May 24, 2019

Wednesday in Holy Week 2019

Wednesday in Holy Week 2019
Portent

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

…‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Luke 21:5-6, 20-28

Luke is not writing about “the Second Coming” in this text, nor was Jesus talking about it. Continuing the theme of the Temple as he moves throughout Jerusalem in Holy Week, Jesus now directly foretells the destruction of Israel’s sacred landmark. What he had earlier enacted in prophetic demonstration and narrated in parabolic allegory, he now proclaims openly.

Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies. Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles. Great distress, wrath, and violence will fill the city. Portents in the earth and sky will announce the coming devastation.

The Temple, the most beautiful building one could imagine, adorned and decorated by the skill and love of hundreds of years, and occupying the central place in the national life, religion, and imagination — the Temple itself would be torn down. It had come to stand for the perversion of Israel’s call that Jesus had opposed throughout his public career. If he was right, the present Temple was wrong; if God was to vindicate him, that would have to include the Temple’s destruction.

• Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone, p. 251

“The coming of the son of man” in this text should be understood in terms of Daniel 7. In this text, the son of man comes, not from heaven to earth, but to God’s throne in heaven where he and the people of God are vindicated against the nations that oppress them. Even so, Jesus will be vindicated as Lord over the nations, enthroned in the heavens, and his followers rescued.

‘Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ (Luke 21:36)

Jesus’ first followers had been warned. In just a few days, Jesus’ own experience at the hands of the earthly powers would further portend the difficult road ahead for them.

But then — the hope of vindication.

Comments

  1. “The coming of the son of man” in this text should be understood in terms of Daniel 7. In this text, the son of man comes, not from heaven to earth, but to God’s throne in heaven”

    I’m having difficulty seeing that – probably because the vast majority of commentaries I’ve read peg this squarely as referring to the Second Coming.

    • NT Wright has dealt with this extensively, and, to my mind, convincingly in his books.

    • Yes, dispensationalism’s influence is hard to escape. In the passage, the ‘Ancient of Days’ (God) takes his seat of judgment (v. 9-10). After that v. 13-14 say this:

      13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
      14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

      ‘One like a son of man’ (Jesus’ favorite term for himself) was presented to the ‘Ancient of Days’ and is given his dominion, glory, kingdom, etc. But note that the ‘son of man’ comes ‘with the clouds of heaven’ TO the Ancient of Days to receive his kingdom, not that he comes to the earth to rule. This is the scene to which Jesus refers when he answers the Caiaphas in Matt 26:64. The scene in Daniel 9 happens in heaven, not on earth.

      • The scene in Daniel 7 happens in heaven . . . . Sorry.

      • Wasn’t it also so interpreted prior to dispensationalism?

        • Matthew Henry – 1708-1710 – believed it refers to Jesus’ ascension, a commonly held view.

          “He is said to come with the clouds of heaven. Some refer this to his incarnation; he descended in the clouds of heaven, came into the world unseen, as the glory of the Lord took possession of the temple in a cloud. The empires of the world were beasts that rose out of the sea; but Christ’s kingdom is from above: he is the Lord from heaven. I think it is rather to be referred to his ascension; when he returned to the Father the eye of his disciples followed him, till a cloud received him out of their sight, Acts 1:9. He made that cloud his chariot, wherein he rode triumphantly to the upper world. He comes swiftly, irresistibly, and comes in state, for he comes with the clouds of heaven. 3. He is here represented as having a mighty interest in Heaven. When the cloud received him out of the sight of his disciples, it is worth while to enquire (as the sons of the prophets concerning Elijah in a like case) whither it carried him, where it lodged him; and here we are told, abundantly to our satisfaction, that he came to the Ancient of days; for he ascended to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God (Jn. 20:17); from him he came forth, and to him he returns, to be glorified with him, and to sit down at his right hand.”

