Revelation: The starting point of theology.

by K.W. Leslie, 06 March 2023
REVELATION rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃən noun. A previously unknown fact [about God], often surprising or dramatic.
2. An act [usually God’s] of making the unknown known.
3. [capitalized] Christ Jesus’s apocalypses of the future, given to John of Patmos; the last book of the New Testament.
[Reveal rə'vil verb, revelator 'rɛ.vəl.eɪt.ər noun, revelatory 'rə.vɛl.ə.tɔ.ri adjective, revelational rɛv.ə'leɪ.ʃ(ə)n.(ə)l adjective.]

When I first taught theology, I found whenever I spoke about revelation, Christians nearly always assumed I’m talking about the book. And half the time they think the book’s called Revelations, with an -s. And half that time, when they write it out, they put an apostrophe on the -s, for no reason. Don’t get me started about the overuse of apostrophes.

But revelation, without an -s, refers to anything God reveals to us humans. That’s all revelation is: If God tells you something—and you didn’t already know it, or couldn’t have deduced it on your own; you needed him to reveal it to you—it’s revelation. God revealed something to you.

Yeah, you couldn’t have deduced it on your own. If the weather forecast tells you, “Bring and umbrella,” and God tells you, “No really, bring an umbrella,” that’s technically revelation, but big deal. It’s not gonna stretch and grow your faith when God repeats what your Echo Dot just said. Now if the forecast says, “Sunny and 80 degrees,” and God says, “But bring an umbrella,” and later that day you find yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm nobody predicted: Okay, now it’s more obvious you heard something from the Almighty.

That’s the thing about revelation: It’s obviously a God-thing. “Natural revelation” isn’t so obvious—because every religion tries to deduce what God is like by looking at nature, and all of them get him wrong. Read Job sometime; all Job’s friends had a lot to say about what they saw in nature, and what they concluded about God from it, and the LORD bluntly stated all of them got him wrong. Jb 44.7 Christians try to deduce God-things from nature all the time, and likewise get him wrong; I’ve heard the sermons. Our logical deductions might be pretty good, and impressive… and woefully inaccurate. Because they’re no substitute for God revealing and explaining himself to us.

That’s why good theology has to be based on revelation. We humans are just making guesses about God; some of them wild, some of them reasonable, but they’re still just guesses. Whereas Jesus knows God, ’cause he is God—so we need to follow Jesus. And the Holy Spirit knows God, ’cause he is God—so we need to listen to the Spirit. And the Spirit inspired the bible, so we oughta read the bible. And the Spirit speaks to fellow Christians, so we need to bounce the ideas we think are God-ideas off these fellow Christians, and make sure. But all of this threads back to revelation: We hear from God, and that’s the basis of our theology.

Simple, right? But of course we humans gotta overcomplicate the idea.

Too many of us assume revelation is always a big profound mind-scrambling experience. With lights, visions, seizures, euphoria, and Hollywood-style special effects. This is why people assume God’s never given ’em any revelation, or even claim he doesn’t do this sort of thing anymore: They’re still waiting for the light show. They expect to have Isaiah- or Ezekiel- or John-style visions of God’s throne room. Or see Jesus in glory like Simon Peter, James, John, Stephen, and Paul did. Or at least have some glowing angels or burning bushes or something like that.

Nah. Most of the time, revelation is so ordinary-looking, you’d never realize it’s God talking till he tells you it’s him. Kinda like what happened to the prophet Samuel. He kept pestering his guardian, the head priest Eli, like any other little kid who “just wants a drink of water,” i.e. won’t go to sleep.

1 Samuel 3.1-10 NLT
1 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.
2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the LORD called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
6 Then the LORD called out again, “Samuel!”
Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the LORD because he had never had a message from the LORD before. 8 So the LORD called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the LORD who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
10 And the LORD came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Quite a few stories in the bible consist of God showing up to talk to someone, and their first reaction is, “Wait… is that… God? Holy crap, am I talking to God?” Frequently followed by sheer terror, ’cause most people assume if you encounter God, he’s too holy to abide sin, so you’re gonna die. Ge 32.30, Dt 5.24, Jg 13.22 Or you’re already dead.

