Wednesday, April 08, 2020

A Holy Week and a Hard Week

Christ and the fig tree
I am going to write A LOT in this blog to catch us up to 'Silent Wednesday' as far as a Holy Week timeline- forgive this frantic pace.
The triumphal entry
Palm Sunday

Jesus leaves Bethany- early AM
Curses the Fig Tree
Weeps Over Jerusalem
2nd cleansing of the temple
Looks into the temple late in the day and returns to Bethany
Spends night in Bethany

Jesus leaves Bethany- early AM
Finds withered fig tree
Pronounces woes
Leaves city- gives Olivet Discourse on way back to Bethany
Judas begins negotiations
Spends night in Bethany

Silent Day
Sanhedrin plots….. preparation for Passover
Stays in Bethany all day

SO let's read an compilation of all the gospel accounts and follow these historic days and discuss some commentary!

Jesus Arrives in Bethany
Mark 21:1- 26:6-13/ Mark 11:1: 14:3-9/ Luke 19:29/ John 11:55-12:11
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany (in the house of Simon the leper), where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary (with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment) therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
And when the disciples (Judas Iscariot,) saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
 As far as the public ministry of Jesus, we are about to enter Jerusalem for the 3rd and final time. This annual pilgrimage, practiced by the nation Israel was about to reach its climactic meaning.
If you ever have time, please study the significance of the Passover and its attachment to the Lord’s Supper and the fulfillment of Jesus as the passover Lamb. I was first introduced to this beautiful, historical symbol by a book called “Christ in the Passover: Why is this Night Different?” by Ceil and Moishe Rosen ( 1978 Moody Press) which I read around 1982!
I am wondering out loud if the home of Martha and Mary is now called the home of Simon the Leper- which could pose more evidence of the ministry of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus work to the poor. But we do know that Simon evidently is a ‘former leper’ and Lazarus is alive.
Remember ‘Bethany’ ("House of the Poor" or interesting "House of Figs" ) is a staging area about 2 miles east of Jerusalem. And also remember that I wrote that it is not a coincidence that Jesus was going to approach from the east.
 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
 The adverse wind of evil is now about to reach a gale force hurricane. Does this sadden you like it does me? What had Jesus ever done to arouse such hatred? Yet, we see and experience the same things today!
Mary (with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment) therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
For she has done a beautiful thing to me.
In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Indeed, this act has been remembered throughout the ages in gospel glory in many tongues and sermons.
 If you look at the narrative of this family leading up to the resurrection of Lazarus, you get the idea that this is Mary’s favorite place to be- at the feet of Jesus. But, her worship is more intense due to her gratitude for the resurrection of her brother!
 I would love to do something beautiful for the Lord. The Scripture says our prayers are a pleasing incense to Him!
 And when the disciples (Judas Iscariot,) saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”
 The critics will always be there. And criticism that is caustic is usually a ruse. Judas could not care less for the poor…. he is likely upset that his profit was going to get hit!
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them,
…For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me….
 This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attend to the needs of the poor. But we always serve in the timing and under the priority of the King.
Everything we do should be put under His authority and timing!
The next day  (Sunday) the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.
 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.
 This famous event, Palm Sunday, is a fulfillment of the quote listed from Zechariah 9. I dedicated an entire month to the Minor Prophets in a book I wrote: You can get it at Amazon:

In Zechariah 9, as the enemies of God’s people are removed… the prophet announces the coming of a new kind of king… so different from earthly monarchs..

