Sunday, February 5, 2012

All Will Be Torn Down (part 4 of 4)

Jesus continues: “For nations will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these things are the beginning of birth pains” (24:7-8).  If these things are the beginning of birth pains, what will be the result of those birth pains?  Clearly, the answer, unless we allow ourselves to be diverted from the subject at hand, is the throwing down of the Temple.  What else will be associated with these birth pains?  In conjunction with all that Jesus has said will happen in the lead-up to the fall of the Temple, Jesus says “They will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you.  You will be hated by all nations because of My name.  Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold.  But the person who endures to the end will be saved” (24:10-13).  Yet again, here is another “end.”  What is the “end”?  The fall of the Temple.  It is necessary to keep coming back to that point, for we are far too conditioned to let our minds wander to different ideas. 

In conjunction with these Temple-related things that will occur, “this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (24:14).  The end, naturally, is the fall of the Temple.  Lest we think that the Temple is somehow not in view, Jesus then goes on to say “So when you see the abomination of desolation---spoken about by Daniel the prophet---standing in the holy place” (24:15a).  To this Matthew (and Mark) appends the editorial insertion of “let the reader understand,” thus indicating that this is an event of which those that are hearing or reading this discourse should be well aware (which also lets us know that these written works come from a time period after that of which Jesus speaks has already occurred). 

The conclusion to Jesus’ thoughts about the abomination of desolation and the holy place is “then those in Judea must flee to the mountains.  The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.  Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days!” (24:16-19)  Which days are those?  The days in which the Temple is going to be thrown down, with not one stone left on top of another.  Jesus, speaking to a Jewish audience that would be concerned with such things, adds “Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (24:20).  Mark does not make mention of the Sabbath. 

Ominously, Jesus continues, saying, “For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.  And if those days (i.e. the days in which the Temple will fall) had not been cut short, no one would be saved.  But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (24:21-22).  For a people and a discourse heavily influenced by the seventh chapter of Daniel, this would sound a great deal like “While I was watching, that horn began to wage war against the holy ones and was defeating them, until the Ancient of Days arrived and judgment was rendered in favor of the holy ones of the Most High” (7:21b-22a), which was prefaced by the promise that “The Holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will take possession of the kingdom forever and ever” (7:18).     

Jesus then says “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe him.  For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (24:23-24).  When will this occur?  At the time that the Temple is going to fall.  Jesus helpfully adds “Remember, I have told you ahead of time” (24:25).  He then goes on to say “So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe him.  For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be” (24:26-27).  With this, Jesus links the coming of the Son of Man, which is not a heaven to earth coming, but a coming before the Ancient of Days, with all of these things that will portend and be associated with the fall of the Temple.  If we are being true to the text, this fact is inescapable. 

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