But no: God wants you to know him, so he’s making contact. Don’t listen to the cessationists: He does this. A lot.


by K.W. Leslie, 01 March 2023
REVIVAL ri'vaɪ.vəl noun. A new interest in something old. [In this case religion.]
2. An improvement in the condition or strength of something.
3. Reawakened religious excitement.
4. A worship service meant to reawaken religious excitement.
[Revivalist ri'vaɪ.vəl.ɪst noun.]

If you grew up in a churches which hold a lot of revival services, y’might not be aware revivals are actually controversial among a lot of Christians.

Usually because there are a lot of con men in the revivalist business. A lot of them. Always kinda have been. People discovered eons ago it’s a really great way to make money: Whip people into a religious lather, ask ’em for money, and they’ll give it! More people are familiar with the fictional versions of such people—like Elmer Gantry, or Jonas Nightengale in Leap of Faith. But Gantry and Nightingale were totally based on real people.

Like Marjoe Gortner, a former child evangelist turned Hollywood actor. He quit Jesus in the early 1970s, but went on a final revivalist tour and let documentarians watch him behind the scenes… and film how he really felt about what he was doing. It made for a disturbing but Oscar-winning documentary, Marjoe.

These folks—and too frequently, real evangelists—take full advantage of religious excitement. Too many people confuse spirit with emotion, and can’t tell the difference. This particularly happens in revival meetings. Yeah, we’re meant to experience the Holy Spirit, not mere religious mania. But both evangelists and con men want us to lose our heads over God. Some evangelists don’t realize there’s a difference… and frankly, some don’t even care; if it brings you to Jesus, they figure it’s all good! Others legitimately believe the excitement is the same thing. I’ve personally watched an evangelist tell a woman overcome with excitement, “That’s him! That’s the Spirit!”

That’s dopamine, you dope. Not God.

So how do we tell the difference? Duh; fruit. If the Holy Spirit is legitimately involved in any revival, we’re gonna see good fruit. We’ll see authentic behavioral changes. Better emotional self-control. Better all kinds of self-control. Better attitudes. Authentic miracles. A pursuit of truth, not clever sayings and happy thoughts which make us feel good. People following Jesus. Changed lives which stay changed.

And yeah, personal God-experiences are exciting! People changed for the better is awesome! But excitement is a byproduct of the Spirit. Don’t confuse it for the real thing.

The reason many people do, is because God is good, and dopamine most definitely feels good. And people will do crazy things to chase dopamine. Like heroin.

Problem is, dopamine happens quickly and immediately… and the good fruit of the Spirit’s activity is a long-term thing. In the short term, we’re only gonna see the preachers, crowds, emotions, and reactions. In the short term, the only way we’re gonna know God’s in any way involved with this revival is when God tells us so; when those people he’s gifted with supernatural discernment recognize this actually is a God thing.

Whereas naysayers don’t think any of ’em are a God thing. To them it’s all fakery, and all fleshly.

Ash Wednesday: Lent begins.

by K.W. Leslie, 22 February 2023

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the western custom of putting ashes on our heads to mark the first day of the Easter-season Lenten fast. What’s with the ashes? It comes from bible: When ancient middle easterners grieved, they put ashes on their heads. 2Sa 13.19, Jb 2.8 Ashes were also used to ritually purify sinners. Nu 19.9 So it’s to repeat that custom.

Giving… so it can be given you.

by K.W. Leslie, 17 February 2023

For certain Christians, whenever the topic of generosity comes up, this is the first bible quote which comes to mind. It’s part of the Sermon on the Plain; Jesus said it, so you can take it to the bank, right?

