Sunday, August 12, 2007

Watch and wait

There are eight times as many prophesies about Christ's second coming than his first, yet it is something that is hardly mentioned in polite society. Why is this? I suspect it is all to do with Mark chapter 13 v30. "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." FF Bruce regards this as one of the 'hard sayings of Jesus'.

In chapter 13 Mark reports Jesus' teaching about two things: the destruction of Jerusalem and His return in Judgement. Verses 1-20 clearly refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and verses 24-27 clearly refer to the second coming. Verses 21-23 are about the second coming but only to warn against expecting it. Perhaps they are saying that just because Jerusalem is being destroyed, certainly a cataclysmic event in Jewish history, don't fall for stories that Christ has returned: "False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles." Jesus goes on to make it clear that when Christ does return there will be no mistaking it.

It is not clear from the disciples question in Mark Ch 13 v 4, " Tell us when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?", why Jesus brings in anything about the Second Coming. Their question had been prompted by Jesus's statement about the Temple that 'not a stone here will be left on another'. However, in the parallel passage in Matthew ch 24 v3 the disciples ask, "When will this happen (ie the Temple be destroyed) and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

It seems clear to me that the disciples associated the destruction of the Temple with the end of time. But in this chapter Jesus is at pains to disabuse them of this fact. He gives them plenty of signs about the destruction of the Temple, but about His Second Coming he says, "No-one knows the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor even the son, but only the Father."

So verse 30 must mean that the destruction of the Temple would take place while this generation was still alive. Modern critics would have it otherwise, insisting that Jesus expected the Second Coming to be at the same time, but the text is plain: not even the Son knows when it will be.

In Matthew's account the point is rammed home with five parables which insist that we must watch and wait. The Second Coming will appear like a 'thief in the night', when we are not expecting it. He tells of the servants who get bored with waiting for their master's return and start to indulge themselves. Is that you? He tells of the wise and foolish virgins. Have you oil in your lamp? He tells of the Talents. Are you putting yours to use? He tells of the sheep and the goats. How are you for prison visiting lately? About as good as me I expect.

It's not enough to wait; we have to watch as well. And in the week following the centenary of the foundation of the Boy Scouts movement we must be prepared.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, watch and wait. Watch and wait to see which happens first-Christ or CLL. Either way, I get to go home!