Earthquakes…Signs of the Times, 4 (Mark 13): The End is Now!?

This is the fourth post in a series titled: Earthquakes… Signs of the Times?  I invite you to read the rest of the series here to catch up, so to speak.  This is a series exploring whether or not we can say that natural disasters are indicators of the imminent return of Christ/ end times/ rapture.  My argument is no, but I’ll let you be the judge to see if the following argument holds up.  Let’s continue…

One of the biggest questions that comes up that I think can determine how we interpret this passage is the word, “end.”  As people who have been conditioned by apocalyptic books (Left Behind, Late Great Planet Earth) and movies (End of Days, Armageddon, Terminator, 2012, etc), it is easy for us to read the word “end” to mean the end of the space-time universe.  But, if we jump to this conclusion too quickly we may impose our ideas on a text that is two thousand years old.  What I am attempting to do is to look at the first century and read forward from there rather than reading from our context backwards (although that I realize that this is not possible in a pure way).  So, to what end was Jesus speaking?

This second unit of Mark 13 (v 5-27) contains Jesus’ response to the disciples’ questions.  In the previous post, I argued that the questions the disciples asked have to do with ‘their’ future and not ‘ours.’  We can imagine that they (the disciples) would have liked a clear response to these questions, but Jesus denies them of such.  It is full of ambiguity and tension throughout.  This is probably why there is such a divergence of approaches to this passage.   Nevertheless, Jesus does give them an answer that is loaded with significance.

Jesus begins by warning them about the various calamities that will come their way.  There will be: deceivers (5-6), wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes (7-8), and persecution (9-13).  These however, are not to be looked at as signs that the “end” is here, but rather are the very things that the disciples must endure as they await the “end.”  Jesus calls his disciples to faithfulness in spite of the difficulties to come, not as a ‘last minute resort’ to escape the coming hardships.  This is a call to godly discernment in the midst of “birth pains,” in order to be able to navigate a faithful life of witness after Jesus is himself no longer with them.[1] The temptation will be for Jesus’ disciples to panic when they observe these various ‘signs’ and when they hear the rumors and speculations from false teachers.  But, the “end,” meaning in this context the “end” of the Temple, will not arrive just because these things are taking place.[2] [3] And in spite of whatever the disciples came to endure, their call to proclaim the gospel to all nations remained.  Such proclamation would be the reason that they would have to stand before courts and governing officials.[4] There is one main clue (or sign) that is given regarding the “end” that is to come.  Everything mentioned thus far in the discourse was inevitable because of their circumstances, whereas verse 14 speaks of an actual sign or signal that it is time to “flee.”  This is not a war or earthquake, but is “the abomination that causes desolation.”

So, to summarize: Calamities, earthquakes, wars, and deceivers will come (or rather came during the Jewish War of the first century), but the clue that the “end is now” takes place only in verse 14 with the introduction of the “abomination of desolation” (which will be the next discussion point we deal with in this series).  When this happens, the disciples are to flee from Jerusalem to save themselves from the coming destruction upon Jerusalem and her temple (again, all happened in 70 AD).

A lingering question will remain for those who are not convinced that all of this passage belongs to the past: what about the cosmic signs, the angels, and the coming of the Son of Man?  This all seems to be about “our” future because none of these things have happened yet.  Well, we will get there in the next couple of posts :-)   Thoughts about our potential to import our ideas about the “end” into the text?  Other Ideas?


[1]. Timothy J. Geddert, Mark, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), 305-306.

 

[2]. Wright, Mark for Everyone, 178-179, 181.

[3] A majority of the commentators I am interacting with see a link between the “end” of space-time history and the return of the “Son of Man.”

[4]. Michael Bird, “Mission As an Apocalyptic Event: Reflections On Luke 10:18 and Mark 13:10,” Evangelical Quarterly 76, no. 2 (April 2004), 126.

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  • http://jeremyinbyzantium.blogspot.com Jeremy

    First Comment! But I will give my “opinion”. I hold to a pre-70 A.D date for Revelation and was convinced from reading “Before Jerusalem fell” by Kenneth Gentry. That Ireanous quote really bothered me, but Gentry shows a very plausible solution to that. But I think the fundamental problem in our time is, not understanding Apocalyptic Language. What convinced me was how that same language was in the Old testament. For the Cosmic imagery, we can see the same language in the Old Testament with the ” Day of the lord”. If you look at Isaiah 13:10-13. The Stars are not giving light? The sun being darkened? Moon not giving light? Heaven and Earth been shaken?. This same language are littered everywhere in the Old Testament I think we can all safely say that no supernova happened in the Old Testament. ( Not trying to be a smarty pants, but giving my honest opinion)

    “Is. 13:10-13 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.”