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.     
 Of course we know this passage has a fulfillment in Jesus (Matt 21- John 12)- but what we miss here is that Jesus comes in humility and gentleness. Most kings would come in on a majestic war horse- but not THIS KING…..
 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
 I often think of the famous quote by Napoleon:
“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him. ”
 Unfortunately, the shouting and admiration will change. As they shout “Oh Save” and “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” today- will be shouting “Crucify Him” in less than a week!
 Though this King comes in peace… as history always shows, the human heart will choose war and destruction.
The Pharisees see Him more than ever as a threat:
 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
And that would be our prayer even today! May the whole world still go for Him!
The Drama Builds......
John, chapter 12 has an amazing feel of the building drama that is about to take place!
Definition of CRESCENDO
a gradual increase; specifically : a gradual increase in volume of a musical passage
 I don’t know if you have ever done so, but if not, I encourage you to read all of the gospels through at some point to capture the flow. Each gospel has a unique audience and purpose.
 The first three gospel are called ‘synoptic’ (common view) and are quite similar in style and narrative.
 The gospel of John arises at the end as a completely different style and perspective. It has a very clear, stated purpose and moves along in photographic snapshots.
 When we get to the last week of Jesus’ life  the snapshots begin to flicker at a faster rate and you feel the drama building.
There was a gospel album produced in 1984 by Michael Card entitled ‘Known By The Scars’ and I am even listening to it (The Song: Ride on to Die) now as I read John 12:15 of this flashing, cinematic crescendo in the shadow of the cross.
I have been listening to it all week on Spotify.
 Oh, daughter of Zion your time’s drawing near Don’t forsake Him, oh don’t pass it by On the foal of a donkey as the prophets have said Passing by you, He rides on to die
Matt. 21:12-19/ Mark 11:12-18/ Luke 19:45-46
(Monday) And they came to Jerusalem.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.
And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.
He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.
 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
 This event was very similar to what Jesus did nearly 3 years earlier. In the earlier event He showed zeal for God’s house and made the prediction about destroying and rebuilding it in 3 days. He made a whip that first time and, if you recall, I mentioned that this was likely a popular move…not why He did it… but it was a kick start to His passion and kingdom.
The first time, Jesus was confronted immediately- but this second account shows Him healing and teaching in the temple during that last week.
Did you know that the prophet Jeremiah cursed the temple on two occasions?
 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD.
(Jeremiah 7:1-2 ESV)
In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.
(Jeremiah 26:1-2 ESV)
 I know what Jesus did  was serious and sober, so forgive me that i sometimes read this with humor.
In my mind, I see this one money changer who had all of his coins dumped just after stacking them….
Then three years later… I see the same guy who sees Jesus coming again and saying..’You got to be kidding me!”
 Jesus lived such an exemplary life..loving and serving… that it was going to be tough to pin an accusation on Him.
That is how we are supposed to live:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  (1 Peter 2:12 ESV)
 Jesus embodies such a different mindset and existence than I do… it makes me thankful for grace, but it also challenges me in the areas I need to grow.
 I need more of the BOLDNESS of Jesus..doing what is right regardless of the pushback.
I need more of the PASSION of Jesus… zeal for the Lord and His house
I need more of the HEART of Jesus…especially the compassion to heal and serve
 And Jesus stays BUSY during this last week..I tend to get in the waiting mode for big events and shut down. Jesus stayed active until the mob arrived in Gethsemane.
Pharisees were everywhere. In the 400 year period between the Old Testament and New, the Pharisees grew in prestige and power. They roamed the streets, oppressing the people to follow all the mechanized dictates of their law. They had corrupted the Word of God by adding layer and layer of rules and regulations.
They used their teaching to indoctrinate the masses that God was pleased by their rule keeping. And as all religions of works do- created a spiritual class system of ‘compare and compete’. Pharisees were numerous, influential, and extremely proud and protective of their practices.
 The Sadducees were a minority. They were less visible, confining their sect to the Temple. They were strict constructionists… not accepting any text of authority beyond the five Books of Moses. They were the elites and in their aristocratic circles had found an ally in Rome.
Even though they were a minority, early historians comment that they were the most vile and ruthless in  fear and oppression. Pharisees were pragmatic and needed to get the participation of the people- Sadducees had the corner on the truth and did not care if anyone else followed- they had Roman firepower if they needed it.
Sadducees were most noted for their rejection of a resurrection because they could not find firm evidence for it in the Pentateuch AND they found the Pharisee’s fanciful speculation about it rather ridiculous.
Mark 12:13–23
[13] And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. [14] And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” [15] But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” [16] And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.” [17] Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.
The Sadducees Ask About the Resurrection
[18] And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, [19] “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. [20] There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. [21] And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. [22] And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. [23] In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” (ESV)
It looks like the Sadducees are trying to kill two birds with one stone- take advantage of the Pharisee’s blunder and show both Jesus and the Pharisees as ignorant of the true Word of Moses.
Paul wrote in I Corinthians: “we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know.”
The intellectual elites tend to be engulfed in arrogance.
I have always been intrigued about Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s analysis that there will be a rise of elites who will fill the vacuum left when a society abandons absolutes. (How Should We Then Live? pg. 224).
There always seems to be a group of individuals who honestly believe that they care more and know more and so should control our lives. They take away our freedom for our own good.
 Jesus’ response to their theoretical situation completely flies in the face of their self supposed superiority.
 “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” and again at the end of the passage, “You are quite wrong”.
To pile on, Jesus goes to Moses himself, to prove His assertion:
 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?  He is not God of the dead, but of the living.
He uses their own proof text to destroy a hallmark of their twisted theology.
C.S. Lewis has the famous quote in his book, The Great Divorce,:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell chose it.”
When we used to be able to walk through bookstores... I would see rows and rows of writers who in arrogance proclaim that either God is not there or He is not needed. They are modern day Sadducees who deny the resurrection and use their proof text of reason.
The key is to cry out to God for a heart of humility, a yielded spirit, and a will that is open to His rule.
And I fear those who bow up and live according to the facts as they see them. Men are not omniscient enough to be that sure.
Mark 12/ Matthew 21/ Luke 20
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;11 this was the Lord’s doing,and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
 I guess a bit of context will set the stage.
This parable has particular power and does not sugar coat the violence associated with God’s wrath.
There’s a whole lot of killing and pain going on here.
Our world has never escaped the violence of the sinful human heart. Even our literature faithfully records how greed creeps in and causes men to lust after, connive, and be willing to kill and destroy others to get what they desire to be theirs.
I often think ,in sadness, of John Steinbeck’s book, The Pearl, when Kino discovers that great pearl only to be totally destroyed by the world’s wicked system and his own new-found spirit of entitlement. Indeed, even the innocent are caught in the shrapnell of collateral damage.
So I write this quite soberly- there is a time coming when Jesus Himself will take on the evildoers and blast them with unimaginable fury and persevering power.
I noticed something in my readings of all 3 accounts that I had never noticed before.
He asks the question: What will the owner of the vineyard do? Both in Mark’s and Luke’s account, Jesus answers the question Himself. In Matthew’s account it is answered by the hearers of the parable.
But how many times have you ever read Jesus answering His question?
Jesus is well acquainted with what is going to happen. One of the most gruesome passages in all of Scripture is found in Isaiah 63:

Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”2 Why is your apparel red,
and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
3″ I have trodden the winepress alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their life blood spattered on my garments,
and stained all my apparel.
4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption had come.5 I looked, but there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”

We find an equally chilling parallel reference in Revelation 14:
14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
 “Grapes of Wrath” is the title of another book by John Steinbeck, an analogy to the unfathomable suffering of the Oakies driven to despair by the effects of the Great Depression. Steinbeck struggled with finding a title, but the motive of his writing the book was always clear: “I want to put a tag of shame on the greedy b******s who are responsible for this.
We have also sung about this for years without taking any thought to it’s source:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on. ( The Battle Hymn of the Republic)

I challenge you to meditate for a minute on WHY is there a Winepress of Wrath?
For every human being who has ever been bullied and bloodied for doing nothing.
For every child who has been abused in life altering moments of unspeakable horror.
For every person who was made to watch loved ones injured or killed.
For every child who suffered alone and no one ever cared enough to help.
For every lie and plan of deceit that caused deep, dark pain.
For every twisted lust that led to oppression or imprisonment.
For every instance where someone with everything took the only thing of an outcast soul.
For every cry of need that has fallen on a cold, dead heart of another.
 But this parable goes even further.
 There is One who has over and over, and over and over again tried to show His love and mercy, sent sign after sign, circumstance after circumstance, and finally His own beloved Son.
 And the result? Spitting and indifference. Apathy and rejection. Abuse and neglect.
 I have often thought about this amazing analogy:

Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne.  Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly–not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. “How can God judge us?” said one. “What does He know about suffering?” snapped a brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!” In another group a black man lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched for no crime but being black! We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till death gave release.” Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred! Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? “After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life,” they said.So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate, a person from Hiroshima, and one from a Siberian slave camp. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth–as a man! But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself: Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who is really His father. Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority to eliminate Him. Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled–let Him try to communicate God to men. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends. Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing. Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death–with common thieves.As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people. But when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew — God had already served His sentence.   –James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 302.

