37And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. (Mark 13:)
To begin with we see where the purpose in Jesus coming to earth is to preach the Kingdom of God. It's important that we keep this fact in mind because His purpose is a filter through which we must pass all our observations if we hope to find the truth.
What is the Kingdom of God? If we don't know what the Kingdom of God is, or if we have a false impression of the Kingdom of God, then anything else we might discover will either be placed on a wrong shelf, or at the least it will be so colored as to be unrecognizable.
Jesus did many things on this earth, and many of those things He did could be construed as His purpose. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons. If His purpose was to cleanse the world of demons, death and sickness, then obviously He failed in His mission. Jesus died on the cross in order to rid the world of sin (1John 2:2; 3:5). If this is the purpose for which Jesus came to earth, then again He failed because sin is still in the world, and still in those who call themself Christian. Some believe Jesus came to take us all to Heaven to live with Him. Ignoring any other aspect of this statement, we must again understand where Heaven is if we're to know where it is Jesus is wanting to take us. Is Heaven a cloud where everyone wears silver wings and plays on a golden harp all day? Is Heaven a huge building the size of the moon? Or is it possible that Jesus brought Heaven with Him to earth as He told Nicodemus? (John 3:13; 6:51-58; Luke 17:20-21; 1Cor 3:16).
What and where is Heaven? What was the purpose of Jesus ministry? Keep these questions in mind as we explore the statement Jesus made in regards to the days of Noah:
59And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:)
Here we have a man who exhibited an interest in following Jesus, but had some unfinished worldly business he felt he needed to attend to. What did Jesus say to this man? Did He tell him to obey the commandments or to purify his life? How about taking up the cross? Did Jesus tell the man to abandon all? No, as we read earlier, Jesus told the man to "go" and preach the Kingdom of God. The man was to take on the purpose for which Jesus was sent to earth. He was to "go" (not come) and preach the Kingdom. How can this man preach what he apparently doesn't even know? Here two thousand years later we still have confusion as to what the Kingdom of God is, or even where it is, yet Jesus seems to assume this obscure man already knows what the Kingdom is, and this to the point he can preach the Kingdom.
5These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand ["Near, approaching." What event(s) are about to occur very shortly after the twelve are sent out?] (Mat 10:)
I assume those who bother to read what I have to say are at least fairly well acquainted with the Bible. In all your readings, have you come across anywhere that describes the Kingdom of Heaven? Doesn't it seem to you that the Kingdom is a "given" that everyone should know and understand? Then why do we have so many varied (and wrong) impressions of Heaven in the churches? Add our own befuddled concepts to those of the world and of other religions and what a mess we have. I wonder if we avoid looking at the truth of the Kingdom for the same reason a five year old doesn't look behind his ears when sent to wash up for dinner. He just might find something he'll have to wash off. If he avoids looking at his faults, and any reason for having to look for faults, then he feels he can squeeze by having to deal with his faults.
Having an honest view (I've found, if so be my view can be considered an honest one) demands a great deal more of me than does the view my church espouses, which is essentially "do your own thing and God won't care because your actions are covered by the blood."
"The Kingdom of God is like.....:" How many times have we heard these words spoken just before a parable? Why did Jesus tell us about something way up in the sky somewhere on a cloud that won't come to pass for hundreds of years? We dismiss the parables as simple stories that have no bearing on us, certainly not us Christians who are covered by the blood and will be yanked out of the world before any real trouble starts.
Jesus said this about His parables:
10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (Mat 13:)
Because Jesus didn't say what the Pharisees and the priests of His day wanted to hear, the stories Jesus told were just that, stories intended for farmers and shepherds instructing them how to attend to their business. It must seem to them (and to us) that Jesus was a great orator of the obvious.
What is our excuse today for not taking to heart the parables of Jesus? I believe that if the churches really understood the messages provided in the parables, and what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about, we would be hearing the parables, and be informed of the necessary drive for perfection Jesus taught and demonstrated, every Sunday rather than the entertaining speeches we now hear. Just one man's opinion of course, and obviously not a popular one.
43Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. (Mark 15:)
People of Jesus' day were watching for the Kingdom of God. They knew what the Kingdom of God is, and what it entailed. The problem is those who were watching were looking in the wrong direction and they were looking for the wrong signs by which to recognize the Kingdom when it arrived. This is our condition today as well. We look into the past, into the future, at the news, and in every other direction then where the Kingdom exists. Will the Kingdom come some day? Surely it will. However, as was the case in Jesus first appearance, there are two stages to His appearing. The Jews missed the Lamb to be slain, and so doing they will miss out on the Kingdom which they had been waiting for a thousand years. Because we miss the first stage of Jesus' second coming, and we refuse to prepare ourselves for His coming, we'll miss out on the rewards that Jesus' second coming will bring to us.
