Angels Vs. Messengers… A War of Words? [Earthquakes…Signs of the Times, 6 (Mark 13)]

This is the Sixth post in a series titled: Earthquakes… Signs of the Times?  I invite you to read the rest of the series here to catch up (the first post would be extremely helpful)…

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We have been doing a study to discern whether or not we can rightfully say that earthquakes and other natural disasters are “signs of the times” or indicators that the “end times” are coming soon.  This next point, is not critical to the study but may offer us a helpful hint about Mark 13.  There is a textual nuance that may become important in this study that is found in verse 27.  The TNIV renders the passage the following way: “And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds…”  The question at hand is the word “angels” which is from the Greek word “άγγελοι.”  This is a word that commonly refers to angels in the Bible, but can also equally refer to human messengers depending on the context.[1] In classical Greek, this term meant: “the messenger, the ambassador in human affairs, who speaks and acts in the place of the one who has sent him.”[2] The question becomes whether or not we actually think this is referring to people or to angelic beings.  Of the translations that we have examined thus far, there are none that leave open the possibility that this word should be rendered messengers.  There is one translator that has chosen to take this liberty in two different places: N. T. Wright.[3] Unfortunately these are not mainstream translations.  So, who wins this “war of words:” angels or messengers?  It seems that this will be a discussion that will not be easily resolved.    However, for the purposes of this study we ought to allow for the word “άγγελοι” to mean either of the two options, rather to cage up its definition into a box of religious assumptions.

What are your thoughts about the importance of thinking about various words as they were used in their historical context?

PS – If anyone know how to make Greek font show up in wordpress, that would be helpful as well :-)

UPDATE: Thanks to Dan (who by the way is an excellent blogger) as he gave me a tool to convert words into Greek in a way that WordPress recognizes!  Go here.

Also, take note of his comment on another text that uses this word as messenger: “άγγελος is also the word used of the people sent by John the Baptist to ask Jesus whether he was the Christ, in Luke 7:24.” (in comments to this post)  In my opinion, this is another great indication that the traditional way of translating this particular word in Mark 13 has been influenced by futurist views of the “end.”  Any thoughts on this as well?


[1]. N. T. Wright, Jesus and The Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 2 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), under “361 n. 152.”

 

[2]. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 101.

[3]. Wright, Jesus and The Victory of God, 361 and Wright, Mark for Everyone, 181.

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  • http://www.jmsmith.org James-Michael Smith

    Here is Wright’s quote (since I just got his work on Libronix I might as well make use of it, right?):
    “These verses, as Caird urged, are not ‘flat and literal prose’.They do not speak of the collapse or end of the space-time universe. They are, as we have seen from the passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah quoted above, typical Jewish imagery for events within the present order that are felt and perceived as ‘cosmic’ or, as we should say, as ‘earth-shattering’. More particularly, they are regular Jewish imagery for events that bring the story of Israel to its appointed climax. The days of Jerusalem’s destruction would be looked upon as days of cosmic catastrophe. The known world would go into convulsions: power struggles and coups d’état would be the order of the day; the pax Romana, the presupposition of ‘civilized’ life throughout the then Mediterranean world, would collapse into chaos. In the midst of that chaos Jerusalem would fall. The ‘son of man’ would thereby be vindicated. That would be the sign that the followers of this ‘son of man’ would now spread throughout the world: his ‘angels’, that is, messengers, would summon people from north, south, east and west to come and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of YHWH…
    Luke has paraphrased, just in case (perhaps) anyone should read Mark without understanding: when you see these things, you will know that the kingdom of god is near. Here we are in touch, I suggest, with the final moments in Jesus’ retelling of the kingdom-story. Luke has rightly brought out the meaning of the entire prediction. When Jerusalem is destroyed, and Jesus’ people escape from the ruin just in time, that will be YHWH becoming king, bringing about the liberation of his true covenant people, the true return from exile, the beginning of the new world order.”

    N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 362-364.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      That’s my source!!!! Great

      Sent from my iPhone

      • http://www.jmsmith.org James-Michael Smith

        Lemme know if you ever need anything from NTPG, JVG or RSG in digital format. That’s one of the main reasons I got them for my digital library.

