I started writing about the scriptures primarily because I want to re-examine the teachings inside the Church of Christ, of which I was a member for a long time. Secondly, I am longing for the correct interpretations of the words of God. I am sharing the knowledge I learned, I do not ask you to believe me but I want you to read, understand and verify the scriptures yourself. This I believe how the Jews in Acts 17:11 examined the teachings if they are true so nothing wrong with reading, learning and verifying. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.“.
Many Christians, active or not in the practice of their religion, believe we are living in the last days. When people hear wars, natural or man-made disasters, earth quake, famines, contagious diseases, people start thinking the world is nearing its end. Other capitalize in these belief by selling their ideas in the book, others prepare themselves for Armageddon. It’s amazing how people have different views. The Church of Christ is very careful in using the scriptures when it comes to judgment day not mentioning any date but citing signs like rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, the coming of the Lord is like a thief in the night, no one knows the time of His coming, he who endures until the end will be saved. Many believe the last days is the days when the world is near to its destruction, that it is followed by our Lord Jesus Christ coming back to save the elect, like what every members of the Church of Christ expect as the chosen people of God in these last days.
The gospel is not kept in mystery but revealed (Rom 16:25-26) to us, contrary to the teaching of the INC. It is true that one cannot just read the bible and understand it, it requires great knowledge and understanding but it is wisdom. As Christians we grew up with a pre-conceived ideas called paradigm. For example, even before we learn about the scriptures, it is already in our mind that there is judgment day, the futuristic event where the world is going to burn and those who are save will go to heaven, the sinners will go to lake of fire.
Understanding the Bible
I believe the bible is profitable to us, but I know believe the bible it is NOT written to us, it is written FOR us. I am learning the bible by following some (because I do not know all yet) rules of hermeneutics, some of these rules I follow:
- The scriptures are inspired by God.
- The bible interpret itself, no bible verses contradicts another verse.
- Audience relevance. For example when we read Corinthians, the “you” refers to the Corinthians, not us people of year 2016. There maybe some verses “you” referring to another audience but mainly the letter was written for Corinthians. Same thing applies for Thessalonians, it is written for Thessalonians.
- The scriptures are written with context. Understanding the context is key to understanding the language.
Racing Against The Time
In my previous article, we learned something about the “end of the age”. I have yet to finish that series with an interesting topic full of historical events. Most Christians translate the “end of the age” (Matthew 24:3) as “end of the world” and take all the signs mentioned in Matthew 24 as if they are all signs for every generations of mankind. As i learned the bible, I find many differences amongst Christian denomination but most believe we live in the “last days“. I find the bible really speak of the “end of the age” not the “end of the world” or “end of the earth” and I have compelling evidences (from reading other articles) there is a big difference between the “age” and “world”. We never knew the bible speak of the “end of the age” because of our pre-conceived ideas of judgment day.
In the PASUGO or God’s Message magazine December 2014 publication, Bro. Celerino Baclaan article titled “Racing against the time” used the verses in Matthew 24:6-8 and Luke 21:11 to describe the signs of the last days, or the signs towards the end of the word.
Using these verses, he is inspiring members how the Executive Minister of the Church is leading the people of God towards perfection and spiritual maturity.
There is however problem in using these verses to refer to the signs in our time. I think there is theory of equivocations here, intentional or not, the Church is using the signs mentioned in Matthew 24:8 and Luke 21:11 in the wrong context. When it comes to earth quake, from 1970 to 2012 world statistics, http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/other/quake1.html, 2012 is ranked 16 out of 43 years of data. In fact, Charles F. Richter, the originator of the “Richter scale,” in an article published in the December 1969 issue of Natural History magazine said: “One notices with some amusement that certain religious groups have picked this rather unfortunate time to insist that the number of earthquakes is increasing. In part they are misled by the increasing number of small earthquakes that are being catalogued and listed by newer, more sensitive stations throughout the world” (page 44).”
How about famines? Famines exists even in the first century.
Acts 11:28 (NKJV) Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Pestilences is a deadly or virulent epidemic diseases and is sometimes goes hand in hand with famines but not always. According to CNN, http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/10/health/epidemics-through-history/, Great Plague of London killed 25 million in year 1334. In year 1633 Small fox killed 20 million in America. In 2014, the estimated Ebola victims is 1.4 million. Though I do not have latest stats, CNN’s article does not show increasing year over year diseases. Even if we see high numbers it is like because we have technology now to record every disease than in the pre-computer era.
I think the most common mistake of Christian religions is that when they read or hear “you” in the bible, immediately think it refers to us. From the first century Christians to every generation until our time, the time of our children and our children’s children generation. Think for a moment, if first century Christians are waiting for the coming of Christ, Christ has not come until now, are we not being deceived? Others preach that God want every generation to wait so that we always long for Him and continue doing good things. Is that not deceiving? What else in the bible is not true? I believe in the bible and the bible is inspired by God therefore all that is says are true. It is only people interpreting it incorrectly.
