Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Holding Out for the "Third Coming"

Well, it seems to me that everyone has given TONS of attention to Jesus' first coming and there is endless speculation about the 2nd coming. My question is, "But what about the other comings?" What does everyone have against Jesus' third coming? Or his fourth? Heck, what about coming #2,874,330, 046, which I experienced just the other day? Why is Tim LaHaye not addressing that one?

Huh, Tim? C'mon, bring it, man! If you're going to go on and on about the second coming why don't you go all out and address the rest of them? Huh? Huh?

Of course, by now you've figured out two things.
1. Tim LaHaye is not one of the two people who read this blog. (By the way, Hi Mom and Dad!)
2. The concept of the 3rd coming, much less the 2,874,330,046th coming makes very little sense.

Unless we read Matthew 25. Then, it makes a lot of sense.

Matthew has no story of the ascension - did you know that? Jesus does not go 'up' to God at the end of Matthew where he "now sitteth until he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." In fact, Matthew's story ends with the words, "And look, I will be with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age." So, in place of ascension, Matthew sees "accompaniment." That is to say, it is not Jesus' "return" but his "presence" that is most important to Matthew.

That explains a lot about how Matthew depicts the end times. In Matthew 24, Matthew takes up the apocalyptic discourse that we find in Mark 13. Only, for Matthew, the apocalyptic (if that's an accurate description) discourse that begins in c.25 continues through c.25. (Remember, chapter divisions were added long after Matthew was written. There is nothing in the text itself that separates the content of c.24 from c.25.)  For Matthew cc. 24-25 are one long connected discourse. (Let's say that 3 times a day.)

So, in c.24 we hear (like in Mark 13) about the destruction of the temple (70CE), persecutions, signs and wonders and wars and rumors of wars and cosmic events and the 'Son of Man coming in the clouds' (an image that Mark borrows from Daniel and Matthew adopts from Mark). All of it leads to the admonition, "Stay alert!"

In Mark, that's where the discourse ends. The next sentence begins the with the plot to kill Jesus. In Matthew, however, things keep going and they culminate in the Story of the Sheep and Goats (25:31-46). In that story, Jesus says, "I was hungry and you fed me!" The sheep, then the goats (blessed and accursed folk) ask, "When did we see you hungry?" and Jesus answers "Whenever you fed or refused to feed the least of my children, you fed or refused to feed me."

In other words, it is not the 2nd coming, but the repeated "comings" of the Christ, in the guise of the poor, the hungry, the naked, the prisoner, the sick, etc. that is THE WHOLE POINT of Matthew 24-25. It is NOT the case that c.24 is prediction and c.25 is just some nice encouraging lessons on being nice to poor people. This is, after all, one long connected discourse. Chapter 25 is the conclusion, not some little piece of edification tacked onto the end of the real story.

So, I am not kidding when I say we should hold out for the 3rd coming, the 4th, and even the 2,874,330,046th coming of the Christ. That's the point! At least that's Matthew's point. And I like it.


  1. This is a wonderful reading, Mark. Thank you. And you found the one good Barth quote for the sidebar too! <3

  2. Not a big fan of KB, but on occasion I have to say, "Wow." This was one of those occasions. Thanks for noticing.


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