Thursday, February 08, 2007

Devotional Thoughts: Days of future past?

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 gives us Paul's teaching on when the day of the Lord will arrive.

Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Right off the bat we see two events: (1) the rebellion occurs and (2) the man of lawlessness is revealed.

What I wonder is to what degree is Paul expanding on what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and to what degree did Paul receive additional revelation from God?

Matthew 24:10 said: At that time many will turn away from the faith which seems similar though the Greek words are not the same. In 2 Thessalonians the word is apostasia while in Matthew 24 it is skandalisthesontai.

The idea of lawlessness more closely tracks with Jesus teaching in Matthew 24:12, Because of the increase of wickedness. In that one the Greek word is anomian and in 2 Thessalonians it is anomias. I'm not a Greek scholar but I'm guessing those words are similar!

What this man of lawlessness does seems similar to Matthew 24:15, So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel.

But at this point, what can we say?

Has this happened already? Or is it happening now? Or is it still in the future?

For those who say it has happened already, they point to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. In addition, the Roman slaughter of the Jews at that time was of holocaust proportions. As for the Temple, all that is left is the Western Wall known today as the Wailing Wall.



image source: http://www.biblestudy.org/biblepic/picture-of-wailing-wall-dome-of-the-rock.html

It is generally believed that Paul wrote the letters to the Thessalonians in AD 50-51! Thus, can you imagine a young Thessalonian believer of say 13 years of age, at age 33 hearing news that the Temple in Jerusalem was demolished, the city razed and Jews slaughters in massive proportions? Would they have connected it with Paul's teachings, Jesus's discourse and Daniel's prophecies?

Is it happening today?

Is the lawlessness of the world today any more pronounced than in the past? I don't know. Humans have been and are and will continue to be sinners. Within the context of Western society, one might say our sinfulness is more public than it used to be. In the past, our sins were kept quiet but today with 24/7 news media, the dirty laundry of the rich and famous and even of ordinary people will be blasted on cable news, the internet and the tabloids. So in some ways, we are more lawless in that the same ambient level of sin is now more public.

Is it in the future?

Paul's specificity of description does tend to point to a future event if one takes what he wrote in a very literal fashion: He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Has one specific person in human history done that? I don't think so. And since the temple was destroyed that can't happen right now.

Thus, you can see why this passage is a source of confusion.

In summary, it seemed that Paul was saying what Jesus said in a different way. Was it further revelation from God to Paul? Was it Paul drawing from oral tradition about Jesus we no longer have access to? Don't know.

Both Jesus and Paul being acquainted with the Jewish Scriptures they would know Daniel. So in the next blog post, we will just have to go back to Daniel and keep following the line of thought.

Lord, you are the God of history. I live in a tiny span of time. How my times fit into your plans I do not know. But I do know that you want me to live my short march of time in this life with an eye toward your kingdom. With the perspective that you are in charge of my life and that you want me to do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with you. Help me to do that today and for however long I have breath. Amen.

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