Facilitating Intra-Christian Talks Today
by Mark Mountjoy
Begin all Scripture studies with a benediction asking God to open hearts to his word and to let his will be done. Implore all attendees to magnify and exalt Christ as Lord and to be willing and ready to yield their lives to his testimony in all ways necessary. Pray that all Christians, without reservation, commit themselves to the furtherance of the Gospel and the kingdom of God in their personal life choices and to foster peaceful and courteous relationships with all other Christians in the world-wide Church, whether they are aware or unaware, whether they are in agreement or stand in disagreement.
All true Christians believe in the eternity of our Lord, Jesus the Son of God. All of us also believe in the centrality of his cross as the unfathomable, but necessary act of love that he accomplished for our salvation there. We each believe that Jesus died, was buried and bodily rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Because God cares, today we are blessed with salvation from sin and we bask in the hope of eternal life; because of Christ and the Holy Spirit we have power over sin and shame and fear. And, because of God's great work of redemption, twenty centuries ago, we (just as others) are able to call God our Father and walk as children, in holiness and in righteousness before him in love.
Nevertheless, various ideas and issues come between us and separate us. Among these are issues surrounding the correct interpretation of eschatology and the iimplications of an entirely (not partially) inspired New Testament. If some of the New Testament is false, which part of it is? Are its many miracles to be doubted? Or its bizarre stories of feats that defy every day life--Jesus' virgin birth, calming the stormy blue Sea of Tiberius, raising the dead, cleansing lepers separated from Israel in a medical colony, halting an issue of blood that had flowed for twelve long years, opening the eyes of him that had been born blind, restoring life to young Tabitha, feeding five thousand plus people on five loaves and two fish--rising from the dead after being brutally crucified on Passover--which is to be accepted and which is to be denied?
For over a decade I had envisioned writing a series called "Round-table Discussions." In this group of lessons I had hoped to transmit data charts of Scriptures related to the eschaton so that they could be easily accessed and used in small group discussions. In these talks interested groups of Christians could go over these passages and verses and bounce ideas off each other about what these verses say or directly imply.
Now, from Wikipedia we get this description of what a round-table is:-
"Round-table is a form of academic discussion. Participants agree on a specific topic to discuss and debate. Each person is given equal right to participate, because of the circular layout usually used in round table discussions.
Round-table discussions, together with houses of hospitality and agronomic universities, is one of the key elements of the Catholic Worker Movement, as formulated by Peter Maurin. . .[t]alk shows such as Washington Week and Meet the Press have roundtables of reporters or pundits. Most of these are done around a table in a studio, but occasionally they report in split-screen from remote locations. Some sports shows, such as ESPN's Around the Horn, employ the round-table format."
Guiding principles for these discussions come from 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and 2 Timothy 3:16.
Passages for discussion will be: Matthew 10:23, "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." The question to be entertained will be whether Jesus was telling the Apostles that the coming of the Son of man event in Daniel 7:13-27 was to be within their lifetime?
The next passage for review will be Matthew 16:27-28, which reads, "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; then shall he reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Two questions seem to beg to be asked: Do these two verses somewhat reiterate what Matthew 10:23 says? And does it seem reasonable or likely that Jesus has his Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) in mind? While it is true that Jesus appeared in his Father's glory about a week later, is it also true that he was attended by his angels and judged every man according to their works? Furthermore, is it likely that only some who were alive when Jesus made that promise were dead within a mere week?
The next passage is out of the Gospel According to John. There we read, "Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went the saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die, but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? (John 21:22-23). As far as I know, there are two religious groups who believe that the Apostle John never died and is alive to this day. Some years ago I obtained a tract at a local Greek Orthodox Church that explained that this verse says John would live to see the Lord's return. And it hinted that John is "somewhere" waiting till that time. The Mormons (LDS), too, hold that John is yet alive, essentially doing the same thing: Hiding out; doing nothing. But neither of these churches seems to realize what the verse actually says, "Jesus said not unto him, 'He shall not die, but I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" In other words, the issue in the passage is not an affirmation that the Apostle John would not die, but a hint that he will actually live long enough to see the Second Coming.
