Why "No One Knows the Day or Hour" is a WEAK Argument Against Rapture Predictors! (Reflections on Mark 13)

Why "No One Knows the Day or Hour" is a WEAK Argument Against Rapture Predictors! (Reflections on Mark 13) May 23, 2011

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All over the web this past week we’ve observed an interesting back and forth.  The “forth” is that Herald Camping wrongly put forth that the rapture was to occur last week Saturday… obviously either no one is a true Christian so no one was raptured or the Family Radio host failed.  The “back” by many amazing Christians that rightly knew that the return of Jesus cannot rightly be predicted by anyone but God pointed to this passage (or its parallels):

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.  Mark 13.32-33

Let me be the first to proclaim that I AGREE with the outcome of the “back-ers” on this issue.  NO ONE KNOWS when Christ will return.  The Bible contains no mathematical codes to detect when the renewal of creation will take place at his coming.  God gives zero instructions about interpreting numerical data to yield a formula with outputs being dates and times.  Certainly numbers have meaning in the Bible, but ONLY as rhetorical devices, not for dating apocalyptic events that have yet to be fulfilled.  To use numbers in this way is irresponsible and unfaithful to God’s revealed story.  Obviously, Family Radio is wrong to claim that “we can know.”  We simply cannot.

© 2011 "The Deist Review"

So, what am I getting at then?  One thing that I am passionate about is attempting to read passages of Scripture in their historical, biblical, and rhetorical context. I affirm a future second coming.  I believe the ultimate reason for Christ’s return is to: resurrect, purge, heal, and eternally reign in the renewed creation.  The problem I have then, is not with the second coming.  My issue is with attributing Mark 13 (and parallels) to pointing to anything other than something that already happened in history: the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

All of Mark 13 describes how Jesus acted as an apocalyptic prophet to declare that God’s judgment on unfaithful Israel was coming within “this generation” (v. 30).  This generation does not mean now it means the generation of the disciples who sat and listened to Jesus’ answer to their questions about:

  1. When will these things happen?
  2. What will be the sign that they are about to be fulfilled?[1]

These questions follow Jesus’ prophetic statement that “not one stone [of the Temple] will be left unturned.”  If those are the questions to be answered in the whole of Mark 13, then what ramifications for interpretation does the text leave us with?

After the questions, the chapter continues by answering with the kind of things that will take place leading up to the destruction of the Temple:

  • false messiahs (several were present in the first century)
  • wars (the Jewish War of 66-70 AD)
  • food shortages (imagine Jerusalem were surrounded, where would food come from?)
  • earthquakes (happened)
  • persecution (by the Jews and Rome)
  • the need to flee to the mountains (smart thing to do if your city is going to be burned to the ground soon, don’t you think?!)
  • the gospel being preached throughout the nations (Paul’s missionary journeys, etc.).

Then, there will be cosmic signs (sun darkened, moon dimmed, stars falling, earthquakes), which is a Jewish way to describe cataclysmic political disaster and change.  There are several examples of this language in the Old Testament that always point to a political reality, not the literal convulsion of the cosmos.  We, too, do this with language.  Imagine if you were to read the headline: “9-11 was an Earth Shattering Event.”  Such a description wouldn’t make you think that an “earth shattering” earthquake caused the towers to fall, but is a way of saying that what happened shook up history as we know it.  Same is true here.  Jesus is simply using a Hebraic prophetic rhetorical devise to explain the coming doom of Jerusalem.  God will not destroy the created order, rather “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8.21)!!!

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Next, the great “Son of Man” statement comes in verse 26.  This points to Daniel 7 where the “son of man” comes up to the throne of God to be victoriously vindicated to a position of authority after a time of suffering.  For Jesus, this will ultimately happen when the Temple is destroyed, for it will prove that HE is the true Temple!  Jesus is claiming to be the fulfillment of Daniel’s apocalyptic vision, and people will see this to be true once the Lord’s prophecy is fulfilled.  This happened in 70 AD! Jesus seals the deal by following this up in verse 30 by saying: “…this generation will certainly not pass away until ALL THESE THINGS have happened.”  Again, ALL THESE THINGS did happen, just as Jesus predicted!

clockphoto © 2006 Ivan Salas | more info (via: WylioSo, we come to the verse at hand, 32-33.  What does “… about that day or hour no one knows” actually indicate?  No one knew (in the first century) exactly what day or hour the Temple would be destroyed and the Jewish age of sacrifice finished. But they did have parameters for about when it would take place: within the generation of the first disciples.  Jesus’ words were all fulfilled!  There’s no hint in this text about a second coming… yet we can certainly be assured that other NT text affirm this reality (Acts 1.10, 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17, 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 8, Revelation 21-22, etc.).

The truth is that Family Radio put “forth” a message that turned out to be false.  There are no codes or maps to the ‘end’ in the Bible.  However, I want to question whether the majority of Christians who responded “back” with “no one knows the day or the hour” was the most biblically helpful response.

[1] Matthew adds a 3rd question about the timing of the “end of the age.”  This should not be read as meaning the “end of the world” but rather then end of the Jewish age of Temple worship.  We read into this passage “end of the world” questions that if we look closely enough, are not actually in the text.  My view is that we have been conditioned to think this way by a tradition, not by a clear reading of the text in context.

**On Matthew 24, see James-Michael Smith‘s great articles that compare Josephus’ history to the biblical passages: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

***To get a more detailed look at all of these issues, read this series on Mark 13 called “Earthquakes: Signs of the Times?” or my academic version here.  Also, it is possible by application to apply this passage to the second coming (just as no one knew when God would vindicate Jesus by destroying the Temple system), but it serves as an unconvincing proof for the argument at hand.  N.T. Wright, in my opinion, gave an “off the cuff” response to this issue by saying “no one knows…”  Unfortunately, that basically contradicts everything that he has written on the subject.  He gave a simple answer in a casual fashion, so I don’t think we need to be too frustrated by it.  Consider the following quote from Mark For Everyone after he has expounded the view I share above:

But what does this mean for us, who look back on the events of AD 70 as a distant tragedy?  Partly, it is important for us simply to absorb the once-for-all significance of the moment in history when this great transition took place.  Christians increasingly need to realize that unless we understand the first century we will not understand our own times, or what sort of people we ourselves are called to be.  But it is also important for us to remind ourselves of our own call to watch, to be alert.  The judgment that fell on the Temple is a foretaste, according to other passages in the New Testament, of the judgment that will fall on the whole world.  This time there are to be no signs (despite the regular attempts to speculate on such things), no advance warnings.  Just the ongoing command to God’s people in Christ to be faithful to him, not to compromise with the standards and fashions of the present age, but to keep awake, watching, as Paul again says, for the day to dawn… (Mark For Everyone, 187)

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  • Very well written. Yes, the preterist view is correct in interpreting most of the events prescribed in the Olivet Discourse, but not all. A good refutation to setting dates for the rapture (which I personally do not ascribe to) or the second coming of Christ is 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Throughout the NT, the thief simile suggests unexpectedness and unwelcomeness. Therefore, it is implied that nobody is able to precisely determine Christ’s return.