Luke 6.38 NIV
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

And that is what they’re counting on. Give, and it’ll be given you. Give, and you’ll get. And not just mere karma-style reciprocity: You’ll get more. You’ll get a lot more. You’ll get a tenfold return on your donation. A hundredfold return, if we can borrow a line from the Four Seeds Story

Mark 4.8 NIV
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

A hundred times what you put in. Doesn’t that sound like the best reason to be generous? You only get that kind of return when you’re gambling. And this is no gamble! It’s on God. Jesus himself said there’d be some kind of hundredfold return on what gets put in.

Now yeah—Jesus only said there’d be a hundredfold return in this parable, and in it he was talking about sharing the word, namely God’s word; it produces a hundredfold return, but that’s a trait unique to God’s word. Pulling it out of context to claim it can also be applied to charity, is in no way a legitimate use of the scripture. Doesn’t matter how many preachers claim, “No it is legit; it’s a biblical principle, and combined with 20 other verses it reveals a profound cosmic secret about how the kingdom works!” It’s not, it doesn’t, and they’re using your greed to con you out of your money. Don’t fall for that.

’Cause I point out to you something which should be fairly obvious to those of us who practice basic reading comprehension: Jesus’s statement in the Sermon on the Plain does not say we’re getting back more than we put in. It says quite clearly, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” You’re getting back the same. Jesus talks about his Father’s overabundant grace a lot, but here, in this particular favorite proof text, he’s actually describing reciprocity.

So what about the whole “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” bit? That presumes that’s what we gave. We gave others a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. We were generouslike any fruit-producing Christian oughta be. We gave abundantly, so we receive abundantly.

If we didn’t give abundantly? Well, “with the measure you use, it’ll be measured to you.” You gave stingily? Expect others to reciprocate stingily. If it looks pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it’s only covering up the fact everything below the top layer has weevils in it.

Or, because not every Christian is a covetous dick, someone actually practiced generosity towards you. Which is awesome. Now pay it forward.

But if your only motivation for generosity is because you think you’ll be in God’s karmic debt, and because he’s infinitely rich he’ll overdo it when he repays you, and you are banking on him falling for your clever money-making scheme… man are you missing the point.

St. Valentine’s Day.

by K.W. Leslie, 14 February 2023

As you should know, saints days are usually the day a saint died.

In Roman Catholic thinking, this’d be the day the Christian actually became a saint, ’cause now there’s no chance whatsoever of them ever quitting Jesus—why would you, now that you’ve been with him in heaven?—so their sainthood is absolutely a done deal. Whereas those of us on earth: Meh. You’re Christian now; we don’t yet know how well you’ll hold up when the poo-poo really hits the fan. ’Cause some of those people back in Roman Empire times who could’ve been martyred saints, as soon as the Romans even threatened to smack ’em around a little, they quickly denounced Jesus and promised to worship the Emperor. So much for their sainthood.

So… how well might you hold up under persecution? Heck, in a country where Christians don’t even get persecuted (except in their own minds), how well might you hold up even when you’re simply suffering? ’Cause plenty of people seem to have a rather low breaking point. Parents die?—even though everybody’s parents die?—quit Jesus. Not cured of whatever ailment you really wanna be cured of?—quit Jesus. Don’t get that job you were convinced God was gonna grant you?—quit Jesus. One of the pastors quietly suggested next Sunday you might experiment with underarm deodorant?—quit Jesus. If these triggers are starting to sound stupid… well, some people get triggered by the pettiest things. “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” Mt 16.24 doesn’t appeal to a culture which denies itself nothing.

But I digress, ’cause today I’m gonna write about the martyr St. Valentine.

Of course the tricky part is which one. There have been many Christians named Valentinus, and some of them lived and died for Jesus, and back in antiquity some bishop decided to give one of them his very own feast day. In the west, bishop Gelasius 1 of Rome fixed it on 14 February. But which Valentinus is this day about? Well, we don’t know.

Well we don’t. This is one of those facts that’s been lost in antiquity. We don’t know anything about St. Valentine. Jesus does, ’cause Valentinus is one of his. That, I suppose, is what counts most.

