"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matt. 24:42)Many ecclesiastical sectarian teachers have interpreted this to mean that the world will end and Jesus will come riding through the sky to save those who joined the church and kill off everyone else. This is fiction.
Some sectarian teachers go to the extent that there is a list of those who will be saved, and of course those who join their sect are on the list.
There are several holes in this fictitious interpretation of the world ending, put forth to scare people into attending the early church, and eventually being utilized over the centuries by those wishing to gain or keep followers:
- If Jesus was discussing the end of the world why did Jesus say during this discussion:
"I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened." (Matt. 24:34)Since the generation Jesus was speaking to passed away some 2,000 years ago and the end of the world didn't come, how could he speaking of the end of the world?
- If the world was going to end then why did Jesus say:
"Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left." (Matt. 24:40)Where would the one who is "left" go if the world was ending? The word "left" means they would stay.
- And what happens to those who followed Jesus but their bodies died before this supposed end of the world scenario? They'd have to wait around somewhere - some for thousands of years - for Jesus to come riding through the sky at the end of the world? Where would they wait, and wouldn't their bodies have long decomposed by them?
Even the speculative notion of purgatory would be problematic. This doesn't explain how they will be waiting around when their physical bodies have decomposed and turned to ashes and soil.
These problems and others pervade this 'end of the world' teaching continually put forth by sectarian teachers. Despite all the predictions of the past that were wrong, they still make new predictions and we are supposed to believe them?
They have been predicting this end of the world scenario for the past 1,700 years in this attempt to scare people into joining their institutions. Just consider some of the more famous yet still false predictions made through the centuries:
Hilary of Pointiers: 365 AD (the date predicted as the second coming and end of time)
Saint Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD
John of Toledo: 1179 AD
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD
Melchior Hoffman: 1533 AD
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD
William Whitson: 1736 AD
Ann Lee (The Shakers): 1792 AD
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD
William Miller (Millerites): 1843 and 1844 AD
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994 and others more recent.
Should we continue to believe these prophesies by those who want to scare us into believing? Should we trust their interpretation of Jesus' 'second coming' when they have been wrong about their predictions over the centuries?
The reality is that Jesus was talking about the mass slaughter of millions of Jews and early Christians at the hands of the Romans - in the Jewish-Roman wars, which began at about 60 A.D. with the burning of Jerusalem and the sacking of the Jerusalem temple. This was a horrible holocaust, in which the Jewish and early Christian people were decimated by Roman armies. What few were spared were either enslaved by the Romans or ran off into the desert to eek out an existence hidden in caves. And even many of these remote camps - including Qumran - were also eventually ransacked by the Romans.
The Jewish-Roman wars lasted nearly a century. It is one of the longest wars ever recorded, and more people were slaughtered than in previous Middle Eastern history - or since, in a single war.
So Jesus, in this private conversation with his disciples, was trying to prepare them for their coming death, made inevitable by the brutal war to come.
The actual meaning of Jesus' parable above is actually quite simple:
"The owner of the house" symbolizes the living spirit - the person - who resides within the physical body. The "house" symbolizes the physical body. The "thief" represents death, which can come at any time.
If the person within the body is prepared for the death of their body, then they will be prepared for it by directing their focus upon God. If they are focused upon God as death approaches, then they will be prepared for Jesus' "appearance" (ἔρχομαι is better translated to "appear" in this context, rather than "come") at the time of death.
Such a follower of Jesus will, in other words, be much more likely be "taken" as opposed to being "left" (Matt. 24:40).
"Taken", in Matt. 24:40 refers to being taken back to the spiritual world. Being "left" means to continue our hellish existence within the physical world - away from God.
So "the son of man will come" refers to the appearance of Jesus at the time of death of each of his students. As their spiritual teacher, Jesus pledged that those who obeyed his teachings and directed their lives towards learning to love and serve God would be led back to the spiritual world. This is the 'second coming' that Jesus is referring to.
This has been confirmed by clinical death research, in which those who have been followers of Jesus found themselves facing Jesus after they left their bodies.
The spiritual world is driven by relationships. When God sends His representative to retrieve those who desire to return to Him, His representative not only teaches. He also illustrates with his life how to love the Supreme Being and serve Him: Those who follow establish a loving service relationship with God and His representative. This relationship is first driven by introduction: God is being introduced by Jesus to his followers. This sets up the followup - an escort back to the spiritual realm at the time of death.
Jesus is being very clear about this, but those without understanding have tried to bend and twist these statements to boost their own interpretation - in an attempt to gain followers.
Even the translation of the Greek phrase υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου has been twisted. This has been incorrectly translated to "son of man." What the heck is a "son of man"? Isn't every male a son of a man? It is simply an empty phrase when translated in such a way.
Rather, the Greek word υἱός (huios) has two possible meanings - it can mean offspring in the physical sense, but this is "restricted" to physical families according to the lexicon. It can also mean, as taken from the Greek lexicon, "used to describe one who depends on another or is his follower." Furthermore, the Greek word ἀνθρώπου (anthrōpos) means "generically, to include all human individuals" in the Greek Lexicon. This means ἀνθρώπου refers to 'humankind,' 'mankind' or 'humanity.'
And since the Greek word τοῦ means "of", the phrase means that Jesus is putting himself at the service of humankind, or better, humanity. In other words, instead of "son of man," υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου should be translated more accurately to "servant of humanity."
"Servant of humanity." is a humble self-description: A description that communicates love, service and humility. This is confirmed by Jesus' statement:
"The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt. 23:11-12)Certainly Jesus was exalted, as he humbled himself. He saw himself as servant. Jesus continued to serve his students not only by teaching them, but by then escorting those who became ready back to the spiritual realm at the end of their physical lifetimes.
How were they to become ready? ("So you also must be ready...")
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matt. 22:37-38)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Devotional Translation - translated from the original Greek texts.)