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Second Comment!!!! ha ha… awesome!

      Great thoughts here! Gentry has a pretty sound argument. Not sure I am convinced these days… but the day they find some “external” evidence for the early date of Revelation you can count me in. And yes, I know that the quote is a bit shakey… :-)

      Your other points are spot on! I will address some of that in a couple of future posts!

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    I like what Wikipedia says about the book of Revelation:
    ‘Whatever Revelation may become in the fertile fields of interpretive minds, it is first and foremost a piece of literature, and it should be understood in literary terms. This does not exclude other approaches, it merely underscores them.’

    I think it can be interpreted many ways, and I don’t believe it should be in the Bible more or less than many other texts of its time, but ‘apocalupsis’ or revelation meant something different to early christians than to us- the early christians believed Christ had the elusive ‘gnosis’, insight into the nature of divinity and ultimate understanding.

    At the time of Christ’s death his followers believed he was returning from the dead imminently, and much of the christology that ensues for centuries is a reworking of that fundamental premise: if Christ had the ultimate knowledge of God then the how and when of how they would see him again has to be worked out. Revelation fits this mystery, especially if it post-dates the fall of the Temple which must have terrified Jews and early Christians.

    By the end of the 4 th century* ( when Revelation becomes officially a Bible text ) Christ is part of the divinity, and people started to construct meanings in texts, and set aside one explanation for another. The book we read today has a long history. What we get as apologetics and theology today was still being first decided at that time, and has been reworked many times since, sometimes a little fancifully as with Revelation.

    Millennialism- the significance of thousand year eras- is a very ancient idea predating Judaism, but it fits with early Christianity: there is no year zero and the arbitrary date of Christ’s birth which we now refer to as the start of the millenium was chosen by Dionysius in 525- though no one knows why he decided Christ had been conceived 525 years previously.

    There is no way of currently knowing who wrote Revelation
    or when though, and the imagery is common to other sources much older, including the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    The oldest known partial copy of the text dates to the 4 th century, the third codex of Codex Sinaiticus, but it is damaged and the text is thought to have been altered significantly over the years.

    Given that many texts were only uncovered in the last century it may be that other documents can be found which can be carbon-dated or which give more source texts.

    *’The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, 3 two books of Paraleipomena, 4 Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, 5 the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, 6 two books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John. ‘ is from Codex Canonum Ecclesiæ Africanæ of 419, just 22 years after Revelation is officially included

    • jasonekk

      @infgoodfaith… wow… that is a comment and a half. You bring up a lot of interesting stuff. In a sense you are bringing up a whole other topic, “canonicity”. I think it does have relevance in that it brings up the context of “Revelation.”

      @kurt… I have to say I had never heard the “end” discussion. Or, maybe you mentioned it to me but I just forgot. Anyways, it is interesting. As this is a topic I am not well-versed at all I am curious to read the discussion.

      shalom y’all!

  • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

    One of the biggest questions that comes up that I think can determine how we interpret this passage is the word, “end.”

    The word “end” is indeed a critical term as it may transcend the time in which Jesus gave the warnings or it may pertain to the lifetime of the disciples and have a fixed period. But exactly what “end” was Jesus talking about? Was it the “end” that came in AD 70? Or is there an “end” yet to come? The question still remains – Exactly what “end” was Jesus talking about?

    To answer this all important question we must understand why did Jesus come the first time, suffered, died and rose from the dead and, at the time appointed by the Father; will return. The answer is written; (Joh 3:16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. (Joh 3:17) For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.

    The world is in dire need of salvation from SIN that is the ultimate reason why Christ came as we learn from (Dan 9:24) Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.

    The “end” of sin comes when Christ returns, before the “end” comes there would be false Christs, there would be wars and rumors of wars, nations and kingdoms will rise against one another, earthquakes will shake the very foundations of the earth, famine will engulf the world, disciples who stand on the testimony of Christ will be tried and put to death, the holy city will be destroyed, false prophets and teachers will have their day, in the family sons, daughters and parents will turn on each other: (Mk 13: 5-12) They will be like a woman in travail – birth pangs!

