The Rest of the Biblical Story and the Rapture of the Church [Earthquakes…Signs of the Times, 9 (Mark 13)]

This is the ninth 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)…


So far we have examined some “big picture” themes from Mark 13. Our next step is to attempt to place the text within context of the canon of Scripture. In regards to issues of meaning, we made an interpretive decision to give the whole of the chapter to pertaining to the events leading up to the destruction of the Temple. Often, this Mark 13 is viewed as ‘signs of the times’—the “end times”—so disasters in our day (i.e. Haitian earthquake) are easily mistaken for indications that the so-called rapture and Tribulation are near. Having deconstructed the ability to attribute the text to futurist views, the question alluded to above remains: If this passage does not speak of the end and the second coming of Christ, are we still able to speak of his second advent with confidence? In order to answer this question, we need to look at the biblical narrative for clues to how this all fits together.

The bible is a story that is moving from creation to new creation. And just because Mark 13 does not speak of the “second coming,” that does not mean that the narrative of Scripture does not move in that direction. This remains true even if one chooses to embrace the view that Jesus never spoke directly of his “second coming” during his earthly ministry.[1] In Luke’s second volume, after Jesus ascends into heaven, the angel informs the disciples that he “who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1.10). So, the belief in the second coming was clearly there, but notice that the angel declares it only after Jesus has ascended.

There is a key text that deserves some attention that will help us understand this concept a bit more. It is the famous passage in 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17 which reads:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Briefly, let’s look at this text that has some resemblances to the words of Jesus in Mark 13. In this passage, Paul borrows specific images from the Old Testament that would have been familiar to Jewish converts and Gentiles who were familiarizing themselves with the Hebrew tradition. He also mixes his metaphors and includes first century imagery. Some images that Paul employs are that of Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the Law, and that of a visiting emperor. The image that is relevant to our discussion, is taken from Daniel 7 where the “one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven” and the community he represents is vindicated over the enemies of the people of God. The idea that was used to describe Jesus’ own vindication after the destruction of the Temple, in Paul is applied to Christians who are facing various forms of persecution. After a time of suffering, when Christ returns, Christians will be raised up above all the enemies of God on the “clouds” to be with him in the glory of a restored creation. This is not about being secretly raptured out of this world on literal clouds, but simply invokes the image of Daniel 7 and applies the literary devise to the Church.[2]

What this means is that as Christians, we still await the second coming of Jesus Christ who will restore all things in creation by resurrecting believers to eternal life, judging all evil, and uniting heaven and earth (Rev 21-22, Romans 8, etc.). This is an eschatological event described in Acts, 1 Thessalonians, and several other places that will be fulfilled in God’s own timetable. But, there is no reason to believe that this will be accompanied by a great Tribulation where an anti-Christ figure will wreak havoc on the planet. There is not room for this in the biblical narrative. The biblical story of God’s faithfulness to complete the creation project will be good news when it arrives, not the manifestation of cosmic chaos often attributed to Mark 13.

If this is indeed the case, how does this help the church to be a broker of hope in our culture rather than being “doom & gloom” prophets?

[1]. N. T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of The Church(New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008), 125.


[2]. Ibid., 131-32.


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  • Josh Wise

    Hey thanks for doing this series. Its been really good. I’ve enjoyed the discussions a lot. I remember hearing as a kid those old southern gospel hymns. They’d always be about flying away oh glory and such. To me it kind of seemed like escapism. They’re like the world is going to hell in a hand basket but Jesus is rescuing us.

    That was ok for me. I didn’t think about it much. Then I watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda” in college ethics class. That’s when I realized that the church, or at least the church as I understood it, was drastically missing the mark. The whole escapist or faith-as-redemption-from-eternal-damnation worldview had nothing to say to this terrible situation other than “Get saved so when do kill you, you get to go to heaven with us.” I’m not saying that the chuch doesn’t do good things. It just seems that the good things it does do get undercut by the idea that it doesn’t matter because God’s going to wipe everything out anyway.To me that just seems like it makes the church look completely and tragically irrelevant to the rest of the world.

    I think that if we can start to shed this dispensational view of the endtimes/apolcalypse, I think that we can once again begin to start making a difference. The problem is not with the people in the church. I believe that the problem is with our theology. There are millions of good people in the church who want to and do do good things for the world, but there theology tells them don’t worry too much about what you do because it doesn’t matter. I think that’s a tragedy.


