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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Don't Be Alarmed

My pastor was talking about a passage in Matthew last Sunday, and something in it struck me as very odd. I'm going to quote the passage and highlight a few spots to show what I'm thinking about, but I'm not going to draw any hard and fast conclusions... I think this is something that it's good for each person to think through for himself. Here we go (remember, all emphasis is mine):
3As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" 4And Jesus answered them, "See that no one leads you astray. 5For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. 6And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

9"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
So here's what struck me as particularly odd: what kind of person says, "Don't be alarmed; they're going to put you to death, but if you endure to the end, you will be saved!" Seems almost like doublespeak, doesn't it? Clearly there is more to the picture than what Jesus is making explicit (for example, did you notice that Jesus seems to be speaking in plural "you" for most of the passage, but in the last verse I've quoted he switches to saying "the one"?) I have my ideas about what the passage means, but of late I've become a fan of the ambiguities Jesus left unresolved when He was speaking, so I think instead of adding my own interpretation, I'll leave it up to you to ponder the missing pieces for yourself.

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