This third week of translation were heavy on the parable side. Earlier in the Olivet Discourse Jesus was rattling off statements, but now he turns toward parables or ways in which the end of the world will be like familiar things–seasons, weddings, and shepherding. The reader must take care to recognize these are ‘likenesses’ and not ‘exactnesses’ of the way it will be at the end.
I have made some commentary on either the text or content. These are found in bracket and italicized. Note, the first reading on Matthew 24:15-31 has a parenthesis, but that is from the translation where Matthew reminds the reader that he should study what is being talked about. It is usually translated “let the reader understand” but I find that rendering weaker than the obvious intent.
Therefore, when you see the abomination of the desolation standing in the holy place, as spoken by the prophet Daniel, (the person reading this should study it), then those in Judea should flee into the mountain, do not even return home to get personal belongings. Likewise, the one in the field should not go back for his coat.
But woe to those who are pregnant or nursing in those days. You should pray that your escape will not be in winter or on a Sabbath. It will be such great distress as has never happened from the beginning of the world until now. Unless those days were cut short no one would be saved. But because of the elect those days will be cut short.
If anyone should say, “Behold, here is the Christ,” or “He is over here,” do not believe it! For false christs and false prophets will be raised up and they will give great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if able, the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. Therefore, if someone might say to you, “Behold, he is in the desert,” do not go out or, “Behold, he is in a private office,” do not believe it.
Just as lightning comes from the east and flashes in the west so too it will be with the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, that is where the vultures will gather.
[In verses 29-31 below, the Greek word ‘ouranos” or “heaven” appears often. Sometimes the word simply means “sky” as opposed to “heaven” where God dwells. It seems to mean, in this context, to mean “outer space” as well. Keep that in mind.]
Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will become dark, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from outer space, and the magnificence of the heavens will be rattled. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky and all the tribes of the earth will mourn as they see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of the sky.
Now you must learn the lesson of the fig tree, when the branch is green and the leaves bud you know that summer is close. Likewise, when you see all these things you know that the entrance is close. Truly I say to you that this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. The heaven and the earth will pass away but my words shall never pass away.
No one knows about this day and hour; not the angels in the heavens nor the son, only the Father. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just as in the days of Noah. Just like then, those days before the flood they were eating, drinking, marrying, and planning for marriage right up until the day Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and washed everyone away. The coming of the Son of Man will be the same way.
Two will be in the field, one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding in the mill, one will be taken and one left. Watch, therefore, because you do not know which day your Lord will come.
[Okay, I can’t help but give a little commentary on this one. The comparison to Noah is telling in Jesus’ meaning, but the meaning is often lost on many believers. This is one of the most common passages used to defend a ‘rapture’ motif but in Noah’s days, the ones who were ‘swept away’, a term analogous to ‘taken’ in the next verse were those punished and drowned. By the same reasoning, Jesus is referring to all the bad things—the natural cataclysms (that is the GNT used for flood) such as earthquakes, famine and wars—that will be used to ‘take’ the people in a punishment kind of way. Those “left behind” are actually the one spared this. Somehow people have turned around the meaning to indicate those taken are the ‘blessed ones.’]
You know that if a home owner had known at what time the thief was coming he would have been awake and not allowed his home to be broken into. By this you know to be ready because when it does not seem likely, that is when the Son of Man will appear.
Who then is a faithful and sensible servant? It is the one whom the lord of the house appoints to give food to the other servants at the right time. Blessed is the servant that when his lord comes, he will find him doing right. Truly I say to you he will appoint him over all his possessions.
[These verses have particularly powerful meaning to me as a pastor—a servant in charge of ‘feeding,’ metaphorically, the other servants. “Lord, may I never take advantage of my position or the blessings you have given me. May I never neglect the incredible responsibility you have placed upon me as a pastor. Amen.”]
But, then if the servant should happen to speak evil in his heart, “My master delays,” and then he beats the other servants and even eats and drinks with drunkards this servants lord will come on a day and at an hour he was not expecting and that he did not know. He will ten cut him off from his part and will appoint him with the hypocrites, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
[The greatest challenge in translating this is the antiquated language and customs. Trimming lamps and needing oil in the middle of the night for an arcane wedding practice is as alien to us as Martians. It was tempting to translate oil and lamps as flashlights and batteries or even to translate the groom’s nocturnal group activity with his new bride (when you read it straight out in our cultural view the purity intended by the 1st century is turned into something which sounds icky) and a bunch of virgins into an invitation only after-hours party. But to do this would do violence to the overall meaning. Instead, it is incumbent upon the reader to know something of the cultural setting Jesus is addressing.]
The Kingdom of heaven then can be compared to ten virgins who take their own lamps out to meet the groom. But five of these were foolish [the Greek word here is ‘moron,’ and it is one of my favorites] and five were thoughtful. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take oil for themselves but the thoughtful ones took containers of oil with their lamps for themselves.
The groom delayed and all of them nodded off and went to sleep.
But there was a shout in the middle of the night, “Behold the groom! Come out to meet him.” Then all the virgins work up and they trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the thoughtful ones, ‘Give us your oil because our lamps are going out.” The thoughtful ones replied saying, “No. There is not enough for you and us, it will run out. It is better if you go out to the store and buy your own.”
While they were away to buy oil, the groom came and all those who were ready went with him to the bride and they shut the door. The remaining virgins arrived later on saying, “Lord, lord, open up for us!” The groom answered and said, “Truly I say to you I do not know you.”
Therefore watch, for you do not know the day or the hour.” [Jesus gave that last line is for Harold Camping and his moron followers as well as all the idiot Mayan 2012 doomsday people.]
Now, whenever the Son of Man comes it will be with all the angels and he will sit upon his glorious throne. He will assemble all the nations before him and he will separate them from one another just like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my father, for you now inherit a kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world because I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was an outsider and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in jail and you came to see me.”
Then the servants answered saying, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you something to drink, or when did we see you on the outside and welcome you in, or see you naked and then clothe you? When did we see you sick and in jail and then come visit you?”
The King answered them saying, “Truly I say to you that insofar as you did it for the least of these, my brothers, you did to me.”
Then he will say to those on his left, “Go away, you who are accursed, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels because when I was hungry you did not give me anything to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was an outsider and you did not welcome me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in jail and you did not visit me.”
Then they answered saying, “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry, thirsty, on the outside naked, sick, and in prison and then not take care of you?”
Then he answered them saying, “Truly I say to you that insofar as you didn’t do it for the least of these you didn’t do it for me.”
These will go into eternal punishment but the just ones into eternal life.