    But all these things are just the beginning of sorrows for the “end” is not yet, however those who endure to the “end” (when Christ returns) will be saved: (Mk 13: 13). When the son of perdition stands in the holy place or the abomination of desolation comes to pass the “end” is not yet, it is the time when the Beast shall, through the power of Satan, make war with the saints and overcome them for 42 months (Rev 13: 5-7). After this never before seen tribulation there shall be signs in the heavens and the Messiah will return: Mk 13: 24-26.

    My dear brothers/sisters remember that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (1Cor 10:26), all of creation belongs to the Lord and everything that goes on it is subject to His authority even what we call ‘natural disasters’, as He can work through any medium that He chooses to fulfill His will and purpose. The earthquakes and other disasters that we are witnessing and that are occurring at faster speeds and greater intensities {birth pangs},are signs given to transcend all time before the “end” not just for the lifetime of the disciples. I honor Jesus for His wisdom about everything and especially His knowledge of the lifetime of the disciples that were with Him during His earthly ministry. Through this knowledge He was able to give both them and the last generation (us) warnings in the Olivet Discourse.

    I thank my savior Jesus for His wisdom that He reveals to me and for opening my eyes to His teachings, all glory and honor belongs to Him.

    In His Grace

    Wes

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    Wes, what you say is one of the common interpretations of Revelation, an apologetic position.

    Whether there is any attachment to the idea that earthquakes preclude ‘end times’ is still unknown, presumably some of these ideas came right from the first century though- 9 years after the Temple falls in Jerusalem Pompeii erupts and the ash clouds would have spread around Europe. I think much of this writing comes from the fact the people then thought they were living in the end times.

    Today we would probably say someone who had religious visions such as Revelation was suffering with a mental illness.

    Yes jasonekk, fascinating isn’t it…and most people who go to ‘Bible study’ never learn anything but a particular set of apologetic or theological structures! This is much more real and interesting to me on a spiritual level as well as historical.

    Eschatology is a superstition and if people knew more about the formation of the Bible and about some of the texts which were taken out or excluded from the Bible I think it would be interpreted in context.

    There’s something a bit grim to me about those people who enjoy the idea of the end times too- all the horrible movies and books- not a lot of motivation to act in the here and now,especially if subscribing to the idea ‘I am saved because of what I believe’ ( Matthew 25 would come to my mind on that! )

    • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

      ingoodfaith, thanks for your response.

      With all the ‘natural disasters’ that the earth is subject to; earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions etc. I wonder why only earthquakes were cited.

      Maybe you have some insight on this?

    • Daniel

      Today we would probably say someone who had religious visions such as Revelation was suffering with a mental illness.

      The same thing would probably be said about someone who claimed to be able to cast out demons, heal people with miracles, forgive people’s sins, or die and be raised back to life…

      (In fact I’m pretty sure the Pharisees did accuse Jesus of being insane… But the question is, was He?)

  • Michelle

    The day my pastor confronted me with the truth that my eschatology (pre-trib) was a lie, was one of the most blessed days of my life. Believe me when I say that at the time it didn’t feel like it. I left my disciple class in a snit and went home to prove her wrong. Instead, after much study, I was proved wrong. At the time I didn’t realize that that moment of confrontation was the beginning of God answering a heartfelt prayer. You know when you are in a spiritual dessert. Something is wrong when you know you are supposed to love God with all your heart but really you don’t. It is all in your head and not in your heart. And you wonder what is wrong because you know that you have experienced the new birth. And you remember what that moment of pure relief was like, so you pray to God. For me at 22, after my new birth moment I began to be yoked with a negative gospel by my well meaning spiritual leaders. After 10 years of no spiritual growth, you begin to wonder “was it all a lie?”. When the picture of God that you have been given is of a God who only loves some and are told don’t worry because God is sovereign, well, it is impossible to love that God in your heart because your heart and mind are not in one accord. But Praise BE to God that that negative gospel is not the Good News of God! All my theology has been shaken! The straw has been swept away and God has replaced it with precious stones and it all began with that moment! Thanks be to God for Christians with the confidence to speak the truth. God loves all, Jesus died for all, Grace is given to all! His kingdom is now! Do you want to be apart of it?

