Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."Both the question asked by Jesus' disciples and Jesus' response have been wrongly translated and interpreted for the past 17 centuries by those who have sought control within the organized sectarian institutions and claim to be representing Jesus.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matt. 24:1-3)
By the time these texts were translated into Latin and combined into the Bible in the Fourth Century, the events Jesus predicted in these verses had already taken place.
The interpretation that Jesus is discussing the 'end of the world' and his 'second coming' in Matthew 24 evolved from a conspiracy by the Roman government. Their mission was firstly, to scare the citizens of the growing Christian world into their control.
Secondly, the Romans wanted to erase their persecution of the Jews and Christians, which erupted into the Jewish-Roman wars that lasted between 66 AD and 135 AD. During these wars, the Jews and the Christians were overwhelmingly slaughtered by the Romans. While the Jews did manage to fight the Romans back during some these wars, the result was the sacking and complete destruction of Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands if not millions of Jews and early Christians killed, with most of the survivors scattered among other regions.
The strategy, hatched by the Roman Emperor Constantine, consisted of dominating Christian worship and the interpretation of scriptures relating to Jesus to allow the Roman government - through the auspices of a central Roman church, the Roman Catholic church - to control the peoples of Europe and the Middle East.
And that is just what they did. The first step was to establish a doctrine and form a virtual religious government. This was accomplished by commandeering a group of respected priests from around Europe and the Middle East into what was called the Nicene Council - which evolved to become the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church.
This council, orchestrated by Constantine, executed his strategies by promulgating certain rules and regulations, and creating an all-encompassing doctrine to establish the superiority of their brand of organized Christianity. The essential principles they produced to exert this control were:
- That Jesus was God (God "the Son")
- That Jesus was the only "messiah" and the only "savior"
- All other teachers of ancient Israel, up through Jesus' teacher John the Baptist - including Moses, Abraham, David, Samuel and many others, were relegated to the position of predicting Jesus' coming - and denigrated to merely predicting the future - specifically the arrival of Jesus.
- If people did not attend Roman Catholic mass, give alms and support the Roman Catholic church they were condemned to hell - and persecuted through imprisonment or burning at the stake.
- The end of the world was coming soon, and when the world ends, Jesus will return and sweep up all his 'sheep' (those who attended the Roman Catholic church and followed all of its doctrines) and the rest would suffer eternal damnation. (Creating fear and the sense of urgency.)
The Roman government and its church representatives then went through the various scriptural texts that were circulating at the time (early fourth century), and selected certain books to become the official books of the Roman Catholic Church - and organized those separate books into what is now known as the "Bible." They also employed professional scribes and ordered them to copy and translate those books - written in Aramaic and Greek - into Latin, the language of the Roman elite.
The Roman government then proceeded to burn and thereby eliminate all other Christian scriptural texts. They burned down libraries and private collections. It was only when a buried library of scriptures was discovered in Middle East caves during the 20th century (Nag Hammadi library) did we discover some of the other scriptures that the Roman Catholics eliminated from circulation in order to exert their interpretation of Jesus and his teachings.
The translations into Latin were strictly supervised by Constantine and the council to adhere to the political objectives of the Roman government. It was not as if the scribes were devoted students of Jesus. They were paid literary scribes. In other words, they were beholden to the objectives of the Roman Catholic church. They were not free to translate as they saw fit.
This allowed the Romans to carefully erase the notion that Jesus was predicting the slaughter of the Jews and Christians in the coming Jewish-Roman wars - which this text alludes to despite its misinterpretation that this was to take place sometime in the future.
The Nicene doctrine ("Creed") and the Roman Catholic church came to dominate all interpretations of Christianity for over 1,000 years. During that period, the Roman Catholic church exercised force to maintain their doctrine and interpretations of the scriptures. Alternative interpretations were met with persecution, and many innocent people were condemned and burned at the stake. Even possessing a scriptural scroll was a punishable offense.
This, together with the fact that the only circulating form of Christian scripture was written in Latin - and most people of Europe did not understand Latin - made it all but impossible for the common person to read and understand the scriptures for themselves.
To add to this stranglehold, these official Latin Bibles were only made available to Roman Catholic church priests, bishops or other church official. For many centuries, it was forbidden for a commoner to even own a copy of the Latin Bible!
This complete dominance over Christianity by the Roman Catholic Church was maintained through the 14th century. Even as some protestant churches have had some influence since then, the Roman Catholic institution has continued to dominate Christian dialog and interpretation of the scriptures to this day.
This nearly 1,700-year dominance of Christianity by the Roman Catholic church has resulted in their Nicene doctrine and interpretation of the scriptures being cemented into Christian thought. Even the protestant churches have maintained most of these interpretations concerning Jesus' identity, the second coming, the coming of the end of the world and so on.
Why? Because for most of this period, to break away from those basic premises was to become heretical. Becoming heretical for most of those centuries resulted in a minimum of expulsion and rejection by society, and a maximum of being burnt at the stake. Being burnt at the stake was a tradition among conservative Christians as late as the 17th century - evidenced by the Spanish Inquisition and Pilgrims burning people at the stake. So having a different interpretation of the scriptures was not just controversial: It was a death wish.
Even among today's modern non-Catholic Christian sects, the main concepts of the Nicene creed have continued. Some of these denominations have broken away from the Roman Catholic church for different reasons over the past two centuries. Yet they nearly all have maintained the primary interpretations that were instigated by the Roman government.
Why? Peer pressure and lack of guidance. No one wants to be rejected by their fellow church goers or organizational leaders. We want to be accepted by others. We want to belong.
