“In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn.” -Jesus
“but gather the wheat into my barn.” -Still Jesus
Enough said–convinced yet? To be honest, I am. The parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13 was the Scripture that broke my brain. Let me retreat a step further. I was perfectly content and comfortable with my end-times beliefs. I was believing in a literal millennium kingdom, of 1000 years (he wrote redundantly), and of a pre-tribulation rapture of the church, which excluded the commonwealth of Israel. I believed God had two distinct peoples, despite what I had read in Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.” I also believed that animal sacrifices and another temple were coming and God would look upon it with favor, even after reading Hebrews–all of it–but especially chapter 10, verse 29; “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
I was good with what I was believing, but then a series of conversations and my re-reading of Matthew 13, which was seemingly unsystematic, flipped the switch in my mind. First, the conversations I had heard, or overhead, began weighing on me. “This country is going down the tubes, Jesus must be coming back to rapture us soon!” At first I would agree, but as the conversations came with further frequency, and additional acridity, I began to feign interest. As my willingness waned, and thoughts of those persecuted and martyred, overwhelmed me, I began to believe that maybe, just maybe, we were a bit spoiled, yet I neglected to search the scriptures for assurances, until…
I was doing an in-depth study of Matthew. I read each word with great anticipation and scrutiny. I saw how Jesus was the true Israel, in that all they failed to do, he achieved. When I arrived in chapter 13, that was it, God changed my mind. He made it a thousand leagues beyond clear, the unbelievers are destroyed first, then the believers are gathered together to be with him.
Brethren, this changes everything. Every Scripture we read last time actually supports this. It’s time for a heavy dose of Vitamin E with a supreme supplement of Vitamin A2; audience. But first, an abysmal anecdote: This year we decided it was time to buy a truck with a snow plow on it. I searched and searched and finally found one that fit the bill. The only catch was that it was over a hundred miles away. I went to look at it and test drove it, it seemed like the right truck. But how was I supposed to get it home? I couldn’t ask someone to pick up my other vehicle, and at over a hundred miles, having it towed would cost a fortune. But I noticed that the truck had a receiver hitch and was rated for a higher towing capacity than the truck I was driving. And knowing I would be passing through again in a few days, I put a deposit on the truck and planed to return with a trailer. I would then switch the trailer to the new truck and pull the old because of it’s higher towing capacity. However when I arrived a few days later with a trailer, I noticed that the receiver hitch was missing! I asked, what happened to the receiver hitch? They claimed that they didn’t know anything about it. They said it must have never had a receiver hitch, the truck wasn’t set up to tow a trailer. But there was one major malfunction in their reasoning: the truck had a trailer brake controller with the wires cut off and dangling near the clear marks of the bolts that once fastened the receiver hitch to the truck frame. They were missing the obvious.
Like when Millhouse said to Bart (knowing that a Simpsons reference won’t win me any piety points), “Remember when your dog ate my goldfish and you tried to lie to me and said that I never had a goldfish? Then why did I have the bowl Bart, why did I have the bowl?”
It’s a similar situation we face when reading about, “Having made us a kingdom,” and, “Behold he is coming in the clouds.” The situation is this; the book was written to the seven churches that are in Asia. The text must have applied to them more than us. So let’s take our Vitamin A2; Notice:
“John to the seven churches that are in Asia:” and, “Write to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then each church is repeated at the beginning of their respective epistle. John was writing to them, the text must have meaning to them. Like those that claimed my truck wasn’t set up to pull a trailer, we are neglecting what is right in front of our face. Why would John insert something about a rapture of the church in this context? It would be as if in the middle of my anecdote I wrote; Look, lunch on Thursday will be Salisbury steak. It doesn’t fit the narrative.
One of our texts from last time was, “Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth. ‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown.” How could this pertain to a rapture that hasn’t happened yet, some 2000 years later, when it was written to a literal church all those years ago? Why would John repeatedly reference the seven churches, by name as it were, if he wasn’t directing his dictation to them? How can we claim that we must take Revelation literally but then take the seven churches as allegory? Yet at the same time, with the same mind, we think hundred pound hail stones will literally fall on, but not kill, those remaining during the tribulation.
How is it that we don’t think of ourselves as a kingdom, made up of Jews and gentiles, when John says we are? Jesús is King. Matthew quotes Christ as saying, ““All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” John states in Revelation 1, in reference to Christ Jesus, “The ruler of the kings of the earth.”
We need our Vitamin E. Last time we read excerpts from Matthew 24, let’s look at another: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Literal, figurative or allegory?
What has become amazingly apparent is we need to better understand what John is alluding to when he uses the imagery of clouds. That’s correct, allusion and imagery. Something must be taken as imagery; either seven historical churches, which in actuality refers to future churches; this generation, which refers to a far future generation. Or true imagery, like coming in the clouds and feet like burnished bronze.
Vitamin A1-AUTHOR: John, a Hebrew, writing like the Hebrew prophets of old. What did clouds represent in the Old Testament? Answer, God’s presence and in extreme cases, judgement. Vitamin E, Expository exegis of examples: The cloud of smoke on: the Tabernacle, Sinai and it guided the Israelites. Now look to Revelation, “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS.” Don’t let the word “Behold” cause you to stumble–it means look. John is telling them to look. Would one tell someone to look knowing they cannot see? To Ephesus John records, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place.” It is written to Pergamum: “Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” And to Sardis “Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.”
Coming in the clouds in Revelation 1 is not about a rapture, it’s a warning. I don’t write to change people with a dispensational view of end-times to another. Rather, I write to warn. It is very easy to fall into an America-centric, Jesus is going to rapture us because things are so bad view, that we forget about our brothers and sisters in the rest of the world suffering unimaginable persecution. Revelation makes it clear, Jesus can come and go as he pleases, setting up and tearing down churches, and kings!
Remember the Martyrs. Many have died for us to bask in their cloud of witness. Many die daily for their faith. Yet the church appears to be growing in many countries, other than this one. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
As I sit comfortably, writing with a roof over my head, warm food in my belly, clean clothes on my back and the heat on–this one is for the Martyrs, from Able to Zechariah, the prophets to whom no one listened. To those who are in prison, in chains, oppressed and beaten, yet truly free. While we appoint, promote and worship preachers who will tickle our ears with promises that Jesus is coming to rescue us soon, I pray God will bless you, and that you know that suffering brings proven character, and then hope, which Paul promises will not disappoint.