Friday, August 14, 2009

The Time Has Come

Jesus was supposed to be the fulfillment of many of the Old Testament prophesies. The Jewish Messiah was long anticipated, and expected to restore Israel to a Godly ruling, making the nation the most prosperous in all the world, among many other promises. Obviously this did not happen, but was that what Jesus was actually promising?

In the Gospel storyline, this study picks up right after Jesus was (falsely) tempted by Satan.

The Time Has Come
Around the time when Jesus reportedly appeared on the scene, many of the Jews were were anxiously awaiting their prophesied Messiah. In a previous study on John the Baptist, we discussed a couple of those prophesies which mentioned in the Gospels in connection to John the Baptist and Jesus. The Isaiah 40 reference suggested that the Jews had paid for their sins twice-over and that God was coming to rule them. The Malachi 3 and 4 reference suggested that God was going to send Elijah to get the Israelites ready for God's return to the Temple of Jerusalem, from where He would rule, because when God returned He was going to dole out purifying judgement, striking down evildoers. Matthew and Luke record that John the Baptist echoed the sentiments that a judgement was imminent.

Immediately after Satan tempted Jesus, Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that Jesus went to the land of Galilee, which was northern Israel. Mark 1:14-15 records that Jesus taught the people of Galilee that the “time has come” and that the “Kingdom of God is near”, and that they should “Repent and believe the good news!” What could that possibly mean? (Note: An exposition on the term “Kingdom of God” is covered in a later study.)

The “time has come” must be referring to something which was scheduled, planned, or, in this case, prophesied. That “time” could only reasonably be one of three options: at that instant, within Jesus' lifetime, or within a generation. Obviously Jesus did not mean at that instant, as the next sentence says that the Kingdom of God is near, not here. Jesus could not have meant within His lifetime, because, as the story goes, Jesus was killed on the cross before any Godly kingdom was established. That leaves the third option; that the prophesied Kingdom of God was coming within that generation.

Beyond just this interpretation of this particular verse, Jesus' own words throughout the New Testament support the idea that the Kingdom of God was coming within that generation:
This generation will be judged.Matthew 12:38-42,
Luke 11:29-32
Jesus will be ashamed of some people in this adulterous and sinful generation.Mark 8:38
Some people will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God.Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1,
Luke 9:27
All of the innocent bloodshed back to the murder of Abel will be avenged on this generation.Matthew 23:35-36,
Luke 11:50-51
This generation will not pass away before the Kingdom of God is established.Matthew 24:30-34,
Mark 13:26-30,
Luke 21:27-32

Turning now to Matthew's account, Matthew 4:12-17 has no mention of the time, but includes the part about the coming Kingdom, the “Kingdom of Heaven” as Matthew rendered it. In place of the time, Matthew adds a partial quote of Isaiah 9:1-2 and relating it to Jesus' time in Capernaum. Of course, that implies that the entire prophesy in Isaiah 9 applies, or at least Isaiah 9:1-7, and most Christian theologians do attribute it to Jesus. Isaiah 9:1-7 describes how some man will usher in a new era of peace, will rule Israel in the throne of David, and will have a government which expands beyond Israel's borders. (This prophesy is sandwiched between other Isaiah prophesies about how God is sending the Assyrian army to utterly destroy Israel, sending the survivors into exile.) This man is supposed to be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” and the “zeal of the LORD Almighty” will bring this peaceful government to fruition.

So let us review. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God was coming during the generation which was alive at the time when Jesus was alive. The prophesies referenced thus far in the New Testament, Isaiah 40, Malachi 3 and 4, and Isaiah 9, collectively suggest a judgement of evildoers followed by the establishment of an eternally peaceful earthly kingdom, centered in Jerusalem, which expands beyond the borders of Israel, and is ruled by a man in David's throne and either directly or indirectly by God in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The generation which was alive concurrently with Jesus is long since dead. No great judgement has occurred. God is not ruling from the Temple of Jerusalem. Israel is far from being an eternally peaceful place. Yet today, about 2000 years later, Christians are still waiting for this false prophesy.

What about Luke? Well, Luke 4:14-15 does not mention the “time” or the coming Kingdom. Instead Luke 4:16-30 then moves into the tale about how Jesus gets no respect in His hometown. We'll cover this later, when the rest of the Gospels get to that event. ;-)

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