Clinton Chisholm | End times: hype and heresy
So, because of the recent ferocious hurricanes and the magnitude of the recent earthquakes in Mexico, many folk (including parsons and regular churchgoers) are seeing these events as signs of the end of the age based on a gross misreading of Matthew 24, which forgets the basic reading principle of reading a text in light of its context.
The ancient Jews into the time of our Lord had a double-edged view of time, the present age and the age to come. The New Testament documents seem to make a striking modification of this view, especially of 'the present age', so we read about 'last days', 'latter time(s), 'end of age(s)'. Ponder the following King James Version texts of the 1st century AD with emphasis added in bold.
1 Cor 10:11: "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."
Acts 2.17, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." (remember the day of Pentecost and the flow of Acts!)
Heb 1.2: "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds."
1 Jn 2.18: "Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time."
1 Pet 1.20: "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you."
Remember this simple yet crucial point. The last days, last times, end of the world began in the 1st century with our Lord's coming in flesh; we are simply in the later portion of these time expressions.
We need to clarify the context and text of our Lord's dramatic prophecy in Mt 24.2; Mk 13.2; Lk 21.6.
Context : Admiration of the buildings of the temple by the disciples "... and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple." (Mt 24.1b; Mk 13.1; Lk 21.5)
Text : "I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." (Mt 24.2; Mk 13. 2; Lk 21.6)
Meaning of prophecy the buildings of the temple would be destroyed.
We need to clarify as well the questions put to Jesus by his disciples.
"When will these things be?" = When will the buildings of the temple be destroyed? (Mt 24.3; Mk 13.4; Lk 21.7)
"What will be the sign that these things are about to be fulfilled?"= What will be the sign that the buildings of the temple are about to be destroyed? (Mk 13.4; Lk 21.7)
Questions on signs
What will be the sign of your coming, and/even of the end of the age? (Uniquely Mt 24.3)
Matthew's unique question is understandable from a Jew. The thinking would be, 'if God's temple is to be destroyed, then at the same time the world must be coming to an end in the return of Jesus Christ'.
Primary concern destruction of the temple.
Secondary concern sign regarding destruction of the temple.
Tertiary concern sign regarding Second Coming or end of the age.
Jesus was on the Mount of Olives when he made this prophecy about AD 30; the temple was destroyed in the summer of AD 70. Our Lord then proceeds to mention events that would take place in the 1st century AD prior to the temple's destruction after a warning in Mt 24:4: "Let no one deceive you."
He then mentions false christs (Mt 24. 4-5: Mk 13. 5-6: Lk 21. 8), wars and rumours of wars (Mt 24. 6-7: Mk 13. 7-8: Lk 21. 9-10), famines, earthquakes, et., (Mt 24.7: Mk 13. 8: Lk 21. 11) persecution and false prophets (Mt 24. 9-14: Mk 13. 9-13: Lk 21. 12-19).
All of these events happened prior to the temple's destruction in AD 70.
The modern natural disasters (hurricanes and earthquakes) are nowhere prophesied in Scripture as signs of the end of the world or of our Lord's Second Coming.
Attractive and arresting sermons to the contrary are simply hype and heresy!
- Clinton Chisholm is a theologian. Email feedback to email@example.com.