July 9, 2016


Psalms (Morning) – Psalm 20, 21:1–7 (8–13)
Psalms (Evening) – Psalm 110:1–5 (6–7) 116, 117
Old Testament – Deuteronomy 34:1–12
New Testament – Romans 10:14–21
GospelMatthew 24:32–51

Oh, Holy Father, that we would hear with our hearts the words of your Psalm:
Some people trust in chariots,
others in horses;
but we praise the Lord’s name.
They will collapse and fall,
but we will stand up straight and strong. (Ps 20:7–8)

A few thoughts on the following passage:

Mt 24:32–51
32 “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. 34 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 37 As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One. 38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that. 40 At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. 42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. 43 But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. 44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.

45 “Who then are the faithful and wise servants whom their master puts in charge of giving food at the right time to those who live in his house? 46 Happy are those servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. 47 I assure you that he will put them in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose those bad servants should say to themselves, My master won’t come until later. 49 And suppose they began to beat their fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunks? 50 The master of those servants will come on a day when they are not expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. 51 He will cut them in pieces and put them in a place with the hypocrites. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.

 What event is this passage speaking about?  (Really – read it carefully and interpret it.  What is this passage speaking about?).

What influenced your interpretation?
Another theological perspective you hold?
A pastor or theologian who you enjoy hearing or reading?
DC Talk sang about this passage in their song, “I wish we’d all been ready.”  Is that what came to mind?

I will confess my own perspective:  I believe that American Christianity has been greatly mislead by popular speakers and teachers regarding what has come to be known as “rapture theology” or “the rapture of the saints.”

And my guess is that when many people read this passage, they read into it a warning about the so-called rapture.

The belief in a rapture inspires many, many poorly thought out sentiments, and often presents itself as a kind of anti-gospel solution to evil.  If you listen carefully, you’ll hear it in the phrase that goes “the rapture is coming soon!” or “the end must be getting close!” or “thankfully, it will all be sorted out in the rapture!”  Those sentences resign to “the way things are,” having no hope that they’ll ever get better.  The rapture says “the world is beyond God’s redemption, and will need to be destroyed instead.  That’s a pretty hopeless “gospel” if you ask me.

But the gospel of Jesus is a gospel of hope.  It is a word of healing.  It is the good news that death has been defeated (and is not, as the belief in a rapture suggests, the final word for God’s creation).

If God sucks all believers out of creation, there is no hope for creation.  I don’t think I can say this more clearly:  that message is anti-gospel.

But a closer reading of this passage demonstrates that it teaches just the opposite of the claims of rapture theology.  It isn’t good that will be removed, it is good that says.

32 “Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that the Human One is near, at the door. 34 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

In other words, when you see signs of new life, you know that Jesus is near.  That’s a lot different than “the world is getting worse, the end must be near!”

36 “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. 37 As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One. 38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 39 They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that.

 “Nobody knows the hour” is a popular rapture threat.  “God’s going to suck all the good guys out of here, so you better be ready or you might be left in the hell that remains!”

But try reading it in the opposite way:  “Death will not survive the new creation – so be prepared!  Because the reign of Christ is coming, and if you live according to the way of death, you will not be a part of the good thing that is to come!  The good news is that Jesus is fixing this chaos!  I hope you’re allowing him to do it in you, too!”

I don’t believe there is a threat here, although the words are ominous.  But there is an urgent petition to align ourselves with Jesus, and to live according to his way of love.

40 At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. 42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. 43 But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. 44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.

I’ve heard countless horror stories that are rooted in this passage.  “Don’t be the one standing there while your friends and family have disappeared!”  “I hope you’re not left on the airplane when your Christian pilot disappears!”

It should be noted, though, that this idea of one staying and one going was set up with the story of Noah.  And in the story of Noah, it wasn’t the righteous who God removed from creation, but the unrighteous.  Perhaps the assumption we’ve made about who stays and who goes has been backwards.  God is our redeemer, after all.

Without getting into the complicated conversation about the fate of the ones removed, I do want to submit a brief thought on the following passage:

45 “Who then are the faithful and wise servants whom their master puts in charge of giving food at the right time to those who live in his house? 46 Happy are those servants whom the master finds fulfilling their responsibilities when he comes. 47 I assure you that he will put them in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose those bad servants should say to themselves, My master won’t come until later. 49 And suppose they began to beat their fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunks? 50 The master of those servants will come on a day when they are not expecting him, at a time they couldn’t predict. 51 He will cut them in pieces and put them in a place with the hypocrites. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.

The master leaves and puts his servants in charge.  Blessed are those who are doing his work when he returns.  Jesus has left his kingdom under our care.  I pray that we would be found to be faithful, passionate, innovative stewards of what He has left under our care, that we may be prepared for life in the Kingdom Come, because we have been stewards of the Kingdom now.

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