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      All I want to add here is AMEN!

    • Daniel

      “God loves all, Jesus died for all, Grace is given to all…”

      Amen to that! But the uncomfortable (and perhaps negative?) question remains, do all want Grace…?

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    ‘His kingdom is now!’ Amen Michelle!

    ‘I wonder why only earthquakes were cited.’

    People believed that God’s wrath shakes the heavens and the earth ( eg Exodus 19, Hebrews 12, Isaiah 2, 1 Kings 19 etc ) having no other explanation for the most terrifying phenomenon- the actual earth collapsing beneath you. Earthquakes bring about volcanic eruption, thunder and lightening, ash and gas clouds. It’s pretty frightening even when you know what is happening.

    In Acts 16 where the apostles are freed when an earthquake destroys the prison this may well be an actual earthquake referred to by Roman philosopher Seneca in his writing about comets.

    By Protestant times it is part of popular theology; Charles Wesley wrote a sermon in 1730 called The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes http://www.theamericanview.com/index.php?id=501 and in fact it wasn’t until the San francisco earthquake in 1906 that the study of earthquakes became a science in the US with a government commission to investigate. From that the earth’s core and structure was ‘discovered’ and examined.

    The worst ever earthquake happened in China in the 16 th century killing almost a million people.

    • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

      Thank you so much :)

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Brief answer- earthquakes are the focus in light of their relevance in the past few months. To help, u may need to read the first post in this series :-)

      Sent from my iPhone

      • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

        With all the ‘natural disasters’ that the earth is subject to; earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions etc. I wonder why only earthquakes were cited.

        Maybe you have some insight on this?

        Actually what I was referring to was the Olivet Discourse mention of only earthquakes….. ingoodfaith provided an answer, if you have a different perspective please share.

  • Daniel

    I’m still wondering what folks here make of these verses in Matthew, (which are a conclusion to Jesus’s words in Matt. 24, a parallel account of the text of Mark 13…)

    When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

    “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” [Matthew 25:31-46]

    Whatever conclusion one might come to about this word from Jesus, it’s hard to see how it could be construed as merely refering to some earthly, political development… Wouldn’t you say?

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Earthly political development… no (at least not only this). Actual judgment… yes. But the bible is completely embedded in its own particular historical political situation. It doesn’t try to separate the contextual realities from the ‘spiritual’ ones, so we must be care to not do this either (but this is a topic for another time).

      In regards to the passage you cite, it is possibly the most difficult for me to deal with. I have for many years looked at this as mostly referring to the future and final judgment. However, I want to offer another option that keeps in tact the biblical integrity (especially regarding judgment) and also keeps this text in its literary context. To do so, I am simply going to give you several quotes from Tom Wright’s “Matthew For Everyone” (I commend his “for everyone” bible study/devo commentaries to you as an excellent resource).

      “In this final part of Jesus’ fith and last discourse in Matthew’s gospel, we have, not a parable as such, but another heavenly scene corresponding to, and indeed developing, the ones in chapter 24. Jesus is to be exalted as the ruler of the world, vidicated after his suffering… What we are now invited to witness is the way in which his just rule will be exercised.” 141

      “The likely meaning of the scene…is that those who have not followed Jesus the Messiah will be judged in terms of how they have treated the people whom he counts as his family.
      Of course this doesn’t mean that Christians themselves are not to behave in a similar way towards others.” 142

      “The scene is the climax of a long discourse in which Jesus has denounced his own people, especially their would-be leaders, for their failure to live as God’s people should, and has spoken of his own coming exaltation in accordance with the biblical picture of the vindication of the son of man.” 142

      (A brief note, I have not yet addressed the “son of Man” issue and will do so in the next week or so… )

      “I have suggested that the vindication of the son of man spoken of in 24.30 refers, not to his future second coming, but (as Jesus there insists) to the events which were to take place within a generation. According tot he rest of the New Testament, not least Paul, Jesus is already ruling the world as its rightful Lord (eg 1 Corinthians 15.25-28). Should we not say, then, that this scene of judgment, though in this picture it is spoken of as a one-off, future and final event, may actually refer to what is happening throughout human history, from the time of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the present? Could it be that the final judgment, in some sense, comes forward to me us?
      This is not to say, of course, that there will not also be a final moment when all judgment is complete….
      that, after all, is likewise insisted on by Paul and others (e.g. Romans 2.16; 2 Corinthians 5.10). But it is to say that, here at least, Jesus is portrayed as launching his followers on their dangerous and vulnerable mission as his brothers and sisters, with the knowledge that he, their older brother, is already ruling the world and taking note of what they suffer.” 143

