Matthew 24:1-22 (4/22/13)
The readings this week in The Story
are from the Apocalypse of John, also known as Revelation. No doubt Revelation is the most famous of the apocalypses in the Bible. It’s far from being the only one, however, and today and tomorrow we’re reading the so-called Little Apocalypse. I’m not sure this one in Matthew qualifies as an apocalypse, however. Apocalyptic is a style of writing, not a topic. Just because a passage talks about the end of the world doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an apocalypse.
Apocalyptic writing is always the revelation of a secret. In Greek, “apocalypse” means “revelation.” It is always tremendously symbolic, with wheels of fire and dragons and lambs and angels and great battles between the forces of good and evil and symbolic numbers and colors and names. There’s a seer, who doesn’t understand what he’s seeing, and an interpreter. Often, maybe even usually, the topic is end times, but end times do not an apocalypse make.
In Matthew 24, the topic is end times, but the writing is totally prosaic. Jesus talks about the end of the world matter-of-factly, with no symbolism. Far from revealing secrets, he warns us against people who think they know the secret.
Matthew 24:23-51 (4/23/13)
How many times has someone told you, either face to face or by means of the media, that the end of the world is on its way? When Jesus’ disciples asked him about the second coming and the end of the world, the first thing he said was that we shouldn’t be fooled by people who “know” when it will happen. Although these folks often mention the existence of wars, wrongdoing, and false messiahs in our time as their reason for believing as they do, these things are not
signs of the end times, according to Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus says the end will come only after the good news of the kingdom is brought to all nations.
The most important thing to remember, I think, is in vss. 36 and 44, “But of that day and hour no one has knowledge, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son, but the Father only. … Be ready then; for at a time which you have no thought of the Son of man will come.” The great tension of the New Testament is that we are to be ready all the time
for the end of time.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (4/24/13)
The people in the Thessalonian church were concerned about end times. In Paul’s first letter to them, he tries to reassure them that they shouldn’t worry about it. In the first place, no one knows when it’s going to happen, and in the second place, the end of the world is not a problem for believers. We should concern ourselves with living Godly, serious, loving lives, and let tomorrow – or the end of the world – worry about itself.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (4/25/13)
The people in the Thessalonian church apparently didn’t get their act together after reading Paul’s first letter. They were still concerned about the end times. In fact, the situation seems to have gotten even worse, because now some of them think the end times have already come, and they were left behind! On the contrary, Paul says. Not only have the end times not yet come, but they won’t come until God’s purpose of salvation is fulfilled.
2 Peter 3:1-14 (4/26/13)
Early in the week we saw that Jesus warned us against people who say, “Look! Here comes the Messiah, so it must be the end times!” Then Paul warned us against people who say, “Look, there went the Messiah, so we missed the end times!” Now Peter is warning us against people who say, “Look! The Messiah hasn’t shown up, so the end times are never going to come!”
You have to read the Bible for yourself to see what it says about the end times, because most of what people tell you is wrong today, just as it was in the first century. Then you’ll have to judge for yourself how close we are. But here’s my advice: stop worrying about the end of the world. Love God, love your neighbor, and be at peace!
More of The Rest of the Story
Week 1. Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 1. More on the Beginning of Life As We Know It
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Abraham … But Not Lot
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Isaac…But not Ishmael or the sons of Keturah
Week 2. God Builds a Nation – Jacob…But not Esau
Week 3. Joseph Preserves Two Nations
Week 4. Deliverance
Week 4. More on Deliverance
Week 5. New Commands and a New Covenant
Week 6. Wandering
Week 6. More on the Wandering
Week 7. The Battle Begins
Week 8. A Few Good Men...and Women
Week 9. The Faith of a Foreign Woman
Week 10. Standing Tall, Falling Hard
Week 11. From Shepherd to King
Week 12. The Trials of a King
Week 13. The King Who Had It All
Week 14. A Kingdom Torn in Two
Weeks 15 and 16. God's Messengers and The Beginning of the End
Week 17. The Kingdoms' Fall
Jeremiah, Prophet of the Exile
Story 19. The Return Home
in the Old Testament
Story 21. Rebuilding the Walls
Story 22. The Birth of the King
Story 23. Jesus’ Ministry Begins
Story 24. No Ordinary Man
Story 25. Jesus, the Son of God
Story 26. The Hour of Darkness
Story 27. The Resurrection
Story 28. New Beginnings
James, Brother of the Lord
John and Jude
Story 31. The End of Time
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