  • This is a really interesting subject and I thank you so much for bringing it to us again.  What you say makes perfect sense.  And interestingly, when discussing the destruction of the Temple and the end of the age of Jewish sacrifice, this can be shown to be undeniably true from historical records.  Even as Jesus says in Mark 13 v 18, ‘Pray that it may not happen in Winter’, this was granted.  Vespasian delayed his attack on Jerusalem in AD70 until winter had passed owing to the death of Nero.  The significance of all of this is absolutely massive as it shows in history the huge implication of what Jesus came to do.  

    It also heralds in the time of the gentiles.  And this why we should also look at the account of the conversation in Mark 13 alongside the same account in Luke 21.  This is because Luke gives us more information about the order of events.  He tells us everything Mark does but goes on to say that ‘Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled’.  Some say that ‘time of the Gentiles’ ended in 1967 with the restoration of the Jews to govern Jerusalem.  The time of the Gentiles lasted 19 Centuries.  If this is interpreted as the ‘tribulation’ described by both Mark, and Luke and indeed Matthew in Ch24, then there might be an argument to say that Jesus goes on to discuss the ‘End Times’ as recorded in all three Gospels.

    So I suppose that’s my point.  I honestly feel Jesus was discussing the whole future of the Earth in these accounts, with initial significance to what will happen to the Jews and their sacrificial system.  He told them that would end.  That the significance of his death would be made clear.  That he was fulfilling all of history and all the prophets.  That the Jews would be judged and dispersed.  That the Temple would be destroyed. That the time of the Gentiles would begin.  That the Jews would be restored to Jerusalem.  That they would SEE the Son of Man coming with great power and glory. As Luke records, ‘for (that day) will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the earth’.

    But most significantly, after this account Matthew goes on to record three parables that Jesus goes on to give them that tell us about his return to Earth to judge and to remind us what our job is here, until he comes again.  That is, be ready, keep our lamps filled with oil, do not bury what has been entrusted to us, and feed the poor and help the needy!  To me this makes it abundantly clear that like so many other times in the Bible, God is speaking to us across the years with a relevance that transcends a narrow moment in time.  

    Ultimately this is what we should be looking at with great urgency.  As we look around the world at the huge poverty and the needless death and disaster, we see we are failing miserably at what is expected of us.    It might be too late to rush and buy oil for our lamps after the Son of Man returns.  

  • Kurt, as a preterist myself I should have realized this, but I did not.  Very important exegesis.  Thank you.

  • This is wonderful if you adhere to some form of preterism. If not, however, it can be a very strong argument. As a preterist myself, I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusions here, but I would have a very difficult time convincing anyone in my neck of the woods them.

    Perhaps I missed it, but when you say you agree that nobody knows when Jesus will return and then toss out the major crutch of that line of thinking, can you provide any reason you may have for holding onto it? In other words, if the second coming is not what Jesus intended in Mark 13, then maybe we CAN know?


    • No… I dont think we can know just because of this interpretation because the bible never says that we can.  It takes someone using the numbers and ideas in the bible and then creating some ridiculous code to come to any conclusion like that.   Only an abuse of the narrative of Scripture can produce a “time table” even if this passage means what I say it means

      • Again, not that I think we can (or even should) know, but isn’t “because the bible never says that we can” an argument from silence? I still don’t feel like you’ve given a biblical reason why we CAN’T know. If this verse shouldn’t be used this way, then what other Scriptural evidence do we have that says we can’t know? Or that we shouldn’t try to figure it out?

        • I guess I am saying that we are never invited to ‘figure it out.’ therefore, the silence seems to speak in that direction.  The question is: if the bible never says we Can know, and it never gives us a ‘code’ to decode, then… we are stuck not knowing 🙂  That doesn’t make me too uncomfortable.

          • Once again, I’m with you. I just think that these reasons aren’t enough to preclude “figuring it out” based on the Text alone if we omit these crutch passages as preteristic.

          • That is why we need to teach people how to actually read the texts responsibly.  If they know how to do that, then any such interpretation turns to the rubbish that it is.  Pastoral wisdom says teach them to read rightly, not allow simple traditions so that they feel good.

  • David D. Flowers

    Kurt, I appreciate your effort to interpret according to context. However, I must disagree with your interpretation. According to the context, you are right to point out that the disciples were associating “the end of the age” and the fullness of the kingdom with the destruction of the Temple. However, Jesus clearly has in mind something much different as he expands their horizons on the eschaton. He most certainly is speaking to an experience that the present generation would experience, but the “keeping watch” is not exhausted in their day, it can’t be (Mk 13:35-37). 

    We have yet to see the parousia of Christ. He has gone away, but he has yet to physically return (v.34). Therefore, it is reasonable (debatable at least) to conclude that the “no one knows” speaks not only to the destruction of the Temple in Ad 70, but to the time in between that time and the second coming. Like many other issues in theology and eschatology, Jesus responds to his disciples’ question with some modifications to popular belief. He frequently ironed out their misconceptions and misunderstandings. 

    Matthew, likely writing after Mark with a knowledge of his gospel, makes this more evident in his retelling of Jesus’ discourse (Mt 24). Yes, Matthew is not referring to the “end of the world” but instead the “end of the age.” However, he clearly does not have Jesus meaning that the present age ends with the destruction of the Temple (v.14, 30-31, 36-51). Mark’s gospel does emphasize the events of 70, but both gospels do indeed have Jesus broadening their understanding of the end of the age. Also, 2 Peter 3 sounds much like what Jesus has said in both Mark and Matthew. 

    Finally, while I appreciate the preterist’s attempts to point out the implications of Jesus’ words for the first century disciples, there seems to be an unwillingness to recognize the “already/not yet” aspect of the kingdom of God. There is plenty in Mk 13, Mt 24, and Lk 21 to indicate a reference to 70 and the continued unfolding of events (tribulation) that will occur until the actual appearing of the Son of Man and the fullness of the kingdom. I agree with Tom Wright. It is appropriate to respond to the “rapture” predictors with Jesus’ words: “No one knows the day or the hour…”

    • @David, just because I hold to a so-called preterist reading on the Olivet Discourse, it does not make me a full preterist 🙂  I disagree with your reading of these texts though because I think we read “our” questions into the text to end up with some of the conclusions you do here.  I agree with NT Wright who basically says that there is no mention of the second coming in the gospels, at least not directly. (He says this in Surprised by Hope, for instance). 

      Also, the “already / not yet” which I learned from Wright (who gave me the view of this article) is held in tact even if it is not directly addressed in the Olivet passages.   Inaugurated eschatology is central to everything I believe about New Creation. 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.  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.