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          Sweet bro! I hate typing out those long quotes… ahhhhh! I will let you know and maybe someday my wife will let me get the program of my dreams :-)

  • Michelle

    I’ve always had trouble with the flow of thought from verse 23 to 24-27 (fall of Jerusalem to Parousia) so I figured there is something that I’m not understanding. I would love to see verses 23-27 from the translation that you are using. Thanks.

    • http://www.jmsmith.org James-Michael Smith

      Here you go, Michelle:

      “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven.For the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then they shall see ‘the son of man coming on the clouds’ with power and great glory. And he will send out his messengers, and gather in his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn the parable: when its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the gates. Truly I say to you, that this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

      and comments on it (ignore the footnote numbers):

      “These passages, taken together and in their various parts, are clearly the intended background for several parts of the discourse in Mark 13 and parallels, before we even get to the Danielic allusions. They tell the story of Israel, her god, and the nations in ways that lend themselves perfectly to Jesus’ redefinition of Israel around himself; to his announcement that the long-awaited release from exile (the ‘kingdom of god’) was at hand; and to his identification of the forces opposing the true people of this god, not with Rome, but with present Jerusalem and its hierarchy. His retelling of the prophetic stories, like Susannah’s addition to Daniel, has the force of turning the critique of pagan nations against the present Jewish rulers. Jerusalem’s fall, and the disciples’ flight and escape, will be the final acting out of the predictions that Babylon would fall and Israel escape. This will be her vindication, the sign that her god is indeed king.141
      This context and setting shows the direction in which the imagery of Mark 13:14–23 is moving.142 It is advice ‘more useful to a refugee from military invasion than to a man caught unawares by the last trumpet’.143 The disciples are not to stay and fight for the physical survival of Jerusalem. They are not to be implicated in the coming war. Jesus will die at the hands of the Romans on the charge of being a Jewish rebel, but they are not to do so. No mistaken sense of loyalty must sway them into trying to bring the kingdom after all by means of the sword. Rather, they are to waste no time: they must run away. Luke (21:20) has cashed out the apocalyptic imagery in Matthew (24:15) and Mark (13:14) in terms of Jerusalem’s being surrounded with armies. This, for his gentile readers, makes far more sense: faced with a cryptic allusion to Daniel, they would not be in a position to obey the command of Mark 13:14b, ‘Let the reader understand.’144 Luke’s reading of Mark is quite clear: all this language refers to the fall of Jerusalem, which is to be understood against the scriptural background of the predicted destruction of Babylon.”

      N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 358-360.”

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com dwmtractor

    To get Greek text to show up on the web, the easiest way I know is to borrow it from somebody. Here’s a cool website. I went to their converter box, typed in “aggeloi” and hit the convert button, then I copied the result here: άγγελοι

    See? It works! How cool is that? The website is http://www.translatum.gr/converter/greeklish-converter.htm

    You also should be familiar with the Liddel-Scott Online Lexicon at the Perseus Project: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?redirect=true

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com dwmtractor

    Oh, and theologically you’re spot-on. This is one of those words that has been “supernaturalized” but should not be. άγγελος is also the word used of the people sent by John the Baptist to ask Jesus whether he was the Christ, in Luke 7:24.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Thanks for the resources! As far as you theological point… Excellent! Never noticed that little reference before!!!! Dan… You da man!

      Sent from my iPhone

  • Alexander J. Wei

    I had this short comment on Facebook, which the moderators asked me to post here: If it’s angels, it’s easy to see how they can gather the elect from the four winds. If it’s non-angelic messengers, the task becomes possibly much more difficult…

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Alexander… thanks for the cross post!

      Very true alexander. but perhaps the “four winds” is a way of saying from ‘all four directions’ North south east and west. In other words, after the destruction of the temple, god’s messengers (missionaries?) would continue to be the sent ones into all corners of the world to proclaim the kingdom of God… that is an initial thought, but your … See Morequestion is one that must not be ignored.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com dwmtractor

    If it’s non-angelic messengers, the task becomes possibly much more difficult…

    Well, in an end-of-times scenario you are right. However, in a preterist scenario where the “end” was the end of Jerusalem and the temple in 70AD, then messengers going to the four winds might just be us doing our job as commanded in Matt. 28:19-20. We are, after all, to participate in the harvest (Matt. 9:35).

  • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

    The clue to discovering whether it’s “angels” – heavenly creatures or “messengers” – church leaders is in the previous verse. (Mar 13:26) And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

    The word “clouds” is described in the Dead Sea Scrolls as ‘hosts of angels at God’s coming’. However we do not use the Scrolls in our interpretation of scriptures therefore we must rely on the OT to discern what clouds signify, and it’s either clouds of God’s glory or simply literal clouds. You be the judge: either way the text should be looked at in its theme which is a supernatural event.

    It is felt, as dwntractor wrote, that to the preterist ‘the “end” was the end of Jerusalem and the temple in 70AD,’ but that was simply the beginning of the “end”. The Jews were the first to receive grace therefore they were the first to receive judgment, the judgment continues until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled – ‘(Luk 21:24) And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ The full end will come from the mid point of tribulation to the battle of Armageddon – ‘(Rev 11:2) But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.’

    Just a thought :)

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      WABD… What I like about you is that you think through your views, they are not simply inherited ideas that make you feel good… great!

      In the next few days or so, we will address the issue you speak of… “son of man coming on the clouds…” This, in my opinion, is the most important part of either argument. I will address the issue, which I think is the thread that ties my view together. I am not convinced that you yourself will be convinced, but I sure will give it a try :-) Have a great day!

  • Daniel

    I’m wondering if you interpret “angels” in this verse as human messengers…

    All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10

    If verses like these are not speaking about angelic beings, and not talking about Jesus literally returning from the clouds bringing judgement, then wouldn’t you agree that there would have to be much more than just a word or two where we goofed up the Greek a little…?

    Don’t you find a little strange, that as a Bible teacher, you seem to spend a lot of time and energy trying to explain why the Bible doesn’t really say what it would appear to say, if taken at face value…?

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Hey Daniel!

      Great question on this passage. I would simply point out that nothing is taken away if Paul happened to mean in this instance: “messengers of power…” rather than “powerful angels.” When Jesus is revealed, all those who are with him (those who have died) will be revealed as well. This is the resurrection! If it is angels, that is also fine… the point of this post was to point out that it ‘can’ mean messengers.

      Face value, if I follow your logic, is reading the Greek text for all its worth :-) Paul didn’t write in English, nor did Mark… which I know you are aware of (in other words, i am not trying to insult you here ). Being faithful to the text requires that we question it, wrestle with it, and never settle for the status quo. So, my questions are not simply “trying to explain why the Bible doesn’t really say what it would appear to say, if taken at face value.” My questions are trying to recover what the bible actually is trying to say :-) This is a greater service to the Word of God in my opinion that simply leaving all these matters closed.

      Finally, Mark wrote Mark and Paul wrote Thessalonians. It is also important to let the various authors speak for themselves. Paul has the liberty to use a metaphor one way, just as Mark (recording Jesus) has the option to use similar language to convey a different point. I simply want to leave the option open for either translation to be used. And in the context that Jesus speaks, it is pretty convincing that he was talking about his messengers who would spread the gospel from every direction (the four winds), north, south, east, and west… to the ends of the earth!

      Blessing bro!

      • Daniel

        Actually Kurt, a great deal would change if we interpret “angels” as human agents instead of angelic beings in this verse, because it changes the whole scope of what kind of “return” we are envisioning… Yes, “angels” can mean “messengers”, because of course, angelic beings do operate as messengers on God’s behalf…

        But…

        When you say, “in the context that Jesus speaks, it is pretty convincing that he was talking about his messengers who would spread the gospel from every direction (the four winds), north, south, east, and west… to the ends of the earth…”, I have a hard time with the idea that you are regarding the “obvious context” here…

        The verse does not say “spread the gospel”, but “gather the elect”! There is a big difference between spreading and gathering, wouldn’t you say? (in fact they are pretty much opposite things…)

        And if the “messengers” are human agents, then where are they “gathering” people to? Wouldn’t they be a part of the “elect” themselves? Do you not see how this interpretation really breaks down, the more you look at it?

