Jerusalem and the Temple Destroyed


Matthew 24:36-44

      I’m not a biblical literalist in the way it is often meant. But details are details and they need to be identified as such. I think someone had too much wine when they were over-imagining what this text could mean. And I hope you still like me after this post.

     What if we decided to accept the gospel lesson for Sunday, Dec. 1, literally instead of trying to make it sound like Jesus was predicting the end of the world? Would anyone believe it refers to an event forty years after Jesus rather than a doomsday eschatological prediction?

     Let’s try it. I’ll simply add in the missing references in red so that you can decide if Jesus is describing the end of the world. But first look at the cool picture I found of Jerusalem being destroyed.

 The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70, Oil on canvas

36 “But about that day and hour [the destruction of the Temple] no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, but the Father alone. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the son of man [a Greek term that refers to one’s humanness, i.e., weakness – and may be an insulting reference to the emperor of Rome (who often called himself a son of the gods). Notice that the son of man is compared to a thief surprising someone in his own house a little later]. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the son of man [Titus, future emperor of Rome]. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what hour your ruler [another word for lord or master, i.e., Titus, future emperor] is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the son of man [Titus, future emperor] is coming at an unexpected hour. [Titus came in 70 AD, and his soldiers destroyed the Temple.]

      If we understood this passage to be about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, there would be less validity for some to anticipate a Rapture. “One in the field will be taken by soldiers and one will be left behind, and the same will happen at the grinding wheel.”

     And what Jesus said earlier that all these things would happen before that generation died out would actually be true.

     Fear and religious fervor have turned this text into a Judgment Day event instead of a prophetic voice about what the nation of Israel would face if the zealots kept irritating the Romans.

     The kingdom of God, which will be a kingdom of peace, hope, love, joy, etc., will come when we take the fear factor out of antiquated interpretations of the Bible.

     Unfortunately, to suggest that the coming of the son of man might actually refer to Titus steals the thunder from the first Sunday of Advent sermons. The coming of the son of man (Titus) is not going to preach if you are a traditionalist. But it might be true. 

     I may have to look at the epistle lesson for my message this week.

     Sorry. Can we still be friends?

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