Here is the another problem. The signs used in Matthew 24, though the words are very well applicable in our time, they are in fact signs for every generations. Earth quake exist even in ancient times. Yes we record more earth quake in our time but that is because we have advance technology. It is simply science. Wars exist in every generations of mankind. The same is famines and pestilences, they exists in every generations even the old testament (Jeremiah 14:12).
The context of Matthew 24 starts in with story of Christ speaking to the Apostles and the Jews inside the Jerusalem Temple In Matthew 23:37-38, NKJV, Christ said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate;“. Christ was speaking to his audience, the Apostles (who are Jews) and the other Jews inside the Temple. He summarized the history of Jews in the Old Testament how he wanted to gather them but they never became obedient. Christ then told the Jews that Jerusalem will be desolated – this was telling the Jews of the impending judgment. While Christ and the Apostles are leaving the Temple, the Apostles speaking how beautiful the Temple is. Christ again spoke of the Temple destruction. This time the audience are the Apostles. In Matthew 24:1-2, NKJV, “Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple [ as they leave the building]. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”. Let me quote the parallel text what happens after leaving the temple.
The topic regarding the Jerusalem Temple destruction is the context here. The Apostles asked questions regarding the temple destruction. Some teach that the destruction of Jerusalem temple is symbolic, it symbolize what will happen to the end of the world. The problem with this belief is that history confirms all the signs provided by Christ in Matthew 24 happens when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. There is no doubt the destruction of the Jerusalem temple is a significant event.
Matthew 24:6 (NKJV) “6 And YOU will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that YOU are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but THE END IS NOT YET. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
When Christ said you will hear wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilences in Matthew 24:6, he was answering the question of the Apostles. “When will these [destruction of Jerusalem Temple] things be?”.
The Apostles asked a second question connecting it to the first question, “When is your second coming and the end of the age?“. The Apostle have some knowledge that the destruction of the temple is probably the end of the age as they know from the Old Testament. It is here in the second question that many Christians have different interpretations but hold on to this for now.
In Matthew 24:9, Christ said, “Then they will deliver YOU up to tribulation and kill YOU, and YOU will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.”. Who is the YOU?, Audience relevance, Christ was speaking to the Apostles, no us year 2016 people! History confirms how Apostles had been killed.
In Matthew 24:34, 36, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32, all connects the Jerusalem Temple destruction (the context of Matthew 24 and parallel text in Mark and Luke) to the present generation in their time.
Again audience relevance. “this generation” cannot be referring to our generation, 2016 people. Christ was speaking to “this generation” as the generation of the Apostles who are standing in front of him. In Matthew 16:27-28, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”. Audience relevance, “some standing here”, who are standing? The Apostles!
There are only two possibilities of Matthew 16: 28.
- Some Apostles are alive today and will not die till the Son of Man will come to satisfy Matthew 16:28
- Christ really meant what He said it will happen to the generation of the Apostles.
Was Christ using the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple to describe the end of the world symbolically? We can definitely say yes if the Jerusalem Temple was not destroyed in 70 A.D. and signs were not fulfilled. The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple is the judgment of God, the same judgment when the Babylonians captured Israel in 587 BC, it is the end of the age, the end of the first covenant of God to the nation of Israel, the end of the physical temple, the beginning of the new covenant, the start of spiritual temple. The new covenant does not have prophesied ending, in fact it is everlasting.
So how did the Son of Man came to the generation of the Apostles? Hold on to your question. There is a lot to know in the bible. As a long time member of the Church I felt like I missed a lot of teachings in the bible. I think you too!
I believe I have presented you biblical passages that are in true context, not just made up interpretations. There is no doubt in my mind the INC is using the signs spoken in Matthew 24:6-8 in the wrong context. Christ used very strong words “Assuredly”. “Assuredly, I say to YOU, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”. Again Christ used strong words, “Assuredly, I say to YOU, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”. He is not saying some standing here [in front of Him] will not die, he is saying they will not die until they see the Son of Man comes. Who is the YOU? Audience relevance, the Apostles. If you read about the Jerusalem Temple history, you can imagine how the Jewish world has ended by the horrific experience they had. The destruction of Jerusalem temple is indeed a significant event. I believe this school of thought regarding Matthew 24:6-8 and the entire Matthew 24 is the most logical explanation.
In the next article I will cover when is the last days started. When is the last days ended? If it did not end yet, when is it ending? We will of course study this in comparison to how it is being taught inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo or Church of Christ.