      Well, Hope that gives you an idea about where I am coming from. Jesus is already on the throne and this judgment is already happening in every act of compassion or lack there of. This judgment will ultimately be sealed in the last day, but this passage speak primarily of Christ’s ruling activity in the here and now.

      • Daniel

        Actually, these quotes don’t clarify a whole lot for me… He says, “This is not to say, of course, that there will not also be a final moment when all judgment is complete….”, but then he tries to make the point that “judgement is going on now”, although he gives no basis for such a conclusion… (seems a little like he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth there…)

        Jesus is indeed on the throne, but scripture is pretty clear that Judgement (with a capitol “J”) has not yet begun… One verse that came to mind is:

        In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. [Hebrews 2:8,9]

        It has just now struck me, as a somewhat ironic observation, that on the one hand, you believe in a type of ongoing, non-climactic “judgement”, in the form of people not showing compassion to each other (and I suppose that we could call that a form of judgement, though I’d say it’s really more just the effects of a Fallen humanity, so in a sense, it’s us pouring judgement on ourselves…), but, you then reject the idea that God would allow the same sort of ongoing, “precursor” judgements in the form of earthquakes or other natural disasters. This confuses me a little… It’s almost like your view “ongoing judgement” (happening in every act of compassion or lack there of) is more like the idea of “Karma” than judgement…

        What I’m starting to wonder is, is this discussion about earthquakes and the “end times” maybe more about the issue of the planet/environment, and what our attitude we as Christians should have towards the earth? This seems (and I could be totally wrong, just guessing here), that this is a major motivation for the rejection of an outlook which views the world as going down the toilet, to be remade and renewed by Christ at the End of the Age… You seem to view this belief as terribly fatalistic and hopeless…

        It’s almost like the belief is that it’s these “fundamentalist” end-time folks who are seen as the ones responsible for polluting the air, poisoning the oceans, etc. It’s those “fundies” who don’t care about the environment, right? They think it’s all going to end, so they’re perfectly content to trash it! Well I’d caution against anyone jumping to those kinds of conclusions, because while there probably are plenty of people out there who fit that stereotype, there are also plenty out there who simply don’t (like myself…) I do happen to believe that the Earth is going fall apart at the seams, and that this is most likely not too far off (and interestingly enough, I’ve heard plenty of non-religious scientists and climatologists say that we are already too far down the path of climate-change to stop it…) but anyways, that doesn’t mean I think we should just pillage and strip every piece of the earth that we can make a profit off of (heck, I get upset when I see my neighbors using Round-Up to kill their weeds…) The world’s ecologoical problems are the result of ALL of our “progress”, which most often times boils down to greed, something shared by people all over the world…

        The good news though, (the real hope), is that this earth is not “The only one we got”, (as I keep hearing this morning, being Earth day and all…), just like these physical bodies are not the “only ones we got”, and this life on earth is not “the only one we got”. If we are able to believe what the Bible says about the Resurrection, and accept that we are going to be given literal resurrected bodies, (as N.T. Wright accurately points out), then why would we turn around and then tell God that although He is capable of raising dead people back to life, we just don’t think He is capable of fixing the earth? If it’s crazy-talk to speak of God creating a new heaven and a new earth, (in the “miraculous” sense, outside of our human cooperation), then it’s just as much crazy-talk to speak of God raising people from the dead.