      • Anonymous

         While I agree w/ David, I also believe prophesy can be in 2 phases. The first phase so to speak happened in 70 A.D. The second phase is to come. If you believe Revelations was written after 70 A.D. (which most theologians do) then you can’t discount what John said, since he already knew the Romans overtook Jerusalem. There is much in Revelations yet to happen. But I am not a pre-tribber. I believe Christians will go through the tribulation, Christ will come before the WRATH of God. (the last 2 bowls in Revelations I believe)

        • In Revelation… (for the most part) only the last 3 chapters have anything to do with the future…

          • Anonymous

            One must read Revelations with the help of the Holy Spirit. Revelations goes back and forth with timing. The Day of the Lord is the Wrath of God which many assume is the tribulation which it is not. I’ll go into more detail at a future time on my blog, but for now let’s just say, the OT is rife with talk about the awesome day of the lord. In fact, Peter quotes Joel 2 when he describes that day as notable and glorious (Acts 2:19 & 20). Obadiah says the day of the lord draws near on ALL nations (Obad 15).In verses 18 & 20, the “kingdom will be the Lord’s”, so while bringing judgement, it will also  inaugurate the millenial reign of Christ.  In Amos 9:9 besides other things, the Lord said he would shake the house of Jacob among the nations. In Zepheniah, Zepheniah describes the day of the Lord as the day of the Lord’s sacrifice. (Zeph 1:8..and a couple of verse down he says “neither gold nor silver will deliver them on the day of the Lord’s wrath, and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy.”
            Also Isaiah 2:2-4 “hammer their swords into plowshares”, but verse 12 talks about the day of reckonng before the time just mentioned, which is the “terror of the Lord” Also check out Chapter 13, esp verses 11-13. Also Joel says “the day of the Lord will come as destruction from the Almighty”, v 11 “the day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, who can endure it”. Read the entire chapter 2 of Joel. Scary stuff, then Revelations 9 talks about an army of 200 million sent out by God to kill 1/3 of mankind! But that’s no the event Joel was talking about. Revelations speaks about 2 seperate times…the great trib and the wrath of God. The trib is “Satan having great wrath” (Rev 12:12)..here we see Satan taking his anger out mainly on the saints, those who are “still on the earth” while he beguiles the rest of the world, with Satan personified in a man, and only those written in the book of life will not worship him, now back to chp 7, where John is toldin 7:14 “these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation”

          • David Zuniga

            The book is called ‘The Revelation to John’, or popularly, ‘Revelation’, not ‘Revelations’.

  • Jim Hoag Vt

    Yeah, a lot of people were reassuring themselves  that Harold Camping didn’t know what he was talking about primarily because he said he KNEW the day and hour. But as you make clear, some exegetical clarity, indeed SANITY, would probably be a lot more helpful.

    What I’m seeing is that what’s at stake here is not primarily eschatological outcomes but HOW WE READ THE NEW TESTAMENT (sorry for the caps, I just got intense). It is about a new framework; a reading of Jesus’ words according to a narrative-historical hermeneutic, not according to some predetermined eschatological systematic.

  • Jim Hoag Vt

    Yeah, a lot of people were reassuring themselves  that Harold Camping didn’t know what he was talking about primarily because he said he KNEW the day and hour. But as you make clear, some exegetical clarity, indeed SANITY, would probably be a lot more helpful.

    What I’m seeing is that what’s at stake here is not primarily eschatological outcomes but HOW WE READ THE NEW TESTAMENT (sorry for the caps, I just got intense). It is about a new framework; a reading of Jesus’ words according to a narrative-historical hermeneutic, not according to some predetermined eschatological systematic.

  •  Jewish Prophetic devices also had double meanings. Such is the case with most prophecies concerning his first coming. For the Old Testament prophets, their statements had present prophetic meaning and future, undisclosed truths. These “layers” are common traits. So too, I believe, were Christ’s words. The judgement which He spoke of both applied to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and the yet-future abomination of desolation. 

    • @jonathandkeck:disqus   , dispensational theology has us convinced that “double fulfillment” is a normative way to read texts… it simply is not, unless the text itself implies such.  Prophecy is not as layered.  For instance, it is interesting to note that what you call a “yet-future” abomination of desolation is in fact something that happened before Christ that Jesus is saying will happen again in the future (within “this generation”).  Below are parts of a post I wrote on that:

      The phrase that deserves some investigation is what the TNIV
      designates: “the abomination that causes desolation” (v. 14). 
      Comparatively, the NRSV renders this as “desolating sacrilege” and the
      NLT as “the sacrilegious object that causes desecration.”  Now, for the
      purposes of biblical interpretation, a question must be asked: Is this referring to a person or to an object?
      In many popular futurist theologies (rapture–> tribulation –>
      millennial reign –> eternity in brand new heavenly world as opposed
      to this one), it is assumed that this phrase refers to the so-called
      ‘Antichrist’ who will step into the holy place of the (rebuilt?) Temple;
      but based on Jewish history it seems more likely that this was indeed some kind of pagan altar or object.[1]
      It should be noted that the best rendering of this verse will indicate
      that it was primarily an object and not a person who desecrated the
      Temple.  So, with this in mind, we need a translation of the passage
      that indicates this the most clearly.  The worst of the aforementioned
      translations is the NLT who leaves this verse in ambiguous tension.  For
      although it clearly explains that the abomination is an object, the
      phrase that follows is: “…standing where he should not be.” 
      This barely makes logical sense in English and seems to impose a
      futurist eschatological perspective (again, “Left Behind”).  Simply put,
      I want to explore the possibility that this passage should be seen as
      regarding an object rather than a person (especially a future Antichrist).

      Last post
      we observed that when the “abomination” takes place that this is when
      the disciples are instructed by Jesus to “flee” (v. 14).  The reason
      that an object makes more sense than a person is that this phrase has
      both a biblical and historical back-story.  The language is developed
      from the book of Daniel which states:

      His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the Temple
      fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice.  Then they will set up
      the abomination that causes desolation…  Daniel ll.31

      This was a prophecy that seems to have found fulfillment in history
      during the Jewish struggle under Antiochus Epiphanes.  The story is told
      in 1 Maccabees 1.54ff where it states that “on the fifteenth day of
      Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating
      sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering” (NRSV).  These are the
      historical and biblical links from which Jesus speaks.  When the “desolating sacrilege” or the “abomination that causes
      desolation” disgraced the Temple in the past, it was not primarily a
      person but a pagan altar that was set up on the altar of God.  There is
      some evidence to suggest that the Jews used this language directly
      referring to Zeus.  In fact, it probably was an altar that had on it an
      image of the pagan god.  Therefore it follows that Jesus, having this story in his mind, was
      referring to an object that would be set up to disgrace the Temple once
      again at the time when it was nearing its destruction.  The belief that
      this refers to a future “anti-Christ” figure cannot be found in our
      text; and when it is read to claim such, it is an importation of popular
      futurists views.  No, when this object is set up where it does not
      belong, the faithful disciples who have chosen to endure the various
      tribulations will now have warrant to “flee to the mountains” (v. 14). 
      This I suggest was completely a first century reality.