We know of five ancient Christian martyrs with the name Valentinus. Three in particular, but really any of the five—or in fact none of them—could be the guy with the feast day. There’s no saying for certain. I don’t care which historian you’ve read who claims, “Oh it’s definitely this Valentinus”—it’s not definite at all. We don’t know. Unless some archaeologist finally gets hold of a document in which some bishop first proclaims a St. Valentine’s Day, we’re not gonna know. Some things in the universe are just gonna remain unknowns. Deal with it.

The five Valentinuses are:

  1. A presbyter who served in Rome, buried on the Flaminian Way in the late 200s. Orthodox Christians observe his feast day on 6 July.
  2. A bishop of Interamna (now Terni, in central Italy), killed during a trip to Rome in the year 269. The church of Terni claims this Valentinus died on 14 February, and he’s the St. Valentine… but of course they would. Orthodox Christians observe his feast day on 30 July.
  3. A member of a missionary team to north Africa (today’s Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya), who were all killed at once, and that’s everything we know about him.
  4. A bishop of Passau, who later became a hermit in northern Italy, and died in 475.
  5. A bishop of Genoa, who died in 295.

St. Valentine’s Day was part of the official Roman calendar till 1955, when Pope Pius 12 decided to consolidate a bunch of saints. Of course by then it was already part of popular culture. Medieval Christians had decided St. Valentine, whoever he was, was the patron saint of romantic love, and invented a few legends about how he secretly performed Christian weddings for couples, enraging the emperor, who had him killed for that, not for Jesus. Greeting card manufacturers of course spread the story he used to cut heart-shaped pieces of parchment and give them to other persecuted Christians to remind them of God’s love; which is also likely bogus, but it gives schoolchildren something nice to write about in their St. Valentine’s Day essays.

God’s character.

by K.W. Leslie, 02 February 2023

No doubt you’ve heard of the fruit of the Spirit. Unfortunately, for way too many Christians, they’ve only memorized Paul’s list Ga 5.22-23 and whether they actually strive to practice love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. is a whole other deal. They know these are virtues, but too many of us are kinda just expecting them to appear spontaneously, rather than really work with the Holy Spirit on our character.

Okay. What are these virtues in relation to God himself? Does he exhibit them? Is he loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, etc.? Or have we never made any such connection? Maybe doubt we even should make such a connection, ’cause we’d rather imagine God as offended at humanity’s sins, mournful over humanity’s sins, ready to smite people over their sins, absolutely fed up over people’s sins, eager to offend and outrage people back (after all, they offended him first!) and so forth? Do we figure these traits aren’t in any way practical, considering God needs to be super-duper vengeful right about now?

In other words, do we figure humanity’s sins have flipped God over 180 degrees, and made him fleshly?

I’ll leave you to ponder that idea, and whether our ideas about the wrath of God haven’t somehow turned him into Zeus. But as you hopefully know already, if you wanna know what God is like; if you wanna identify God’s attitude and character traits, the best thing to do is look at Jesus the Nazarene. Does he exhibit the Spirit’s fruit? Or when you read the gospels, do you figure Jesus likewise is triggered and enraged and ready to call down fire because he has HAD IT with these maggot-farming Judeans?

If so, I don’t know what bible you have, or what sort of demented “Christian” movie you’ve been watching. Every bible translation I know of, reveals the Spirit’s fruit describes Jesus’s character. And since Jesus is God, the Spirit’s fruit describes God’s character. Christians think and act fruitful because the Spirit within us thinks and acts like that.

So this being the case… whenever we look at the LORD’s behavior in the scriptures, what attitudes should we attribute to him? Fruitful ones? Or fruitless and fleshly ones? Which traits sound like Jesus, and are therefore God’s?

…Unless of course you don’t believe Jesus is God. Not really. Plenty of Christians flub the concept of trinity, and imagine Jesus is only a segment of God, or a mode of God, or even isn’t really God; he’s just a really important creation—he’s the Son of God!—but not God himself.