    • Josh Wise

      “Get saved so when “they” do kill you, you get to go to heaven with us.” my bad

  • Conrad

    Food for thought: I went back and read Daniel 7, and he is talking about a vision he had, so this is not just “poetic imagery”, he is describing what he ACTUALLY saw. So the better question would not be “is this just apocalyptic language”? but rather how does what he saw in the spirit translate in to the physical?

    Also I have problems with your logic that the “son of man” v14 is Israel, and that the son of man is the same as the people from verse v18. I’ve been trying to think about it from all different angles and it just doesnt fit, they are clearly separate people with separate roles, which leaves you with the question: how do you have a people which are followers of a people? it just doesn’t work…

    • Perhaps you could think of the ‘son of man’ as the “one new man” Paul spoke of in Ephesians 2:15 (where in Christ Jews and Gentiles become that “one new man”). This “one new man” is one Christ, one ‘body’ having many members (1 Corinthians 12:12). The ‘head’ of this ‘body’ is preeminently “the Christ”, yet the whole body is “Christ”. It is one “holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:2), a “spiritual house” built of many “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).

      Daniel certainly saw a ‘vision’, but ‘visions’ are given in imagery. Surely we are not to think that God is a literal old man with literal hair white as wool, and sitting on a literal burning throne, with literal wheels on it which are burning? And in that ‘vision’ composed of imagery, he saw a ‘son of man’ which translates into the ‘one new man’ whose ‘head’ is Jesus Christ.

      Does that explanation seem reasonable to you, or does it still not work? Whatever you may think, by all means keep on thinking (grin)! I use a ‘signature’ in my e-mail which contains a quote from General Patton: “If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking.” We can keep on striving until we all come into the ‘unity of the faith’, though, can’t we?

      • Conrad

        sorry you are mixing and matching analogies here that I dont see as applying…

        “Surely we are not to think that God is a literal old man with literal hair white as wool, and sitting on a literal burning throne, with literal wheels on it which are burning?”

        huh? are you serious??? are we really to believe that all the people in the Bible who experienced things in the spirit/heaven, that all of that was just images? when the angel touched the coal to the lips of Isaiah? or when Elisha and his servant saw the fiery chariots, was that bogus? or everything that John saw? do you interact with visions?…. who are you to decide what God does or doesn’t do or look/doesn’t look like?

        • “huh? are you serious??? are we really to believe that all the people in the Bible who experienced things in the spirit/heaven, that all of that was just images? when the angel touched the coal to the lips of Isaiah? or when Elisha and his servant saw the fiery chariots, was that bogus? or everything that John saw? do you interact with visions?…. who are you to decide what God does or doesn’t do or look/doesn’t look like?”

          I have to say I’m really flabbergasted! I return the question: Huh? Are YOU serious?! OF COURSE I believe that visions are images, and that within the vision a person can interact with the images of the vision! What could a literal coal applied to Isaiah’s literal lips do except burn his lips? Unless of course you believe that when Isaiah said that he was a man of unclean lips, he meant that he had literal sores on his lips; then perhaps the heat from a coal could kill the germs causing the sore! But is that what Isaiah was referring to? Was he not rather referring to the spiritual uncleanness of his heart which produced unclean speech (“out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”)? The coal was a symbol of the purifying grace of God which brings forgiveness and produces righteousness both in heart and lips. And to say something is symbolical or metaphorical is NOT to say that it’s “bogus”! It presents a very real truth, but not a literal materialistic reality. To say that those who wait upon the LORD will renew their youth and mount up on wings like the eagle does not present a literal truth, but a spiritual one. I don’t expect to ever sprout wings and fly around in the air like an eagle. I don’t say that prophecy is “bogus” though, just because I don’t take it literally.

          Who am I to say what God does or doesn’t look like? I only have to refer you to the Bible itself, which you believe to be the “Word of God”. John 1:18 – “NO ONE HAS EVER SEEN GOD; the only son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known”. 1 John 4:12 – “NO MAN HAS EVER SEEN GOD; if we love one another, GOD ABIDES IN US and his love is perfected in us”. (If God dwells in us, how can He be localized in a human like body, sitting on a literal throne in a place called ‘heaven’ somewhere up in the sky?) 1 Timothy 1:17 – “To the King of ages, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:16 – “Who alone has immortality and DWELLS IN LIGHT UNAPPROACHABLE, WHOM NO MAN HAS EVER SEEN OR CAN SEE…” If God is an old man sitting on a literal burning throne in a literal place up in the sky called ‘heaven’, and Moses, Daniel, and Isaiah literally saw Him and described Him, then those passages in John and Timothy must be mistaken! But if John and Paul were correct in that God has never been seen, nor can He be seen, then those descriptions in Daniel and Isaiah are necessarily metaphorical images. If you imagine them to be literal descriptions of what God looks like then you are as much an idolater (fashioning God in the image of mortal man – Romans 1:23) as anyone who ever made an idol out of wood, stone, silver or gold. And while I like to be laid back and light hearted, I simply can’t grin about that!

