I’m having an email exchange with a pastor who writes a blog about the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24. I agree entirely with his thinking, which to me at least, is fresh and exciting – in a nutshell, he says that Jesus was talking exclusively about AD70 in this passage, not the end times. The arguments, read with a determination not to be coloured by years of teaching, are persuasive. Most of all though, they are impactful.
Recently, I asked the writer, ‘so what does it mean’ if this is actually correct? He hadn’t answered that question, the most important question. He’s decided to answer it in the blog, but it would seem he’s missed the point. He, the writer, has simply loaded more doctrine onto more theology. The real ‘so what’ in my view at least, is that if Matthew 24 is only about AD70 and the Old Covenant at that point was totally destroyed, we exist in something fantastically new. Except we don’t.
We haven’t been out on the streets recently for various reasons, and things have changed. It’s meant that we don’t have that passion for taking the Gospel to the world – whereas once we would stop and pray for people anywhere (and everywhere) we are now more hesitant. Whereas once we were so unashamed of the Gospel, now we hide it more. We are more comfortable with the world and our Christianity becomes only for ourselves and other believers. As a result, our entire relationship with Christ has become more jaded. Fortunately though, Christ is not quite so content to leave things as they are with us.
I spent Sunday morning with an old addict friend of mine – someone I originally met on the streets. He has been clean for 100 days, and when he is clean he is the most delightful person in the world. I really enjoy his company. He is suspicious of Christians, and all things church, which in turn reflect his attitude towards Christ. But, he sees Christ in what we are trying to do, and it piques his interest. I get to bring Jesus into conversations and pray with him. This morning was a refreshing morning as I was reminded that we have many friendships from the streets, and many of the people still want to hear more of the Gospel. There is much work to be done and it has given me the impetus to start ‘getting out there’, wherever God shows ‘out there’ to be to us; who knows maybe even you too?
And the ‘So What?’ point of all this is..?
The New Covenant in Christ, changed everything. In particular, it changed where Christ would meet with people, and who he would meet with. The priesthood, the buildings, the structure of worship, the money, the tithing, the rules, all of it was gone. At least it should be. It certainly disappeared in the New Testament. Christ, the Disciples and his church moved out of the Temple, the synagogue and into the marketplace. Christ, the ‘perousia’ is ever present, ruling with his church in the here and now. I would challenge that wherever there is a move of the Spirit in revival, it is where people start proclaiming the Gospel in the marketplace. Indonesia, China, Arabia, think about it. Christ on the streets.
We have though, kept certain things from the Old Covenant. We have kept particularly the structure, but also the company – our Western churches especially are filled often with ‘nice people’ who are perhaps 2nd or 3rd generation believers. Few others, if we’re honest, would ever darken the doors of a church. There is a costly risk in embracing the New Covenant, and we don’t want to give up our day job so much to embrace it fully. The Old Covenant was so convenient, because we could go through the ritual without it having much impact in our lives. Sound familiar?
But reading this blog has become a revelation and a revolution in my own life. If the Old Covenant really did end in AD70, then the implications are enormous for how we, Christ’s church here on earth, live our lives. We are called to be very different, to deny ourselves, and to give up everything for him. Are you and I living like that?
One poignant thing is this – in AD70 God enacted serious vengeance on the nation of Israel for rejecting his message over the centuries, and especially for rejecting his precious Son. It would seem that period was one of the worst in history, and one designed specifically by God. The message was clear.
I wonder if we feel so safe continuing to ignore him today. We shouldn’t test his patience.