      • I must be missing something here.  I just don’t see it.  You mention virtually nothing of Matthew 24 that says after the distruction of the Temple there will be ‘distress, unequalled’ which will be cut short for the sake of the elect.  Then false prophets will appear.  Then immediately after those days of distress the sun & moon will be darkened and the stars will fall from the sky.  Then the sign of Jesus will appear in the sky , and ALL the people on Earth will mourn.  Then there will be a loud trumpet call and the angels will gather the elect from the four winds!  Two men will be in the fields and one will be taken!!!  Similarly with two women at the hand mill!!!  It then talks about the master returning to find his people feeding and looking after his servants and how this is what we should be doing until then!!!!!  Are you saying none of this refers to the Second Coming of Jesus?  Then we get the three parables about being ready for Jesus’ return and the coming judgement….

        Maybe it’d be better for me to step out of this debate.

        Incidently there is enough Biblical evidence to argue that when Jesus said ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened’ to interpret the word ‘generation’ as ‘age’ or ‘era’.

        I dunno maybe I should stay out of it….

        • @twitter-135451126:disqus , Let me take one of your examples on.

          “Two will be walking, one will be taken.”  This referes to the soldiers who came and arrested  / persecuted so many around the time of the Jewish war.  The text doesn’t say that they will “be taken into heaven.” We read that into the text and for me feels a bit like eisegesis rather than exegesis.  Peace to you Geoff…

          • Geoff…and Kurt…i once blogged this:

            no one reading the famous “one will be taken; the other left behind” ‘rapture’ passage..(in context; and without everything you’ve ever heard that it said influencing what you hear)will read it as Christians being taken/raptured.It is the most obvious interpretation in the world that in this Scripture:the Christians are left behind.!Try it out! Follow the flow and logic; read text and context prayerfully and carefully.There’s a reason this passage was not spun this way in the early church (B.L.H.-“Before LaHaye”)the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.And Rossing:Only by combining this passage together with First Thessalonians can a dispensationalist begin to piece together their notion of ‘left behind’…But here’s the problem with their use of this passage in Matthew: Dispensationalists make the leap of assuming that the person ‘taken’ in this passage is a born-again Christian who is taken up to heaven, while the person ‘left’ is an unbeliever who is left behind for judgement. This is a huge leap, since Jesus himself never specifies whether Christians should desire to be taken or left! In the overall context of Matthew’s Gospel, the verbs ‘taken’ and ‘left’ (Greek paralambano and apheimi) can be either positive or negative.

            In the verses immediately preceding this passage, Jesus says that his coming will be like the flood at the time of Noah, when people were ‘swept away’ in judgement. If being ‘taken’ is analogous to being ‘swept away’ in a flood, then it is not a positive fate. That is the argument of New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop N.T. Wright:

            ‘It should be noted that being in this context means being taken in judgement.
            There is no hint here of a , a sudden event that would remove individuals from terra firma…It is, rather, a matter of secret police coming in the night, or of enemies sweeping through a village or city and seizing all they can.’
            (NT Wright, Jesus and The Victory of God, p. 366

            If Wright is correct, this means that ‘left behind,’ is actually the desired fate of Christians, whereas being ‘taken’ would mean being carried off by forces of judgement like a death squad. For people living under Roman occupation, being taken away in such a way by secret police would probably be a constant fear….McGuire suggests that the ‘Left Behind’ books have it ‘entirely backward.’. McGuire, like Wright, points out that when analyzed in the overall context of the gospel, the word ‘taken’ means being taken away in judgement, as in the story of Jesus’ being ‘taken’ prisoner by soldiers in Matt 27:27. ‘Taken’ is not an image for salvation”

            (Rossing, pp 178-179)‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,nor the Son’);”; but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day at what hour’);your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. ‘-Matt. 24–

          • Excellent points!

          • I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to show someone this… It just seems so obvious to me.

      • Well said. Yes, I am aware of the interpretation and of the historical background. The prophetic voice, however, is far more complicated. When we look at prophecies revealed throughout the Old Testament, we certainly see layers. We see present realities with past references, Isaiah 14 for example with the declaration of Satan and the present king of Babylon. This motif is also used for things present and have futures unseen. Even within the same passage which carries a seemingly common temporal setting, is in fact separated by thousands of years. A clear example of this is Luke 4:21 where Jesus stops mid-sentence from a passage he reads in Isaiah and says it is fulfilled—just not all of it. This text had present implications for Isaiah, a prophetic layer in the first century, and a prophecy for the second coming. 

        All of this to say, prophecy can have MANY layers. The specifics of these are obscure and I don’t think anyone can really say what is or isn’t true. 

        Moreover, we are working exclusively from a Greek model of prophecy. The Jewish writers also saw prophecy through enacting things. Events and the way they occurred was also prophecy. For example, the simple story of Moses striking the rock so that water poured out was in-fact prophecy—an acting out of something that was yet future. This model can also be applied to the destruction of the temple and the “abomination of desolation.” 

        This is not a hill I am going to die on. I think, when it comes to the interpretation of prophecy, so many people have gone very wrong when insisting on a particular interpretation. I won’t insist on anything in particular. 

        • Disagree with your conclusions, but agree with the spirit in which you think about such things 😉

        • True enough that prophecy can have many layers…a simple read of Isaiah and Jeremiah in their historical context, followed by the Evangelists’ references to those prophecies, is proof enough of that.

          What I think many “consumers” of biblical prophecy fail to grasp is that just because prophecies *CAN* have multiple layers does not mean they *MUST*.  The error comes in assuming that a prophecy that has been fulfilled at least once must necessarily still have an “outstanding” element waiting to be fulfilled.  Here they stand on extremely shaky ground.

          I suspect that almost all the prophecies of the Old Testament, and a rather significant proportion of those in the New Testament, have already been fulfilled in Jesus and in the work of the church which began in the first century.  There’s a whole lot less actually “outstanding” than the average eschatological junkie would suggest.

          I think perhaps Acts 1:6-8 is relevant, even though it was Jesus’ answer to yet another very-temporal question from the disciples (is this when you restore Israel’s rule?).  Jesus didn’t just answer about that one event–the restoration of Israel’s supremacy as envisioned by the disciples.  Rather, he said quite generically “it is not for you to know the times or seasons…just go make disciples.”  In classically Jesus-fashion, he completely begged off the eschatological-prophetic question the disciples wanted answered, replacing it with marching orders to be executed *NOW*.  I think this same redirection of attention is what Jesus would want now.

          If I dare associate it with the writings of an atheist, Jesus’ answer comes really close to Candide’s answer at the end of Voltaire’s eponymous book:  “well said…but we must till our garden.”  Candide’s focus is far more introspective than Jesus, but the refocus on life rather than philosophy is, I think, worthwhile.

          • @dwmtractor:disqus  , I couldn’t agree more! You said this better than I could of said it!  I certainly see double fulfilment in some cases like the use of the apostles of OT text post-resurrection.  But certainly, those texts became “prophetic” not because they originally had a double meaning but because through the lens of the resurrection, old words took on new / fresh interpretations.  Peter Enns deals with this issue masterfully in “Inspiration and Incarnation.” Worth reading!