42And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 24:)
Christians find something tangible upon which to rest their confidence of salvation. Some rest on the works they do. A great many people rest their confidence in the fact that they are more good then bad, or that they do a good deed once in a while. And almost all churches rest their confidence on the doctrine of their church and the fact that they have been baptizes, the "right" way, and with the "right" words spoken over them.
This thief on the cross attended none of our churches and knew of none of our doctrines or articles of faith, he didn't have any words spoken over him, and as far as we know he wasn't baptized, certainly not in the "right" way.
What is it that caused Jesus, with His dying breath, to offer this man the salvation we seek other means by which to acquire?
23And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. (John 8:)
This is a popular verse with many of the churches. Jesus said a person will die in their sins if he or she doesn't believe He is....who? Who is it we're to believe Jesus to be? Is He saying He is the Messiah, their long awaited King? Is He saying we have to believe He is the "I Am" of the Old Testament? I should think if it were the latter of these choices it would have been stated much more clearly and often than it has been. The Jews were not told in the Old Testament to look for God, at least not so it could be missed without effort. But they were informed (although in vailed form) to look for their Redeemer, the One who would rescue them and their nation.
The thief on the cross did not appear to indicate that he believed Jesus was God, nor even the Son of God. In fact he may have not even heard of Jesus before this time, although that is a hard concept to swallow since Jesus must have been a very famous, and infamous man at the same time, for three and a half years. What the thief recognized, and confessed, is that Jesus was the One who will be bringing the Kingdom to earth. He, it appears, supposed the event to be a future one, as do most of us of the Church, but Jesus said "today" the thief would (apparently) see his request fulfilled.
14Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:)
We have the Great commission given to the Apostles, and to us as well in these verses. This we hear often in church. Of course we accept this portion of the 16th chapter, and we scream it from the housetops, at the same time we disqualify it because it (this portion of Mark) says things we don't want to hear, and this in the same breath as what we want to hear. Those who believe will do miraculous things. We don't want to hear this part, so we turn the volume down when it's being read. And we assume the words that say to go preach the Gospel is assigned to those ordained to be missionaries, not to us.
What is the Gospel that's to be preached throughout the world? This is another statement that causes confusion. We assume Jesus to mean go preach our church doctrine and bring people into the pews of our church and denomination. I would assume He means to preach what He told the man who wanted to follow Him was told to preach, what He told the 12 disciple to preach, and what He was sent to preach. And what is that Gospel they preached? Didn't we read that it's the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven they preached?
4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many....
We're now looking at some straightforward advice from our Lord. The disciples asked Jesus when the coming of the Kingdom will be, that is, Jesus' second coming when He will set up His full Kingdom, not the partial realm we're now in. Listen carefully to what Jesus tells them, and us as well. Although the words were spoken more than a thousand years ago, and Jesus is speaking as if what He's describing will occur shortly, in their lifetime, it's obvious that this is not the case.
Also it's important we keep in mind the advise Jesus gives us, that is, to be careful we don't let anyone deceive us:
..... 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. .....
I've skipped a lot of important information because it doesn't apply directly to the subject we're investigating in this study.
The things Jesus described as signs of the end of the age is obviously upon us. This certainly can be seen in the verse that says iniquity abounds, something this age is noted for. However it's not all that unique for iniquity and hatred and the other such things to abound in this world. Look at how it was before the flood. Consider Sodom and Gomorrah, and even Israel before God sent them into Babylon (and scattered the ten northern tribes). No, iniquity, and sinfulness is a part of mankind. Where there's humans, there's sin. What makes this age in which we live unique is that the worst of sins can be obtained any moment night or day, all over the world, with a push of a button or the turning of a knob. Rather than a person having to seek a place and a way to sin (as it was in my youth), he or she (regardless of the age of the person) has to find some way of avoiding being caught up in sin. If we send our child to public school they will be taught every form of sin, and encouraged to participate in such, by those we pay to instruct them in the ways of wholesomeness and hopefully godliness. Even the churches (other than those called cults) no longer openly preach against or discourage sin. Sin is at the door, and even closer than that in all modern homes of this day.