        Yes, I believe we have to question and wrestle with every bit of scripture, and never just blindly accept the interpretation of something simply because it happens to be the predominant one. BUT, it’s also true that just because a certain interpretation of a verse is the “predominant” one, that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect either…

        My point in that last comment is that you seem to be developing quite a pattern here. So far, you have revealed that you are jettisoning the conventional definitons of “angels” (in certain passages anyway), “the end”, “coming on the clouds”, “judgement”, “salvation”, “antichrist”, and now, (amazingly) “Son of Man”…

        And this probably shouldn’t be super surprising, because there is definitely a “domino effect”, once you take the step of shifting the emphasis of the gospel from “Salvation is from sin it’s eternal consequences” to “Salvation is more from societal ills and their earthly ramifications…”

        Once you make that shift, you then have to take on the arduous task of re-defining every piece of the Bible which doesn’t fit with your redefined Gospel. And it would appear that a Jesus who physically returns, with His angels, to deliver physical judgement on the world, and gather His elect from the whole earth, does not fit with you, so you must deconconstruct and explain away any verse which contradicts what you are trying to teach…

        I know you believe in a physical return of Christ, and that the Body of Christ is the true Israel (both of which I agree on…) But why this resistance to a final judgement? Why shy away from the idea that God might actually use things like earthquakes to signal His final coming? Why?

        If you believe in Christ’s death, and resurrection, then WHERE is the core “sticking point” for you? Is it hell? The existance of angels and demons? A truly wicked and sinful humanity? Is it the idea that God would unleash physical destruction on the earth? I feel like I still can’t put my finger on exactly what it is about the “conventional gospel” that just doesn’t jive with you….

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          Daniel… you are making some pretty big and unfair characterizes of what I think the gospel is. I don’t want to sit here and defend myself, for I have recieved individual salvation which is a major part of the Gospel of the kingdom of God. If you are still struggling with this concept of “big” or holistic gospel, read: True Story-A Christianity Worth Believing In, by James Choung and then get back to me on that one. And, let me briefly add that as far as the “conventional gospel” the only beef I have with it (4 spiritual laws, Evangelism Explosion, etc.) is that it is hyper-reductionistic. It reduces what the bible claims about God’s mission in the world accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ (in his ministry, death, and resurreciton). I do not want to read scripture with spirit of reductionism… it is too sacred a text and too crucial a mission for that!

          As far as the key point you raise here… the distinction between “gather” and “send” you make an interesting but meticulous distinction. What is wrong with gathering the elect as being a missional thing rather than simply a getting together of those who are already saved after the end times come? For instance, look at this passage about how what Christ has accomplished has kickstarted a “gathering” which is a missional/evangelistic gathering and not simply a grab all of those who are already Christians.

          Consider Ephesians 1.9-11:

          9 he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will…

          Christ has “set forth” (put into motion) the “gather[ing] up of all things.” What Jesus accomplished on the cross and resurrection has set into motion a ‘gathering’ up or rather a ‘re-claiming’ of all things that were lost in the Fall. This is all of creation which includes (praise God!) all humanity who will accept the message or Gospel about what God is doing. This is a “gathering” of the elect in that those who choose to join the elect are gathered into the “new Israel” the church, the people of God! So, your distinction between “sent” and “gather” doesn’t really hold up here I don’t think.

          Got to Go… I am doing a hospital visit for someone in our church…

          • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

            If I may jump in here, I’d like to comment further on what it means to ‘gather together’ God’s elect. The word translated ‘gather together’ is ἐπισυνάγω (episunago). It is the word used also in Matthew 23:37, where Jesus laments: “O Jerusalem…how often would I have GATHERED your children TOGETHER as a hen GATHERS her brood under her wings…” How was it that Jesus sought to GATHER TOGETHER the children of Jerusalem: by literally coming on clouds and sending out ‘angels’ to gather them? Certainly not; but by his teaching ministry (and probably, since he said ‘how often’, he was also seeking to gather the children of Israel through the ministry of the Old Covenant prophets – the Spirit of Christ speaking through them). And that is precisely the way Kurt would see God’s human messengers ‘gathering together’ God’s elect – through the preaching of the word of Christ, the Spirit of Christ ministering through them. God’s elect are gathered not to a place, but to a person: Jesus Christ himself – and that happens primarily through the preaching of the word and the drawing of the Spirit of God and of His Christ. But even if this is the traditional concept of ‘angels’ gathering together believers by means of resurrection, it is still to a person – Jesus Christ – that they are being gathered, not to a place (heaven).