And if Jesus isn’t fully God, then it’s understandable—even okay—if Jesus and God are entirely different individuals. Not one in purpose, will, intent, attributes, and character; two distinct deities, like Zeus and Hades. Who are playing a cosmic game of “good cop bad cop” with humanity: God’s the bad cop, eager to roast us in hell, and Jesus is the good cop, trying to get us forgiven and saved—not from sin and death, but from God himself. ’Cause God’s super murdery, but Jesus is more about peace and love than Ringo Starr.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard fellow Christians express this demented idea. All sorts of Christians. Even people who went to seminary and studied way more theology than I have, and should know better! Christians who should know the apostles wholly meant it when they wrote in the scriptures how Jesus as the image of God, Cl 1.15 someone whose very nature is that of God, Pp 2.6 the only-begotten God who accurately reveals who the Father is like, Jn 1.18 and if you’ve seen him you’ve seen the Father. Jn 14.9 Who identified God himself as love, 1Jn 4.8, 16 and defined love by God’s gracious attitude towards us. 1Co 13.4-8 Yet despite knowing these scriptures, they still think God is wrath, and Jesus opposes him. God is the angry Old Testament tribal deity, and Jesus is the loving New Testament global deity… and of course they like Jesus way better.

But this twisted view of God is unbiblical and heretic. Again: Jesus is God. If you think God’s character is all bile and rage, you’re wrong. Get rid of that idea. God’s character is Jesus’s character. Jesus is all about peace and love; so is God.

Context? Who needs context?

by K.W. Leslie, 01 February 2023
CONTEXT 'kɑn.tɛkst noun. Setting of an idea or event: The larger story they’re part of, the circumstances or history behind them, the people to whom they’re said. Without them, the idea is neither fully understood nor clear.
[Contextual kən'tɛks.tʃ(əw).əl adjective.]

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

It doesn’t come from bible, though from time to time someone will claim it totally does, and therefore it’s a divine command. But nope, it’s not scripture at all. Comes from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 1, scene 3. Shakespeare’s no slouch, but it’s still not bible.

Why do people quote it? Typically because they literally mean it: Don’t borrow! Don’t lend! Because if you never borrow money, chances are you’ll never go into debt or bankruptcy. If you never lend money, you won’t have to fret when your friends can’t repay you. Simple, prudent advice. Words people think we oughta live by.

Okay, so why’d Shakespeare write this line?

Well… actually we don’t care why he wrote it. We’re only interested in what we mean by it: Don’t borrow! Don’t lend! We presume Shakespeare meant the very same thing. It’s straightforward enough, isn’t it?

But a Shakespeare scholar, or anyone who’s stayed awake through Hamlet, will recall exactly where it came from. The wily King Claudius’s not-as-wily adviser, Polonius, is giving advice to his son Laertes before he sends him off to university. If they watched any halfway decent performance of Hamlet, they’ll remember Polonius was kind of an idiot. All his other advice in the play turns out to be wrong, bad, foolish, and fatal.

“Well okay, Shakespeare put it in the mouth of a dunce. But it’s still sound advice.”

Is it? Look at the life stories of certain billionaires, and you’ll notice nearly all of them, in order to start the company which made ’em a billion dollars, borrowed money. (The few who didn’t borrow money, already had money, or had wealthy relatives.) You’ll also notice nearly all of them lent money, and made a bunch of money that way too. As for lending, should I not buy treasury bills? Should I not put my money in long-term certificate of deposit accounts? Should I not invest in businesses and people I believe in?

Really, I find the only people who quote it are self-serving or stingy people. And if they claim it’s godly advice, it’s really not. Bible doesn’t back up Polonius at all.

You see the problem. Context is important. We should care where our quotes come from. We might be giving bad advice. Or, when quoting the bible, we might make a divine command out of something which was never meant to be one.

Don’t believe in fake Messiahs and fake second comings.

by K.W. Leslie, 23 January 2023

Mk 13.21-23, Mt 24.23-28, Lk 17.22-24, 37.

The word χριστός/hristós is a loaded term. Nowadays we just translate it “Christ” and presume it means the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary. First-century Judeans figure it likewise meant Messiah, the king-like-David who’d conquer the Romans and the world and whose kingdom would never end… and we Christians believe that about Jesus too, although we figure all that takes place in his second coming, ’cause it clearly didn’t in his first. (Although he did conquer the Romans all the same.)