 I love the added line in Luke’s account:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

The ‘cornerstone’ quote comes from Psalm 118- If I may let me show it in context, I have redacted a few verses for sake of length- Let this be our heart cry! Let this be our testimony!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?7 The Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
I was pushed hard,so that I was falling,
but the Lord helped me.14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.15 Glad songs of salvation
are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the Lord does valiantly,
18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
but he has not given me over to death.19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.25 Save us, we pray, O Lord!
O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
We bless you from the house of the Lord.27 The Lord is God,
and he has made his light to shine upon us.28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God; I will extol you.29 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!
 Here is the bottom line- you and I are part of a sober narrative. The world is full of rejectors and pain inflictors. We wound and have been wounded. We sting and have been stung.
 And we reject the answer. We ignore the gate of salvation. Indeed the world has looked at God’s plan and said a historically consistent and global- “NO”.
 But our rejection does not change the fact that all people will come in contact with that stone of rejection.
 If we fall on Him, we are broken. We cry in our sin and rebellion. But out of that point of humility we find the door to salvation.
 But if we bow up. If we continue to snub Him, He will have no choice but one day fall on us and crush us in His winepress of Holy wrath.
 The Pharisees understood exactly what Jesus was saying here. Look at their reaction of shame as they stood condemned.
 Matthew: When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.Mark: And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.Luke: The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.
Right now you are in one of two camps….
you either fall on Him in repentance and faith
or fight Him to the bitter end.