          I no more believe the description of God as an old man sitting on a burning throne to be literal, than I believe the 4 beasts about which Daniel dreamed to be literal (like a lion with eagle’s wings). Those were metaphorical descriptions of nations and empires; and Daniel’s description of God was NECESSARILY metaphorical. The visions of Revelation were symbols, as John himself said when he wrote that the angel from Jesus Christ “signified” the message to him. To “signify” means to make known by signs. John describes Jesus as an astounding man with a sword coming out of his mouth and holding 7 stars in his right hand. Surely you don’t believe that’s literal! He also describes Jesus as a lamb and a lion. Is Jesus then a shape shifter, sometimes being a man with a sword in his mouth, at other times a literal lamb, and at still other times a literal lion? Satan too must be a shape shifter; in Genesis he is a snake who crawls on the ground, in Revelation he is a winged fire breathing dragon, and Peter says he walks around as a roaring lion! I hope you won’t try to say all of those things are literal descriptions of Jesus and Satan.

          By the way, I don’t believe the earth has four corners (literally) either, despite the fact that Isaiah (11:12) and John (Rev. 7:1) say so. I have a strong suspicion you don’t either. I don’t believe there’s literally a woman in the sky wearing the sun as clothing, standing on the moon, and wearing a crown with twelve stars in it – although John in Rev. 12:1 says he saw such a sight. I believe all such things to be signs and symbols, containing a truth but not BEING “the truth”.

          • Johnny Brewer

            Is it possible that the Holy Spirit was speaking of the natural man, when making the referenced statements regarding not seeing God? It is clear, that the apostle John saw Jesus in His glory, in The Revelation. Nowhere in the Bible is it stated or even intimated that what he saw was anything other than the literal Jesus. Can we not safely draw the conclusion that he was looking through the eyes of his “spiritual man” and not those of his natural one?

            As a believer whom the Lord has graced to see by the Spirit at times, I can tell you with certainty that what is seen that way is as objective a reality as this keyboard I’m using at the moment. But that’s not to say that everything that the Lord reveals by that means is to be taken literally, as He does use allegory to great effect. I do however, believe that He reveals the difference at the time of the revelation, to the one it’s being shown to. I believe that John went to his reward, fully expecting to be welcomed by the very Jesus whom he had “seen”.

            Another way He gives revelation is by dreams, or “night visions” as Daniel called them. And lest anyone be of the opinion that God doesn’t speak that way anymore since the Bible was given, let me share one that He gave me two nights ago.

            The dream: I was in a worship service, when we got word of a Muslim attack on another church. Several of us left and started walking to it. It was up in the mountains.

            When we arrived, we saw that the compound where the church was had been burned. And there, standing in the midst of it, was the post and beam framing of a new sanctuary that had been under construction. We entered it, to see that the interior, which was plank paneling, and the framing itself, were unmarked by fire.

            I became aware that there were some Muslims in our midst, but that didn’t stop us from loudly praising Jesus for the miracle of preserving the new construction. At this point, I became aware that one of the Muslim men was actually the leader of the mob that had burned the compound. He became enraged and started threatening me. As the threats were coming forth, myself and some others started praying silently.

            I was praying that the Lord would fill the sanctuary with His glory and that He would cause the Muslims there to see Him for who He is. As I prayed, I could see a change beginning to come over the two men who remained, one of whom was the leader. I prayed more intently as I saw this.

            At first, it was if they were encountering angels, as they became combative. Then they started weeping as further revelation broke over them. Then, as I was watching the leader, I saw the Glory of God rest on him for a moment and then lift. He began to weep more and I began to pray more. Specifically, that God’s Glory would fill the sanctuary and never leave it, and that everyone who came to see the miracle of the unburned church would encounter God. Finally, the Glory returned to him and stayed. A new brother had been born.

            I and the others, took him back down the mountain and introduced him to the church family where we had been worshiping. I became aware that we were in the south of France.

