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Parousia and End of the Age
"A successful man is one who can lay down a firm foundation
The following is a proposed untangling, sequencing and literal interpretation of what Jesus said in response to the questions asked by the disciples in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 17 & 21. The time-frame for Jesus' literal and somewhat specific answers to these questions is from that present time−some few days before the crucifixion−to the destruction of Jerusalem. These answers are not some vague, tangled, oblique or symbolic prophecies that apply to some more future time but are fairly direct and explicit. One other important thing should be considered. The conversations by Jesus in the synoptic gospels should not be taken as recorded verbatim but as second, third and fourth hand accounts that were only fairly well remembered by various parties canvassed by the synoptic gospel compilers.
PROLOGUE: LEAVING JERUSALEM
Not one stone upon another
Matthew 24:1,2 Mk 13:1,2 Lk 21:5,6 Going forth Jesus left the temple, and his disciples came up to him to show him the temple buildings. One of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!" But Jesus answering said to him, "You see all these great buildings? Truly, I say to you, the days will come when in no way will be left one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down."
Commentary: The things Jesus foretold literally took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. when the temple was torched by the Roman soldiers and the temple stones were pried apart to recover the melted gold.
Three big questions
Matthew 24:3 Mk 13:3,4 Lk 21:7 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, Peter and James and John and Andrew came up to him and asked him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming into glory and of the close of the age?"
Commentary: This is really a composite question of three parts, the latter part referring somewhat to the previous. An understanding of Jesus' answers to the questions cannot be understood without an adequate concept of what the ancients meant by an age. An "Age" is not a quantitative period of time. It is a qualitative period of time which begins with an overwhelmingly significant event or series of events which changes irrevocably the pertinent 'landscape', whether that be geological, political, spiritual or social. An "Age" closes with another overwhelmingly significant event or change which ushers in a new age. For the Jews the closing of the political age took place with the end of Jerusalem as a center of Jewish government and whatever political authority they had in conjunction with Roman authority. The closing of that spiritual age−one of the focal points of all the ages−took place at the crucifixion and resurrection, which included the words of Jesus, "It is finished". The following answers of Jesus really only refer to these two specific questions.
SECTION 1: IMPORTANT ANSWERS
Answer to first question
Matthew 24:4-8 Mk 13:5-8 Lk 21:8-11 Answering, Jesus said to them, "Watch, that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and, 'The time is at hand!' and they will lead many astray. Do not go after them. And you will be about to hear of wars and rumors of wars; watch, that you are not alarmed; it is right for all this to happen, for these must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will be raised against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines in various places and earthquakes; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven: all these are but the beginning of the birth‑pangs.
Commentary: The answers that Jesus is giving in this section deal with the time, approximately 35 years, between when he was speaking and the destruction of the temple. "Nation…against nation" and "kingdom against kingdom" refer to Israel and its allies against Rome and its allies. Earthquakes, terrors, and great signs from heaven took place at the death of Jesus on Calvary.
Standing before councils
Mark 13:9-11 Mt 10:16-23 Lk 21:12-15 "Watch yourselves, for before all these things they will lay their hands on you; for they will deliver you up to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will be led before rulers and kings for my sake, but this will return to you as a testimony. Put it therefore in your minds, not to premeditate on how to make a defense; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all those opposing you will not be able to withstand or contradict. For the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for you are not the ones speaking, but the holy spirit.
Commentary: This part of the answer continues to deal with the remaining time before the end of Jerusalem's temple and Judaism's temple-centric religious period and the following rabbi-centric period, but an enlightened concept of his answers must include an understanding that his mind is focused on the passion play of the crucifixion and resurrection, which settled for all time cosmic issues concerning God. When he says "I will give you a mouth and wisdom" he means that his passion play will give a truly spiritual person a powerful message of understanding concerning God which will inspire them to present a valid rationale for their position and behavior.
Let us remember that to Jesus the Gospel is the good news of his having brought the empowering Kingship of the heavens, and this was proclaimed to the nations (the world) by his public execution and resurrection. He did not mean that missionaries would have to go to every literal nation with some kind of proselytizing.
The end of the political age
Matthew 24:9-14 Mk 13:12,13 Lk 21:16-19 "And then many will stumble, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. And brother will deliver up brother for death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put up for death; and you will be hated by all on account of me. But in no way will a hair of your head perish. By your patience you will retain your souls. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the inhabited world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come."