The other signs Jesus tells us of are also a part of history as well as this age. Again, the difference is our acquired ability to add to the problems this earth suffers through the use of contaminates, air and water pollution, and even world-destructive nuclear energy. We've even devised systems whereby we can disrupt the purity of outer space. As for wars, wars have always been with us since the days of Cain and Able. What we've succeeded in doing is making it possible to kill millions with a push of a button rather than strike one person at a time with a rock, a sword or an arrow. How proud we humans are of our ability to create those things that oppose the purposes of God, our creator.
"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." The end can't come until the Gospel of the Kingdom is preached. Again, isn't the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached now? If not, then when will the Gospel be preached? It'll be preached right before the end. When was it last preached? I believe the last we heard of the Gospel being preached is during the age of the Apostles. And I believe the next time we'll hear the true message of the Kingdom is when the 144,000 will manifest themselves, a "revitalization" of the original Apostles, only in translated form. My own opinion of course, but my own opinion is all I have to go by. This Manchild company will be the firstfruits that will see us (mankind) into the Millennium, a Joshua en masse if you please.
.....15When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:....
The first part of this brief statement has causes many people to suppose Jesus is warning them about something that was accomplished during the destruction of Jerusalem. And of course most of what is said can certainly apply to such a time. However, what we read above precedes this last event, and parts of that has not happened as yet. For instance, in the thirty some-odd years after the death of Jesus sin didn't abound in Judea, and there was no cataclysmic activity that surpassed what had occurred in ages before that time. Nor was the attack on Jerusalem by the Romans any worse than that of the Assyrians and the others that had gone before. And we have this:
....21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25Behold, I have told you before. 26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.....
We're looking at the Great Tribulation. That, as described by John in the Book of Revelation and elsewhere in the prophets has not occurred. It's still future. It's something we have to prepare ourselves for and not assume it's something past our control.
Except those days should be shortened. There has never in history been an event, other than the flood, where the entire world, and all humanity has been at risk. This is not talking about one nation, a speck on the globe. It involves the entire world, even to the extent that the sun, moon and the stars are affected. In fact Peter says the earth will be burned and the elements will be dissolved. I can't find a time in history when that event has taken place, at least I don't recall it happening in my lifetime.
Even the "elect" are prone to be deceived. Who are the "elect"? Are you one of the elect? If so, then this message is for you. I would like to think I'm one of the elect, or at least one of the chosen, but if my life is any indication of having been so chosen, then it's obvious I'm left out of this scenario.
..... 27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. ....
There's an interesting "coincidence" concerning this description of the coming of Jesus. From the east to the west. What other things come from the east to the west? Consider that at the birth of Jesus wise men followed a star from the east to the west. The mission Paul was given took him from the east to the west. Abraham was called out of Babylon and told to go west to the land of Canaan. When a person enters the Temple or the Tabernacle they enter the East Gate and go west to the Vail that blocks the entrance to the Holy of Holies. The Garden of Eden was to the east of Eden, which if my calculations are correct, this is a picture of the Mount of Olives, which is east of Jerusalem, as well as a picture of New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation.
....28For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. 29Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.....
Another indication that what's described here is future is in the fact that immediately after these events Jesus will return. Some believe that Jesus returned at Pentecost. And it appears there's evidence to support this concept, but not in full.
Here also we have those cataclysmic signs that have yet to occur, further supporting the notion that what we are to look for is not in the past.
.... 31And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.....
Again we have the elect being favored. And again I ask, who are the "elect"?
Here we have the sound of a great trumpet. Whatever is to follow has first to see the signs just examined, and the sound of a trumpet will be heard. Is this speaking of an actual trumpet? Or is this trumpet symbolic of a message such as that which will be preached by the 144,000?
.....32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.....
The preceding signs will come before what is referred to as the Rapture. If this is so, then when will the rapture take place in relationship to the Tribulation?
.... 34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.....
Which generation is Jesus referring to? Is He talking about the generation He's talking to at the moment? Or is He talking about the generation who will see the signs just mentioned? It's my guess He means those who will see the moon turn to blood and all the other strange things that will take place at the end times. I believe this since we haven't seen these signs as yet, and I don't think Jesus calls 2,000 years a "generation."
No one knows the day or hour these things will take place. I have many tapes from the 70's where preachers and prophets were saying they were sure the rapture would occur before the 80's were concluded. Unless I miss my guess, there has been no Tribulation, nor has anyone been whisked up to a cloud where they can witness the Tribulation from afar.