Thing is, hristós literally means “anointed one.” And you’re likely aware there are a lot of people nowadays who call themselves, or call their favorite gurus, Spirit-anointed leaders, or teachers, or prophets, or even politicians. People who follow those gurus as if they’re Jesus himself. People who worship those gurus, although they’d never, ever admit it: They claim they only worship Jesus, but y’notice how you’re never, ever allowed to dislike or criticize their gurus. Speak ill of them and their worshipers will call you heretic, or otherwise act as if Satan itself pooped you out.

When I was a kid and read this passage, I noticed how Jesus said these people would “seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” Mk 13.22 KJV I actually found that hard to fathom. What Christian would be dumb enough to follow anyone other than Christ? But I’ve since lived and learned. All of us have witnessed Christians who let themselves get led astray—and if you’ve never seen any such thing, odds are you’re astray.

But like Jesus himself said, “But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things.” Mk 13.23 KJV He gave us a heads-up. Don’t fall for the frauds! Worship only the actual Anointed One, and if anyone tries to tell you he’s pulled some kind of secret second coming, or is plotting some kind of secret rapture, tell ’em they’re absolutely wrong, and quote ’em these passages.

Mark 13.21-23 KWL
21 “Then when anyone tells you, ‘Look here; it’s Messiah!’
‘Look there!’—don’t believe it,
22 for fake Messiahs and fake prophets will be lifted up,
and will present signs and wonders,
to lead the chosen people astray, if doable.
23 You watch out.
I have foretold you everything.”
Matthew 24.23-28 KWL
23 “Then when anyone tells you, ‘Look here; it’s Messiah!’
or ‘There!’—don’t believe it,
24 for fake Messiahs and fake prophets will be lifted up,
and will present great signs and wonders
in order to lead even chosen people astray, if doable.
25 Look, I have foretold you.
26 So when they tell you, ‘Look, he’s in the desert,’
don’t go out!
‘Look, he’s in the private room,’
don’t believe it!
27 For just as lightning comes out of the east
and is visible all the way in the west,
thus is the Son of Man’s second coming.
28 Wherever the corpse might be,
there the eagles will gather.”
Luke 17.22-24, 37 KWL
22 Jesus tells the students, “The days will come
when you will long to see one of the Son of Man’s days,
and will not see it,
23 and people will tell you, ‘Look there!’
or ‘Look here!’
Don’t go, nor follow.
24 For just as lightning flashes from the sky
and gives light to all under the sky,
thus is the Son of Man in his day.
37 In reply the students told him, “Where, Master?”
Jesus told them, “Where the body is,
there also the eagles will gather.”

Worse tribulation than they had ever known.

by K.W. Leslie, 16 January 2023

Mk 13.17-20, Mt 24.19-22, Lk 21.23-24.

Most American Evangelicals are conditioned to think Jesus’s Olivet Discourse is entirely about our future. Not his students’ near future; humanity’s future, specifically our own. It’s a combination of self-centeredness (“the bible’s speaking about me!”) and the fact there’s a whole lot of money to be made, and power to be gained, by keeping your people terrified of a scary future.

But it’s not. And if you don’t believe me, ’cause your churches have been really successful at convincing you otherwise, I recommend you read today’s Luke passage more than once. Really read it. Let it sink in.