The destruction of Jerusalem
Matthew 24:15-22 Mk 13:14-20 Lk 21:20-24 "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its ruin has come. So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those in Judea flee to the mountains and let those in the city depart; and he on the housetop let him not go down to take a thing in his house; and he in the field, let him not return to take his coat. For these are days of vengeance, for all that has been written to be fulfilled. And alas for those pregnant in womb and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that your flight will not happen in winter or on a Sabbath holiday.
"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not happened from the beginning of the world until now, and never will again. There will be great distress upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the mouth of the sword, and be led captive among the gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the gentiles, until the times of the gentiles are fulfilled. Unless those days were shortened, no living flesh would be saved; but because of the elect those days will be cut short.
Commentary: The "abomination…where it not ought to be" was the army of Rome led by Titus deployed in Palestine. As far as the "great tribulation" is concerned the atrocities that took place during the siege of Jerusalem have probably not been surpassed in the entire history of the world. Jesus reference to "this people" is simply a reference to the Israelites in Palestine.
SECTION 2: MOST IMPORTANT ANSWER
God as son of man revealed
Luke 17:22-25 Mt 24:23-28 Mk 13:21-23 And he said to the disciples, "The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see. Then if any one says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe or go. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and suggest great omens and portents so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you all things beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Lo, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out; if they say, 'Look, he is in private rooms,' do not believe.
Commentary: The disciples clearly wanted and expected Jesus to return after a short visit to "Heaven", but this was not to be so. Jesus tried to tell them, but they weren't listening. He even warned them to not listen to anyone, under any circumstances, that was saying that he had returned.
"For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will the Son of man be in his day, so also will be the coming into glory of the Son of man. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Wherever the corpse may be, there the vultures will be gathered together.
Commentary: Most of Israel was aware of the crucifixion, and it was a public affair set on a hill with the cross set against the sky. Here he is linking the mention of a corpse with his "coming into glory".
The sign of the son of man
Matthew 24:29-31 Mk 13:24-27 Lk 21:25-28 "Immediately after the affliction of these days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the dynamics of the heavens will be shaken, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with apprehension of what is coming on the world; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in the sky. As these things happen, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. And then all the tribes of the land will wail, and they will see the Son of man passing against the clouds of the sky with dynamic potency and great glory; and then he will send out his messengers with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other.
EPILOGUE: PARABLES OF ADVICE
Answer of the fig tree
Matthew 24:32-35 Mk 13:28-31 Lk 21:29-33 And he told them a parable: "You see the fig tree, and all the trees? From the fig tree learn its lesson: when its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near, even at the door. Truly, I say to you, in no way does this generation pass away until all these things occur. Heaven and earth will pass away, but in no way may my words (demonstrated message) pass away.
The time of God's glory
Matthew 24:36-44 Mk 13:32-37 Lk 17:26-37 "But about that time and situation no one understands, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Like the days of Noah, so will be the coming into glory 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 not aware until the flood came and took them all, so also will be the coming into glory of the Son of man.
"Likewise as it was in the days of Lot, they were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building; but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom fire and sulphur rained from heaven and destroyed them all, just like this will it be on the day the Son of man is revealed. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to save his psyche will lose it, but whoever loses his psyche will preserve it.
"I tell you, in this time of spiritual darkness there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Then two men will be in the field; one is gathered in and one is passed over. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is gathered in and one is passed over.
"Watch therefore, that you do not realize at what time your Master passes. Like a man going abroad, leaving his house and giving his servants charge, each with his work, and ordered the doorkeeper that he should watch, you watch! Understand that if the housemaster knew in what hour the thief is coming, he would have watched and might not have let his house be broken into. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house passes, at evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. Therefore you also be ready; for the Son of man passes at a time you do not expect. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."
And they said to him, "Where, Master?" He said to them, "Where the body is, there the vultures will be gathered together."
Commentary: This last verse should make it clear that Jesus is talking about the time and situation of his crucifixion in the above verses, because he again links the idea of a corpse and the vultures with the event.