I'm no prophet by any stretch of the imagination. But if I was pressed for a guess I'd say we have between 10 to 15 years before the big event takes place. Don't go packing a bag on my say-so, I have a reputation for making wrong judgement calls. But as I examine what the Bible says, and the pictures given to us in the Old Testament, I'd say we still have a few years to go. And I don't think it's in the listening to prophets, or the watching of the news that understanding of the end-times is derived. I think we have to watch the condition of the Church, it's downward trend, if we hope to find the signs of the times. God has based His calculations and His judgements on the condition of His bride, not the world at large.
....37But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away ["Remove, sail away, put away"]; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken , and the other left. 41Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken ["Receive near, associate with (an intimate act)"], and the other left ["Forsake, eject, suffer, cry, send away"]. 42Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 43But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44Therefore be ye also ready [see Luke 12:46-47; Heb 11:7]: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Mat 24:)
Now we've come to the part of the prophesy that speaks of being taken. I've heard, as have you in all probability, that this "taken" means to be left on a renewed earth. I know you thought I'd say you heard it means being taken up to Heaven just before the big event, the wrath of God. And of course this is the popular view. But it's not the only view.
I've heard it said those who are "taken" are actually the ones who are left, and it's the ones who are "taken" that are destroyed. And if you've read any of my statement on this subject it probably sounds as if that is what I espouse. However this is not the case for reasons I'll explain in a moment.
Did you read the meanings of the words I've placed in brackets behind each of the words we're looking at? The word for "taken" essentially means to be held close, to be accepted. And the world for "left" means, among other things, to be rejected. However it also could mean to "sail away" as did Noah and his crew. But at the same time those left to be destroyed could be said to sail away, but not in a good way.
Whichever way we look at the word "left," we're still left with an indisputable fact that "taken" is what we want to be during the Wrath of God. And it's equally clear that it's "taken" that Noah and his family experienced at the time of the flood.
Do I want to be "taken" as it's defined in the story of Noah? Yes, certainly I do. However, being taken into the accepting arms of God is not all there is to what's presented here in this prophesy.
Notice the timing of the event. However we look at the verses presented here, we have to conclude that the event takes place after all the signs have passed. In other words, it's a far cry from something that occurs before the Tribulation.
This has been the account of Noah and the flood as presented by Matthew. But Matthew is not the only one who tells us of Jesus and His accounting of the event. Here is what Luke has to say about the subject, minus what has already been presented in the passages above:
20And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you....
This is where we have that famous statement many preachers don't like to hear. The Pharisees "demanded" of Jesus when the Kingdom of God will "appear." Jesus is now telling them when the Kingdom will appear. And more than this, He's telling them where the Kingdom of God is, and that it doesn't come with observation. It does us no good to try and watch for the appearance of the Kingdom of God because it doesn't "appear" to the world, and only those who have the Kingdom within them will be able to see it. Jesus gives us a very vivid account of this experience in the 14th to the 16th chapters of John (John 14:19-22).
What follows now is not what the Kingdom is, but rather when it will come in it's fulness:
.... 22And he said unto the disciples, .... 25But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation....
Notice that Jesus has left off taking to the Pharisees who asked the question (and which Jesus already answered) and is not talking to His disciples. The Pharisees are of this world, they are not ones who will see the Kingdom of God (see John 3:3-5; Luke 7:29-30) because they're looking for a "sign" that proves Jesus is who He says He is. The Kingdom is within us, and doesn't come with observation. Therefore the Pharisees and the none-believers can not see beyond this explanation. Of course neither could the disciples understand what Jesus said to the Pharisees, but after Pentecost, when they receive the Kingdom of Heaven, they will understand (Luke 18:34; Acts 1:2-8).
.... 26And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed....
I don't think there's any question as to what happened to those who were not prepared to enter the ark, and who God "sealed" in the ark. Everyone else was washed away. Nothing remained but those who had listened to God and prepared themself for the event (see Heb 11:7; Eph 6:11-13; Rev 6:17; 1Cor 10:12).
...Remember Lot's wife.....
Whereas Lot and his daughters fled the destruction, Lot's wife apparently had a nostalgic moment and either turned around with the intention of going back to the life she had just left, or for whatever reason didn't remove herself far enough away from the life that was about to experience God's wrath.
We're looking at the words Jesus used to describe what will occur during the Tribulation. "Taken" we have little doubt about, but here's a bit more concerning the word "left" that Lot's wife, and I highly suspect a lot of church members, need to keep fully in mind:
25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. 28Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, (Mark 10:)
All three of the times "left" is used in this passage it's the same word as Jesus used to describe those who will be destroyed in the wrath to come:
17And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. (Mark 1:)
Here's an example of what the disciples were saying of themselves, using the same word as "left,' in this case interpreted "forsook."