This also goes for those modern-day Christian 'scholars' who have conducted more recent translations of the Bible. There is still significant peer pressure to agree with the basic tenets of the Nicene creed among scholars. Thus even the most progressive English translations of the Greek and Aramaic texts will still follow most of the principle interpretations made during the translation of the texts by the Roman scribes of the fourth century to Latin, and then later to English.
While these modern-day scribes might not be under threat of being burnt at the stake as were their predecessors, they are still professionally obligated - and risk losing their positions if they translated outside the Creed. Most are professional priests or professors from religious academies (or both). Thus they are paid by Christian institutions that also abide by the Nicene principles. For them to stray from these basic principles would likely result in their immediate removal and dismembership from their respective organizations and sources of income. In other words, just as the Roman government's scribes were, these 'scholars' are paid professionals obligated to those organizations that pay their salaries.
Thus the correct translation of the conversations that occured between Jesus and his students, in many cases, have been hidden from view for over 1,700 years.
Is it possible that Jesus could have been talking about the end of the world or the end of the universe to his close disciples? Let's consider this logically. It is now over 2,000 years after Jesus' statement, and the world - despite the hundreds of predictions by ecclesiastical preachers in the meantime - still has not come to an end. And so many have predicted it. Just consider a short list of end-of-the world predictions and the date the world was supposed to have ended:
Hilary of Poiniers: 365 AD (the date predicted)
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
The Shakers (Ann Lee): 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.
All of these have followed the Roman Catholic interpretation that Jesus and his disciples are discussing the coming of the end of the world. Would they now have to admit that Jesus was wrong about the end of the world coming? No, because their predictions continue. They just keep moving the date forward.
Just consider Jesus' further response and discussion. Was Jesus talking to his disciples about a time more than 2,000 years into the future when he says, "Watch out that no one deceives you." Then he tells them there will be wars, famines and earthquakes. How about when he says, "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."
Who is the "you" in Jesus' statement? Remember that Jesus is answering a question by his disciples, and Jesus is talking specifically (and "privately") to his disciples.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said.... (Matt. 24:3)"You" therefore can only mean those specific disciples. If he were talking to people more than 2,000 years into the future, it would not have been a private discussion with his disciples, now would it?
His statement to his disciples is also consistent with the fact that earlier, Jesus had instructed his disciples to go out and preach:
“Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out the demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep." (Matt. 10:5)So in Matt. 24:4-13 Jesus is warning his disciples about the years to come, after his departure. Were those years as bad as Jesus portrays here? Yes, indeed.
As mentioned earlier, the decades following Jesus' return to the spiritual world are now referred to as the Jewish-Roman wars. For nearly a century the Romans and the Jews fought, with the Romans mostly annihilating the Jews and early Christians. The Romans also conquered many other parts of Europe as they sought world dominance.
During these decades, Romans were burning down Jewish villages and towns, and the Jews were scrambling to survive. Many were pretending to be Romans or at least Roman sympathizers to stay alive, so they spied on people and ratted them out. They also pretended to be those they were not. The Romans set out to squelch the Jewish religion, and the early Christians were mostly seen as Jews. They were thus all subject to persecution by the Romans. On top of that, Jews were also trying to scapegoat early Christians, and often put them in harm's way with regard to the Romans.
These times were extremely rough on Jesus' followers. And there were many dubious teachers who tried to gain popular followings, many who proclaimed they were messiah.
"Messiah" from the ancient Jewish scriptures referred to an "anointed one" (Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ also translates to "messiah") who was chosen by God to represent Him: Moses and Joshua were anointed, for example. David, Solomon, Job, Eli and Samuel and many others were also anointed.
It was the Roman Catholic translation and interpretation of the books of the Bible that created the concept that there was only one messiah - Jesus. The Jews accepted previous teachers as messiah, but were waiting for the next messiah - even though Jesus certainly was.
If the Romans allowed Moses, David, Abraham, Samuel and others to also be messiahs (even though the Old Testament scrolls clearly indicated this), that would have eroded their control over Christianity and the Jews.
In other words, in Matt. 24:4-13, Jesus is talking with his disciples about their days to come. He is also discussing where they will stand if they hold on to their loving relationship with God, despite the hellish nature of the coming years of bloodshed and hatred. He tells them that they will return to the spiritual world:
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved."Jesus is talking about a personal end: the end of their respective physical lives. Not the end of some kind era thousands of years into the future.
The question the disciples urgently asked indicates their fear of not only Jesus' prediction that the temples will fall, but also for their very lives. They wanted to know their own fate when the temples collapse. This was brought up when Jesus spoke about the temporary nature of the physical world and even the temple buildings. They were concerned because they wanted to be sure that the place Jesus promised for them in heaven was going to be there for them at the end of their lives.
They were not concerned future historians.
In other words, the "end of the age" is not the end of some kind of global era thousands of years after these disciples had passed away. The "end of the age" was simply the end of their physical lifetimes.
How could "stands firm to the end" mean thousands of years into the future for these disciples? That is sure a long time to stay "standing." How could his disciples have remained "standing" for thousands of years?
Rather, the "to the end" means the end of their lifetimes within their respective physical bodies. While others might "turn away from the faith and betray and hate each other," during their lifetimes, those who "stand firm" by continuing to follow Jesus' instructions by worshiping and serving God and passing on Jesus' teachings through the end of their physical lifetimes would be following Jesus back to the spiritual world. They would be reuniting with Jesus (παρουσία) and resuming their loving service relationship with the Supreme Being in the spiritual dimension. This is what Jesus refers to as being "saved."
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)