          • Ultimately, @kurtwillems:disqus I agree with your interpretation above and I have come to hold more of a preterist view myself. That being said, I think I agree with @jonathandkeck:disqus in that a remarkable amount of prophecies in the old testament had “double fulfillments.” I also see @dwmtractor:disqus ‘s reasoning that “just because prophecies can have multiple layers does not mean they must,” but I think that Jonathan’s point still stands. If we are comfortable in claiming that there are many prophecies with dual fulfillments, then a correct exegesis and illustration of its fulfillment such as you have provided above is not sufficient reason to conclude that this passage does not also have an application to the second coming of Christ. I don’t see how a valid conclusion can be made either way.

          • David Zuniga

            The phrase “amount of prophecies” is incorrect English; it should be “number of prophecies, since they are not an amorphous mass but can be counted individually. If all prophecies were liquid (or even very fine grains like sand or salt), one could write “amount of prophecies”.

          • David Zuniga

            That should be, “better than I could *have* said it”…

  • I would agree that MUCH of the Olivet discourse refers to the coming destruction of the temple in AD 70 and has been fulfilled but surely not all of it.  The portrayal of Jesus’ visible return is more than a confirmation of messiahship by the fulfilment of the messiah’s predictions.  It predicts an actual event that marks the end of this age.  And the destruction of Jerusalem may have been the end of a particular Jewish era but not the global event that Jesus indicates parallel to other discourses mentioning the sorting out by angels right before the final judgment takes place.  So what we may have here, is not necessarily double (or multiple) fulfilment but a prophecy that looks at the Jewish catastrophe witnessed by the same generation AND the parousia of Christ way beyond this particular fulfilment.

    The way Camping and his followers should have been answered is not so much by trying to prove that preterism is true, but that ALL the NT references regarding Christ’s return envision a single, public event that doesn’t whisk people away to another world but reunites them with Him here.  Your other post about the meaning of the mixed metaphors that were used to describe His arrival did a good job of that!

    • @jshmueller:disqus , Your a good guy, but I disagree.  We read into the text “double fulfillment.”  If we read it with the OT in mind and also the first century, it all points backwards.  I have been too influenced by NT Wright and RT France I suppose 🙂

      • Partial fulfillment and double fulfillment are not the same thing.  What made you think I’m pleading for double fulfillment?

        • Josh, I got ya.  Sorry for not making the distinction.  You clearly said that in your first post.  Anyway, I don’t see how this text can reach beyond AD 70 except by application maybe.  Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

          •  Just exegete V.27 for me in the context of a fulfilled prophecy and you’ll make a believer out of me!  😉

          • Well, Josh, here’s a shot:  Could it be that this is precisely what he did in the Great Commission?  Remember “angelos” is “messenger” and often a human, non-miraculous messenger at that.  “Go into all the world and make disciples” is exactly what it would take to “gather  the elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the
            ends of heaven.”

          • Interesting interpretation.   It just seems more likely IMO that the angels are actual angels parallel to Jesus’ explanation of the parable of tares and wheats in Matthew 13:39-40. 

          • Here is a post where I look at that issue Josh:  http://www.thepangeablog.com/2010/04/25/angels-vs-messengers-a-war-of-words-earthquakes%E2%80%A6signs-of-the-times-6-mark-13/

            Here is a point to consider.  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.”

          • Kurt, I’m open to the general possibility that it can mean just “messenger” here.  But like I said, the Matthew 13 parallel that also looks at these messengers as harvesters sent at the end of time to gather the elect makes it rather unlikely, since the entire point in the disciples’ desire to sort out between “true” and “false” believers is consistently rejected and contrasted with the exclusive divine ability to have this ability and see what is in people’s hearts.  And the “lense- objection” works both ways where a word just HAS TO have the envisioned meaning to make sure the own view doesn’t collapse.

          • ProSecond Amendment

            Man, you are plain false. I tell you now if you are a true Christian and true believer in Jesus Christ, Yahshua Hamashiach, you will delete this nonsense for you are CLEARLY taking scripture way out of context.

            “Son of man in the clouds” WAKE UP!
            That’s all that needs to be said to prove this teaching completely FALSE! PERIOD! I curse this fig tree article that bears no fruit but brings confusion and I curse the confusion as well in Yahshua’s Holy name!

  • Rob

    Kurt, there are actually some scholars (R.T. France is a good example) who subscribe to the idea that Mark 13:1-31 (including the coming of the Son of Man section) refer to A.D. 70 but that the part from v. 32 onward refer to the Second Coming.  They usually base this interpretation more on the Matthew version of the Olivet Discourse, which has a lot of language in common with the Second Coming passage in 1 Thessalonians.  What are your thoughts on this?

    • @69dba7db44b5ae017ac196a504b35b4b:disqus , I need to go back and read France becasue I am pretty sure he attributes all of the Discourse to the past.  I may be wrong on this.

      However, I have been influenced by NT Wright mostly on this issue.  The Thessalonians passage and this one share in common the backdrop of Daniel 7.  In Jesus its used to describe his vindication after suffering.  In Paul its used as the persecuted church who have suffered and collectively are vindicated.  Paul may have Jesus in mind, but applies the language about the Temple event differently as a possible illustration about what will eventually happen at his second coming.  Lots of questions I still seek answers to in this regard.  I am never beyond growth 🙂

      • Luke T

        In terms of the flow of the discourse, then, v. 32 seems to require to be read as the beginning of a new subject, as I have argued above (pp. 501–2) in opposition to those like N. T. Wright who believe the whole discourse refers only to the destruction of the temple. What that new subject is depends upon what meaning can be given to ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη ἢ ἡ ὥρα. In the Matthean version of the discourse this poses no problem, since the disciples’ question which introduces it in Mt. 24:3 refers both to the destruction of the temple and to Jesus’ παρουσία and the συντελεία τοῦ αἰῶνος. At Mt. 24:36, therefore, the discourse moves from answering the first part of the question to the second, so that the ἡμέρα referred to must be that of Jesus’ παρουσία, and this interpretation is immediately confirmed by the occurrence of the term παρουσία in 24:37, 39, and by the nature of the parables which make up the bulk of the rest of the discourse in the remainder of chapter 24 and throughout chapter 25.

        France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark : A commentary on the Greek text (541). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.This is the quote from France.  He disagrees with Wright.  I am starting to wonder if the title of the blog should be changed from WEAK ARGUMENT to highly debated argument.  

        • Thanks Luke! I was second guessing my recollection of France. Thanks for clearing that up friend 🙂

          Interesting thought Luke.  We disagree about the beginning and the end of the story of Scripture… but I’d guess that we pretty much agree about the “in between” parts 🙂

  • Maritta Kuosa

     You are mistaken. Jesus speaks about BOTH AND!!
    V. 7: “Such things must happen ( the destruction of Jerusalem) – but the end is STILL to come.” V. 8:”There will be earthquakes in VARIOUS places (not only one place as you suggest) and FAMINES (plural; not only in that one city).