Take particular note of the immediate compliance with which they obeyed Jesus and followed Him. There was no dillydallying or hesitation, no "looking back" much to the chagrin of their father I'm sure who was left alone to run his business.
50And they all forsook him, and fled. (Mark 14:)
Again we see the use of the word for "left." And as the disciples said, when they forsook everything, they indeed forsook "everything," and everyone it seems.
37And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. (Luke 17:)
This last and concluding statement by Jesus, as well as the question asked of Him, I find very confusing. If you don't mind I'd like to take this opportunity to explore the verse and see if there's anything that can be learned from it.
To begin with, Jesus had just told His disciples when (at least what to watch for) and what will be the signs of the Kingdom of God in its fulness. Then they asked a confusing question of Jesus. They asked "where" this will all happen. We might assume they would have expected all this, the coming of their kingdom, to be there in Israel where they live. But I get the feeling they looked for some location other than their own homeland. And of course, as we of the Christian world (all that I'm aware of, I'm sure there are exceptions) understand Jesus to have described something that would be happening all over the world.
Then Jesus answered their question in what appears to be one of His most cryptic of statements. He said "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." I looked this passage up in a couple of my commentaries. One of them said the eagles were not eagles, but are vultures. And the body is a dead body. It then concludes that Jesus was saying this will occur all over the world since there are Spiritually dead people all across the earth. The other commentary says nothing about the body, but played both ends against the middle by defining the word "eagles or vultures."
None of these two interpretations makes any sense to me, so I decided to look the words up in the Greek. This is what my concordance gives for the word "body:"
BODY - From G4982; the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively: - bodily, body, slave.
I see no way in this description where Jesus could be talking about a dead body. But just to make sure, lets me see other times the word has been used to describe a body and see if any of those occurrences involve something a vulture would be interested in:
My search brought about nothing conclusive. Every time the word body is used in the Greek, it's this word. When Jude tells about Satan debating for the body of Moses, and where James said the body without the Spirit is dead, this very same word is used. So I suppose it could be taken either way, but the predominance of evidence seems to support a live body rather than a corpse.
How about the eagles that are gathering together? According to my concordance again we have:
EAGLE - From the same as G109; an eagle (from its wind like flight): - eagle.
Nope, I don't see anything here that might indicate these might be vultures gathering together, other than the fact that vultures also use the wind. But then so does a sparrow or an owl use wind for their flight. How about a dove?
The definition above gives us a root word that might help us to better understand what Jesus was telling His disciples:
G106 - (to breathe unconsciously, that is, respire; by analogy to blow); "air" (as naturally circumambient): - air. Compare G5594.
Again nothing to go on. However, notice the similarity, as defined, this word has to the definition of Spirit, even the Holy Spirit. How much clearer this statement would be if this was indeed the same word the Bible uses as Spirit, but alas, such is not the case.
I can't find anything that helps me to understand just "where" Jesus is talking about in reply to the boys' question. On the surface I'm inclined to believe it's where those with the Holy Spirit have hidden themselves that the eagles will gather. I have a couple of reasons for being of this opinion, the first of these reasons is that Jesus was talking primarily about Noah, Lot, and those who will be accepted, not those who will be destroyed.
Another reason for my suspecting this is because of what the Bible tells us in other places about eagles. We find eagles used for rescue in such passages as Rev 12:14; Ex 19:4 and Isaiah 40:31. What I'm unable to find in this quick search is anywhere that an eagle might be seen as a vulture. Of course there well may be, but the preponderance of evidence......
Now to add to the confusion, read Matthew's account of this same discourse (Mat 24:28).
1The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:)
Jesus spent 40 days talking about the most important thing He has to offer His disciples before He departs this world. What does Jesus spend all that time talking about? Perhaps He was telling them about His experience in hell, or how anxious He is to get back with the Father? No, from what we read here, the most important information Jesus could impart to His disciples is in regards to the Kingdom of Heaven, the subject He preached, and that He sent them (and us) out to preach.
Keep this in mind, Jesus, as is seen in His parables, was sent to earth for the purpose of preaching the Kingdom of God. And the assignment He gave those who will follow Him in His purpose is to preach the message of the Kingdom. His entire purpose and mission hinged around, not the cross, not His resurrection, not the saving of the world as we would suppose, but the Kingdom of God. Where do we relegate the preaching of the Kingdom in the hierarchy of our church doctrine? Do you see it listed anywhere?
Again, keep in mind the subject Jesus has been lecturing the boys on for forty days, then listen to what the disciples had to say:
6When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?....
