June 5th, 2008
Do You Take Those Red Words of Yeshua As Literal?
This is the 3rd and final part of an e-mail dialogue that I had the privilege of participating in. Parts 1 and 2 are A Mindless Void and A Spiritual Moron respectively. Links to both are below.
I have been away from my desk, but have been thinking...
The red letter words of Yeshua in Matthew 24 tell of a time when the sun will be darkened, stars will fall to the earth, and the powers of heaven shaken. This will happen immediately after the time of great tribulation.
We know that in the past the earth went through times of great catastrophe, some rivaling the great deluge. So do you take those red words of Yeshua as literal?
I'm not trying to trip you up. I just came to the conclusion myself that the meaning in Matthew 24 is literal. This was triggered by my reading of Isaiah 13.
(For that matter, do you think the Messiah's return will be literal and physical?)
First, no need for "I'm not trying to trip you up." That thought never crossed my mind. I am absolutely convinced that you are a seeker of the truth. Your questions may be tough and challenging but we need that to grow and anyone who gets offended at tough questions needs to adjust their thinking.
So "Do I take those words of Yeshua as literal?" Great question... I have admitted that I have not spent nearly as much time focusing on the prophetic aspects of the Scriptures as I did in the not too distant past. However, Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 are three chapters that I have spent some time studying in the past few months. With the awareness that my views are always subject to change and my willingness to explore divergent interpretations, I will try to explain what I currently believe regarding Matthew 24 and these other related chapters.
As to the "sun will be darkened, stars will fall to the earth, and the powers of heaven shaken" ---- this is to me a wonderful example of Jewish apocalyptic writing. I don't take these phrases as "literal" but using some very bad examples, I see it similar to saying "all hell broke loose" or " it is raining cats and dogs." You mention Isaiah 13. We have similar language in Isaiah 34, Amos 8 and Ezekiel 32 for example. I don't believe that these events literally transpired during each of the different events mentioned in these chapters involving Babylon, Edom, Samaria and Egypt. I see it as a metaphor telling us that there is immense upheaval coming in which the power, authority, etc. of each of these nations is going to come to an end. To put it metaphorically, their "light" is going to go out.
For a variety of reasons, including other verses in the Bible which include the chapters mentioned above, historical events, the words of Josephus etc. I believe that Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the 1st century. I have looked at each verse in Matthew 24 and can see its fulfillment in the first century with the culmination of it, i.e. the great tribulation, occurring in and around 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem. When I read Josephus's account and verses in the New Testament, that is what I conclude. So, in one sense, I see those words of red as having a very literal fulfillment when we recognize the apocalyptic imagery being used and interpret it accordingly.
Now to the 2nd question - Do I think the Messiah's return will be literal and physical? For me this is a more difficult question or maybe better would be a question whose answer would require a lot of explanation and truthfully, I don't know if I am capable yet of trying to do that. It is something that I am looking into in much more detail. So, with that as the foundation for what will be a "weak" answer....
***, I cannot find any Scripture in the Bible where the phrase "second coming" is actually used. The words second and coming appear in only verse in the KJV Bible and they aren't together in the verse and the verse has nothing to do with this topic. In reading Matthew 24 and the other related chapters and several other passages written by Paul and Peter for example, I believe that "a coming" of Jesus was immanent in their life times, i.e. at the events of 70 A.D. and not something 2000+ years down the road. I suppose we could label it a second coming but I don't think it would be accurate. I have no problem for example as seeing the Day of Pentecost as "a coming" of Jesus. Nothing in this scenario precludes additional "comings" of Jesus in a variety of ways. He comes to individuals for example.
I have told our group that there are at least 5 or 6 Greek words that have to with his "coming" and they all have different meanings so you have to look at the underlying Greek (and maybe go back to the Hebrew)Â to determine just exactly what a verse in saying when it comes to the coming of Jesus. For example, one word may mean "to go from one place to another" whereas another verse may really be speaking about the "presence of a person" and both may be referred to as a "coming." So, do I think Jesus could show up here literally and physically.... Can he show up here spiritually and can that appearance be just as much reality as a physical appearance would be? Is He going to rapture out the church, intervene and save Israel and institute a 1000 year millennial kingdom? I really don't think so but could I be wrong? Absolutely! I am far more inclined to believe that the revealing of Christ occurs within the temple not made with hands meaning within us. All of creation is waiting, not for the "2nd coming" of Jesus, but instead for the manifestation of the Sons of God which I believe is the manifestation of Christ within each of us. I am far more inclined to think that God's plan to change the world is through the manifestation of Jesus in us as opposed to everyone hanging on until Jesus literally returns and "saves" the day.
Thanks again for the question. I find that in answering questions like these, it really helps me clarify in my own mind what it is that I believe.
Blessings, shalom, namaste