            Next, I became aware that I was praying that my daughters would come there and go to see the unburned church.

            I next found myself back on a dusty country road, walking with my backpack, just as I’d came to be there.

            That was the end of the dream.

            Obviously, this was one of great allegorical meaning (as are most of the dreams He gives me). Here’s a close friend’s comment about it:

            Way cool dream…..God is building something in this day and time that will not be burned ….something that those who encounter it will be changed forever. He is building a Bride that is capable of hosting His presence and calling forth His glory 🙂 Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

            So, we see that He uses both literal and figurative visuals in His dialog with us, even today, as “He is the same yesterday, now, and forever.”

          • That’s a very interesting comment, Johnny. I have to say though that I can’t see it as even possible that John and Paul meant only that the ‘natural’ man cannot see God. I believe if that’s what they had intended they would have said so. I believe Paul was quite clear and plain when he said in 1 Timothy 6:16 – “Who alone has immortality and dwells in light UNAPPROACHABLE, WHOM NO MAN HAS EVER SEEN or CAN see…” The only way God becomes visible is when He becomes ‘incarnate’ in a human being: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared Him” (John 1:18). And that ‘seeing’ of God is seeing God’s character displayed, not seeing what a supposed physical form of God looks like. As John tells us, Jesus said: “he who has seen me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9). “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God IN THE FACE OF JESUS CHRIST” (2 Cor. 4:6). And we, being also sons of God, brothers of Jesus Christ who are being conformed to his image, desire also that when people see US, they will see the Father. “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, ARE BEING TRANSFORMED INTO THE SAME IMAGE from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

            This is because God does not have a form which can be seen. When Moses, in Deuteronomy 4, reminded the Israelites of their experience at Mt. Sinai, when they saw the mountain burning with fire, he said in verse 12: “And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but YOU SAW NO FORM; you only heard a voice.” Then he repeated this thought in verse 15: “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you SAW NO FORM when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire”. This fact that they saw no form became the reason given in Deut. 4 that the Israelites should make sure they didn’t make images to worship.

            As Jesus told the Samaritan woman in John 4, God is Spirit. And as the Psalmist said so beautifully in Psalm 139:7-10 – “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.” Or as Paul said on Mars Hill: “indeed, He is not far from each one of us. For ‘In Him we live and move and have our being'” (Acts 17:27 and 28). I believe the Westminster Confession says something like this: “God is everywhere present in the fulness of His being”. Now if God is Spirit; we live, move and have our being in Him; He is not far from each one of us; and there is nowhere we can go where He is NOT; then how can we even imagine that God could literally be localized in one particular place (called ‘Heaven’) and be literally sitting on some ‘heavenly’ version of a throne? If God has no form, how can we imagine he is an old man with long white hair, as Daniel saw in his vision? Surely visions like those are metaphorical, to teach us that God is the ‘Eternal One’ who rules over all things. And I really doubt that John, after seeing the visions of Jesus in Revelation, imagined that when he died he would see Jesus with a sword coming out of his mouth and holding 7 stars in his right hand. I don’t think he figured Jesus would have transformed into either a lamb or a lion, either. Those were obvious symbols expressing a truth.

            Your dream was very interesting. I definitely do not deny the reality of God given dreams. I know someone who has had prophetic dreams (which were very literally fulfilled – they weren’t metaphorical at all). Apparently you don’t believe, though, that your dream was prophetic that you’re going to travel to France sometime in the future and experience the scene you saw in your dream. I have also read of people having ‘clairvoyant’ dreams, where they were present ‘in spirit’ to witness something happening elsewhere; but you don’t seem to be saying that was the case with your dream (you weren’t spiritually present at a very real happening in France). So you recognize your dream to have figurative significance, as given in the interpretation of your friend. That is what I believe to be the case with the dreams and visions of prophets like Daniel and John. Daniel, for instance, saw 4 awesome ‘beasts’ in his dream; but those ‘beasts’ represented 4 great kingdoms which were to arise in the future of Israel. Actually, the first (Babylon) was already present; the others were the Medes and Persians (considered as one empire), Greece, and Rome. The vision of the Ancient of Days is a SYMBOLIC representation of God (who in fact has no form, is Spirit, and cannot be ‘localized’ or restricted to one location), and the ‘son of man’ is the Church (the Israel of God) whose head is Jesus Christ. That’s how I, at least, would go about interpreting those visions and dreams.