We just read where Jesus spent 40 days telling them about the Kingdom, and we read two accounts of the time Jesus gave them a very clear description of the Kingdom, where it is, and what to expect. And yet they still didn't get it.
Do you recall when Jesus told them about the cross that He would have to endure, and how they ignored all He told them and began to murmur as to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven? How much different the Kingdom was (and is) then they had expected it to be.
You and I, as well as just about every other Christian, thinks they understand what the Kingdom is, and where it is. We "firmly" believe what we say we believe about the Kingdom. And we believe this within seconds of having heard but a minute or two of oratory concerning the Kingdom from someone who hasn't the slightest idea what the Kingdom is, nor do they likely care as long as they've been promised a seat on the bus that takes them to the Pearly Gates. Yet here we find several men who lived the Kingdom, who had followed and learned from the King of that Kingdom Himself for over three years; and they didn't understand what the Kingdom is. Shouldn't that alert us to the high probability of our belief system being a tad askew?
.... 7And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:)
The word for power used here is the same as the word from which we derive the word dynamite. It means the power to perform miracles. And although I can't find where this word has been translated as such, nor in actuality carries the meaning, it's possible it could mean "authority" as well. In Acts 4:7 Peter and John were asked by the Sanhedrin by what power they performed their miracles. I suppose they wanted to know by what authority they do these things, but I have little ground upon which to support such an interpretation.
In Acts 3:12 the Apostles said straight out that it was not by their own power they did their miracles, but rather their power came from "on high," as did the power by which Jesus performed His miracles and His mighty works (mighty being another describing word for power) (John 14:10).
46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. (Luke 12:)
We're back to Noah and his ark. Notice how those "servants" who do not adequately prepare themselves will be given their place, not in the ark as is supposed, but with the unbelievers, those who will have the opportunity to show off their swimming skills.
I'm afraid there's all too many very confident people who have placed their chip on the wrong number, and when their number comes up, they'll find they've been listening to a voice of confidence that is unsupported by the Word of God.
"They shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
In order to take an object out of a thing, it first has to be located in that thing to begin with. Here we have those who "offend" taken out of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who assume the Kingdom is something far beyond our atmosphere, or something in the future, will not be able to make sense of this statement. But if we consider that it's in the here and now, and for the past two thousand years that the Kingdom of God has existed under the title of the Church, then this statement makes perfect sense.
Is it possible those who will be removed are unaware they're even in the Kingdom to begin with, supposing it's something future and afar off called Heaven? And is it possible the Kingdom of God is Heaven, and that Heaven is also here and now? What if Heaven, the place God dwells, is us, the Temple of God, the true Church? How would that understanding effect our churches and the behavior of those who wear the Christian moniker?
In some of the parables Jesus gave us we find "servants" being cast out. In one other parable we see a wedding guest who hadn't prepared himself cast out. Here we have those who are cast out gnashing teeth. We assume it's those unbelievers in what we call hell, a fire that burns forever, who are the ones doing the gnashing of teeth. I don't find this to be so. It appears all the world to me that it's those who are now part of the Church, who have performed all the required rituals and are given much security by the leadership of that church, but who are still participating in the things of this world, who will be gnashing teeth outside the City of God.
We've been given several lists of the offenses God rejects, from eating of certain fruit as discovered by Adam and Eve, to the final list in the last book of Revelation. In this last scenario the list describes those who will be outside the city New Jerusalem wishing for even a peek into that city of lights.
Again, please take careful note as to who it is who will be gnashing teeth outside the Kingdom. We're not looking at unbelievers here but rather it's those who have been in the Kingdom, but not actually a part of the Kingdom. Elsewhere Jesus refers to these as "tares," weeds that have been planted, not by God (Mat 15:13), but by some other source. I have no doubt but that these tares consider themselves to be the most beautiful of the plants in the Lord's garden, but will find that their roots have failed to locate fertile ground upon which to grow. It's not those in the Church, the Kingdom, who act the most like a Christian who will be taken into the full Kingdom when it comes, but those who have taken on the Holy Spirit of God, and who follow the Spirit wherever He leads them who will be accepted (James 2:26; 1:19-27; Rom 8:9).
This is not referring to salvation, we've moved far beyond the door of the Church and we're now looking at what is required of those who seek to follow Paul as he presses for the mark of the high calling of God.
Confused? I have little doubt but that you are.
"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom."