Which part of the stone do you choose?
Matt. 23:1-39/ Mark 12:38-40/ Luke 20:45-47
Whenever the Bible uses the word WOE… IT IS A BIG DEAL!
And if you are like me, and have lived your life in the profession of ministry… the warnings of woe can strike a chord of fear.
The Old Testament has some stark words for religious leaders who lead the flock away from God, motivated by selfish gain and manipulation.
I was reading in Jeremiah the other day… and I just had to stop and pray, ‘Lord, please don’t let this be me!”
Selected verses from Jeremiah 23:
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD.
Concerning the prophets:
“Both prophet and priest are ungodly;
even in my house I have found their evil,
declares the LORD.
But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil;
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets:
“Behold, I will feed them with bitter food
and give them poisoned water to drink,
for from the prophets of Jerusalem
ungodliness has gone out into all the land.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
“When one of this people, or a prophet or a priest asks you, ‘What is the burden of the LORD?’ you shall say to them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you off, declares the LORD.’ And as for the prophet, priest, or one of the people who says, ‘The burden of the LORD,’ I will punish that man and his household.
 And we find similar language among almost all the prophets in the Old Testament.
God has great wrath for anyone who oppresses or hurts the young, the poor, or downtrodden. Religious hypocrites in some ways are worse than drug dealers- because they turn people away from the One who can mot help them.
 Jesus doesn’t spare the religious leaders in the New Testament either:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
 Applications for ministers of the gospel (me).
 Am I willing to live according to what I teach?
Do I work in the kingdom for me to look good or God to be glorified?
Do the people under the care of my ministry feel burdened or helped?
Do I exalt Jesus or myself?
Does my ministry and teaching reflect justice, mercy, and service…especially to the downtrodden?
Do I want to look good? Is that more important to me than personal holiness?
Am I critical of others?
 Lord, I cry out to you… I do not want to hear “Woe”…I want to hear “Well done”
and only You can make that happen!
Matthew 24/ Mark 13/ and Luke 21.
My guess is that there is no gospel text more controversial or more fantastic than what we now call “The Olivet Discourse” found in Matthew 24/ Mark 13/ and Luke 21. When Jesus Himself starts using apocalyptic language of judgement and teaches on ‘the end of the age’- everyone stops and pays attention!
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus making such a bold statement regarding the tearing down of the temple was nothing new. In fact, as he is hanging on the cross He will be mocked according to these and other statements that had evidently become common knowledge.. “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Matthew 27:39-40 ESV)
We know from the gospel accounts that Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body and a way of teaching His resurrection.. but here in the Olivet Discourse, He is speaking also literally of a destruction of the massive and beautiful Herodian temple.
Human communication is so interesting. Because words are ‘symbols’ of meaning, we can apply them to a tangible reality or a figurative reality- and regardless of how careful we intend to be.. it is the presupposition of the hearer that acquiesces and applies the truth.
Where I differ from the Noam Chomsky’s of the world and some who follow post-modern deconstructive theories is that I say regardless of communication, there is a TRUTH that stands by itself, true from all angles and sides, and truth is true whether the recipient of the truth understands it completely or in part or not at all.
I will take this simple statement from Jesus as an example. I have no problem admitting my bias to believe Jesus and His truth telling. And, because I believe Him to be the Son of God, His words are pure truth.  When I listen to Him, it is not like I am listening to someone explain something that I know they may know.
I also know that Jesus is speaking to His disciples (and me as a reader centuries later) in an accommodating way. I cannot know as He knows because He has a mind way beyond my ability to know. Accommodation does NOT reduce the TRUTH- it is merely a wise educational tool for a teacher to help a student process new information.
Critics will say- the flaw is the document itself. They have grave doubts about the validity of the Scripture because of time…oral tradition… variations in the text…..number of manuscripts…etc.
And, they hate the response to that by believers, we believe in a supernatural transmission and protection of the communication.
They cry “foul”… and I understand the response- but our whole worldview begins with ‘In the beginning, GOD’ so not only is the option available, it is logical. The simplest answer is a good starting place.
The cry “foul again… this is just a lazy ‘God in the gaps’ mentality!” And though I understand the response, I say “no… look at how God helps us…He does not leave us without evidence… this is not a blind leap of faith.. though faith in God is required.
My primary trust in Scriptures ultimately rests in my faith in the existence of God. But beyond that,  I have enough rational evidence to support my belief:
  • support of history and archaeology- (people and places have evidence in the dirt)
  • number of New Testament manuscripts- (over 24,000 total- the #2 book is the Iliad with 643)
  • the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew protection of God’s Word- (The Book of Isaiah was faithfully protected)
  • uncanny Biblical prophecy- (some so spectacular that liberal critics want to change the date of the writing)
  • the witnesses alive when the gospels were circulated- (basic claims were NOT disputed)
  • the consistency of the message of truth- (One unified voice and message Genesis to Revelation)
  • the narrative of the world and humanity- (Excellent explanation of how things are the way they are)
  • the blood of the martyrs- (Apostles died for their testimony regarding Jesus)