          • Johnny Brewer

            Mystic, thanks for the well reasoned response. And I tend to agree with the basic premise of your argument. However, I believe that you might be overlooking a couple of things that might give further insight.

            Isaiah 6:5 says, “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Which “eyes” is Isaiah referring to, if not those of the spiritual man? He obviously didn’t die, as he lived to write the story. The only plausible explanation to my mind, is that which I’ve proposed.

            Secondly, is the fact that although God’s form wasn’t seen by the Israelites, nor could it be, it doesn’t follow that He is without one. To the contrary, Moses saw his backside as He passed by, when hidden in the cleft of the rock. Now, did he see the Son or the Father? The same could be asked of Isaiah above.

            Being that the Son is eternal and has been from the beginning, it may be that when men have been permitted these limited glimpses, it is He whom they witnessed. Just a thought.

            And another thought just came to mind. What if by “see”, God means “see and fully comprehend”, as can be even a contemporary usage of the word? Isn’t it similar to what Jesus implied in response to Phillip? We know that the scriptures are spiritual truth and are unknowable by the natural mind, so when we attempt to intellectually reason things out, we are on thin ice indeed. Could this be the key, the revelation that ties it all together?

            As to my dream, no I do not believe this one to be prophetic in the sense of foretelling specific actual events. I’ve had one of those types however, where it occurred just as dreamed.

  • I have certainly enjoyed this series on Mark 13. If there are any more articles to come, I’ll look forward to them. Not just articles on this subject though; I appreciate all of the articles I have read thus far.

    As I have previously mentioned that I adhere to a ‘fully’ preterist position, and don’t find any references in the Bible to a future-to-us ‘coming’ of Christ, you won’t be surprised that I differ with what you said in this article. Since Jesus had told his disciples that he was coming in the glory of his Father and with his angels in his kingdom during the lifetime of some of his disciples (Matthew 16:27 and 28 for instance); and since he had said in the Olivet discourse that the Son of man was to come ‘on the clouds’ with power and great glory, with his angels, before that generation passed away (Mark 13:26, 27, and 30); I have to ask: how was that NOT his SECOND coming? If it wasn’t his SECOND coming, what would you call it – his 1 1/2 coming (grin)? And what makes you think that the announcement of the angels in Acts 1 had reference to a different “second” coming than what Jesus had talked about – to occur in the lifetime of his hearers? Jesus is said to have ascended into the clouds; the angels said that he would return in the same way; and that is what Jesus said in the Olivet discourse – the Son of man would be “seen” coming in the clouds, with power and great glory. I can’t find anything in Acts 1 to make me think the angels were talking about a THIRD coming which is yet future to us. They just reaffirmed and confirmed what Jesus had already said.

    As to 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul was obviously writing to the Thessalonian believers of his time who were undergoing persecution (‘tribulation’) at that time (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 1:5 and 6). They were waiting for God’s son from heaven (1 Thess. 1:10), but were concerned about those who had died (“fallen asleep”) – whether that was from natural death, or persecution (1 Thess. 4:13). Since they had died, would they miss out on the kingdom of Christ which the believers were eagerly awaiting? When Paul answered in the negative, he gave a very important time statement about when the ‘coming’ he was referring to would occur: “WE who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord”. Why did he talk as if he and his hearers would still be living when Christ returned? Was it not because that is what his (and their) Lord, Jesus Christ, told them (Matt. 16: 27 and 28; and the Olivet prophecy)? Were Paul and his readers wrong to believe the explicit statements of Jesus? On what basis do you think that the ‘coming’ in 1 Thess. 4 is a different one than what Jesus talked about, since Paul himself obviously seemed to think he was talking about the same ‘coming’?

    In my most recent blog post ( I went into more detail on 1 Thess. 4 if you are perhaps interested in seeing a ‘fully preterist’ explanation of this supposed ‘rapture’ passage.

    The practical implications of this for Christianity today is that Christ has indeed come in that glorious ‘grand opening’ of his reign; the ‘saints’ in heaven and earth now share in that reign; and “of the INCREASE of his government there shall be no end”. We can expect Satan to be ‘crushed under our feet’, just as Paul promised the Roman Christians that God would crush Satan under THEIR feet “shortly” (Romans 16:20).