Parable of unfaithful servant
Luke 12:41-48 Mt 24:45-51 Peter said to him, "Master, do you tell this parable for us or also for all men?" And the Master said, "Who then is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his lord will appoint over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant his lord will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will appoint him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, 'My lord delays in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to both eat and drink and get drunk, the lord of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour he does not know, and will separate him, and will place his portions with the unbelievers, the hypocrites; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But that servant knowing his lord's will, and did not prepare or act according to his will, will be beaten with many lashes. But he not knowing, and doing what deserved a beating, will be beaten with few lashes. Everyone given much, of him will much be required; and to whom much was deposited, exceedingly more will be asked of him.
Last warning to escape death
Luke 21:34-38 "But take heed to yourselves lest your minds be weighed down with headaches and strong drink and the cares of this life. That day comes on you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all those sitting on the face of all the earth. Then you be watchful at all times, begging that you be accounted worthy to escape all these things about to occur, and to stand before the Son of man."
In the days he was teaching in the temple, but in the nights he went out and lodged on the mount being called Olivet. And in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.
. This is the first very specific question, which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple which signaled the end of that political age for the Jews.
. The Greek word used here is "Parousia", which means being in full display of presence. The Parousia for God as Jesus, took place over his public life and at the crucifixion and the resurrection, which included a multitude of deceased believers being resurrected who were looking forward to this climactic event.
. The end of the political age, the object of the first question.
. Of a new age.
. This promise is in keeping with the good news and applies to believers such as John and Thomas who chose to believe the message of Jesus.
. Those inside the city and out believed, when there was no earthly hope of victory, that the 'savior messiah' would come and that God would intervene to bless their fanatical rebellion against Rome. It is noteworthy that there are still those even today that are busy suggesting eschatological schemes for events that they do not understand and that have already taken place.
. The whole nation of Israel was fairly evenly divided over being for or against Jesus, and every person was shortly made aware of his crucifixion.
. Jesus on the cross.
. Those religious and political leaders who demanded and secured his death.
. The present and coming time for Jesus and his followers prior to his crucifixion.
. All these things took place when Jesus died on the cross.
. The body of Jesus hanging on the cross sticking up into the sky.
. If nothing more is meant than this, at least some people of every tribe in Israel mourned the death of Jesus.
. The Greek word here is translated in most bibles as 'come' but it means to come or go or pass used in a wide variety of situations, and here it should be translated as 'pass' or 'pass away' since it applies to the death of Jesus at the crucifixion.
. The first resurrection spoken of by Jesus in John 5:25, those resurrected with Jesus, the first-fruits gathered into the kingdom. The "elect" are those that truly understood the demonstration of the life, death, and resurrection given by Jesus.
. This is a clear, unequivocal statement by Jesus limiting the time-frame for all of his answers to the questions and which should preclude any application beyond the destruction of Jerusalem.
. Not the individual angels of heaven nor even Jesus himself understood the full ramifications of how much of the character of God would be revealed, how much God would be glorified by his death and his resurrection, or why it was necessary to go this far. Cosmic issues of equality between the creator and all other humans as citizens of the universe are settled by demonstration when the Originator ceases to live and is born as a baby human on this earth and is raised and nurtured by the heavenly family to full equivalency of the original being. Cosmic issues of whether the character of the "Father" is that of a demanding lawgiver of angry retribution or that of a completely gracious, merciful and humane being that will not even lose his temper by the humiliation, torture, and death of his son are settled by the public crucifixion and last words of Jesus.
. A figure of speech in the Hebrew culture which means living oblivious to significant events or aspects of the time or situation.
. A figure of speech in the Hebrew culture which means to go about living or doing business as usual.
. Worldly self-identity, false ego, and mundane pattern of life. Through a natural but everyday process as children in this world we build our self-identity and life pattern and direction upon parents, others, and things. This leaves us with it centered on status symbols, be they tangible or intangible−material possessions, our abilities and accomplishments, relationships, and social standing. With our minds or spirits focused on the things of this world, we are programmed to see ourselves as mortal, and with the limited value implied by these externals, rather than seeing ourselves as children of God (Gods) with unlimited value and potential.
. Gathered into the Truth or true message of good news given by Jesus, and subsequently gathered into the kingdship of the heavens.
. This parable should be applied to the Parousia--the display of presence on earth, and the Apocalypse--the great unveiling or revelation including the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
. The day of Christ's crucifixion.