    V. 10: “And the gospel must be first preached to ALL nations”!!!
    Right now it almost has!! V. 19:”Those will be days of distress UNEQUALLED from the beginning, when God created the world, until 
    now, and NEVER TO BE EQUALLED AGAIN”!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Surely the distruction of Jerusalem hasn´t been and wasn´t the 
    WORST thing in history!! But the end of the world will be!

    V. 24 and 25: “…the sun will be darkened and the moon will not
    give its light. The stars will fall from the sky and the heavenly bodies
    will be shaken.” Nuclear war?? Has not happened.

    V. 26:”At that time men will see the Son of Man (Christ) coming in 
    clouds with great power and glory. V. 27:”And He will send His angels
    and gather His elect…” This has not happened either!!

    • @283bc0fb53f078779c720bb0ab5786b3:disqus , clearly we read apocalyptic language differently!  On v. 24-25, did you not read my explanation above… I think the logic is pretty sound.  Also, the ‘coming’ of the Son of Man was about Daniel 7 being fulfilled not about the physical return of Jesus (other passages clearly teach this, just not this one).  And, if I may be so bold, the Greek word for Angel is more often used as “messenger” in the first century literature and could very likely be talking about the church planting movements of Paul and the early church.  they were the “messengers” who took the apostolic calling seriously.  And the earthquakes and famimes… yes, Jerusalem was NOT the only place to experience this!  We know historically, especially about the famines.  In the Roman Empire this happened!  Not only so, the rich and the powerful took all the good food for themselves and left the lower class to fend for food.

      Simply put, reading a “both / and” is something the disciples and certainly Jesus NEVER HAD IN MIND.  I think that we are free to disagree on this nonessential issue, but please understand that this is NOT a passage about a great tribulation to come in the future like Left Behind and other popular teachers say.  This is about “then.”  It may have applications for “now” but that is different than it being a yet to be fulfilled prophecy.

  • I think you’re spot on Kurt. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them that this theology is saturated in Apocalyptic literature and imagery but to me it seems obvious, especially when we look at the whole text. Great points my friend.

    • Thanks Mike.  You are a great conversation partner!  We need to chat soon!!!!

  • Jimbobbihoag

    Interesting how the uncritical assumption that New Testament prophecies, such as Jesus’ prophecies centered on the coming of the Son of man, necessarily have a secondary application. There appears to me to be nothing in the texts that requires that. They make excellent sense within the limited historical purview of the New Testament. So why, in the absence of any explicit biblical warrant, do we cling to the belief that they must also refer to something in our own future?

    Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse is addressed to Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37), it develops his warning that the temple will be destroyed (24:2-3), it purports to describe events that will take place within a generation (23:36; 24:34), the coming of the Son of man is said to be a critical event in the immediate future of the city (23:39). Why can’t we leave it at that? Why can we not allow Jesus to determine the frame of reference?

    The new creation motif seems to me rather different because there does appear to be a sense throughout the story of the people of God in which we are always straining for a renewal of the created order. But this is a unique kind of fulfilment that transcends the historical narrative.

    • @97e8aee2593536233e15f0995f645e1a:disqus , AMEN AND PREACH IT!!!!!!

  • Brad

    Interesting discourse.  I know my view fits some theological term (though I am simply a disciple and not a theologian), but in the NT I wholeheartedly see that Jesus was much more intent about teaching us a Way of life involving love of all, including enemies, which means we have no enemies and which means everyone is a part of the body, and if they aren’t, that isn’t up to me.  I simply have to love and listen for the Spirit (yes, I know it involves many disciplines – I’m not saying it’s easy.  But it is simple I think).  Really, the second coming has occured:  We disciples are Jesus come to earth, the body of Christ and there is good evidence from NT that God is reconciling ALL the world to himself through His death on the cross, and the body of Christ on earth that is filled with His Spirit.  There may be a third coming, what most call Jesus’ Second Coming, but if/when that happens, I think the disciples will have evolved to a place of surrender in Christ that is ushering in the new age, which I realize is not a popular term among evangelicals.  Jesus spoke of the end of the age and the age to come, not really about the end of the world.  I don’t really see the world ending (unless you mean an REM end of the world like our cultural structures and the way things are right now).  Maybe no one else does either.  It just seems to come up a lot in conversation.  I think one of the real unspoken implications is that the Second Coming or the idea of Tribulation or the Eternal Punishment that is coming has been co-opted or usurped by institutional Christendom historically as a way to hold power and control over people.  The May 21 “scare” was able to exponentially build the worth and wealth of the radio program and business associated with it.  They spent a lot of money on those signs, etc, but they also generated a lot of money.  The net-worth of the Family Radio company, I saw on one news report, exploded over the past year or so.  This is not so different from the Roman Catholic church of the Middle Ages using heaven and hell as a means to amass power and wealth.

    I typically tell people I am a pan-millenialist, believing it will all pan out in the end.  And I also tell folks that there is one thing I am certain of about my life on this earth and every other person’s life:  We’re all in our Last Days.  I tend to tell people that want an explanation about Jesus and this life that I believe we have to live today fully advancing the Kingdom, which means to love.  I don’t do it well every day and some days I stink at it, but I know whom I have believed in, and I trust his grace to fill me to live again when I fall down on this marvelous and exquisite journey to being one with God the Father through Jesus the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Greg Gorham

     I like your interpretation and would basically agree right up to the point where the coming of the Son of Man is read to mean that Jesus is the true Temple.  That seems to go against your own criteria of reading the texts in their historical contexts.  The small number of other texts we have from that era that refer to a coming Son of Man all have specific meanings, that the Roman government will be overthrown and a new age will begin.  It seems hard for me to imagine any first-century Jewish audience understanding that the coming Son of Man refers to the end of Temple sacrifices.  I don’t think we have any other text from that era where those words would have meant that.  

    It seems to me the more likely option is that the writer of the Gospel of Mark believed that Jesus was going to return in his generation.  He wrote this to indicate that once the Temple has been destroyed, Jesus’s return was imminent – he was at the very door.  And as the Temple had likely been destroyed when he wrote this, that means the generation reading this could expect Jesus’s very soon return.  