Now the issue of "living to see" the Second Coming is also acknowledged by some in a way that does little justice to it: They claim that John's vision of the Second Coming (late in his life) is him living TO SEE A VISION OF THE SECOND COMING, BUT NOT ACTUALLY LIVING LONG ENOUGH TO WITNESS THE EVENT. However, this answer is not an accurate one because even the Apostles Paul and James and Peter and Apostle Jude bear witness of a Second Coming they clearly saw as right at the doors in their own lifetime (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; 2:1-12; James 5:1-9; 1 Peter 4:5-7; 2 Peter 2:1-22 and 3:3-17; Jude 4-23. Each of these holy men understood and wrote that the Second Coming would happen soon within circumstances having to do with both wicked and unscrupulous men as well as extremely wealthy landowners and aristocratic foes of the poor and lowly Jewish Christian faithful.
Verses for Discussion
The Olivet Discourse accounts found in Matthew and Mark provide material for contextual stability to a discussion that, more often than not, is like a runaway train. For a Biblical framework, discuss Matthew 24:33 in light of the entirety of Matthew chapter 24 and (for homework) material from Matthew 3:1 to Matthew 23:29-39.
Mark 13:28 in light of the entirety of Mark chapter 13 and again (for homework) material from Mark 1:2 to Mark 12:1-12 to familiarize everyone with the backstory of Jesus' attitude about Daniel's prophecies and the impending kingdom of God.
When we grapple with these texts, creative and patient attempts to ask (to the best of our abilities) the best questions. We want the meaning, but not just any meaning! We desire the intended meaning, a meaning that emerges without over-reaching into possibilities that are clearly impossible in light of the length of an ordinary human lifetime. And so we ask: How could the end be nearer and a night far spent as long ago as the late A.D.50s in the first century? (Romans 13:11)
Luke 12:33, 39
"As a Thief"
How is Jesus' personal coming as a thief related to the lifetime of the Apostles and first Christians in these ancient passages?
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4
2 Peter 3:10
Was Jesus' promise to come "quickly" to be within the first Christians' lifetime or outside of it?
Was the coming of the kingdom promised in Daniel 2:44 and 7:27 "nigh" in the days of the Apostles and earliest believers or did they only hope it was? (Luke 21:20)
Luke 21:28, 30 and 31
Luke 23:27-31 provides an implied, but undeniable link to the Revelation 6:12-17 crisis which we see played out in the initial disturbances. These two verses (together) seem to say that one is related to the other and that what is happening in the Book of Revelation chapter 6 is surely taking place in the days of the "daughters of Jerusalem and their children" and when Judaea's tree was not green, but dry. If Jesus made such a promise in A.D.33 and the crisis he expected happened in A.D.66, that would validate that something happened "quickly" (within three decades)rather than it being a subject of something that (after twenty-one centuries) can be expected to happen eventually (but has not till this very day).
(Final Thoughts and Benediction)
The final part of our meeting will involve 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Here we will examine five passages, three in 1 Thessalonians and two in 2 Thessalonians. This purpose of this inquiry is to examine these words of the Apostle Paul in terms of audience relevance.
"we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:15)
"ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief" (1 Thessalonians 5:4)
"I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Our final inquiry will be: How does what 2 Thessalonians expresses relate both to what Paul said in his first epistle and to what he explains in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10? And how does 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 relate to the material he addresses in the next chapter (in 2 Thessalonians. 2:1-13)?
Were the Apostles 'Sincere But Wrong' About the Lord's Return?
The purpose of this round-table discussion is to entertain questions about God's Word. These talks move beyond conventional assumptions. These assumptions allege that Jesus and the Apostles were sincere but wrong about a speedy end of the age and Second Coming. By examining texts and passages and asking critical questions about their direct implications, we hope to persuade Christians and truth-seekers to seriously consider Atavist Biblicism. we hope to show that Atavism is a serious and viable alternative to interpretive systems that militate against the veracity of the beliefs of the Apostles and the first Christians. As always, we invite feedback and wish to communicate to all with respect and dignity. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Be sure to close all studies with a benediction asking God to bless his Holy Word in our hearts, our thoughts, motives, and actions. Call God's love, grace and kindness on all who put their hope in his Son. Remind Christians that if they put their trust in Jesus, they will never be confounded, embarrassed or disappointment. Call to mind that in Jesus we serve a God who is faithful in every way. Encourage Christians to bear fruits of righteousness, love, patience and impartiality and to reflect upon the comforts, joys and rewards of a good conversation in the Lord Jesus in their private and public lives.
Be sure all in attendance have a printed copy of this Bible study handout!