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New Testament Eschatology -- New Testament Background Continued

The Olivet Discourse Continued

For the last several posts, we have been going through the Olivet Discourse. We have seen that Jesus' entire 'sermon' has actually been an answer to the disciples question regarding the fall of the Temple. In a nutshell, the fall of Jerusalem, including the Temple, would happen within their generation. They and their contemporaries would witness it destruction. Furthermore, the Fall of Jerusalem would be a 'world shattering' event similar to the fall of Egypt or Babylon or the flood of Noah. Jesus gave them several 'signs' that would point that YHWH's judgment was coming, though the exact moment was unknown. Therefore, they must always be on the lookout so they could escape and not be caught up in it. People would be swept away by YHWH's judgment on the city but the outcome would be nothing less than the fulfillment of Daniel 7. The 'Son of Man' would be vindicated and all power and authority would be stripped from the rouge powers and be given to him. When it was all said and done, the cosmos would have a new King.

In this concluding look at our background information, we will examine, quite briefly, the stories Jesus told at the end of Matthew 24 and the first two-thirds of Matthew 25.
Matthew 24.45-51. "A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant is evil and thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The point I want to make here is one of delay. Most people see in the story a delay of the Second Coming of Jesus. They have tied it to the previous sections about the [supposed] re-establishment of Israel, the unknown time of Jesus return, the dissolving cosmos, etc. They see in this story that the servant is a general term meaning the followers of Jesus. And, clearly, the Second Coming of Jesus has been delayed for a long time. This story is about being faithful during that delay.

And I agree with that. However, this isn't about an unknown time with unknown servants. The story clearly talks about the 'master' returning to the 'servant' he left. This isn't a different servant. It was the same servant, the exact person, that the master left in charge. If the master returns and finds that servant acting badly, he will be judged like the 'hypocrites'. Clearly, Jesus is the 'master' in the story but the 'servant' isn't a general term for all followers of Christ throughout the ages. The 'servant' in the story is a general term for the disciples Jesus was talking to. In other words, Jesus' story is about leaving his disciples and returning to them. He is telling them that there would be a delay. But, they could be certain, his return and judgment would happen in their generation.

The next two stories follow the same theme. The story of the ten 'bridesmaids' is about the 'bridegroom' leaving them for a while and while he's away, five of the bridesmaids prepare for his return and five of them think they have plenty of time to prepare. However, the bridegroom is away for a long time and the five unprepared bridesmaids get a little lazy. But, the bridegroom returns and finds half of them unprepared and informs them that they are not fit to be his brides. Notice again, while there was a long delay, the bridegroom returned to the bridesmaids he left.

The story of the 'Three Servants' is more specific but the message is the same. A man is going away on a 'long trip'. But before he goes he gives three servants some bags of silver according to their 'abilities' and then leaves. While away, two servants invest the silver and make a profit for the man but the third servant buries it. 'After a long time' the man returns and wants the servants to give an account of what they did with the money. The first two are rewarded but the third is punished. Once more we see the point of the story. The man was gone for a 'long time' but he returned to the servants he left.

Therefore, these stories are about the time between Jesus ascension and the fall of Jerusalem forty years later (as an interesting aside, forty years equaled one generation, see Hebrews 3). In other words, Jesus was saying that he would return to the people he left.

But what about the last part of Matthew 25? The part called 'The Final Judgment'?

That's a good question. And I think it's best to answer that next time. The post would be too long to answer it here, so we, too, will have to have a 'delay'. Until then...

Peace be with you.

OD

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