    • You certainly raise some issues that are very relevant. At this point, I have to agree to disagree as I don’t have time to wrestle with these texts at the moment. I respect your view but have a big disagreement with it. To me, the central hope of the Christian life is resurrection in a renewed creation. I would add this from an early church father who saw this as the christian hope as well… a generation after the apostles…

      For it is just that in that very creation in which they [martyrs] toiled or were afflicted, being proved in every way by suffering, they should receive the reward of their suffering; and that in the creation in which they were slain because of their love to God, in that they should be revived again; and that in the creation in which they endured servitude, in that they should reign. For God is rich in all things, and all things are His. It is fitting, therefore, that the creation itself, being restored to its primeval condition, should without restraint be under the dominion of the righteous; and the apostle has made this plain in the Epistle to the Romans, when he thus speaks: The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies book 5.32; Scripture quotation changed to NIV)

      • That quotation by General George Patton to which I referred in a previous comment has become one of my favorites: “If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn’t thinking.” I very much appreciate that you’re ‘thinking’, and that the commenters are also. It’s what I enjoy so much about this blog. For the most part I have been in agreement with what you say. When we differ, I may let you know why I differ; but that doesn’t mean that I think you’re ‘ignorant’ or ‘stupid’ or some such nonsense (grin)! Just keep on ‘thinking’, brother. While I disagree with Irenaeus in the passage you quoted, you’re still in good company if that’s your belief! Many good people have adhered to the same interpretation of Romans 8.

      • Keith

        “To me, the central hope of the Christian life is resurrection in a renewed creation.”

        I couldn’t agree more with Kurt’s above statement. Thank you for taking the time to write this series. We are going to have one great celebration on the day evil has been totally eliminated from the “new earth” and we are in our newly resurrected bodies.

  • This is from Milton Terry’s 19th Century book which was then used in Graduate schools … something to consider …

    Acts 1:11 is often cited to show that Christ’s coming must be spectacular, “in like manner as you beheld him going into the heavens”. But in the only other three places where the expression occurs, it points to a general concept rather than the particular form of its actuality.

    In Acts 7:28 it is not some particular manner in which Moses killed the Egyptian that is notable, but rather the certain fact of it. In 2 Tim. 3:8, it is likewise the fact of strenuous opposition rather than the special manner in which Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. And in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34, it is the general thought of protection rather than the visible manner of a mother bird that is intended.

    Again, if Jesus did not come in that generation, and immediately after the great tribulation that attended the fall of Jerusalem, his words in Matthew 16:27, 28 and 24:29, and parallel passages are in the highest degree misleading.

    To make the one statement of the angel in Acts 1:11 override all the sayings of Jesus on the same subject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation.

    But all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven. And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets. And so he did come to execute judgement on that very generation as he foretold.

  • John Holmes

    I think it is sad that a huge industry of questionable theology has grown up around, end time hysteria. I was once in a Christian bookstore after the first Gulf war, and the new Babylon was Sadam Huseins, Irag, the end of the world was here, and of course passages like Mark 13, were used to justify this. When the first war was won, it went on the sales rack, and I asked the store owner, another false theory bites the dust, and she went into a rage, defending this. I think Mark and Peter who were trying to warn Christians of the fall of Jerusalem, and the cosmic change in history, that the center of history is no longer the temple but the empty tomb, would be puzzled indeed at the weird stuff evangelicals have created with this. Kurt you make valid points that apocalyptic language has to be interpreted in its genre or the western literalist gets absurd fast. The bible is an Eastern book, through and through, and we have to constantly remind ourselves of this. The new creation, is almost totally not understood by Evangelicals, which ends up in gnostic eschatology. It makes us inept socially to contribute as well. So these are very important issues, and to expose the silly exegesis it is based on is a safe harbor for modern Christians. Mark 13, Luke 21, Matt 24, are all in context of the temple, the end of the old covenant order, not the end of the cosmos because God gets mad and destroys his sand castle like a immature little boy in a rage.. Eph, and Col teach us so clearly the new creation, it is puzzling how we only emphasize, 1 Thess 4, Paul was only there a short time, I think we was trying to give them cliff notes, of all the points of theology, but what we have done with it is bizarre, and strange. Second coming yes, hysteria and gnosticism, no, no, no…

