found in wheat fields. Some darnel always got mixed up with the wheat during the harvest, and it wasn’t until we invented separating machines that people finally got the darnel problem under control. Darnel looks just like wheat when it’s growing… but once the ears appear, any farmer will realize it’s not wheat at all. When they ripen, wheat turns brown and darnel turns black. If it’s harmless, why did the ancients make a big deal about darnel? Because darnel is very susceptible to Neotyphodium funguses, and if you ate any infected darnel, the symptoms were nausea and a little drunkenness. (The temulentum in darnel’s scientific name means “drunk.”)

The Lambs and Kids Story.

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Matthew 25.31-46. The next story in Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, where he taught his students about the End Times, is usually called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. It all comes from verses 32-33, in which Jesus compares the division of humanity into camps of righteous and reprobate, like a shepherd segregating his flock by species: Lambs on one side, kids on the other. One group to get shorn, one to get milked. Or in this case, one group to go one way, the other to go another. This story terrifies legalists. Because outside the proper context of God’s grace, it looks like you get into God’s kingdom entirely on merit . You do for Jesus—or, as Jesus puts it, you do for the very lowest of the people he identifies with, which is all the same to him—and you inherit his kingdom. Or you don’t, so you go to hell. So get cracking! Start feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, reforming the prison and healthcare system, and otherwise fixing society! Wait, is that what legali

The Talents Story.

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Matthew 25.13-30. Nowadays when we say talent we mean a special ability; something one can do which most others can’t. The word evolved to mean that, but in ancient Greek a τάλαντον / tálanton meant either a moneychanger’s scale, or the maximum weight you put on that scale. Usually of silver. Sometimes gold… but if the text doesn’t say which metal they’re weighing, just assume it’s silver. Talents varied from nation to nation, province to province. When Jesus spoke of talents, he meant the Babylonian talent (Hebrew כִּכָּר / khikhár , which literally means “loaf,” i.e. a big slab of silver). That’d be 30.2 kilograms, or 66.56 pounds. Jews actually had two talents: A “light talent,” the usual talent; and a “heavy talent” or “royal talent” which weighed twice as much. But again: Unless the text says it’s the heavy talent, assume it’s the light one. And of course the Greeks and Romans had their own talents: The Roman was 32.3 kilos and the Greek was 26. Using 2020 silver rate

Our Father who art in heaven.

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Matthew 6.9-10. The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew begins with πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς / páter imón o en toís uranoís , “our Father who’s [located] in the heavens,” Mt 6.9 ’cause we’re addressing—duh—our heavenly Father. Matthew 6.9 KWL “So pray like this: Our Father who ’s in the heavens! Sanctify your name.” Some Christians wanna make it particularly clear which god we’re praying to. Partly because some of ’em actually think they might accidentally invoke the wrong god (and y’know, if they’re Mammonists or some other type of idolater, they might). Sometimes because they’re showing off to pagans that they worship the Father of Jesus, or some other form of hypocrisy. But Jesus would have us keep it simple: Just address our heavenly Father. There’s no special formula for addressing him; no secret password we’ve gotta say; even “in Jesus’s name” isn’t a magic spell —and you notice “in Jesus’s name” isn’t in the Lord’s Prayer either. You know who he is; he know

666, the Beast’s number.

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In Revelation John was given an apocalyptic vision of two animals. The first is a leopard with bear paws, seven heads, and 10 horns; and it fights the saints and gets the people of earth to worship it. Christian popular culture tends to call it the Beast, as the KJV translates θηρίον / thiríon ; or the Antichrist, ’cause too many of us speculate it’ll claim to be Christ. (Even though Revelation says no such thing. Go look.) The second animal has horns like a lamb, performs “miracles” in support of the first animal, and forces everyone to worship the first animal and its talking ikon. And this: Revelation 13.16-18 KWL 16 It made it so everyone—small and great, rich and poor, freemen and slaves— might give themselves a stamp on their right hand, or on their forehead. 17 Thus no one was able to buy nor sell unless they had the stamp: The first animal’s name, or the number of its name. 18 Here’s some wisdom: Those with a brain, calculate the animal’s number. It’s

Four main End Times theories.