    • @39dcd514bccda9895b818e8ac7bc00e5:disqus , I was trying to be quite consice in this post so some important details may not of come through on the Daniel 7 connection.  Allow me to quote a different post on this issue:

      In order to understand the language and Jesus’ usage of “Son of Man,” we must understand its usage in the Old Testament. The phrase originally occurs in Daniel chapter 7.
      The context of this passage contains the images of beasts who are
      representative of pagan nations in a literary sense. These beasts attack
      the “son of man” figure who is a literary representation of Israel.
      Many interpreters are quick to make this figure a literal human,
      but if we do that then we have to also make the beasts literal as
      well—which would be ridiculous both to us and to first century Jews. So,
      to put this all together, Daniel 7
      tells of the foreign monsters who oppress and attack Israel (“son of
      man”), but after this long period of suffering, Israel is vindicated
      above its enemies.[1] Wright states: “The ‘son of man’ figure ‘comes’ to the Ancient of Days…from earth to heaven, vindicated after suffering.”[2]

      With this reading of Daniel 7, the Jews in the first century were awaiting a return from exile and for God to visit Zion and establish his kingdom.[3]
      But Jesus turns this on its head because he brings the kingdom in a way
      that looks very different that Jewish expectation. They would have
      expected the vindication of Israel to take a much different form. The
      Temple would not be glorified, but demolished. Jerusalem would not
      become the epicenter of the glorious nation of reinstated Israel, but
      would be trampled on by pagans.[4]
      The enemies of God’s true Israel were not the pagans as much as the
      Temple system and the religiosity it represented. The language Jesus
      borrows from Daniel in the context of the current textual unit has to do
      with his ascending to God and taking his place as the true king of the
      true Jerusalem.[5]
      This is not a “second coming” passage, but one that speaks of Jesus
      taking on the identity of Israel whose vindication after suffering would
      take place only after judgment had come upon the Temple. This is why in
      chapter 11
      (cleansing of the Temple) Jesus enacts this judgment; only to
      cryptically declare that it would take place within “this generation” (v. 30). Wright comments on the importance of Jesus’ vindication to his message:

      “Jesus had set his face, prophetically, against Jerusalem. He had staked
      his prophetic reputation upon the claim that the Temple would be
      destroyed… In the light of this, those who claimed to be his followers
      were bound to see the continuing existence of Herod’s Temple, and the
      city which housed it, as a paradox. Jesus would not be vindicated as a
      true prophet until it was destroyed by enemy action… But it was not only
      Jesus who would be vindicated when the Temple fell. The Temple
      represented the heart of the system from which flowed one source at
      least of the persecution suffered by the early Church. Its destruction
      would be their salvation. Mark 13 said as much.[6]”

      What we have attempted to do in the above section is to summarize an
      alternative approach to the mainstream interpretation of the coming of
      the “Son of Man.” To do this, we have examined the perspective of N. T.
      Wright. This viewpoint demonstrates that this whole chapter (Mark 13)
      speaks directly of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and that none
      of its words are left to be fulfilled. If this is true, then the
      question of some will be about other prophetic passages that point to a
      “second coming” in the canon. Do we truly await a second coming of
      Jesus? My answer is YES, but it happens to not be the point of this
      particular text. If this series has thus far been correct, it is because
      this reading of the “son of man” passages in the Olivet Discourse
      serves as the thread of the needle that ties everything together! I know that deconstructing the popular reading will make me unpopular,
      but perhaps it will allow me to be faithful to the very words and
      intentions of Jesus! Lets not forget what he says a couple verses later
      in verse thirty: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Hhhhmmmm…
      (The above originally appeared in this post: http://www.thepangeablog.com/2010/04/29/the-son-of-man-already-came-back-earthquakes%E2%80%A6signs-of-the-times-7-mark-13/ )

      • Greg Gorham

        Thanks for the additional info!  I don’t find Wright’s argument very persuasive however.  There’s no evidence at all to support Wright’s contention that the continued existence of the Temple at Jerusalem was a source of concern for the early movement.  Paul doesn’t mention the issue, and if one accepts the info given in the Book of Acts, the early church continued to worship in the Temple for some time after Jesus’s death!  

        I’m also unclear why the destruction of Jerusalem would be their “salvation”?  That seems wildly off base, given the continued persecution by the Roman Empire, who destroyed Jerusalem.  In what way did the destruction of the Temple constitute their salvation from anything?  Based on Mark, the only good thing about the Temple’s destruction is that it means Jesus is coming back very, very soon to set everything right again.  

        Additionally, invoking Daniel 7 and the Son of Man would have likely brought the larger passage to mind, which presents the “beasts” having dominion taken away from them and given to the Son of Man, who gets dominion over his kingdom and “all” serve him.  That’s a much broader, larger claim then not having to make sacrifices at the Temple any longer.  It seems ahistorical to me to assume a first century Jewish audience would have believed that ending Temple sacrifices would have fulfilled that passage.  

        Additionally, Wright may address this elsewhere, but this little section from Wright doesn’t address the Son of Man language in 1 Enoch.  

  • The “young woman” in the original Hebrew in Isaiah, which applied to a specific time and generation, later became understood to be “virgin” in the Septuagint–and, more importantly, the early Church. 

    A passage that has specific meaning to a place and people can take on a universal meaning (like a template) for later people. 

  • Luke T

    In terms of the flow of the discourse, then, v. 32 seems to require to be read as the beginning of a new subject, as I have argued above (pp. 501–2) in opposition to those like N. T. Wright who believe the whole discourse refers only to the destruction of the temple. What that new subject is depends upon what meaning can be given to ἡ ἡμέρα ἐκείνη ἢ ἡ ὥρα. In the Matthean version of the discourse this poses no problem, since the disciples’ question which introduces it in Mt. 24:3 refers both to the destruction of the temple and to Jesus’ παρουσία and the συντελεία τοῦ αἰῶνος. At Mt. 24:36, therefore, the discourse moves from answering the first part of the question to the second, so that the ἡμέρα referred to must be that of Jesus’ παρουσία, and this interpretation is immediately confirmed by the occurrence of the term παρουσία in 24:37, 39, and by the nature of the parables which make up the bulk of the rest of the discourse in the remainder of chapter 24 and throughout chapter 25.

    France, R. T. (2002). The Gospel of Mark : A commentary on the Greek text (541). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.I found the France Quote.  He would disagree with Wright and the overall point of your blog.  I would stop using France as evidence.  By the way, as dispensationalist, I would agree with most of his interpretation in 70 A.D.  However I see a clear view of the eschaton.

  • Kurt-
    Great post as always.  Do you think it’s possible that Jesus ‘predicts’ the Temple destruction because the Gospel writer has already lived through it, and is putting these words in Jesus’ mouth? (or at least altering them to fit what actually happens).  That would not be that different from a Jewish perspective than the author of Daniel writing about things in the Babylonian exile as ‘predictions’ though written long after the events took place.

  • Kurt – I have a good discussion taking place on Facebook with regards to this article.

  • Harlan Carpenter

    What I gather from reading all these comments is that nearly everybody is trying to ascribe some kind of mystical hidden or cryptic meaning to prophesy written two thousand years ago. While that might seem a reasonable approach for some, to me it sounds like the height of arrogance for the average man–even with a so-called degree in theology–to consider himself capable of making such a judgement or prediction. The “end of days” might just turn out to be a long protracted period. Image the humor sensed  by a whole bunch of our great-grandchildren when they read the petty mental meanderings of those of us who have been sleeping under a grave marker a century or two down the road–when we thought the “rapture” would happen any day… Fat chance folks…! Don’t hold your breath… Learn a lesson from poor Mister Camping… You can’t predict, prophesy or anticipate it. I think God has a real sense of humor, and He’s looking down at us in all our pettiness, and enjoying the ultimate joke on all of us…!