  • Johnny Brewer – (I don’t know whether this will show up as Stephen G. Parker or Mystic444 – it’s the same person either way). I enjoy how you’re obviously giving a lot of thought to this matter; and you certainly bring up some interesting ideas. First, you suggest that perhaps Old Testament ‘appearances’ of God could be ‘preincarnate’ appearances of Jesus, the Son of God. That is certainly a very valid possibility, especially where reference is made to ‘the angel of the LORD’. In Malachi 3:1 there are 2 ‘angels’ (messengers) mentioned: (1) “Behold, I send my messenger [angel], and he will prepare the way before me”. In Luke 1:76, this angel/messenger is identified as John the Baptist. (2) “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger [angel] of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” Guess who this Lord who is the ‘angel of the covenant, in whom you delight’ is? My vote is that it is none other than our Lord, Jesus God’s anointed. Isaiah 63:8 and 9 says this: “For He [the LORD] said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not lie.’ So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and THE ANGEL OF HIS PRESENCE saved them.” I suspect that the ‘angel of His presence’ is the same one as the ‘angel of the covenant’. In Revelation 10:1 ff a “mighty angel” is spoken of “coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud” – remember the son of man coming in the clouds of heaven ? “And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire” – that sounds very much like the son of man described in Rev. 1. “And he had a little book open in his hand” – who was it who was found worthy to open the book and its seals in Rev 5 and 6? Daniel 12:1 says: “At that time Michael shall stand up, the GREAT PRINCE who stands watch over the sons of your people…” Michael, according to Strong, means “who is like God?”. As a name it would mean one who is like God. This Michael is a great “prince”, which the Greek Septuagint renders by the word ἄρχων (ruler). In Jude, Michael is called the ‘archangel’ (ἀρχάγγελος), which is an angel who is an ἄρχων (ruler) – the chief (ruling) angel. But Jesus is called (in Rev. 1:5) the ruler (ἄρχων) of the kings of the earth. If Jesus is the ‘angel of the covenant’, the ‘angel of His presence’, and the ‘mighty angel’ of Rev. 10, then is he not appropriately the ‘chief (ruling) angel’ , or ‘archangel’? And would not “Who is like God” (Michael) be appropriate as his name, since his is “the express image of His person”?

    However I don’t think this will apply to the “Ancient of Days” as seen in Daniel’s vision, because there the “Ancient of Days” is distinct from “the son of man”. While the “son of man” represents the whole church, ‘he’ certainly includes the church’s “head”, Jesus Christ, who is preeminently “the son of man”. The “Ancient of Days” would have to be the Father it seems to me.

    Your comment that not being able to ‘see’ God means not able to ‘fully comprehend’ Him also has a great deal of truth to it. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly…” (1 Cor. 13:12). 2 Cor. 12:2-5 speaks of someone Paul knew who was “caught up to the third heaven” and “heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter”. And 1 Cor. 2:9 quotes from Isaiah to say: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”. There are many similar passages, speaking for instance of the love of God which passes knowledge. If this is so concerning God’s love, the things He has prepared for those who love Him, and things seen in ‘the third heaven’; how much more is it true of the Person of God Himself? And this is why, actually, that I maintain that any dreams and visions that give ‘descriptions’ of God MUST be given in symbols. If anyone had somehow actually been granted the ability to ‘see’ God (such as Paul’s friend who was caught up to the third heaven), he would not have been able to express it accurately in words (and Paul says he wouldn’t have been permitted to either). If Daniel and Isaiah ‘saw’ God, they wouldn’t have been able to write what they saw – therefore the descriptions are of necessity metaphorical and symbolical. The same is true of Moses’ seeing God’s ‘back’. Strong ‘anthropomorphic’ figures are used to ‘describe’ that which is beyond description (just as we seek to know the love of God which passes knowledge). When Scripture speaks of God sheltering His children under His wing, I do not imagine that God is actually a being who has wings. When it is said that God’s saints dwell ‘under the shadow of the Almighty’, I don’t imagine that God is actually some huge physical being who casts a shadow when the Sun shines on Him, in whose shadow I can take shelter. It is figurative language that expresses a real truth. God does indeed shelter and protect His people, and those figures are used to express this truth. The invisible things of God, even His “eternal power and Godhead”, are clearly seen in nature (Romans 1:20); yet we sure don’t want to bow down in worship to the things of nature because we see God in them, do we? Because I can ‘see God’ in a tree does not mean that I will start imagining that God is a tree (grin). There might be occasion to use a tree as a metaphor for God (the ‘tree of Life’ for instance), but I would never take that as a literal description of God.