Mark 13.17-20 KWL
17 “Woe to those who have babies in the womb,
and those who are nursing, in these days!
18 Pray lest it happen in the rainy season.
19 For these days will be tribulation.
Unlike what’s happened to what God creates,
from the first creature until now,
it may never yet be this bad.
20 If the Lord doesn’t shorten the days,
not all flesh will survive—
but because of the chosen whom he selected,
he will shorten the days.”
Matthew 24.19-22 KWL
19 “Woe to those who have babies in the womb,
and those who are nursing, in these days!
20 Pray lest your flight happen in the rainy season,
nor on Sabbath.
21 For then will be great tribulation.
Unlike what’s happened
from the beginning of the world until now,
it may never be this bad.
22 If these days aren’t shortened,
not all flesh will survive.
Because of the chosen,
these days will be shortened.”
Luke 21.23-24 KWL
23 “Woe to those who have babies in the womb,
and those who are nursing, in these days!
It’ll be great calamity in the land,
and wrath upon the people.
24 They will fall by the machete’s blade,
and be put into captivity in every nation.
Jerusalem will be trampled by gentiles
until the gentile era might be full.”

’Cause according to futurist End Times prognosticators, the Olivet Discourse is about a seven-year stretch of great tribulation which takes place just before Jesus’s second coming. It’s not about the Romans invading Israel in the year 70, destroying Jerusalem, killing 2 million Judeans, and scattering the rest of them all over the Roman Empire.

Even though Jesus is obviously talking about the events of the year 70.

Well… it’s obvious to people who know the history of the actual great tribulation. Not so obvious to American Evangelicals who know little to nothing about it—who know that’s how the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, but very little else. To them, this won’t be a great calamity in the land; it’ll be a great calamity all over the earth, like the English Standard Version implies.

Luke 21.23 ESV
“Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.”

True, γῆς/yis can be translated “land” or “earth.” Or “dirt.” It means that kind of earth—the ground below us, not the planet. You want the planet, you’re more apt to use the word κόσμου/kósmu, “world”—although this can also mean all the people of the world, like when Jesus says God so loves the world. Jn 3.16 But you get the point. Translators who choose to turn yis into “earth” typically have an agenda—namely to make us think something’s global when it doesn’t have to be.

Or, bluntly, isn’t.

Don’t even go back to get your stuff.

by K.W. Leslie, 09 January 2023

Mk 13.15-16, Mt 24.17-18, Lk 17.31.

So in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus spoke about “the abomination of desolation,” as the KJV calls it: Something—probably something nasty and disgusting—which’ll make it impossible to worship in temple anymore. Something that’d ultimately happen when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70CE, although Jesus didn’t tell his kids specifically when all this stuff would happen—although he indicated it’d happen within their lifetime, and for a few of them, it did.

When that happened, Jesus said, run for the hills. Mk 13.14 Get out of there before you’re overtaken by it. And in the next two verses, he makes it clear he’s not kidding about getting out of there as quickly as possible. You can interpret these verses as hyperbole if you wanna, but I don’t think that’s wise. When you hear the tornado siren, you don’t go digging around for all your favorite photo albums; you get in the basement. Same thing here. Run.

Mark 13.15-16 KWL
15 “One on the roof: Don’t come back in!
Never go inside, to take up what’s in the house!
16 One who’s gone to the field: Don’t return to what’s behind,
even to take up your clothing.”
Matthew 24.17-18 KWL
17 “One on the roof: Don’t come back in
to take up what’s in the house!
18 One in the field: Don’t come back
to take up your clothing.”

Luke doesn’t include this warning in its version of the Olivet Discourse, but it does have this Jesus-saying elsewhere in the gospel… specifically when he’s talking about his second coming. That’s most of the reason a lot of Christians confound the Olivet Discourse warning about the destruction of Jerusalem, with the End Times and second coming: They think it’s all the same thing. It’s not. The Luke passage is indeed about the second coming, but the Mark and Matthew passage is about the destruction of Jerusalem. I’ll quote the relevant verse anyway:

Luke 17.31 KWL
“On that day, whoever’s on the roof
and their stuff is in the house:
Don’t come back in to take it up!
And likewise one in the field:
Don’t return to what’s behind!”

In the Olivet Discourse, the warning is to ignore your stuff and run from disaster. In Luke, the warning is to ignore your stuff and run to Jesus. In both cases, you’re not gonna need your stuff! But it’s for whole different reasons, and just because the verses are parallel doesn’t mean we’re to pluck them out of context and claim they’re all about the destruction of Jerusalem. Or the second coming.