  • Harlan Carpenter

    So why is “no one knows the day or the hour” a weak argument…? The feeble-minded have been predicting the end of the world since before December 25, 999 A.D. That was a few centuries before the English language even existed–in fact more than half a century before William the Conqueror provided the conditions for the establishment of our language by invading and conquering what we now call England. There were even zealots who anticipated it centuries earlier. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have “prophesied” it so many times in the last century that they have made themselves a laughing stock. I don’t think it unreasonable to assume that three hundred years in the future the “faithful” will still be anticipating “the rapture”… Poor, pitiful, beknighted souls…!

  • Harlan Carpenter

    Shapespeare wrote: “Out, out brief candle…! Life is but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more… It is a tale, told by and idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…” I think the lesson he disguised in stage prose is simple–although it was meant for entertainment at the time. It is a warning to those of us foolish enough to be swelled up with our own self-importance. We can write or speak the most flowery of words–intended to impress the masses with our eloquence… When we claim to speak for God, or for Jesus Christ, we fool only ourselves, for our pretense of religious fervor and sacred intent ring as only the hollow brass of hypocrisy…!

  • Harlan Carpenter

    What a bunch of fruit-loops…!

  • Harlan Carpenter

    Halleluyah evangelism is to true Christianity what chiropractic is to real medicine–quackery…! There isn’t any more humane or gentle way of stating it… Truth is truth, but fables are fables, and the “rapture” is one of them… Ninety-nine cents will always fall short of a dollar, and some people just can’t come up with that extra penny…!

  • Ricky31628580

    Wrong! Please do a Greek study pre-trib all the way

  • debra roland

    bunch of nuts

    • SeatteLion

      I like that comment you made. It made me laugh due to the fact all these so called Bible readers think they know what they are talking about when in reality none of them do.

  • Well written but respectfully, I don’t agree with much that you speak on regarding the verse in question. One thing that cannot be ignored is… Mark was only a reporter and he was reporting on what Christ said. Mark did not make the statement found in scripture, CHRIST SAID THAT.

    Not sure if you realize it but when you say that the verse is referring to a certain time you are joining the ranks of those who have come before you that attempts to set a time when Christ will return…

  • if what “you say” were true then Christ returned in the 1st Century & CLEARLY, He did not

    • Betty J Rousey

      Yes he did. Three days after he died.

  • CuddleFish

    Wow. Where to begin. Your desire to share the word of God is commendable. However, in 2 Peter 1:20 says, ” But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Your errors are to great to respond on this blog, I would just recommend a few articles or book that would correct the errors that you put forth.




  • Mathias

    Why “No One Knows the Day or Hour/ Keep in mind, it says nothing about the YEAR !???
    But on thy other hand-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.

  • SeattleLion

    I have to admit two posts here were true in here that made me laugh because they had the answer to it all. One post said bunch of nuts and another post said What a bunch of fruit-loops and for the rest of you clowns in here that don’t know anything; but to argue the point that has no point other than your egos saying you know this against those who think they know this too that know nothing at all because none of you were born back in the days of Adam and Eve, Noah or Jesus and so forth. So get your self righteous nonsense all of you. You clowns

  • SeattleLion

    I have to admit two posts in here were truethat made me laugh because they had the answer to it all. One post said bunch of nuts and another post said What a bunch of fruit-loops and for the rest of you clowns in here that don’t know anything; but to argue the point that has no point other than your egos saying you know this against those who think they know this too that know nothing at all because none of you were born back in the days of Adam and Eve, Noah or Jesus and so forth. So get off your self righteous nonsense all of you. You clowns

  • SeattleLion

    This place needs a button to edit

  • RichJ

    Harold Camping first error was that he did not take Jesus’ warning, or the scriptue literally. You are in just as much error as he. Jesus did not return in the 1st Century – he ascended into heaven.
    The destruction of the temple in 70 AD is only a partial pattern of fulfillment of the prophecies Jesus gave except the one in Luke 19:42-44. The ultimate is yet to come but it seems to be very close – which is the way Jesus wants us to live.

  • Clearly there’s biblical support for the concept of the rapture, and still more evidence to suggest that its arrival will be sooner rather than later, however where I call foul is when people contrary to the word and spirit of Matthew 24:36 and Marl 13:32 start setting exact dates.

  • Great article! I think this helps to clear up a lot concerning both apocalyptic and prophetic scripture in the New Testament. I think it also reminds us to continually return to scripture with fresh eyes and an open mind as we continually seek to walk a bit closer to Christ in discipleship.

  • RichJ

    Harold Camping was an amillennialist. This means that he does not take scripture literally where it is meant to be. Therefore it was only a small stretch for him to apply the “speaking parable” comment by Jesus to all of His teaching in the NT. This allowed him to develop his “math” formulas that went against the clear and literal teaching that “no man knows the day or the hour” that Jesus stated Himself.
    Amillennialism applies doubt to clear scriptural passages and elevates unclear passages to prominence to the effect of perverting the clear intent of scripture concerning several major doctrines like Israel and the Church, the millennium, the Rapture and the Second Coming. and many more scriptural teachings, everything that has to do with “end times prophecy” is messed up. The best cure for amillennialism is to change to Dispensational Premillennialism and start believing what the Bible is teaching.

  • Shela

    The meaning of the word generation has changed in its usage over time. It used to not only have its modern meaning, but also meant sect of people. So when saying that this generation will not pass away before things happen… could mean these current people who are alive now… or this sect of people will not die out.

  • Stephen Cox

    Hi Kurt, great article, although I am reading it 4 years too late! The “weak response”: “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” is probably the best way we can cut through the knots that tie up many well-intentioned Christians who start fighting about the future events in the kingdom of God. I am sure that Christ foresaw these controversies, as he himself was contemporaneous with many “apocalyptic” Jews who were (same as us today) desperate to see the armies of the Lord sweep in over the clouds of glory and take us home. Christ offers us both a harder and an easier solution than chanting “the end of the world is nye “. The Harder: follow me to the cross; testify to me in front of persecutors; love as I love – to death. The Easier: rest in me, wait and the Lord will come, he will save; underneath are the everlasting arms. In no place does he put the apocalyptic in front of the redemptive message. The best response to our friends who are tempted to become apocalyptic (whichever brand of apocalypse they support!) is to remember that we are inside time, and God is outside. “One day is a thousand years (and vice versa)”. The exciting thing is to realize that we also have an existence outside the passage of time, united with our eternal selves, redeemed and resurrected into the person God sees us to be. And all through Christ!

  • Debbie Warren Light

    Unless you know the culture you won’t be able to really understand. When the time of the feast of trumpets came, they wouldn’t start it until they saw the full moon rise. They wouldn’t know the day nor the hour so there would be a couple of men to wait, until that little sliver of light came and they would signal the priest. When they speak of the twinkling of an eye, that means dusk.

  • Its 2018 and I’m glad this article is still posted. It is spot on. Reading the comments may be somewhat discouraging, but we know that the knowledge of the glory of the LORD will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14). Leading up to that, more and more of us and future generations will be like-minded in Christ. For He must reign til He has put all enemies are under His feet (1 Cor. 15:25)