    I think your idea of seeing with the ‘spiritual eyes’ is a valid point. Certainly dreams are not seen with the physical eyes. Waking visions may or may not be seen with physical eyes. But the things seen in spiritual visions, when they are ‘heavenly’ or ‘spiritual’ things, are pretty much of necessity symbols. If I see ‘earthly’ things in a dream or vision, they may well be literal; but ‘heavenly’ things can only be described using earthly things as symbols of the heavenly. That’s how it seems to me, at least. If you think differently, then as one of my favorite sayings has it: “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking” (General George Patton). The main thing is that you’re THINKING, and that’s a GOOD thing!

  • bobby gilbert

    Interesting . . . I picked up on your remark and followed it here. brokers of “gloom and doom” prophets. I thought I could get some wisdom on a take of the rapture. I am being let to believe that the tribulation is one of several weeks, 15 (festival of weeks) in all that compute into 70 weeks, spoken in the oracle of Daniel. I do not hold to the 490 years to whatever date. I believe the 70 weeks involve specific weeks that deal with God’s revelation, Israel and the adopted. By my findings, there remains 4 weeks. two in motion and two that have not started. My recent thoughts is maybe 3 are in motion and 1 remains. The one remains is what people call the tribulation week. Two in motion, creation week and the benjamin week.

    Creation week, I believe we are in the 7th day and have been in the 7th day.

    The Benjamin week begins at the birth of Abraham to the death of Rachel’s children to the nation Israel. It will complete itself when it mirrors Abraham’s birth.

    What I am calling the second pentecost is new to my thoughts. I could not figure the holy spirit and the adopted week as being separate so I had them at 14 weeks. The festival of weeks calls for 15 weeks. If you look at hours to days, Jesus died in a week where hours were the count. (passion week -God week number 5) The Pentecost week begins at transfiguration to passover to pentecost. it has a count of days.

    This led me to believe that “literally, the last week is counted in months” so a ration from hours to day to months to years. I figured we are still dealing with the spirit. my guess is years would be 50 years to middle of the week. This is the next question when the week is over, it is Shavout! Could the 50 years end at the ressurection and second coming? I don’t know.

    I do know that the 6th week of Israel was the holocaust (note the holocaust was 12 years and some have liken the holocaust to the suffering servant). I have to question your argument “no reason to believe that this will be accompanied by a great Tribulation where an anti-Christ figure will wreak havoc”. The 6th week of Israel is called the Zebulun week. Israel’s weeks go Joseph-Simeon-Levi-Judah-Issachar-Zebulun-Benjamin according to the prophecy of Joshua. The life of the oldest and the youngest. Reuben lost his place in weeks, but not in days of the week. Reuben losing his place is another narative.

    Before I get into explaining all the weeks which I am not going to here. I will bring to mind 3 anti-christ. 666 is sometimes over blown. Each was given the power. The first pilate comes on the scene 6 hours before the middle of the day. Nero comes on the scene 6 years before the fall of the temple. Hitler comes into power 6 years before the middle of the holocaust. The scripture says that “anti-C” is not reveal until the middle of the week. If taken literal, the person will be known about 6 months before the middle of the week.

    Interesting and had given up on this thought. I live in germany and experienced a monetary change. It was not by chance. It was planned out. The dates many organizations and groups are shooting for a global currency is around the 2020’s. Amazingly, the high water line of the Jesus movement was 1972 and add 50 years, that puts the numbers at the same place, around 2020’s. I think it was interesting to note. This thought came this past week which was mainly to let me know or God let me see that there are 15 weeks and 69th might have started which leaves only the 70th week to begin.

    Is there a tribulation week? I call it the week of the adopted. Well, some people are prepping. I think it is crazy. History reminds us that there were very few Christians in Jerusalem when the temple fell in 70 AD. It was a mess when the Romans entered. I think the situation was so bad that the Romans wanted to put them out of their misery. I think of the King of Israel and the woman in 2 kings “Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow. So we boiled my son and ate him.”

    Weeks have a beginning, middle and end. Most of the weeks middles are pretty bad. Flood, temples fall, baker dies, 1st born dies, generation dies in desert, babies murdered, famine strikes land, 6,000,000 die, and Jesus dies on the cross. When God separates light and darkness on the 4th day, no one dies, but the clock begins with the rising of the sun and going down.

    So one week remains where death has not happened.

    All these weeks center themselves around the cross. I call the week, The Passion Paradigm.

    I saw a video on persecution in Africa. I can’t remember where it was. This lady prayed in the video for Jesus to break her. I thought to myself how much more do you want to be broken.