Nazarene Apocalypse ©2000

DID JESUS GIVE THEM “A SIGN”?

#34. Jesus does give what could be called a “sign” regarding the “end” of Jerusalem. Indeed, a translation of the Aramaic into English renders Matthew 24:15, ‘When you (Jewish disciples) see the Sign of the Refuse of Desolation . . . then let those in Judaea flee to the mountains.’ (Lamsa) Though Matthew and Mark lack this word “sign” here, you can understand by a careful reading again of these verses, what Jesus had in mind. Here the Nazarene has made an allusion or paraphrase of the apocalyptic Book of Daniel. Jesus most likely is paraphrasing Daniel 8:10-13, 9:26-27, 11:15 and 11:31-24. Essentially, these prophetic verses foretell what can be called “an Abomination of Desolation” which will build siege works against Jerusalem and utterly desolate or destroy her and her Temple.

#35. This is not the first time Jesus foretold the destruction of Jerusalem. Note that in Luke 19:41-44, just days before the disciples’ question regarding the “end,” Jesus had used language highly similar to those words above in Daniel: ‘Because the days will arrive upon you, and your enemies will build a palisade encircling you, and they will distress you from every side, and they will dash you and your children to ground, and not a stone will be left upon a stone.’ It is the Gospel of Luke which explains, or provides a commentary on, what Matthew and Mark call “the disgusting thing that causes desolation,” namely, the Roman armies with their idolatrous insignias in their foretold attack against Jerusalem. (Luke 21:20)

#36. This actually took place and you can read an eyewitness account about it if you get a copy of the Jewish work by Josephus of the First Century, The Wars of the Jews. Jerusalem and her Temple were destroyed in the year 70 AD with one million deaths and only 100,000 survivors. How many listened to Jesus and got out of the region of Judaea is not known although there is some evidence that certain Christians fled to nearby mountains.

#37. Reading all of the accounts together from Matthew 24:4-22, Mark 13:5-20, and Luke 21:8-24, do you get the sense that Jesus is talking about “the end” of Jerusalem and her Temple? Did Jesus understand that part of the disciples question which asked for the “sign” of the “end of the world”? Does Jesus answer anywhere in these verses talk aboutthe end of the world”? Or, anywhere else for that matter, as it has traditionally come down to us, that is, other than from the Jewish perspective of his disciples? The synteleia or complete end, consummation, of that Jewish Age as represented in its Holy City and sacred Temple?

IS THIS THE ONLY “SIGN” JESUS GAVE?

#38. Now it is time to read these chosen sections from Matthew, Mark, and Luke which deal with matters after the desolation of Jerusalem and her Temple. Take your time and read carefully Matthew 24:23-35, Mark 13:24-31, and Luke 21:25-33.

#39. After having read the above, and thinking about it, what further “sign”166 did Jesus mention? What was this “sign” all about? Do you not read in these accounts that the second “sign” Jesus lists deals with the Son of Man’s Arrival, or what has been called the Second Coming? Is it not clear that when answering his disciples’ question, the Nazarene first deals with the later part regarding “the end” of Jerusalem and then turns his attention to the first part and the parousia or the coming, arrival, advent of the Messianic King?
166 SIGN. This is the Greek word semeion the disciples used in their question.

#40. When you think about these verses you will see that Jesus treats the subject of his future Coming right after he has finished with the destruction of Jerusalem. In Matthew and Mark this desolation of Jerusalem is called “a great oppression,” or, “tribulation.” Luke does not use this expression, but chooses to describe “the end” of Jerusalem as ‘days of distress and great necessity upon the land’ of Judea. (Luke 21:23) This section has always presented problems for serious Bible students and Christian scholars for a thousand years or more. It is not necessary to present these views to offer a suggestion to the possible solution.

A PROBLEM?