          Wright’s view is common among Reformed folks and preterists. From the Ligioneer website:

          “In AD 70, God judged this generation of impenitent Jews when He allowed the Roman general Titus to destroy Jerusalem. Today’s passage, in fact, is tied in its original context to that destruction, which can be regarded as part of the entire complex of events surrounding the vindication of the Son of Man, His ascension on the clouds of heaven, and His session at the right hand of God the Father to rule and to reign over all creation (Matt. 24:15–28). Jerusalem’s fall and Christ’s ascension revealed Him as Lord of all, which Daniel foresaw hundreds of years beforehand.”

          (https://www.ligonier.org/learn/devotionals/ascension-son-man/)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Daniel.
      From when the Bible only had 3 1/2 books back in the Seventies:
      Revelation.
      Daniel.
      The Nuclear War Chapter of Ezekiel (the 1/2).
      And (superseding the other 2 1/2) Hal LIndsay’s Late Great Planet Earth.

      And the only part of Daniel mentioned was Daniel 7. (Any minute now…)

  2. The Temple, the most beautiful building one could imagine, adorned and decorated by the skill and love of hundreds of years, and occupying the central place in the national life, religion, and imagination — the Temple itself would be torn down. It had come to stand for the perversion of Israel’s call that Jesus had opposed throughout his public career. If he was right, the present Temple was wrong; if God was to vindicate him, that would have to include the Temple’s destruction.

    I’m uncomfortable with talk of the destruction of the Second Temple as God’s judgment of Israel. Too often and too easily such talk has been extended out in the long history of Christian antisemitism. After all, if God judged Israel in this way in the first century, is it much of a stretch to see all the pogroms against Jews since, their long history of suffering at the hands of Christians (and others), right up to and including the Holocaust as the result of similar judgments of God against the Jews for not acknowledging Jesus Christ as Messiah? It’s not a long stretch at all; it is almost a theological fait accompli when once you see God’s judgment against Israel in the destruction of the Temple, in combination with certain texts in the New Testament in which the Jews as a group seem to be condemned for the death of Christ. I’m not comfortable with this in the least.

  3. I’m uncomfortable with talk of the destruction of the Second Temple as God’s judgment of Israel. Too often and too easily such talk has been extended out in the long history of Christian antisemitism. After all, if God judged Israel in this way in the first century, is it much of a stretch to see all the pogroms against Jews since, their long history of suffering at the hands of Christians (and others), right up to and including the Holocaust as the result of similar judgments of God against the Jews for not acknowledging Jesus Christ as Messiah? It’s not a long stretch at all; it is almost a theological fait accompli when once you see God’s judgment against Israel in the destruction of the Temple, in combination with certain texts in the New Testament in which the Jews as a group seem to be condemned for the death of Christ. I’m not comfortable with this in the least.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Hunh, if the New Testament triggers you, the Holy Thursday services in the Orthodox Church would leave you with your mouth wide open. If you have raced with the footmen…

      If anything, the destruction of the Second Temple should fill every sensitive believer with trepidation. If you take the ministry of John the Baptist seriously, you have to believe every living Jew in Palestine was presented with a clear-cut choice, and it appeared that most chose to stand with the Temple, It made sense. It had continuity, tradition, and authority on its side, and more than not likely I would have chosen to stand with the Temple as well. Knowing that scares me shitless, because I may be standing with the Temple, or worse, with Rome, right now.

      If the Jews have suffered since then, the idea is not so much that they “deserved” it, but that it forefigures the self-condemnation of all who reject Him and persist in their rejection. “Unless you repent, ye shall also likewise perish…” The story of the Jews isn’t finished yet, but I’ve always felt that God deals with them more openly than with other peoples so that all may fear Him.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Knowing that scares me shitless, because I may be standing with the Temple, or worse, with Rome, right now.

        Or Constantinople.
        Or Moscow.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          Naw – Rome as Empire, not as Church.

          I look at the Temple Jews the way RobertF looks at jingoistic nationalism, with an overweening desire to emphasize national privileges and distinctives.

          Rome was the other side of the coin, the Globalists of their day. The Roman apologetic was that the “lesser” races of the Mediterranean basin couldn’t get along since they were lacking in sensu iustiatae and needed the Pax Romana imposed 0on them for their own good.