        Here’s what N.T. Wright, (and many others today) seem to miss… The fact that the Resurrection is real, and physical, and that going to “heaven” doesn’t mean floating around in some disembodied, spiritual netherworld (all of which is perfectly true), means that “Heaven” itself is real, and physical! It is a “resurrected” Heaven and Earth, prepared for a Resurrected Bride! After Jesus rose from the dead, He had a real, physical body which could be touched, and eat, etc., (although He could also do lots of crazy “spirit-like” kinds of things too…) The Bible tells us that we will be like Him, with the same kind of “spirit-body” (something we really can’t imagine until we experience it) and that we will be with Christ, forever…

        So why is this truth, which is plainly taught in scripture, turned into a charicaturized, corny idea of “going to heaven when you die” (like a cartoon depicting people sitting on clouds with halos, bored out of their minds…) and then subtley mocked as silly and superstitious? It’s a reactionary conclusion comprised of a collection of half-truths, (which of course means they are then also half-lies…)

        The primary element of the “Judgement”, and the “End” which seems to get overlooked here again and again, is the issue of the “seperation”, the fact that there are two fates which a person can face. Would I be right to suggest that this is the underlying reason for most of the discomfort with all of the verses talking about judgement? We simply don’t want to believe that there is a place called “Hell”. And who would? The question is, does the Bible, and Jesus Himself, teach that it is a reality?

        And if the answer is yes, then wouldn’t you agree that the eternities of men and women bear a much higher priority than worrying about the planet, which God is going to restore anyways?

  • Daniel

    Kurt…. Also wondering what you make of a verse like 2 Peter 3:3-13, since you seem convinced that any concept of the space/time universe coming to a climactic end is later construct being read into the text…

    First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

    Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t find a lot of ambiguity here…

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      I would say that apocalyptic language is at work here. This is not always 100 percent literal. Even so, if we look at this as in the days of Noah… Was the earth actually destroyed when the flood came? My answer is no. It was purified by the water (great baptismal image). The earth was in essence preserved… Just as it will be with “fire.” Although we ought to keep in mind that fire is an image of purification in Scripture and is very rarely literal.

      Also, “everything will be laid bare” doesn’t have to mean that the earth will be destroyed. All that is evil will be ‘burned up’ and all that was not “wood hay or stubble” will last. Dont have time to go much deeper than that :-)

      Again bro, I have to recommend a book called “Surprised by Hope” by NT Wright.

      • Daniel

        That’s certainly an interesting take, especially the part about the flood not being a destructive event… Do you believe in a literal flood? Do you believe that the water literally covered the entire earth, and that everyone but the eight people on the Ark literally drowned? I’d say from the perspective of those not on the boat, it was a pretty desctructive thing! Peter then makes a direct comparison between (literal) destruction through water, and then literal destruction through fire. It’s not like we can quibble over one little word in the text either, he says “destroy/destruction” like five times just in this passage. So if “destruction” is a mistranslation, then they got it way off…

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          I have no issue holding to a literal universal flood. Again, my point is that the flood (even if taken 100 percent literally) did not destroy our planet… in the sense that our world was not obliterated from existence. the waters eventually dried up and Noah’s family started over on dry land of the same… but purified planet. So, if this is the image of destruction that Peter uses to illustrate the final judgment, that is fine. in the same way, even if we take this literally, the planet will not be destroyed but purified one last time of all evil. the righteous will be in their own metaphorical life boat or arc (new Jerusalem?) and will then the heavenly realities will flood the newly purified earthly realm for eternity at that point. Destroy = purge, NOT denigrating from existence. Again, I am using Peter’s own definition of destroy not my own. If he want destroy to mean ‘wipe out all that is evil’ well, that is just fine with me and is not in conflict with my theology.

          Admittedly, this is the most difficult passage in the whole bible regarding my views :-)

          PS – did you get my email? Did you follow this other link?

          • Daniel

            Yeah, got your email, thanks for the booklet, I think you might be surprised to hear that I’d probably agree with 95% of what N.T. Wright says in there…

            And as far the distinction between destruction/annihilation, I’m with you on that one. In fact, I’m a little surprised to discover that you are arguing against a complete annihilation of the earth, cuz I certainly haven’t been arguing for such a scenario, (and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else propose such a thing either…) Do the “Left Behind” folks actually teach that the Earth will disappear from the solar system? How strange… But yeah, when I read “destroy/destruction”, the important emphasis to me is how human beings are affected (i.e. killed…), not about the globe ceasing to exist…

            I’m starting to think that you and I are less at odds with each other than originally thought, maybe we just articulate some things differently…

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            I think that may be very true… Different schools of thought often have different language to articulate the same kinds of truth. blessings!