#41. What is the problem? Well, we have Jesus predicting the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in a “great tribulation” or “oppression.” Then, ‘immediately after the Oppression’ on Jerusalem we have Jesus returning in glory and sending forth his angels to gather the Chosen Ones, or The Elect, from all the earthly globe. Simply stated, this did not happen after the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70. It is reasonable to assume that if Jesus had visibly returned in heavenly glory, with all the attendant celestial phenomenon after the year 70, someone would have remembered such an event and reported it. So, what is wrong?

#42. If Jesus’ prediction did not fully occur, then we must assume he was a false prophet. But, we have an unusual Prophet who foretells all the events most accurately, and then his prophecy fails when it comes to the celestial phenomenon and gathering of the Saints. Many modern critics, including some Christian scholars, do not believe anyone has the ability to foretell human events. So they treat these so-called prophecies of the Nazarene as forgeries written years after the destruction of Jerusalem by deceitful and misguided religionists who only made it appear Jesus’ words were prophecies. What does this make Jesus and his disciples involved in this fake? Frauds of the worse sort! However, judging from what we know of these early Christians and their virtuous character, fraud did not seem to be in their makeup. How can one get from the same man the most honest and gentlest of teachings and at the same time the worst forgery ever perpetrated on mankind?

#43. Additionally, these same Christian frauds and liars were willing to die for their beliefs, something we need not document since history confirms the mass slaughter of millions of Christians down through the Ages. They do not impress us as the type of people who would lie deliberately, even to save their lives. How is it we can judge them as frauds and manipulators and at the same time know of their sublime virtue?

#44. There is a simple answer for those who still believe deeply in Jesus Christ the Nazarene. Most people, including scholars, forget an important point in all of this: Jesus was asked a question he could not precisely answer, “When?” He admits this, probably out of concern for the disciples’ misguided zeal. Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 have Jesus acknowledging, ‘About that day and hour no one knows. Not the angels. Not even the Son. But only the Father.’ Jesus admits he is ignorant of the “when” or “day and hour” (which would include the year167) of “the appointed time” of his Return or Arrival. Not knowing the “when” the only thing the Nazarene knows is the sequence of chronological events. For all practical purposes, his own parousia may be after the destruction of Jerusalem. Of course, it will be.
167 YEAR. If one has the “day and hour” then it follows one has the year. If one had the year it would not necessarily follow that one knew the “day and hour.”

#45. Jesus made it clear to his disciples that they could never know this precise timing of matters dealing with his foretold parousia or Arrival. He continues in Mark, chapter 13, verse 33, ‘Keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is.’ Over a month later, before Jesus’ ascension, the disciples again repeat their question about the timing of matters. Acts, chapter 1, verse 6, records their question and the answer of the Nazarene: ‘Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?’ To which their Lord answers, ‘It is not for you to know of times or appointed times which the Father has put in his own authority.’ Why would any future disciple, say in the last 120 or 150 years or less, presumptuously168 think to have discovered some cryptic method of predicting the “day and hour” of the Lord’s Return?
168 PRESUMPTUOUS. See Deuteronomy 18:20-22 and the presumptuous prophet.

#46. Jesus must reflect this limitation169 to his own foreknowledge when he discusses the events to follow the “oppression” on Jerusalem. Some Biblical scholars feel he just telescopes or jumps to the next important event where the events, like mountain ridges, are separated by scores of centuries, or even millenniums. If a man admits he does not know the exact timing of a matter, and he is making a list of consecutive events that he does know, it stands to reason that he will list these matters chronologically, despite any extreme time between these events. This scholarly idea may be partially correct. However, Jesus may have copied something similar from the ancient prophet Daniel.
169 JESUS’ LIMITATION. This will seem shocking to a Trinitarian who believes Jesus was God ignoring Matthew 24:36 as evidence against this.

