The Secret of the End Times in Matthew’s Gospel

Everybody wants to know the secret of the end times.

John P. Meier, in his commentary on Matthew, suggests that the “secret” is given in Matt. 11:27:

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

The secret is reducible, he suggests, to “one basic mystery: the mutual knowledge and relationship between the Father and the Son.” I am suspicious of the term “reducible” here, but in any case, he explains further:

Each person is a mystery knowable directly only by the other. The knowledge and relationship form a unique, privileged, and exclusive mystery…no one else can claim this mutual relationship as a right.

And so what we have here is a fusion of the apocalyptic (revelation or divine disclosure or a mystery) and the “sapiential” (Wisdom) in the person of Jesus who exists in intimate relationship with the Father (a “second person” or “I-Thou” relationship).

The beauty of the gospel here is that Jesus chooses to reveal and disclose the intimacy of this relationship, the presence of the divine in the form of human flesh in the muck and mire of history, to the “little ones”…to those who strain under the oppressive yoke of the Pharisee.

This might suggest to us that if we want to get a glimpse of the apocalyptic secret and the wisdom of God in the present, we might do better to hang around the nepioi, the “mere children, the poor and meek of the beatitudes, who must rely totally on God’s saving action because they know they have no religious claim or merit of their own.”

In other words, the best teachers and illustrators of the gospel–and those best in position to illustrate the secret of the end times (which Jesus ushered in)– might not be those holding forth at our religious conferences and writing the books, but those most on the fringes of society who grasp desperately for God’s salvation.



About Kyle Roberts

(PhD) is Associate Professor of Public Theology and Church and Economic Life, supported by the Schilling Endowment, at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Roberts has published essays on Kierkegaard and modern theology, including several essays in the series Kierkegaard Research: 2014-10-14 10.26.51Sources, Reception and Resources (Ashgate / University of Copenhagen) and other collected volumes on various topics, including Pietism, Karl Barth, and Christian spirituality. Roberts has published Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013) and is currently co-authoring a theological commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans) and a book about the virgin birth (Fortress Press, Theology for the People)