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Also, I’d point you to this “Quote to Ponder” that I dealt with about the view of the early church regarding the fate of our planet.

      http://groansfromwithin.com/2009/01/11/quote-to-ponder-early-church-belief-in-renewal-of-creation-as-final-hope/

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    ‘Whatever conclusion one might come to about this word from Jesus, it’s hard to see how it could be construed as merely refering to some earthly, political development… Wouldn’t you say?’

    it’s very clear to me: ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.

    It is the compassion shown here and now in everyday life which gains the place in the afterlife.

    ‘The Kingdom’ begins in this life, begins now at that moment the follower of Christ commits to it, because there is no knowing ‘the hour wherein the Son of man comes’ ( son of man here is huios anthropos, it’s been traditionally translated as meaning the return of Jesus but it could equally mean the person going before God, ie dying )

    The idea of a bridegroom taking 10 brides is an ancient one, I am inclined to think this is also humour since Christ has already said clearly husbands should take one wife only; it is a metaphor for within that culture. We miss a lot of the subtlety.

    The Greek ‘aionios’ which we have translated as everlasting really only applies to God- that which is without beginning or end. Look at the next chapter where Christ says ‘poor you will have with you always, but you will not have me always’, the adverb is now ‘pantote’, which means forever in a finite way, as in for all of your time.

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    Thomas Payne said ‘belief in a cruel God makes for a cruel man’; I don’t believe in the Old testament view of God as angry and vengeful- because I know that the natural phenomena which affect people adversely
    need not be interpreted with superstition.

    For compassion to happen superstition has to be put aside, stop looking for the evil which must be upsetting God, blaming and scapegoating others etc.

    If Christ was the sacrifice to end that, especially so I would have thought.

    • Daniel

      I have merely put Jesus’ own words out there for consideration, so I wonder why you are insinuating that I am the one injecting my own “superstitions” into His teaching?

      What you said about entering into the Kingdom here and now is absolutely true, because repentance is something which happens here, in this life… But to then conclude that the Kingdom of Heaven is not ultimately an eternal Kingdom, is to ignore the rest of what Christ taught…

      Your portrayal of the “Old Testament God” as being angry and vengeful is not an uncommon one, though it is not an entirely accurate depiction. It is based on the assumption that judgement/wrath is in conflict with a loving, merciful God. But from beginning to end, the Bible denies such a conflict, and always underlines the fact that God’s mercy and judgement do not contradict one another, but on the contrary they are part of the same Truth.

      If we reject what the Bible says about the sinfulness and wickedness of mankind, and insist on defining “compassion” as the act of reinforcing the inherent goodness of all people, then this is no longer “compassion” at all, but actually idolatry. It is the idolatry of ourselves, the deification of human beings, instead of the Creator. When we reserve for ourselves the right to define what a “loving” or “merciful” God should look like, we are putting ourselves in His place. But a God who punishes wickedness is not a cruel God, only a just one. The problem comes when we don’t want to face up to the fact that we are wicked, and actually deserve judgement in the first place. (If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives…)

      But we can be certain that God is not a cruel God, because of the cross… God didn’t create us just so He could amuse Himself by condemning and punishing fallen people. He sent His own Son, to take our place, so that we could be freed and live again. This is Love in it’s purest, deepest form. This is Love on a level that we humans can’t hardly even wrap our heads around…

      But if you still choose to reject this teaching, then you of course are absolutely free to reject it. But to reject it, and then try to pick out and keep the more “palatable” things said by Jesus, is simply disingenuous. It’s all, or nothing. Jesus, and His gospel, are not like the drive-through menu at Starbucks, where you can get your Messiah tailor-made to your exact preferences…

  • http://ingoodfaith.wordpress.com/ ingoodfaith

    I never insinuate anything! I can give you two things- facts I know or personal opinions…though what you write is why I personally reject apologetics:

    though there are necessarily many ways of reading any one text a person who believes they have a one true explanation will only accept their own as legitimate.

    I don’t believe that is either rigorous study or equates to a personal spiritual experience for others.

    ‘It’s all, or nothing.’

    That’s simply not true.

    2000 years ago women and children were the property of men. Many people were slaves. Phenomena like earthquakes were not understood, much of the world outside one’s own immediate circumstances was unknown, thus most of the world’s history is not represented in the Bible.

    People will always have to use discernerment, personal judgement, in how they read and interpret the Bible, if they truly wish to represent Christ, & many evils have already been done in Jesus’ name by the people who did not.

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