Wednesday, August 09, 2006

End of the world; further thoughts

Monday Mark 13:26-27
"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens
To fully understand Mark's rendering of the second coming you must read chapter 13 in its entirety. If you read this chapter closely you will see that all the preachers on TV for the past couple of weeks citing the violence between Israel and Hezbullah as evidence of the second coming are completely undermined. War, natural disaster, persecution of believers... the things which so many interpret as signs of Christ's return... do not mean that Jesus is returning, (see v. 7 'the end is still to come.) Mark is sure that Christ will return, and equally sure that his return will bring a whole new heaven and earth into existence (which is the symbolic meaning of the destructive imagery in vv. 24-25) But apart from Christ's return all that Mark is sure of is the believer's posture. We are to be waiting expectantly. In v. 32 Jesus exhorts us to be alert. In other word's time spent reading tea leaves, checking the stars and reading the bible for secret codes is time wasted. But how should our time be spent?

Matt 25:34-36
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me...
What is the expectant and alert believer to do while waiting for the second coming of Christ? This section of Matt 25 tells us. If you read the beginning of the parable (VV. 31-33) this ethical imperative is placed in the context of the second coming. When Jesus returns to judge the just and unjust, Jesus will look at their ethics; how did they treat the poor and the sick, the abused and the imprisoned.
Matt and Mark together give a good hint at what it is the Christian is meant to believe about this second coming. While so much 'Second Coming' talk in popular American Christianity abandons this world and banishes it to destruction, and completely ignores the poor and impoverished, only focusing on personal piety, Matt and Mark show us what Second Coming is all about. Mark makes plain the notion that Christ's return is not about the sweet by and by, some magical realm 'beyond the sunset.' Jesus is returning to recreate this world. Jesus is not abandoning creation, but re-making it, so there must be something of value about this world. Matt shows us how to wait expectantly. By working to re-make this world here and now by serving, helping, caring, and giving, we are waiting expectantly. The second coming is all about finally making the world a place of comfort, compassion and peace, a world Christ will bring as we live these values while waiting.


Rod said...

Are you Sure? Like everything dealing in bible translation or interpretation, there are as many interpretations as users. Why are you right and the many of others wrong?

darin said...

I am not thinking in terms of right and wrong as much as in terms of useful and not so useful. Jesus himself said that no one would know the day or time. So spending time trying to figure out the day and time, Jesus has said, is pointless. What is the practical purpose of thinking about the second coming for believers? That is the question. What is the purpose of thinking about the second coming for all believers in every time and place? As you read in this post, the point of second coming theology is to encourage us to live ethical, compassionate lives while we wait. Trying to figure out who the 'anti-christ' is or when Christ will return is wasted energy. Trying to find the poor and hungry, the forgotten, ignored and oppressed, that is the point, that is how Jesus lived his life. That makes the second coming relevant to every-day believers