          • Daniel

            Kurt and “Mystic”…

            Of course, you both are correct that as the Gospel goes out and is preached, this is a sense of “gathering” the Body. I wouldn’t argue with that at all. What I don’t understand, is why that concept is then pitted against the idea of Christ sending out his angels (the spirit kind) to gather up the saints at the End, (and by this I mean the saints from all of history)…

            Why are these two things in conflict with one another in your thinking? I do not see why they would have to be at all. Like Mystic just said, we are gathered to a person, not just a place, but why are you both assuming that to conceive of a “rapture” (even if it is not “pre-trib”, as I don’t believe it will be…) means only looking towards going to a place, and not to Christ Himself? I seem to encounter this a lot, and maybe this has a lot to do with the “reductionist” stuff that Kurt mentioned. Yes, it’s true that tons of people out there talk of heaven as some gaudy place that has little to do with the person of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean you should equate your entire view of a literal “rapture” with the reductionist version. Not everyone has such a shallow, corny view of heaven. In fact, the only thing that will make heaven be heaven, is Jesus!

            But I’m not sure I buy that you are simply rejecting a “reduced” gospel, whereby you would feel that certain core concepts must be affirmed, and only expanded upon, because it definitely feels that there is a growing list of things which you feel must be thrown out as well. You do seem to be trying to strain out some “modern, Western” notions that have crept into the gospel, no?

            So I’m certainly not dumping the “missional thing” in exchange for merely “a getting together of those who are already saved after the end times”. I actually affirm both. But it seems that you, (for some reason I do not yet understand…), feel that we must discard the belief in a “rapture” (however you define it…) in order to do the “missional thing”… But why?

            Why do you see them as being mutually exclusive…?

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Hey Daniel, neither Kurt nor mystic, but tracking on some of the same things, I would offer that the problem (if problem it be) is not that the preterist view necessarily excludes the “rapture” of which you speak, but rather that, if the prophecies have already been fulfilled in the first century A.D., then they are not, to that extent, unfulfilled or “outstanding” prophecies.

            That Jesus will finally return and complete the process of putting it all to rights, is a certainty that I don’t think any of us dispute. That many of the passages in Scripture, commonly associated with that ultimate return, actually have anything to do with it, is the point of dispute. Put more directly, the instant passage of Mark 13, in our estimation, is talking about an “end” that already happened, and while it MAY also apply to the final end, it need not. Thus, to use it as authoritative for a discussion of the ultimate end, is contraindicated by the existence of prior fulfillment.

            Taking that perspective, along with a sense that most “end-times” theologies tend to lead to endless controversy and impinge little or not at all on discipleship today, and we choose to dismiss the whole subject. Because at the bottom line, whether pre- or post- or a-millenial, whether a rapture or not, doesn’t really change the call that you, Kurt, Mystic, and I all are responsible to answer–and that call is John 21:22: “what is that to you? You follow me.”

          • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

            Yeah, what Dan said (grin). I really appreciated the attitude of your comment, Daniel. You showed real respect, which is always to be admired.

            The reason I dismiss the ‘rapture’ is primarily because I don’t find it in the Bible; and particularly in the Olivet Discourse (whether in Mark, Matthew, or Luke). The question of the ‘angels’ in Mark 13 must be interpreted within the time frame which Jesus stated both explicitly and implicitly in his prophecy – events which would come to pass within the generation of his hearers.

            Secondarily, I find the outlook presented (at least usually) by those who believe in a future to us rapture, great tribulation, and second coming (which they believe is surely just around the corner to us) to be rather pessimistic and hopeless as far as any major success of ‘gospel preaching’ is concerned. Things are supposedly only going to get worse and worse until the rapture occurs (if one is pre-trib) or the ‘antichrist’/man of sin appears. I also find this to be contrary to the Biblical presentation of the victory of Jesus Christ and his church.

            What I am about to say may or may not agree with Kurt’s or Dan’s viewpoint on particular scripture passages. Don’t hold them responsible for what I say. John was very clear in his epistles that the ‘antichrist’ (and he is the only Biblical writer who used that term) was already present in his day; in fact there were many of them, and false prophets and apostates – which was just what Jesus prophesied in the Olivet Discourse. He said that he and his readers KNEW that it was “the last time’ at the very time he was writing, and ‘the last HOUR’. James said the Judge was standing at the door at the time he wrote. Peter said the end of all things was ‘at hand’ (near). Paul was convinced that Jesus was coming in the lifetime of himself and his hearers (“WE who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord…”), even though he said that a rebellion must occur, and a “man of sin” must be revealed before that day/coming of the Lord. He said the “mystery of iniquity” was already at work, and his Thessalonian readers knew who and what was restraining that secret working and man of sin from being fully manifest. I cannot find anything in any ‘eschatological’ passage which can have a future to us fulfillment without saying that the Biblical writers were wrong in what they said. It either happened in that 1st century generation, or we have no reason to believe it will ever happen. [That's why I said you shouldn't hold Kurt or Dan responsible for my statements. I am definitely more 'extreme' than they are; I know they both believe there are some 'second coming' passages which are still future for us].

