Friday, January 26, 2018

The Olivet Discourse: Great Tribulation

The synoptic versions of the Olivet Discourse vary widely in the section dealing with the Great Tribulation. There are commonalities in elements of the narrative, but the phrasing is variant and details differ. All, however, picture a very difficult time which has a start and a finish, and which will challenge the Jews alive at that time even while the entire earth experiences tremendous stress. All three accounts segue into the return of Christ at the end of said tribulation.

Matthew and Mark both describe, almost verbatim, distress (Koine: thlipsis--pressure, and the internal stress that results) unique in that it was never equaled before nor will it be equaled after. So, the envisioned tribulation will surpass Noah’s flood according to this description, and that wiped out just about everything and everyone. Anything globally significant before WWII and the Holocaust, as well as those occurrences themselves, will also be surpassed on the same basis. The siege of Jerusalem in 66-70 CE isn't even in the ballpark by such a description--not in terms of severity, or scope, let alone in fulfilling cited prophecy.

Though Luke describes the circumstance by a different word (ananke), it's meaning (distress caused by external conditions) is roughly equivalent. Luke and Matthew do agree on describing that distress as great (megale). Although many events experienced in history up to the present could be described as great, nothing matches the depth and breadth of some of the events described in the Apocalypse. It seems to me that Jesus was referring to that unique level of things when he described the coming tribulation.

For the sake of the elect, the days of this tribulation are curtailed, which may explain the day variation of Daniel 12:11-12. Who might these elect be? Generally, the word signifies the chosen of God, and from the context, it can be assumed that the reference here includes Jews in Judea and Jerusalem looking for the Messiah. If others were meant to be encompassed by the term, we're certainly not told that in this discourse. Regardless, it's comforting to know that God has an agenda concerning time which has the aim of ending time without ending the elect.

Those aching to see the Messiah return, especially in the midst of such severe stress, could be susceptible to counterfeits. However, when Christ returns he won’t be slipping into town quietly, in a fashion that could be missed--not even by those not anticipating his return. Anything less than a cosmic, earth shaking event can't be the Messiah's return. Thankfully, it will not possible for the elect to be duped, which I suspect will owe much to the ministry of the Two Witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:1-13.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Olivet Discourse: Pregnant Refugees

A common feature of all three accounts of the Olivet Discourse is the pronouncement of woe upon the pregnant and nursing. It is situated in about the same place in the unfolding story in Matthew and Mark, but is located in a slightly different place in Luke. It doesn't appear to be a different detail, so can it be used to "align" all three accounts? I think that it could, but if it is, it removes any possibility at all that the Lucan account was referring to events foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

If the woe is the same woe in all three accounts, then Matthew and Mark's reference to the gospel being preached to all nations is a detail skipped over by Luke. The surrounding of Jerusalem and its desolation mentioned by Luke is just a different way of saying "the abomination of desolation" as stated by Matthew and Mark. Even though the Lucan description of this section would fit the events of 66-70 CE, the phrase "all that is written will be fulfilled" doesn't fit at all with 70 CE. Considering that at our late date all that is written still hasn't been fulfilled makes that especially so!

The only way to keep the preterist hope alive, therefore, is to see the woe on the pregnant and nursing as referring to two distinct occurrences of such a plight. Otherwise, the language of the end which dictates the interpretation of Matthew and Mark, would carry for Luke's account as well. The dual fulfillment of things like the "Abomination of Desolation" (seemingly fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes, yet used by Christ to refer to something yet undone) perhaps allows for such an approach, but I think it strains credulity to apply it to the pregnant refugees.

So in the end, I must dismiss it, and with it, the preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse.

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Olivet Discourse: Abomination of Desolation Part II

Primarily, there are two things occurring in regard to the Abomination of Daniel referenced by Christ in the Olivet Discourse: suppression and replacement. The normal activities in the Temple have to be stopped, and other ones, unclean ones, have to take their place. Antiochus models that, but doesn't fulfill it, the Romans did one but not the other. What does fit the bill, for both Daniel and the Olivet Discourse, is described in Revelation 13:14-15, even though its location is merely implied by Revelation 13:5-6 (see Daniel 9:27) rather than specified.

Since Jesus did command the reader of Daniel's prophecy to understand, particularly as it relates to the end Jesus is prophesying, the Abomination of Desolation at the end of the age spoken of by Daniel was clearly meant to be understood. Oh, it may take some consideration, some thought (which is the burden of the Koine "noeito" which is translated "understand"), but it was certainly meant to be understood. I think that principle of perspicuity holds for all end-time prophesy. Without a doubt, such prophecy becomes clearer the closer we get to its fulfillment (Daniel 12:9-10).

The elephant in the room in all this unpacking is that the Abomination of Desolation presumes a place that can be abominably desolated. I think I have well established that the destruction of that location in 70 CE was not part of its ultimate desolation as envisioned by Daniel and Jesus and which still awaits. That can only mean that at sometime, the holy place must be rebuilt according to biblical standards and prepared for the offering of holy sacrifices once again. Make no mistake about it, the Temple will be rebuilt, it must be in order to fulfill that spoken by the prophet and by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

At some point after the Temple is in place, the Abomination will be stood up, and those in Judea at that time are told to hit the pike; however, they are not directed to a location in the Olivet Discourse, or in Revelation 12, or anywhere in Daniel. Though Petra is often offered as a possibility by commentators, that is sheer speculation without so much as a shred of definitive biblical proof. At best, we can say that the refugees will probably run into the desert more than a Sabbath Day’s journey (~ ¾ of a mile) to a place where God will take care of them for 1260 days (3 ½ years). What is certain is that they are in hiding after their flight and are not to let anything (like purported sightings of the Messiah, even if evidenced by great miracles) draw them out.

That these refugees are believing Jews is easy enough to deduce: they are in Judea; they are sabbath keepers; they are actively looking for the Messiah. Furthermore, they must be those that would be mindful of the words of Jesus or this section of the discourse, which counsels them, would be fruitless. God's word never goes out void, so it seems to me, that some of those Jews, maybe a lot of those Jews, maybe even all of those Jews would be Messianic. It is easy enough to put together the pieces and see that the Abomination of Desolation will occur after Jews have rebuilt the Temple, and that many of them have turned to Jesus as Messiah.