Do Not Join Them!

The later point in Luke 21:8 is a strong statement by the Nazarene and as rendered in the New Jerusalem Bible reads: ‘Do not join them!’ Who was it our Lord warned "not to join"?

Do you take the direct warnings of the Nazarene seriously? What did he predict as part of a warning to The Elect, or the Chosen Ones? A comparison of the Synoptic Gospels in a compound paraphrase of all the Nazarene’s prophetic warnings identifies the danger to any professing to be among the Elect today. These compound warnings include: ‘Look out no one misleads you, for many will come using my name, saying, "I am the Anointed,’ or, ‘I am he,’ or, ‘the time is at hand." Do not join them! They will mislead man. And many false prophets will rise and mislead many. And then if ever anyone says to you: "Look! The Christ is here!" you should not believe it. For many pseudo-anointed and false prophets will rise up and they will give great sighs and portents, so as to mislead, if possible, The Elect. Look! I have foretold you everything!’ (Luke 21:8; Matthew 24:23, 24)

The above represents a combining of all those warnings of the Nazarene in the three Synoptic Gospels, including Jesus’ words in Matthew, Mark and Luke on the subject of the Sign of the Parousia. What can we learn from these?

Jesus prophetically foretells there will be persons or organizations claiming to be The Anointed (the Messiah; the Christ) or God’s "prophet." They are identified by five characteristics: a) claiming the authority of Christ; b) preaching, "The Time is at Hand"; c) claiming, "Christ is here"; d) pointing to various proofs of God’s backing in various "signs"; and, e) professing to be "the Anointed" as God’s unique and special channel.

The Nazarene makes two points very clear in his answer to the questions of his four Apostles: even the Son of Man does not know the appointed time of the Parousia, or "presence"; and, none of his personal disciples know the day and hour of the King’s Arrival. (Matthew 24:36, 42, 44; Mark 13:32, 33, 35)

Who could be so arrogant and presumptuous to claim to know the very date which the Nazarene says even he is ignorant of: the exact chronology of the foretold Return of the Messiah? Many are the present day religious organizations and evangelical preachers who assure their follows that "the appointed time is near," or, "the time is at hand," or, "the Kingdom of God is near." Regarding the so-called "end of the world" they use such words as "soon," or, "immediately ahead," or, "within our generation."

Would those who make such world-wide and international claims regarding the extreme nearness of the end be willing to divest themselves of their wealth and property in harmony with the Nazarene’s commandment to the "little flock" at Luke 12:32, 33? If the end is so close what is their need of such riches as possessed in real estate and material things?

The Tension Between Ignorance and Expectation

As the year 1,000 AD approached in the Middle Ages, every kind of prophet and prognosticator appeared with predictions regarding the Return of Christ. Every natural and unnatural phenomenon was pointed to as proof of the imminence of the Second Coming. Every war, famine, earthquake, and plague was viewed as evidence "the last days" were upon the world. [NOTE: Jesus never uses the phrase "last days" or "time of the end."]

As a result millions of Christians, expecting the Return of Christ to Jerusalem, sold their worldly goods and made pilgrimages to that Holy City to await the parousia. A first, the Moslems welcomed their religious neighbors, but soon they grew tired of the intolerant Christians and persecution broke out. Hearing this, Christendom rallied to the defense of their brethren and thus began the "holy" Crusades. Some feel this war between Moslems land Christians still continues.

A similar spirit obtains now in the 3rd Millennium. [NOTE: see the work Nazarene Apocalypse – a commentary on Revelation] Likely, this fervor will increase in this beginning of a new millennium. These religious prophets have abounded following the French Revolution, but particularly from the mid-1800s. Today the print and electronic media are filled with predictions drawn from interpretations of Mathew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, Luke chapter 21, as well as other verses in the Hebrew and Christian Bible. In the past many dates have come and gone without the appearance or revelation of Christ. Years have been pointed to as the "end of the world": 1820, 1844, 1874, 1884, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1925-6, 1945, 1975, 1985, etc. What should be the view of the Nazarene Saints as they now have entered the third millennium since the birth of Christ?