            Since I don’t believe any of those ‘last days’ prophecies are future to us, I have no reason to have anything but confidence for the mission of Christ and his church to bring salvation to the whole earth. I can have a heartfelt expectation that the preaching of God’s good news by earthly ministers, combined with the inner working of the Spirit of God and of His Christ (with perhaps some ‘behind the scenes’ working of the ‘spirits of the righteous made perfect’ and other angelic spirits) will indeed triumph in the earth. I mean no ridicule, but the usual ‘futurist’ interpretation of the ‘second coming’ sounds to me very much like it’s saying that the church is destined for defeat (in its gospel mission), and the only hope is for a personal return of Jesus Christ to clean up the mess the church has made. The work of the Spirit in the world is not sufficient to accomplish salvation, so Jesus has to ‘triumph’ by force and compulsion. I just don’t see that in the Bible.

            But as I said, the primary reason for the question about the meaning of ‘angels’ in the Olivet prophecy is the explicit (and implicit) time statements in the prophecy itself, which leave no room for a future to us fulfillment.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    …the Bible doesn’t really say what it would appear to say, if taken at face value…?

    Daniel, if I may respond a little further to Kurt’s already-good response, the issue is what “face value” really is. The point here is that when Paul, or the Gospel writers, or their readers/hearers encountered the word άγγελοι, they didn’t have a translator-middleman steering them to a subset of the word that was supernatural in one case, and human in another. No, they just saw the word “messengers.” The only error, in this instance, is the translators interposing different translations for άγγελοι to fit their own (possibly correct, possibly biased) presuppositions.

    For any of us to take the text at “face value,” we need first of all to ensure that the “face” in question has not been obscured by a mask or excessive make-up.

  • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

    I use “e-Sword” a lot in Bible study, which gives me access to several Greek texts of the New Testament, and one for the Septuagint. I’m pretty sure that you could use the same copy-and-paste method that Dan suggested to copy from a Greek text and paste into the wordpress blog. I’m going to try it here with John 1:1; if it shows up in Greek type, then we’ll know it works.

    ᾿Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος.

    Yep, I guess it works just fine.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Thanks stephen! Ya, this seems to work… I used E-sword at times in the past. good, helpful, free tool :-)

      Hey, I also wanted to tell you (based on another comment) that I hope that you can find the other two books in that series: “The Story We Find Ourselves in” and the “Last Word and the Word after That” The latter of the two deals a lot with hell and issues like universalism, etc. You will definitely want to read them in order if at all possible. Well, have a great day!

  • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

    Despite having a similar Greek representation “άγγελοι” of “angels” and “messengers” the terms refer to different beings whenever used, hence the reason for different representations in different situations. A classic example is in (Mar 1:2) As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

    In this situation the term “messenger” is used to convey an earthly being (John the Baptist) rather than “angel” which would have denoted a heavenly being.

    If we examine prior to the “messenger” John’s birth by which medium came the news of John’s very birth we see (Luk 1:13) But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

    Here the term “angel” is used instead of “messenger,” so regarding the birth of John an angel brought the news and when John’s time came to fulfill his mission he delivered it as a messenger.

    Take note of the Vulgate representation of the terms – messenger (angelum) and angel (angelus).

    Just a thought :)

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      Well, the Vulgate is a much more “modern” text than the originals; by the time they translated into Latin the catholic hierarchy was very much in place, and the notion of differentiating human and supernatural occurrences was also more in the practice. I would not consider the Vulgate translators authoritative here.

      There are two reasons why I believe “messenger” should be used: one linguistic and the other hermaneutic.

      The linguistic reason is that it is unhelpful to separate or clarify concepts that the original text left flexible. You have illustrated yourself, that it’s quite simple from context alone, to differentiate human vs. nonhuman messengers in some contexts. I agree with your assessment of Mark 1:2 referring to a human, and Luke 1:3 referring to a supernatural being (we are later told it was Gabriel, in fact). So you demonstrate my point quite well. We don’t need anyone to tell us “this is a heavenly angel” or “this is a human bearing God’s message” at all; the context informs us quite effectively.