In this verse we see how the righteous will shine in the Kingdom. Doesn't this bring to your mind the New Jerusalem where God Himself will be the light of the city, and the statement Jesus made to the effect we're to be a light unto the world? Now, consider these verses:
1For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. 22But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it. (Prov 2:)
25See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. 27And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:)
In the days of Noah God used a flood of water with which to cleanse the earth of evildoers. He told Noah He would never again use water to destroy the earth, and true to His promise (and we do like to hold God to His promises, don't we?) God this time will use the cleansing properties of fire to separate the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad.
1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, COMING DOWN FROM GOD OUT OF HEAVEN, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God......10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, DESCENDING OUT OF HEAVEN from God (Rev 20:)
Did you notice that everything is made new? That God is dwelling with man rather than man dwelling with God somewhere up yonder? How about where New Jerusalem is descending from Heaven, not up there in the sky somewhere? Do you by any chance find yourself having a different concept of the term "being taken"?
Is my reasoning thin? Are you still not convinced Heaven is here on earth, as is all of God's plans from start to finish? Yes, my logic is skimpy. But put it next to the theory that Heaven is somewhere in a cloud or another planet or wherever and see which is the most probable. And even short of this, after reading this or any other of my studies, try to read the Bible without having new thoughts and without making new connections. I venture to say it can't be done. My purpose is to broaden your understanding and make you think outside the box of doctrine. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything. If I've been able to cause someone to think for themselves, then I've done my job.
LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it;
Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.
While the theologians argue over the when and the wherefores of the Tribulation and the rapture, it seems to me that none of these things are important in the scheme of things. The where of the rapture and the what of the rapture means little to us as a Christian, neither does the what and the where of the Kingdom of Heaven mean anything to us if we're not included in the picture. Those who seek to justify themselves and their security point to their church affiliation, or their baptismal record, or their good works as evidence that they will be a part of whatever rescue God has planned for His special people. As for myself, I think we're all missing the boat, or in this case the ark that will take us to our salvation.
We have certain people we can look at and by the example tell if we're likely to be one of those rescued at the time of Jesus' second coming:
When the Hebrews came out of Egypt there were certain things they had to do in order to avoid the death angel and the plagues God sent to afflict the Egyptians. If these requirements weren't fulfilled to the letter, the people would not be given the protection God had provided for them. Their national heritage, their being of the seed of Abraham would account for nothing if they, the individual hadn't done his or her part in accomplishing their rescue.
After successfully avoiding the plages and the death angel these Hebrews had a testing and a training period in the wilderness. Those who succeeded in passing their test were taken into the Promised Land. Only two out of millions completed the test set before them.
As did the Pharisees, there were those in the wilderness who thought themselves equal to the one God set up as their leader. They believed their heritage or their birth record, or their Spiritual blessing placed them in a high leadership position, and therefore challenged Moses for his seat. They learned the hard way that their reasoning did not fly before the Lord, and they lost out on what had been promised to them.
Israel made a promise (several time in fact) that was part of the agreement which kept them under God's wings and provided them their special place in God's creation. Their reliance on God's promise hinged upon their fulfilling their part of the contract. They failed to do so. Far too many of the churches today not only fail to live up to their part of the New Testament written on our hearts, but they even deny that we have a contract on our part other than to take a dip in a pool of water. These same people are all too ready and anxious to point to the promises God has made, or that they cling to even though God didn't make the promise to them, while turning a blind eye to their own promises and their own lack of fruit that brings about the promises.
For myself, I see promises such as unproductive branches will be cast in a fire; churches who let their light go dim will have their candlestick removed; unprofitable servants will be cast out and will be needing constant dental work; the need to serve one another and to love our neighbor as ourselves; and many other like promises do I see. If I take my eyes off these promises and concentrate on the promises that line up behind these promises that require something of me I can only assume I'm deceiving myself and heading for trouble.
Noah and his immediate family, those who built their own source of rescue, survived the Judgement God brought on this earth. That again is a very small percentage of the people involved in the event. What's the chances of a person as wicked as myself being one of those who will be allowed in the ark, unless I do all I possibly can to follow the Spirit into becoming a person God would desire to have in His presence and to dwell within?
12The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, 13Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: 14Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. 15If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts: 16Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate. 17Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it: 18Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. 19Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast: 20Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. (Ezek 14:)
God has provided us a very explicit list of requirements we must meet if we hope to avoid whatever judgement He might bring on this earth. And from past history we've seen that God does indeed follow the list He's given us to the letter. I think it expedient that we give this passage of Scripture our most serious attention.
What is it about these three men that made them special in God's eyes and that causes them to feel securely in God's safety net? For one thing, as listed here, they were righteous ("Justice, virtue, innocent"). In Gen 6:9 we see that Noah was a perfect and a just man, and in the verse before it we see that it's for this reason he was "given grace," and it's that grace that saved him and his family from destruction.