          • The story of the Jews isn’t finished yet, but I’ve always felt that God deals with them more openly than with other peoples so that all may fear Him.

            I don’t see how such a view differs significantly from the double-predestination view of the purpose of eternal punishment of the preterite (defined as those not elected to salvation) in Reformed/Calvinist fundamentalism. You haven’t traveled far from your roots, Mule.

            • Burro (Mule) says

              God’s ultimate purpose is the salvation of all Israel. That He may use even the Holocaust to that purpose in not something I care to investigate too closely, but I’m not going to dismiss it out of hand just because it seems brutal.

              I fail to parse double predestination out of that. My hope is that all sentience will eventually be saved, but my intuition is that there will be a horrible price to be paid on all sides. If God didn’t spare Jesus, I fail to see where we think He should spare us.

              • The idea that a whole class of people are to be object lessons for others of the holiness of God and the hideousness of sin is the link that double predestination has to your statement: God damns the reprobate so that the elect can see his glory and the sinfulness of the damned; God punishes the Jews “openly” so that others can see the wages of rejecting Christ and fear him. Little room for actual relationship there — whole peoples just exist as quantities plugged into a theological formula to serve God’s purposes.

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says

                  Just expendable pieces to move around on the Theology gameboard.

                • Norma Cenva says

                  In my view (and in Judaism) the idea is totally repugnant.
                  But it’s standard fare in various brands of Christianity.

    • I want to be sensitive here too, Robert. Antisemitism should hold no place in our hearts. But Jesus is speaking as a Jewish prophet to his peers here, and standing firmly in the long tradition of the Hebrew prophets and the Hebrew Bible itself. This is Jewish self-critique, not Gentile blame.

    • Christiane says

      I don’t blame you, Robert, for raising the possibility of anti-Semitism as an issue because the truth is that Anti-Semitism is rising dramatically in this country and in Western Europe. But from what I have read, interpretation of texts are open to dispute among scholars, so there is room for tolerance for most of the possibilities, other than the hateful AntiSemitism, of course.

      Heads up on a great Netflix series: ‘Designated Survivor’ . . . . au courant, keeps you on the edge of your seat, good acting, and boy howdy does it hit on political themes, but it is a fiction work. Take a look if you have Netflix.

  4. Burro, you are spot on and it also scares me shitless. It certainly forefigures all who persist in rejection of Christ.

    • Christiane says

      “all who persist in rejection of Christ”

      “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall
      enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth
      the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

      lotta ‘Lord, Lord’s going on out there coming from hypocrites

    • Burro (Mule) says

      The one thing I have retained from my days as a Calvinist is a keen appreciation for my powerful capacity for self-deception and self-congratulation.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Luke is not writing about “the Second Coming” in this text, nor was Jesus talking about it.

    Somebody tell that to the Four Blood Moons/Rapture Ready crowd.
    Or save your breath. The Dwarfs are for The Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      Are that lot still around? I thought contemporary Christianity was far less A Thief In The Night and much more Blue Like Jazz

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        No, the Rapture Ready crowd is still around. Hagee is their current high-profile Prophet and the Rise of Trump (and switching the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem) has given the Christians for Nuclear War an orgasm. “IT’S PROPHESIED! IT’S PROPHESIED!”

    • oh, to be a Dwarf !!!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Trust me.
        You DON’T want to be the Dwarfs in that reference.

        In The Seventh Chronicle of Narnia: The Last Battle; they represent a concept called “Invincible Ignorance” which today is most characteristic of Conspiracy True Believers.

        (In any case, my favored plural is “Dwarves” as coined by Tolkien; “Dwarfs” is the English standard default used by Lewis.)

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Luke is not writing about “the Second Coming” in this text, nor was Jesus talking about it.

    But in the Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and his disciples, EVERYTHING in the Bible is “about the Second Coming” as choreographed in all the Rapture Ready End Time Prophecy checklists.