      However, the instant passage in Mark 13 illustrates the danger of the translator making the decision for us. As has been amply demonstrated in the comments, it is possible FROM A PURELY LINGUISTIC POINT OF VIEW to interpret this passage from either a preterist or a future-end-times perspective. The translation of άγγελοι as “messengers” leaves that linguistic ambiguity in place, requiring us to interact with the deeper context and history to determine the meaning–in other words, demanding a careful hermaneutic of all of us. However, if a translator, “knowing” that this passage refers to a future end-times, makes the interpretation of άγγελοι as “angel” on our behalf, he has now prejudiced the reading of the text, as everyone likely agrees there weren’t heavenly beings flying around gathering people in 70 A.D. This translator has therefore short-circuited the vital process of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”

      Make any sense?

      • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

        Well said (at least in my opinion) Dan. If I had waited a little bit longer before starting my comment, I would have refrained I expect. Just one comment on one of your statements, though. Since Jesus said that the resurrection and judgment would occur (or begin at least) at his coming and kingdom, and that was to occur with the lifetimes of some of his hearers (Matt. 16:27 and 28 for instance), there may well have been heavenly beings flying around gathering the spirits of the dead in 70 A.D. But they would have no more been visible to the physical eye than was the ‘angel’ who struck down Herod Agrippa in Acts 12:23. Josephus records Agrippa’s death by a sudden disease, but makes no reference to an angel, because that ‘angel’ was only visible to the ‘eye of faith’ which recognized the Divine/angelic hand in the event. But I myself think the ‘messengers’ Jesus referred to here were human agents proclaiming God’s good news.

        • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

          Hee, hee, so everyone DOESN’T necessarily agree no non-human messengers were involved in the events of 70 A.D. OK, more ammo for my point. ;{)

          • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

            Yeah, I believe your point was very well expressed. The English word ‘messenger’ is as ambiguous to us (in itself) as the word ἄγγελος,was to the Greek readers. If ἄγγελος were consistently translated ‘messenger’, the reader would be left to decide for himself whether the messengers were heavenly beings, humans, or even inanimate things such as wind or fire. He wouldn’t be prejudiced ahead of time by the interpretation of the translators. I rather like that ambiguity in some of these passages.

            I’m rather inclined to believe that the messengers were human in the Olivet prophecy; but I recognize a possibility – even from my preterist interpretation – that they were heavenly ‘ministering spirits’ assisting in raising God’s elect from the dead.

    • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

      I expect your point is well taken and understood by all. As Hebrews 1:7 comments (referring to Psalm 104:4) even fire and wind are God’s messengers (angels) because they do His bidding. The point that is being made by Kurt and others of us is that while in many cases the meaning is clear, in some cases it is not quite so clear which meaning is being used. The passage under consideration in Mark (with its parallels in Matthew and Luke) is one of those cases where either “ministering spirits” or human agents such as the apostles and other believers can be meant – depending on how one understands the events themselves. These ‘messengers’ may be ‘ministering spirits’ assisting in the resurrection, or they may be believers proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God and His son (who are used by God to bring salvation to God’s ‘elect’ from all over the world). If we view the passage as speaking of events which would occur in the lifetime of Jesus’ hearers (as he plainly said) then either interpretation of ‘messengers’ would work in the passage. If the events being described are literal ‘end of the world’ events (contrary to Jesus’ own plain statements and the plain understanding of his followers throughout their lives) then of course there is no further evangelization to be done so the only possible meaning would be ‘ministering spirits’ I guess.

      So Kurt’s point is that when the passage is understood to be referring to events taking place in the ‘last days’ of the Old Covenant economy, and the ‘last days’ of the “Jerusalem which now is” as the apostle Paul put it in Galatians (national Israel), these angels/messengers can easily be understood to mean human agents proclaiming the good news worldwide.

  • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

    מלאך – angel (Hebrew to English)

    שליח – מלאך – ציר – messenger (Hebrew to English)

    άγγελοι – angels (Greek to English)

    As you can see a similar term is used to describe both “angel & messenger”, it therefore depends on the theme of the entire chapter to discern whether it is a heavenly angel/messenger or simply an earthly messenger.

    Dan I agree with your comments it should not be left to the whim of the translator. I believe that scripture defines itself and somewhere in the OT or NT or maybe both is the explanation.

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