#47. Jesus’ words regarding this foretold “oppression” on Jerusalem are not original with him.170 The Nazarene borrows in a paraphrase from Daniel chapters 11 and 12, a prophecy written either in the Fifth, Third, or Second Century BCE, depending on the authority you accept.171. Note this in Daniel 11:44 and Daniel 12:1, ‘In great fury (the king of the north, Rome) will set out to bring ruin and destruction to many. He will pitch the tents of his royal headquarters between (the Mediterranean) Sea and the (Judaean) mountains of Holy Splendour. . . At that time Michael will arise (appear, JPS), the Great Prince, defender of your People (Israel). That will be a time of great distress (oppression) unparalleled since nations first came into existence.172 When that time comes, your own People will be spared (rescued, JPS)---all those whose names are found written in the Book.’
170 ORIGINAL. The Nazarene often makes clear that what he teaches “is not my own” but originates with his Father. (John 5:19, 30; 7:17; 8:28; 12:28) More often than most realize, the Nazarene borrows single words, brief phrases and longer portions from the Hebrew Bible. Some of these escape Bible versions in their marginal cross references.
171 TIME OF DANIEL’S WRITING. Daniel himself claims the Fifth Century, about 540 BC. Skeptics who do not believe in prophecy or inspiration want to place Daniel much later around 160 BC. Though this may solve their problem with certain ‘prophecies’ about Persia and Greece, it still leaves those prophecies dealing with Jerusalem and the Messiah. (Daniel chs 8, 9 and 11) When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and dated between 200-300 BC portions of the Book of Daniel were contained in ancient parchments. Daniel is also found in the Septuagint (LXX) which dates from the Third Century BC.
172 NATIONS. The JPS renders this ‘since the nation came into being’ limiting the phrase to Israel.

#48. Now it is easy to see how much of this regarding Jerusalem in Daniel is the same thing Jesus said in the Gospels. Just as Jesus continues ‘after the tribulation’, even so, Daniel continues to slay that along with this divine rescue or deliverance, there is a raising of the dead in a resurrection. Daniel chapter 12, verse continues: ‘Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens. So, both Jesus and Daniel report or foretell a resurrection or angelic gathering following the “great oppression.”

#49. Matthew chapter 24 and Mark chapter 13 are not the only times Jesus referenced Daniel chapter 12, verse 2 regarding the resurrection. The Nazarene may have made these paraphrases in the Gospel of John at chapter 5, verse 28 and 29, ‘The hour is coming when all those in tombs173 will hear the voice of the Son and come out, those having done good things in a resurrection of life and those who did vile things in a resurrection of condemnation.’ John chapter 11, verse 25 and 26174 may have Daniel 12:1, 2 in mind. Also, Daniel 12:3 is paraphrased in the context of another synteleia. This is in Matthew chapter 13, verses 41 and 43: ‘The Son of Man will send forth his angels (at the Harvest, a consummation of the Age). ... At that time the Righteous will shine forth as the sun in the Father’s Kingdom.’
173 TOMBS. This phrase, ‘all those in the tombs,’ is borrowed from Isaiah 26:19 in LXX: ‘The dead will be resurrected and all those in the tombs shall rise.’
174 John 11.25, 26. The Nazarene lists two groups of believers: a) those who die; and, b) those who do not. This fits the description given in Daniel 12:1, 2.

#50. Most Christian commentators would place this angelic harvest following the Return of Christ. It has all the images of Matthew 24:30, 31: ‘And the tribes of the earth will lament in grief as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the Sky. And he will send forth his angels to gather his Chosen Ones.’ Obviously, none of this occurred following Jerusalem’s destruction. How could a prophet so accurately foretell the first half of something and completely fail in the later half? Unless, the synteleia (end, conclusion, consummation) in the parable at Matthew chapter 13 is different from the synteleia the disciples asked about, the “end” of Jerusalem. Are there two “ends” or synteleias? Are there two “arrivals”? Are there two “great oppressions”?

Nazarene Commentary 2000

Mark Heber Miller

2000 All Rights Reserved