There is a strong tension between Christian ignorance of the foretold Parousia (Arrival) of Christ expectation of such a world-shaking event. On the one hand all Christians are ignorant of the exact timing of the Return of the Son of Man. The Nazarene made this clear when he said: ‘But about that day and hour (of the Master’s Return) no one knows, neither the angels of the heavens, nor the Son, but only the Father. Keep looking and stay awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is. You also, prove yourselves ready, because in an hour you are not expecting the Son of Man is coming. Therefore, you, stay awake, for you do not know when the Lord of the House is arriving --- whether late afternoon, or midnight, or at cock-crowing, or early morning. Otherwise, the Lord of the House, having arrived suddenly, might find you sleeping. But, that which I say t you I say to all: STAY AWAKE!’ (Matthew 24:42, 44; Mark 13:32-37)

That the Nazarene had in mind a brief period of twelve hours, or half a day, which would encompass his Return (Presence, Arrival) is shown by the language of Jesus in describing this brief period. Note above he refers to such a twelve hour period from late afternoon to early morning. Elsewhere he contrasts people obviously living in day time and night time: those in the field or at the mill versus those sleeping in bed. (Matthew 24:40, 41; Mark 13:34, 35) [NOTE: when Christ visibly returns it will bed day and night on different parts of the earth.]

On a later occasion the Nazarene made it clear to his Apostles that it did not to them to get to know different "appointed times" or even the "season." Just before his ascension Jesus responded to his disciples’ question about the timing of matters, ‘It is not for you to know times or appointed times which is within the Father’s own authority.’ (Acts 1:7) How could any "prophet" be so arrogance, ego-centric, and audacious to suppose he or she knew more than Christ and his Apostles and somehow calculated by the use of Daniel, Ezekiel, or Revelation to the intent that we are now living in that exact time when Christ has or will Return?

The Nazarene was well aware of Moses’ own warning about false prophets at Deuteronomy 18:21, 22: ‘You may be privately wondering, "How are we to tell that a prophecy does not come from Yahweh (Jehovah)?" When a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh (Jehovah) and the thing does not happen and the word is not fulfilled, then it has not been said by Yahweh (Jehovah). The prophet has spoken presumptuously. You have nothing to fear from him.’ (NJB)

Jesus Christ said: a) do not believe them; and, b) do not join them. Any self-proclaimed "prophet" or "channel" -- or any group[ claiming to be "The Anointed" -- which also preach "The Time Is At Hand!" (Byington) should not be believed, followed, or joined. Certainly no economic support should be given what Jesus called pseudo-anointed or false prophets!

How to stay awake

Not knowing the exact day and hour of the Lord’s Return does not have to lead to a sleepy attitude regarding the Second Coming or Parousia of the Messiah. Ignorance (and thus some humility or lack of presumptuousness) need not destroy expectation and hope. All the Nazarene Saints hope their Lord will Return in their lifetime, but they are not authorized to go around predicting this will occur in "this generation." It may come in our life-time. It may not. So, what can we do? How do we remain awake as Jesus encouraged?

The Nazarene outlined several matters within the context of his answer to his disciples. [For details see the books Nazarene Principles, or Nazarene Apocalypse] At Luke 21:34-36 Jesus counseled: ‘But, be praying attention to yourselves that some time your hearts might become heavy because of over-eating, drunkenness, and anxieties of life, and suddenly that Day (of the King’s Arrival, or Parousia) will rise as a (sudden and unexpected) snare. For that Day will come in upon all those dwelling upon the farce of all the earth. Keep awake, and in every season make supplication in order that you might be strong to escape out of all the things about to occur.’ It is noteworthy what Jesus has omitted from this injunction. He mentions those negative and deleterious things to avoid and encourages only prayer and an expectant heart.

From the parables that follow these words we also lea about our responsibility toward others. The parable of the "faithful and discreet slave" demonstrates the need to care physically for fellow Household "domestics." (Matthew 24:45-47) This is emphasized morel fully in the longer parable of the sheep and goats. There the Nazarene stressed the need to offer loving charity and hospitality to even the most humble or insignificant disciple as if it were done to Christ himself. (Matthew 25:31-46)

Note that in this parable there is no elaborate religious ceremonial requirements such as faithfully attending Mass or preaching to others. It is purely a matter of human decency and good manners. The goats are only so because they fail to act in positive care to "one of the least of these my brothers." This is all so consistent with the Nazarene’s teachings elsewhere.

Observe the Commandment!

The Nazarene’s teachings with regard to an the expectant Heart, yearning for the Arrival of the King, is well summarized by the Beloved Apostle John: ‘This is The Commandment: we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ; and, be loving one another.’ (1 John 3:23) This belief or faith will be characterized by speech, as Paul writes: ‘I believed, therefore, I spoke.’ (2 Corinthians 4:13; Romans 10:9, 10) This love will be demonstrated in charity. (Luke 6:30-35; James 1:27; 2:15, 16; 1 John 3:16-18)

Let all the Friends of the Nazarene remain awake in faith and love as we live in expectation of our Lord’s Return.

Friends of the Nazarene Publishing

Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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