What If Jesus Doesn’t Return for 500,000 Years?

If you have followed this blog for a while, you know that I have little grace for those who try to convince others Jesus is returning soon. Harold Camping, Edgar Whisenhut, and Tim LaHaye and his Left Behind books have all been the target of my sarcasm.

My reaction is not without reason. Those who preach such things, while likely from good motives ,can have a devastating effect on Christians investment in advancing God’s kingdom of earth. After all, why polish brass on a sinking ship?

So, I would like to posit a possibility for you to consider: What if Jesus doesn’t return for 500,000 years?

Is that so unthinkable? Why would Jesus have told parables about the ten virgins unless He was not going to return for a very long time? And if your initial response is “Jesus said he was returning ‘soon,'” – if it means 2,000 years, it could just as easily mean 500,000 years. “Soon” is not 2,000 years in any human’s vocabulary. “Yes,” you say, “but to God a day is as a thousand years.” Yes, to God it is, but when Jesus said He was returning soon, He was talking to men. It would make no sense to give men a timetable using metrics that meant nothing to them.

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The Backstory To Paul’s Athens Visit

Areopagus, Athens

When the Apostle Paul preached in Athens, he probably had no idea who was in his audience, but when he finished preaching, “…some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite…”  (Acts 17:34).

Dionysius was an important man in Athens.  He was a member of the Areopagus, which was essentially the Athens Supreme Court.

There is a legend concerning this Dionysius, a backstory, that may or may not be true, but as my friend George Grant says, most legend is rooted in some fact. So, here’s how this legend goes.

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Is Jesus Coming or Going in Matthew 24?

(c)iStockphoto.com/michaeldrager

In reading the Book of Daniel, I was reminded of a misconception I used to have about something Jesus told His disciples in the last days of His earthly ministry.

In Matthew 24 Jesus is warning His disciples about the catastrophic events that will happen in Israel within a generation (Matthew 24:34), which by Jewish reckoning was 40 years.

Jesus said that after the tribulation of those days the sign of the Son of Man will appear and “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30). Jesus is talking about His coming to earth right? Actually, no.

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How the Church Prevailed Against the Gates Of Hades

The Gates of Hades, Caesarea Philippi, Israel

Jesus, Peter and the crew were in Caesarea Philippi, a city in the northern part of Israel, and Jesus decides to give the boys a pop quiz. Jesus asks them who they think He is. Peter answers correctly. Then Jesus says,“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. Matthew 16:18.

Now we can leave for another day the 500 year old controversy about whether the rock on which Jesus says He will build His church is Peter or the revelation of who Jesus is; instead I want to focus on the second part of what Jesus said.

In February 2010, I was in Israel and visited Caesarea Philippi , where I was surprised to learn that there, in the first century at the opening of a cave was a pagan temple. The opening of the cave was referred to as “The Gates of Hades.”

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On Palm Sunday and Cleansing the Temple

Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. See Matthew 21:4-13. Jesus had recently raised Lazarus from the dead, and the word of His miraculous powers had spread. People were convinced Jesus was the king the Scriptures had promised would liberate them from the Romans and restore the kingdom of Israel.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, the people waved their palm branches and worshipped Jesus, calling Him the King of Israel in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. See Zechariah 9:9. The religious leaders asked Jesus to correct those worshipping Him, but Jesus refused because the people were correct: He was their King, He had come to establish His kingdom, and He was worthy of their worship.

I’ve stood on that path leading up to Jerusalem, just under the walls of the city, and as I stood there I realized just how bold Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was. There would have been Roman soldiers stationed on the walls as Jesus rode into the city being hailed by the people as their new king. It was gutsy. It was bold. But it was entirely appropriate. Jesus was the King of kings, even over the Romans.

For the people watching these events unfold on Palm Sunday, it must have been very exciting. They must have thought Jesus was going to topple Herod and then take on the Romans.  A man who could raise another man from the dead was certainly capable of all of that. They must have tingled with anticipation of how Jesus would use His power to assert His kingly authority.

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