  • the continued global presence of Jesus- (worldwide gospel expansion and radical change)
I am not going to take time in this format to survey each of these points. Each of these points by themselves would have a skeptic’s response of unbelief, but their disbelief does not undo the cogency of these things as evidence that supports my belief. My argument will not likely win their heart, but their argument does not unravel my defense if the Creator exists…. (see the dangerous bet they are making?)
They will say, ‘You have not given me enough evidence’ and He will say, “It was as plain as the night sky and the double helix DNA… you just did not WANT to believe it due to the hard hearted rebellion of arrogance. But you did it your way,  so you get what you wanted.” I feel the wrath and frustration of the skeptics even as I write. My prayer is that I will be loving and understanding though they see me as foolish and dangerous.
if you are still here…bless your heart… here is some presuppositions that help me in approaching an understanding of this and MANY hard to understand parts of the Bible.
The document is trustworthy… though I may need to look at some translation issues.. but these are usually minor and I wouldn’t take too many theological stances on ‘technicalities’ of language translation.
Jesus is trustworthy… He is not mis-speaking and He has the power to do all He says.
I always need to evaluate the statements in Scripture as a whole… meaning the more I know what the WHOLE Bible says, helps me in finding the accuracy of individual statements. The reformers speak of this as ‘interpreting Scripture with Scripture’.
Truth does not change, applications may vary as conditions warrant, but they way truth is still the same. If I adopt an interpretation that is contrary to how it was true to the original hearers.. it is likely a ‘truth change’ and not merely a nuance of application. I adopted this from the Rev. Art Azurdia as I was studying the Book of revelation from 2008- 2010.
The Holy Spirit is trustworthy to guide us in our study and interpretation. This does not mean He will immediately correct or immediately illuminate our minds. I have found ALL Bible reading and study to be a PROCESS where God, over time, uses His great attributes as a Master Teacher to get us to certain places ‘in due time’. His goal for us is not 100% Bible knowledge… His goal is to present us ‘complete in Jesus’ on the Day of Appointment.
The Process of Bible Study:
READ/STUDY/MEDITATE..Read the analysis of others..Pray.. and Always be open for correction or clarification..and desire to live and apply what you are studying under the protection and comfort of the gospel.
What does any of this have to do with the Olivet Discourse? Biblical prophecy confounds the best of Bible scholars because it is hard to know the figurative or literal application of what is being said. The Bible has different ‘genres’ and apocalyptic writing is a genre all to itself.
So there are large sections of Scripture in the Old Testament, here in what Jesus is saying, and of course in the Book of Revelation where the repetition of these types of statements alert the reader to putting on the ‘end time thinking cap’.
And what I think is the ‘double whammy’ is that God works many times to fulfill these things in multiple ways…it becomes true literally and figuratively. It is true at that moment AND is a type or shadow of a bigger and deeper fulfillment. When He accomplishes it the first is true.. but it was only the tip of an eternally true iceberg.
In all of  that, God is still elevated in His integrity and we are content in our humility. And it makes sense that God is a God of pattern, organization, and consistency because of His immutability. But because He is also a Person and not a machine- you can’t guess with Him…you follow Him.
Looking again just at the beginning of this section:
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
As soon as Jesus mentions this glorious structure being torn down, they disciples go on high alert. They knew what Jesus was capable of. And they also knew the Old Testament history of God’s dealings with His people and the myriad of prophecies that seemed yet unfulfilled.
They took it as literal and knew, of course, it was coming:
“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Aren't these some of the same questions we are thinking now in the midst of this Covid-19 crisis?
Now when we get into the response of Jesus and what might have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and what may still be ahead.. we skip over an instant teaching point regarding literal/figurative understanding.
Jesus meant the ‘literal’ destruction of the temple (fulfilled in AD 70)..but notice how He says it… ‘there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ And the temple was destroyed… but there are remnants remaining to this day..there are a few stones on top of one another though the temple is thoroughly destroyed.
I trust Jesus and this is no big deal– His hyperbolic description of a literal event does not make Him less trustworthy- it is a figurative way to explain the catastrophic event in a human way of speaking. It is not a scientific survey of the aftermath- it is ‘this temple will be torn to the ground”.
But if you don’t trust Jesus, you are already wanting to pick a bone.
And this is a small example of  the problem we get into regarding the schools of interpretation of apocalyptic passages of the Bible. We mostly come into it with a pre-formulated narrative.
What is interesting about God is that He seems to set His face against ALL ‘air-tight’ theories.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,  (John 5:39 ESV)
So when I start looking at the answer Jesus gives to the questions of the disciples…please know…. I am only applying this as I have been taught and thought through and my analysis is in no way to be taken as the only way to look at these things.
The Good News though is that NONE of this changes the fundamentals of our relationship with God through Christ and in the end, we all have to be ready to meet Him at any time… He is just a heartbeat away anyway!
Matthew 24/ Mark 13/ and Luke 21.
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” (Mark)
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
 But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Mark 13:9-13 ESV)