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At some future point, Jesus will return. Mt 24.42, Ac 1.11, 1Th 4.16-17, 2Th 2.1, Rv 22.20 Not maybe, not we really hope he might: Will. It’s in the creeds; it’s considered orthodox Christianity. Any self-described Christian who claims Jesus isn’t coming back, or who describes his return as metaphorical or “spiritual” (by which they mean imaginary) is heretic. Sorry, heretics. He’s literally returning. But even though Christians are unanimous in our belief “from [heaven] he will come to judge the living and the dead,” we’re not universal as to how it’ll happen. Jesus didn’t give us specifics. He gave us apocalypses , images which represent what God’s up to, but aren’t meant to be taken literally. (Not that some Christians don’t try.) His Olivet Discourse —the bit in the synoptic gospels where he talks about the End Times—and his revelations to John in Revelation are full of such apocalypses. Jesus told us what the End is like , but not what it is . The details are no

Tribulation, great tribulation, and not-so-great tribulation.

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TRIBULATION tri.bu.la.tion noun. Great suffering. 2. The cause of great suffering. 3. An End Times period of suffering around the time of Jesus’s second coming. [Tribulational tri.bu.la.tion.al adjective. ] Tribulation is an old-timey word which, to many people and Evangelicals in particular, has to do with the End Times. Hence writers find it useful: You wanna talk about suffering, but wanna make it sound like really awful suffering, as bad as suffering can be? You call it tribulation. Thing is, when “tribulation” comes up in the King James Version, it means any and every kind of suffering. Not just the worst-case-ever kind of suffering. I mean it is used to describe that, Mt 24.21 but it’s used for all the other kinds. ’Cause suffering is part of the world we live in. John 16.33 KJV These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. Life is sufferi

Warnings when persecution comes. (Unless you’re American.)

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Mark 13.9, Matthew 24.9-13, Luke 21.12-19. In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus told his students about what’d happen before as predicted, the Romans destroyed the temple in the great tribulation. Many fearful Christians insist Jesus wasn’t speaking of the next 40 years, but our future; the events of the End Times. That’s largely because they don’t know first-century history, nor their bibles, and only believe other fearful Christians. If you aren’t as paranoid, peaceless, and agitated as they, they feel you’re too stupid to listen to. The End Times has gotta be all about fear , not hope—and they explain away the fruitlessness of fear by claiming it’s really “the fear of God” they’re about. Yeah right. Today’s passage tends to trigger ’em more than most, because here Jesus speaks about the active persecution of Christians. Which, at that time, was coming soon. Really soon; possibly before the year was out. Jesus gave this discourse during Holy Week, and he’d be killed at th

Millennium: When Jesus rules the world.

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MILLENNIUM mə'lɛ.ni.əm noun. Thousand years. 2. One of the thousand-year periods after Christ’s birth: The first millennium, the third millennium, etc. 3. Where one thousand-year period ends and another begins. 4. [ theology ] Christ Jesus’s reign on earth, represented in an apocalypse as a thousand-year age. [Millennial mɪ'lɛ.ni.əl adjective .] Whenever Christians talk about being “premillennial” or “amillenial,” no we’re not criticizing millennials , the kids born after the year 2000. We’re talking End Times theories. (We’ll use other terms to criticize millennials.) The idea comes from Revelation . In one of its visions of Jesus’s second coming (oh, you didn’t know there are multiple visions of the second coming in Revelation ? Y’oughta read it sometime), Jesus returns, brings us Christians back from the dead, throws Satan into the abyss for 10 centuries, and rules the world. At the end of that time, Satan gets out, starts a fight, Jesus ends it, judges