In Job 1:8 we learn in God's own words Job was seen as perfect and upright ("Righteous, straight"). In the case of Job however, his "ark" was not built with hammer and nails but with boils, sackcloth and ashes. It's this kind of ark Jesus has set before those who wish to follow Him. We've been promised the same treatment that He, Himself was given (John 15:20; Acts 14:22; 2Tim 2:12). There's no free ride into Heaven as is taught by so many preachers today.
10And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands. 11And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. 12Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for ["Because of"] thy words. (Dan 10:)
This is an especially important passage because it explains why Daniel was "greatly beloved" by God, or at least what it is Daniel did that brought him his understanding and his place with God. In the other examples we've been given we see where in each case the person was righteous, certainly a condition of the heart that as far as I can see most of us can't attain to without the aid of the Holy Spirit, but Daniel "set himself" to do something beyond what his heart called for. He sought, first understanding. And because he wanted to understand the truth and not fall into the Pharisee's condition of memorizing doctrine, he was given the understanding he desired. Solomon is another example of one who desired wisdom, and he was given wisdom beyond his wildest dreams. Jesus said if we seek we shall find. Most people have the attitude: "Just the answers please. I don't want to understand what I know, I just want to show that I know it even if I don't."
The second thing Daniel wanted was to "chasten" himself. God said those He loves, those who are His children, He will chasten (Heb 12:6; Rev 3:19 "Afflict, browbeat, look down on"). As you read the description of the word chasten, doesn't it cause you to think of the call for a Christian to be humble, and Paul's quest to beat his body into submission?
In 2Cor 11:2 we read where Paul says his job, his desire is to present the Church a "chaste virgin" unto the Lord. The word used here for chaste is not the same as the one the Lord uses to describe punishment. This word means "pure, innocent, perfect." Of course we should keep in mind that in order to cause a child to remain or to become chaste often requires much chastisement.
There are other places in the Bible we read about virgins. In the Book of Revelation we have 144,000 virgins; and in Matthew we read about ten virgins, five of which were foolish; and of course we have Mary the mother of Jesus. In the final chapters of Revelation we read of those who have "prepared themselves" for the presence of God rather than expecting the Holy Spirit to do it all (Rev 19:7). When we look for someone else to do our job it leaves us with only the benefits without the responsibility. If we fail therefore, it's not us who failed, but the one assigned to cause us to succeed. For some reason I can't see this concept in any of the examples God has given us in His Word.
Notice that in the description of the word chaste, perfect is given. And isn't it perfection we're to strive for, and that we must have if we're to stand before the Lord?
48Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Mat 5:)
11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Eph 4:)
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (Heb 6:)
12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:)
14And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 15But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:)
I hope you read these passages carefully and observed the importance of striving for perfection. It's perfection the Lord desires (and in fact demands) of us, and the need for perfection is the reason the Church was given pastors and teachers and such. Are our pastors striving to bring the Church to perfection, the fulness of and the stature of Christ? Or are they teaching the people they no longer have to worry about their lack of perfection as long as they've been baptized?
It seems to me that if we are at peace with ourselves in this life, we'll be without peace in the next, even to weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is not what I hear at church, far from it. But it's what I read in the Word, and what I feel in my soul to be the way God works with me.
10Therefore, O thou son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak, saying, If our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live? 11Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 12Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth. 13When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. 14Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; 15If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. 16None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live. 17Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal. 18When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby. 19But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. 20Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways [See Rev 20:12; 1John 1:9; Mat 18:21-22]. (Ezek 33:)
We can't count on our past accomplishments to save us. How much less can we count on our baptism and our church doctrine to save us? Jesus continually said it's those who persevere to the end who will be saved. I see this concept clearly defined in these verses presented above.
We say God is the same yesterday, today and forever; and then we turn around and talk about all the ways He's changed his mind in His dealings with us. I can't find that in the Word. If I try I can squeeze a drop or two of such a notion out of the Bible, but I have to ignore a lot of blatant warnings against such thinking to do so.
We've been looking at the concept of being taken or left. I've attempted to present a view beyond the rhetoric surrounding that passage, showing the great need each of us (and of course the churches) have to look to ourselves in effort to be prepared for the event. It does us little good to point the finger at someone who is standing in the path of approaching bicycle when we're standing in the path of an out-of-control Mac truck.
3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2Tim 4:)
6If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness (1Tim 4:)
3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?....Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Mat 15:)
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