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, 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 when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master 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 hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. Mark 13:37 ESV)
 I guess I have read and re-read these passages (Matt. 24/ Mark 13/ Luke 21) hundreds of times over the past 40 years of walking with Christ. And I have been influenced by all of the schools of interpretation over that time.. the pre-mil view of Hal Lindsey, I saw the old movie ‘Thief in the Night’, but never got into the Left Behind Books or Movie.
I can’t help but admire the confidence that John MacArthur demonstrates as he teaches on eschatology- hard to argue with a man so devoted to God’s Word!
But I have equally been impressed with many others…. R.C. Sproul, G.K. Beale, Vern Poythress… it is even cool to see the post-millennial passion of my Princeton heroes- Warfield and Hodge.
All of the major views of how it is going to go down in the end are persuasive, have Scriptural logic, and have godly defenders.. and I find good applications for all of them.
However, I have never been persuaded enough by any to make a ‘two feet in’ jump to ANY camp. My biggest issue with theories about the end times is that the greatest Biblical scholars in history got the first coming of Jesus wrong.. I don’t see us getting it completely right either.
The neat thing about reading Jesus’ account of the signs at the end is that they fit right into the tone and atmosphere already established by the prophets in the Old Testament and continue seamlessly into the Book of Revelation. In fact.. if you studied the Old Testament prophets and this Olivet Discourse enough… you quickly realize that there is really nothing new in John’s vision in revelation… the tone, tenor, and application of what is coming has not changed for 4,000 years,
So, what is my take on this teaching by Jesus sometimes called the ‘little apocalypse’?
 Pay attention to the COMMANDS of Jesus to His disciples in light of what is coming….
 I worry that anytime we read apocalyptic language, our human nature is to pick up the news and begin charting and diagramming the latest trends. This is not what Jesus was saying. In fact, when He warns the disciples to not run to the reports (‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ ) I feel like He has this mindset in view. Keep a wide and sober view of the truth without becoming anxious or perplexed at the events.
 So what are His commands in this section?
 Do not be led astray: There has been, is now, and will continue to be false teaching in the community of faith. Scripture seems to even indicate that the false prophet will accompany false teaching with signs and wonders. The cure for false teaching? Being devoted to the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Peter himself authenticated what Paul was doing as the Spirit inspired His writings:
 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:14-16 ESV)
 Do not be alarmed: Jesus tells us that the world will be in chaos and to not panic. Wars, rumors, natural disasters, evil nature of men… the condition of life on this planet does not change, and will not until it is put away and another heaven and earth replaces it. In the midst of all of this, though, we are to be steady and peaceful.
 Be on guard: This is an interesting command and it is used in context with the persecution that will come. I have always applied this as an active counter to the pressing persecution. This means we have the ability of fight or flight as wisdom drives us. Read the Book of Acts, there were times the apostles fled or hid and times they stood with boldness. Often we cower, cringe, or get passive in the face of accusation or persecution… and Jesus here gives us permission to ‘Be on guard’.
 Endure: The question about ‘The Great Tribulation’ is a hotly debated topic and will we be in it or avoid it. Who knows? But I will tell you this, it would be hard for Christians in Mosul, or the Sudan, or North Korea, or some parts of China or the violence of Islamic states to not believe they are in a great tribulation. Jesus is clear, there will be a terrible attack on believers and God has chosen to cut short the time for the sake of endurance. If we found ourselves facing that.. we would have to plead for His grace in the time of need. I have been saddened by the Christians who have been killed for their faith all around the world… hard for them to not see this as a great tribulation!
 Stay alert and awake: Worldliness, leisure, luxury wants to drag us into being absorbed with the temporal. We must encourage one another to not love the world, but be consumed with God and His commission. I worry I have not been a great example to my children on this one.
 Be faithful to the end: We cry again for God’s grace here. How hard it is to finish well. The puritans had a quote: “Faith that fizzles was faulty from the first”… but we need to help one another avoid what Paul warned Timothy about:
 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscienceBy rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, (1 Timothy 1:18-19 ESV)
 Pay attention to the ILLUSTRATIONS used by Jesus to His disciples…….
Birth pains– I believe this has to be a huge key in understanding God’s pace of history. Augustine taught the “Principle of Recapitulation” which is commented on a great deal but, in my opinion, misunderstood and misapplied. Birth Pains grow and rise and just before a breakthrough… they subside..only to come back with greater intensity.
 This is the pattern I see in history AND in the Book of Revelation… things are the same- but they grow in scope and intensity.. but one day, there will be a breakthrough and the Lord will begin His Great Day.
 The lull between pains is God’s patience and mercy. Do not mistake God’s gracious delay as a free pass for our sinful ways… He will judge the actions and attitudes that cause pain, suffering, oppression, and injustice!
 Fig leaves– (This one is interesting because Jesus curses a fig tree in the midst of this week and the disciples find it withered later- could Jesus be thinking of this sermon when He did it?). We know how patterns produce fruit… Jesus has given us clear signals, but we live each day like it is never going to happen.
 Noah’s Flood– Worldly life and the pace lulls us into thinking it will continue forever.. but one day the door of mercy will slam shut.
 Finally, keep a firm grip on truth, stay active and engaged…. but be flexible and allow correction as conditions allow……
 Talk about impossible….. But we must always fight being “Hyper”.. so extreme in views that we lose the beautiful balance of the Bible.
 The biggest problem with theology is that we begin to love the message and grow cold to the Person. We begin to allow our doctrine to shape Scripture, instead of allowing Scripture to shape doctrine.
 THIS DOES NOT MEAN I AM ANTI-THEOLOGY…Absolutely NOT… We are suffering in the American church due to a lack of doctrine and theology….
We must crush the spirit of this age under our feet that says,  “I don’t want to think, I want to feel”. You may say, “Who can understand domain of theologians?” But theological lumber is something you cannot live without. It is not a philosophical conundrum for the intellectual elite. God’s sovereignty is a soft pillow for a weary head. To comfort a church under attack and Christians facing opposition, even martyrdom. ”   Art Azurdia

