Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mark 13 – Conundrums of Prophecy

Some people hear how Jesus said “I will return soon” and think, “yeah, right, so why haven’t you returned in the last 20 centuries?” Sophistic arguments about how “he has returned in the Spirit of His People” ya-da-ya-da-ya-da  are discounted and rightly so.

As mentioned in the Matthew 24 post, I am not a student of prophecy. I can’t even intelligently discuss pre-post-or-mid tribulation, much less defend a position. Whenever I ponder this failing, I remember the New Yorker cartoon in which the elderly French man says to a little schoolchild, “Mon petite cherie, I have lived eighty long and happy years without ever knowing how to explain the Pluperfect Subjunctive Tense.”

But thanks to my parents, my first grade teacher Mrs. Bates, and especially my third grade teacher Mrs. Pitts, I can read. And what I read plainly in Mark 13 answers a lot about the return of Jesus Christ.

First, as to why his return has taken “so long”: see verse 10, “and the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” Due to limitations in global geography and transportation, worldwide missions wasn’t even attempted until about 200 years ago. Progress has been steady, but according to Wycliffe Bible Translators (www.wycliffe.org) 340,000,000 people speaking 2100 languages have no Bible in their own language. No wonder that God, who delights at one sinner repenting over 99 who don’t, has withheld His call for the last trump.

Second, “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Understood as 30 years, vs. 30 is a problematic verse, to say the least. But understood as “race”, it is prophecy come true, so far. What other first century “people group” is intact, other than the Jews? Then, as now, they observe (sometimes in the breach) Moses, teachers like Gamaliel, sacred teachings like the Mishnah; their middle-eastern nation is under attack by gentile oppressors; they struggle with how much to assimilate with gentiles; they say the Shema (Hear O Israel, the Lord Your God is One”) in their synagogues. Despite centuries of forced change, abuse and apparent powerlessness, many if not most Jews are Jews first. Jewish identity is in no danger of disappearing. Of what other first century people can it be said 20 centuries later that “this generation will certainly not pass away?” Truly, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

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