What I am saying is that there are Biblical truths which are so layered and supported we can firmly rest in them- especially the fundamentals of the gospel- but we need to always be engaged in the study of Scripture and open to the Spirit’s teaching AND be willing to bear with brothers who hold different views while still maintaining a high view of God’s Word.
 No need to break fellowship over differences, especially if they are proclaiming THE true gospel.
OK- OK you say I’m avoiding the tough questions…..
Matthew 24/ Mark 13/ and Luke 21.
I laugh at myself for even offering analysis on these passages that have been dissected by the great theologians of all time!
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
 When you read Matthew 24 you have to ask yourself…. how far in the future are some of these things Jesus mentioned.
And you have to know that 40 years later, the Romans ransacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in AD 70. It HAS to be a part of what Jesus was predicting. Indeed, a lot of the literal application of things like “this generation will not pass away”, “the abomination of desolation”, and terrific tribulation producing flight can easily be attached to this tragic event. I even believe the number 666 for the anti-Christ is easily shown to be Nero Caesar.
But I also understand the reasoning of those who say that these things are yet to be fulfilled could equally be true. Again, the dual or multiple fulfillment of prophecy can be in view here.
The best case for at least some of this still being a future event is found in verse 14 of Matthew 24:
 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
 This verse seems to show the worldwide expansion of the gospel.
And if that is true, the abomination of desolation may still have a future fulfillment as well (as well as the Book of Daniel and Nero only being a ‘type’ of the ultimate Anti-Christ)
So yes- I believe much of what Jesus said was fulfilled in 70 AD…. and this makes an easy explanation of ‘this generation’ and there could still be a future application of some of the other signs.
Regardless- the principles of being ready, standing guard, being faithful, staying awake, enduring to the end are all in place.
 Yes- the question is whether it is a pre-tribulation rapture before a literal 1,000 year reign of Christ in Jerusalem with a rebuilt temple or one where we are called into the air to meet the returning Jesus at His 2nd Coming.
 There are pro’s and con’s with both theories… but I tend to land on the rapture at the 2nd Coming and not a Pre-Trib event where there is a ‘Left Behind’ Scenario.
 So here is where I stand today on some questions regarding Eschatology (this includes my study of Revelation and the class I created for Christ Presbytreian Academy in 2010):
  • We are in the Last Days and they began after the Ascension of Jesus around 33 AD.
  • We are to faithfully live for God and build His kingdom, feed His sheep, spread His gospel, and make disciples until He returns.
  • The 666 Anti-Christ was Nero- but the spirit of the Anti-Christ is in all generations and may culminate in a world leader… but it seems to me that it is the ‘system’ of the city of man that is against the believers.
  • The rapture will be at the 2nd Coming of Jesus
  • I pray for a post-millennium fulfillment of Revelation 20- but I tend to hold closest to the Amillennial view.
  • I see no reason for the actual temple in Jerusalem to be built… why renew animal sacrifice?
  • I do believe there will be a significant conversion of Jews before the 2nd Coming.
  • I do not see numbers like 144,000, 1,000, or time, time and half a time being literal.
  • Apocalyptic language is highly symbolic and should be interpreted figuratively.
  • The Dragon, Beast, and False Prophet are symbolic of a ‘false trinity’ and is false teaching that deceives the world. Dragon- false views of God,  Beast- False Messiahs (even resurrected),  False Prophet- imitations of the Spirit.
  • Though I do believe much of Biblical prophecy is fulfilled in AD 70- the end time signs and patterns  grow and swell like birth pains and will culminate in The Day of the Lord- a terrible day for those who have rejected Jesus and a glorious day for His elect.
  • Here is a controversial one: I believe Satan is ‘bound’ as far as being able to blind people from the gospel. I believe He will be ‘let loose’ to drive the world into deeper darkness and chaos before the end comes. And it is possible the pattern works locally all the time and is not necessarily a global phenomenon.
  • There will be a time when it looks like all is lost and Jesus will return and win without much of a fight. The so-called Battle of Armageddon will have a big blustery build-up… but will not be much of a skirmish. Again, I see it more symbolic than actual armies…..
  • Again, I keep saying ‘symbol, symbol’-’ figurative, figurative’ and this does not demean the authority of the Word- it is merely the genre of communication.It still is truth.
  • Biblical Prophecy and the Book of Revelation encourages me as a believer when the world systems work against me and my church.
  • I do not subscribe to ‘so-called’  ‘replacement theology’. Yes, there are true and false Jews- and spiritual descendancy is key- not merely a physical descent-  but true Jews are in God’s covenantal promises.. I am a grafted in gentile and grateful for that!
  • For that reason- I do stand with Israel– though I worry the forced drawing of boundaries in the 1940’s were men who had specific eschatological views- but God is sovereign.
 So- I did not duck the hard questions- and many great and godly scholars would counter many of my views… AND.. these views are subject to change….
 Those who charge my views are inconsistent I say …yes.
 Here are some views of the Olivet Discourse for your reading……….
 Partial Preterist View 
Futurist View
If you read all of this- I have to congratulate you! Send me an e-mail at and let me know how you are doing in this time of Covid crisis!
Tomorrow will be a more 'sane' Holy Week discussion
Peter and John sent to prepare Passover meal
After sunset- meal- washing feet- Judas leaves
Lord’s Supper
Garden of Gethsemane
Betrayal and Arrest
Peter Denies
Sanhedrin convenes at house of High Priest

No comments: