The Resurrection Story: The Case of the Missing Body (Part 3: The Olivet Discourse)

As we continue our lead up to the cross and then the resurrection, we encounter many teachings which are alleged to have come from Jesus. Whether they are original or not is not as significant as treating them as if they are because they have direct bearing on our overall theme: The credibility of the Bible as a divine source of authority.

A brief recap

Our study will generally have two foci. One will be a critical scrutiny, analysis, synthesis and comparison of the textual data as it pertains to the final week of Jesus’ life. Second, a discussion of key evangelical beliefs which are resistant to rational inquiry such as inerrancy, dispensationalism, experientialism and theism. This antagonistic relationship between faith and reason is based on evangelical’s unassailable trust NOT in biblical infallibility but in hope of eternal life. In this respect their faith is fear based and not fact based.

Spiritual suicide occurs when one saws off the branch of faith upon which they are sitting. The prospect of life after death in a blissful utopia called heaven is a powerful motivator NOT to question the faith that provides this psychological comfort. 

A minuscule amount of evangelicals may enter the faith through a sincere and objective inquiry. The information available is, however, primarily religious propaganda or advertising. Evangelicals control the narrative when it comes to what the Bible teaches. Anybody attempting to research who Jesus was and what the Bible is will find a lopsided amount of data adopting a conservative position. Tragically, there isn’t much data to counter balance it and provide a reasonable alternative to who Jesus really was and the unreliability of the Bible. 

These articles are attempts to inform people of a purely naturalistic theory which posits eliminating God as a real entity from the Bible. Once we see the characters and writers of the Bible as inspired by a sincere and profound belief in God and not actually in direct communication with God, the Bible becomes easily comprehensible and its mysteries vanish.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whether God(s) exists and who or what he or she or it or they is or are is irrelevant to our study. Our only concern is whether the Bible should be trusted as an absolute authority on God, Jesus or anything else it purports to claim. In short, if “God” exists, he is not the one represented in the Bible. 

The less you know about the Bible, the more secrets it holds. An aura of mystique has surrounded the Bible since its beginning. People hold it in high regard because they don’t understand or the are invested and dependent on its message for comfort, peace, guidance, strength and most of all, hope. A rigorous and objective critique of its contents using reason and science to guide yield a different conclusion.  The Bible is the work of men and not the Word of God

Knowledge is faiths greatest foe and truths best friend.

It has been said, “Faith is not needing to know the truth.” I would add, “Nor wanting to.”

Our textual study began with Jesus’ “triumphal” entry to Jerusalem while riding a young donkey. This was considered a direct fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (see Zech. 9:9 quoted in Matthew 21:4,5) and was Jesus public declaration of his kingly messiahship and signaled the coming kingdom. The two were seen as simultaneous as reflected in the present tense of “coming” (Mark 11:9,10).

While this picture makes for lovely pageantry at Easter; nevertheless, it is fraught with problems. Jesus in no way acted as the “victorious” king of Jerusalem, and nothing during this time reflected a “coming kingdom.” To spiritualize these events is to violate the plain and literal sense of the text. Furthermore, those who hailed him as king were Israelites (Jews) and most certainly had no concept of a spiritual version of Jesus as king and his kingdom.

11“While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” (Luke 19:11)

The above quote introduces a peculiar parable, “The Ten Minas.” In it Jesus is compared to a “noble man” who is sent to a “distant country” and “appointed king.” Before he goes, he distributes various amounts of wealth to three of his servants and instructs them to “put this money to work until I come back.” The ones given ten and five minas double it while the one given a single mina hides it and returns it without “interest.” He is severely reprimanded while the two others are rewarded with additional riches.

26“He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ” (Luke 19:26,27)

Again, the flavor of this parable concerning the kingdom is in keeping with the Judaistic age in which it is found. The point is: Jesus’ servants are to be about doing “kingdom work” until he returns. Regardless of evangelicals interpretation, “working” implies using one’s god-given gifts to produce “fruit.” Nothing in this story suggests the Millennial kingdom concept of evangelical dispensationalism.

The only plausible and reasonable explanation is the predicted literal, earthly kingdom never materialized as expected by Jesus and his followers. It was initially anticipated during Passover, then shortly after the resurrection story began and finally around the time of Jerusalem’s fall (68-70AD). The failure of Jesus to return in inaugurate the kingdom mortally wounded Jewish Christianity. It would languish for several centuries in sects like the Ebionites and Nazarenes, but it was effectively dead.

The Two Jesus Theory

The “Two Jesus Theory” proposes an earthly Jesus and a heavenly Christ. One is real, based on Jesus’ actual earthly ministry; while the other a figment of the religiously addled minds of Jesus followers and rooted in shared mystical encounters with the risen Jesus. It began with Mary Magdalene who was first to meet her resurrected master.

Prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, he had begun to explicitly instruct his disciples about his upcoming arrest, death and resurrection. While we may grant them a certain amount of latitude in not fully apprehending the import of what was to transpire (assuming this took place), our study will reveal multiple examples of object lessons, parables, visual cues, personal testimonies and an appearance by the risen Jesus himself, all of which could not dispel their doubts. This seems unbelievable and demands a more plausible explanation.

Jesus’ death was unexpected by no one more than Jesus himself. His crucifixion marked his death and that of his dreams of being the messiah of God’s kingdom on earth. His disciples resigned themselves to this fact and went home to resume their previous lives. Mary and the other women went to the tomb with embalming spices to anoint him for permanent burial. Nobody has the slightest idea about a resurrection because Jesus never mentioned it!

This should have been the final chapter in the life of Jesus as special prophet of the Last Days and briefly, king of the Jews. But his followers had different plans for him. The beginning of the resurrection story will consume much of our attention in another article.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”

I want to mention Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees. An entire chapter of Matthew’s gospel (ch. 23) is devoted to castigating these religious leaders for their hypocrisy. It is easy for Christians to join Jesus in his rebukes against those entrusted with the Law. However, there is a possible other side to this story which deserves mention.

It seems beyond contention Jesus, and John before him, ran afoul of the religious leaders of his day. The pivotal question is why?

Of course if Jesus was who Christians think he was, Jesus was correct in his appraisal. But what if you take the position Jesus was not the messiah and was wrong about the arrival of the kingdom of God? Then we have a reversal of judgment. The teachers of the law and Pharisees were right about not endorsing Jesus as prophet or messiah. So why did Jesus attack them?

Whether it was Jesus or the writers of the gospel, the issue was to undermine their credibility. These were the religious experts of the ancient traditions and they rejected Jesus’ claims. The obvious thing to do is try to cast aspersions on their moral character thus weakening their authority. It is possible some were hypocrites in the eyes of Jesus but remember the Apostle Paul was a self declared Pharisee as well (rf. Phil. 3:5). Furthermore, if you are a committed follower of Jesus as the Christ, as the New Testament writers were, you would necessarily consider anyone in error who opposed him.

The Destruction of the Temple and the Apocalypse

Ask a thousand evangelicals to describe in detail the Last Days and you will get a thousand different scenarios. It is dizzying trying to sort out Hebrew texts in Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel, Malachi and others with those in the gospels, epistles and Revelation. You could liken it to trying to make a single puzzle out of a dozen different puzzles. It won’t work because the pieces don’t fit together.

There are only two possibilities. Either the Bible is divinely inspired from beginning to end and everything can and must be harmonized. Or, it is the product of the imaginations of men who saw a future day(s) when divine justice would rain down upon wicked men and vindicate them and their God. Typically, these thoughts were generated during times of immense suffering and persecution.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the gospels teaching on the signs of the End Times as they relate to the coming apocalypse. The material of Matthew 24 & 25, Mark 13 and Luke 17 & 21 might be likened to the gospel writers going all in theologically speaking. 

Either Jesus was coming back soon or he wasn’t coming back at all

1”Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2“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.”

3As 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?” (Matthew 24:1-3)

I would encourage the reader to carefully read through these chapters several times while noting the key features briefly discussed below.

The context of these teachings is the same in all three gospels. Jesus uses the Temple as an object lesson regarding “the sign of his coming and the end of the age.” We must remember it is unanimously agreed upon by biblical scholars this material was created after the destruction of the Temple. It was put into the mouth of Jesus by these Christian writers before his death to persuade Christians Jesus return was imminent.

However, what if we hypothesize, as Christians do, Jesus said these very words to his disciples, can we plausibly suppose they forgot about his predicted/promised resurrection? In the above passage, his disciples specifically ask him about his “coming.” If we believe the Bible, they knew before it happened that it was going to happen but still did visit his tomb, disbelieved the women and doubted Jesus was alive when he was standing in front of them. Really!?

[Note: Evangelical “scholars” are generally not recognized within the larger community of biblical scholars due to their intractable belief of miracles and the supernatural in biblical interpretation. Though often cited by evangelicals to prove the rationality of their positions, they have little by way of academic credibility outside the safe confines of evangelicalism. Using those from your own elite “camp” to support tribalistic opinion is confirmation bias based on special revelation claims]

Shortly after the fall of Jerusalem and the failure for Yahweh or Jesus to intervene on behalf of the holy city and its people, Jewish Christians particularly began to entertain serous doubts about Jesus messiahship. If ever there was a time for God to rescue his chosen people, this was the time. 

One might ask why the gospels were not written closer to the time of Jesus? Why wait until now to record Jesus’ life? The primary reason was, if Jesus’ return was perennially imminent, there would be little need for written documents. Oral tradition served to educate and edify as we read in the book of Acts 2:42-47). For Paul’s Gentile churches it was a different matter. They had no allegiance to Israel’s sacred traditions and the ancient promises. 

The relationship between the Gentile and Jewish branches of early Christianity was strained. Each day the went by without the messiah’s return weakened the Jerusalem church because his claims were inextricably tied up with Judaism. Gentile believers, on the other hand, had no such attachment. Paul’s inclusion philosophy not only severed this connection but seemed to encourage a disfavor-able view of the ancient traditions. The writer of Matthew’s gospel may not have shared his opinion. Luke offers an interesting piece of information.

 24“They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)

In these words, Luke hints of Paul’s inclusion theology. The return of Jesus as the heavenly Christ will close the door of salvation to Gentiles, thereby ushering in the kingdom age.

So convinced were these writers Jesus return would coincide closely with Jerusalem’s destruction, they categorically stated as much but gave themselves a generational buffer for it to happen (Matt. 24:34, see below). In order to stem the tide of defections from the faith, they exhorted believers not to lose heart but to remain “alert” or risk incurring God’s wrath.

Again, the messianic kingdom is in full view here. Jews, Gentiles and Jewish Christians would be on earth when Jesus arrived, but only those who were prepared would be saved. Note the tenor of this passage lays stress on salvation by works. In fact, it undermines current evangelical soteriology by describing the “goats” as referring to Jesus as “Lord” but still being punished.

An entire article will be dedicated to Paul’s non Jewish version of the gospel for Gentiles. Suffice it to say, Jewish Christianity which is reflected in Matthew’s work, laid a heavy stress on obedience to the law particularly righteousness. This is consistent in these passages where Jews from “all tribes of the earth (24:30) are in view. Terms such as “the elect,” “chosen” and “brothers” add to this notion.

In Bible college and seminary I was taught the goats where “fake” Christians who thought they were saved but whose lives showed no evidence of such. I will remind the reader, when Jesus is said to have spoken this, Christianity did not yet exist. 

Jewish believers did not call themselves “Christians.” They were Israelites who believed in Jesus as Messiah. They were strict keepers of the law, attended synagogue and the festivals, practiced circumcision and kept the Sabbath. To read Christian beliefs into this passage is unjustified. And to wrestle it out of its historical context and put it into a future premillennial dispensational scenario is hermeneutical butchery.

I understand how incredibly difficult it is to break out of a Christian mindset when reading the New Testament. It is drilled into believers the New Testament is one hundred percent consistent within itself, the “harmony of scripture” principle. Everything is reconcilable with Christian belief. It is not.

Christianity is a faith of deductive reasoning. It assumes without question belief Jesus is the eternal Son of God which was predicted in Hebrew prophecy. With this “fact” irrevocably entrenched, everything else is made to conform to it using rationalizations unbounded by empiricism or logic. A supernatural belief requires supernatural explanations which only make it more supernaturally certain. 

The New Testament and the entire Bible for that matter is an incredibly imperfect record of finite men struggling to comprehend their mysterious world without the benefit of science. That Christians can’t understand this rudimentary perspective betrays how enslaved to the promise of eternal life they are. The moment the Bible loses its divine status, heaven disappears.

Jesus, “The Son of Man”

3As 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?” (Matthew 24:3)

1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified. (Matthew 26:1,2)

Wedged between these two critical texts are two chapters detailing “the sign” of the “coming” (return) of the “son of man” who is the one “handed over to be crucified.” Here Jesus (or the author) explicitly connects Jesus with the son of man which the disciples understand to be Jesus. If this is accurate, Jesus disciples are fully aware of Jesus role as the coming son of man who will be crucified then return in glory as the following passages illustrate.

30“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth [better, “the tribes of the land”] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:30-31)

13“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man [‘bar enash,’ or “human being”] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13-14)

The coming of the son of man occurs repeated throughout these two chapters in Matthew (24:27,30,37,39,44; 25:31) and the parallel passage in Luke 17:20-37 (4x’s). Christians identified this apocalyptic person with the heavenly Jesus. It was hijacked from Daniel’s apocalyptic material  (7:13,14) and misappropriated for Jesus. Contextually, Daniel’s use seems to be a collective designation for holy Israel and not an individual as used here (see Daniel 7:18. Note also the expression “one like a son of man” denoting a metaphorical not literal usage). The literal Hebrew would be “one like a human being” to stress this unusual designation. This is consistent with the authors use of four beasts: “lion/eagle,” “bear with ribs in its mouth,” “leopard/bird” and the “terrifying beats with iron teeth and ten horns.” God is also given human attributes as are the “holy people.”

15“I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ (Daniel 7:15-18)

Again we have another clear example of a New Testament writer using a text for his own theological purposes which cannot be supported in its strict historical and literary context. He is not, however, being deliberately deceptive but employing the prophetic mind and/or the prophetic text to unearth a deeper hidden meaning. This method was consistent with the time and was not seen as compromising the text. By appealing to the spiritual nature of the text, the Hebrew writings gained a greater respectability as possessing secret truths accessible only by those endowed with God’s spirit.

44He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

45Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49)

The above passage is at first glance puzzling until we consider spiritual illumination. Jesus is providing the disciples with divine insight into the Hebrew writings which heretofore they were unable to see. By “opening their minds” they were able to apprehend the hidden truths about the messiah’s death and resurrection. Soon they too would be imbued with God’s spirit giving them the ability to see what others could not.

Textual Note: The connection between Jesus as “the son of man” and “one like the son of man” is synthetic as discussed. The prophet Ezekiel uses this term 90+ times “non apocalyptically” to describe himself as a representative of man. It is highly likely Jesus identified with this concept throughout his ministry as himself a prophet similar to Ezekiel. After his death when the resurrection story took hold, his followers began to diligently searching the Hebrew writings to gain insight into who Jesus was. The passage in Daniel seemed readymade to co-opt and validate Jesus new role as “coming son of man” with apocalyptic significance.

Prophetic hindsight

The most effective hermeneutic technique employed by New Testament writers (and creators of oral and written traditions about Jesus) was prophetic hindsight. It involved scouring the Hebrew writings (Law, Prophets and Writings) looking for textual clues about Jesus. It was not unlike hunting for buried textual treasure. Once discovered or uncovered, a fiction would be created around them. These texts once deemed “prophetic” were seen as providing heretofore unknown details about Jesus often generating a new narrative. The nativity stories are primary examples as is Daniel’s son of man prophecy found here. The theological end (Jesus as the messiah), justifies the literary means to get there. Keep in mind, this was done with equal parts sincerity and conviction.

Prophets were literally inventing history because God, who knew all past historical events, was able to vouchsafe pertinent information via direct revelation to his spokesmen who in turn spoke or wrote it down for their audience. The office of Hebrew prophet involved predicting future events (‘fore-telling’), interpreting past events (‘forth-telling’) as well as creating new events (‘hind-telling’), all because of being inspired by God’s Holy Spirit.

19We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

16″All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of God a may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

Regardless of this misinterpretation, the gospel writers have explicitly stated, “The future fall of Jerusalem will signal the end of times and the coming of Jesus.” It is remarkable these writers had already witnessed this catastrophe several years earlier and were still certain Jesus would return. They had to believe. It was all or nothing.

32“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it  is near, right at the door. 34Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35)

You can almost sense the desperation in the words of these writers as Jewish Christians began to defect and return to Judaism disillusioned and disappointed. It was imperative these words be given to Jesus if they were to be heeded. The sense of urgency is intended to evoke obedience.

With Christianity, it is never just about hope. The element of fear is ever present to force obedience. This theme runs throughout most of “Jesus” parables. The threat of judgment for the disobedient, unfaithful and unrighteous “servant” is ever present.

45“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:45-51)

In Matthew’s next chapter, this warning is repeated in the parables of “The Ten Virgins” (see 25:11-13) and “The Bags of Gold (see 25:29-30). However, the parable of “The Sheep and Goats” (25:31-46) is perhaps most well known because it carries the most dire warning of all. It is also the most misinterpreted by evangelical commentators.  Pre-tribulation premillennial dispensationalism forces passages like those found in these chapters to conform to their synthetic eschatological schema at any cost to textual integrity. 

It begins with these words:

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:31-34)

Any accurate interpretation must preserve the exclusive Judaistic perspective intended.

The plain, simple and obvious meaning is as the catastrophic events of 68-70AD unfolded it seemed without question to Jewish followers of Jesus, he would make his heavenly messianic debut. His failure to exercise his rule during Passover and shortly after his resurrection would certainly take place now. If this had happened, there would have been no need for the gospels to have been created.

Jewish followers of Jesus did not participate in the Jewish revolt of 66AD nor the defense of the city which ensued. Their failure to come to the aid of their Jewish brethren drove a wedge between the two groups which was never resolved. Watching from a distance as the dust settled and the smoke faded over God’s holy city, they eagerly awaited the soon to arrive kingdom. As days turned into weeks then months and even years, the need for an apologetical tourniquet was critical for the Jewish branch of Christianity to survive. 

This perspective must be kept in the forefront of our understanding of these passages. The emphasis on preparedness and consequences of not being ready, as well as, rewards for those who are on alert illustrates the dire predicament facing these Jewish believers.

The Jewish flavor of this and Matthew’s other parables is characteristically nonPauline. There is evidence this writer had not embraced Paul’s theory of Gentile inclusion and a Christianity divorced from Judaism. The terminology and focus on righteous obedience are tell tale signs of messianic imagery. 

Stewardship, watchfulness, obedience and faithfulness are key elements in the teaching. A king and kingdom, servants and master, rewards and punishments emphasize the importance of being in a constant state of readiness. Paul’s version of an anti-nominal Christianity is completely out of place here thus forcing evangelicals to shift this to a future as yet to come judgment immediately following the 2nd coming.

In this context, ALL raptured Christians are exempt from the “Sheep and the Goats” judgment which consists of “new” believers (‘Sheep’) who convert during The Tribulation and non believers (‘Goats’) who continue to reject Jesus. After this comes the Battle or culmination of Armageddon and the Millennial kingdom begins for one thousand years, or a very long time for non literalists. At the conclusion of this period is “The Great White Throne” judgment (Revelation 20) when ALL non Christians are put into the “Lake of Fire,” thus inauguration the “New Heavens and New Earth” era for eternity.

A couple “issues” require mention. As I have said repeatedly, in a faith without empirical boundaries couched in a spiritual language whose meaning is indeterminate according to speaker and hearer, anything can be made to make sense. Who’s to disagree and on what basis?

The coming Apocalypse

Evangelicals are forced to try to fit this material into their already cluttered eschatology. The major hurdle to clear is when does this occur. If at the 2nd coming, the finality of this judgment bumps up against the “Final Judgment” which takes place at the end of the Millennial kingdom. No amount of twisting and prying can make this fit without watering it down, e.g., this is only a partial judgment. 

The unity of scripture principle precludes accepting the obvious. This passage must be confined to a Jewish interpretation of the Messianic kingdom which will herald God’s judgment on “all nations” and those “sons of Abraham” who were unfaithful to his holy law. 

This parable is profoundly simple, straightforward and powerful. Jesus could return at any time and those who wanted to gain entrance to the Messianic kingdom must be alert and obedient at all time.

All this aside, this story carries a powerful message for all Christians. Ministering to the poor and needy is not optional. It has been used to show with penetrating clarity a believers inescapable obligation to help those in need. The central message is failure to carry out this mandate is equal to shunning Jesus himself and vice versa. 

To project this passage into the distant future (two thousand years) and after the Rapture and Tribulation, makes it meaningless to Jesus or Mathew’s original audience. In fact, if you accept the evangelical position, this passage is meant only for Gentiles (‘nations’) who survive the Tribulation. It is assumed without the slightest textual evidence, both the Rapture and the Great Tribulation of seven years has already occurred. Also, this entire passage is given a Christianized interpretation before Christianity existed. If Jesus had actually spoken these words with the intention Christians give to them, nobody would have understood anything he was saying. He could have concluded by saying, don’t bother listening, these words are for future eschatological people who are alive after my first second coming (Rapture) but before my 2nd coming which is actually my third coming. This would also include the entire contents of these two chapters.

To reiterate the significance of this material to our main goal, let’s ask why it is placed in the final week of Jesus’ earthly life? Why wasn’t Jesus forthright from the beginning of his ministry? Obviously, this teaching has a huge impact on the eternal destiny of billions of people. 

Jesus never spoke about it because his message was simple: The kingdom has begun so you (Israelites) had been be prepared or face the consequences. In Jesus’ perfect world, Yahweh initiated the kingdom on earth through supernatural intervention resulting in the destruction of ALL GENTILES especially the Romans and the restoration of Israel. End of story…

The material in the gospels is a desperate attempt by messianic Israelite followers of Jesus to explain why the kingdom had not yet arrived by threatening 

“Santaology:” The Study of Santa Claus

No one would or could deny the immense impact belief in Santa Claus has had on the minds and hearts of children around the world. I was once one of them. 

Santa Claus may be fake, but the extreme joy and hope this mythical figure causes is as real as can be! 

If experience is the basis for truth and an authoritative book is necessary to explain its origin, provide stories to bolster its claims, characters to attest to its reality and a set of core doctrines and beliefs to propagate and perpetuate its teachings, Santa Claus could become real

Imagine if a group of diehard radical Santa followers decided to devote their lives to studying the many aspects surrounding the “Santa Story.” For instance, courses could include: the aerodynamics surrounding how reindeer and/or Sant’s sleigh are able to fly, the longevity of elves and their mating and eating habits, how so many toys are delivered in a short time to the world’s children, the location of the North Pole and Santa’s workshop and how it remains undetectable, how resources are acquired and processed to support such a massive manufacturing operation, Christmas “magic” as it relates to how parents are tricked into “thinking” they are Santa when in truth it is part of  the subterfuge behind the “faith” requirement for believing in him, the immortality of Santa or multiple Santas, the role of Mrs. Santa in the success of her husband and the place of technology in North Pole security, child surveillance, toy making advancements, health, medicine and production efficiency. 

They could start a university — The University of Santa Claus, or USC— offering degrees in Santalogy. There would be Santa scholars who would address skeptics and naysayers. They would write articles helping to educate the world and debunk myths about Santa. Conferences for Santaists could meet around the world to share experiences, formulate doctrines and edify one another. Eventually a rich tradition would form of past leaders and great teachers. Would it then achieve legitimacy and credibility? Maybe if it occurred a thousand years ago.

Simply having in house scholars who provide the faithful with overwhelming evidence supporting their beliefs is meaningless without objective independent verifiable corroborating data. The insular learning that dominates evangelicalism is like an ideological infection which spreads among its members. Some of the nations greatest leaders, entertainers, athletes, business men and women talk as if they have an exclusive monopoly on what is true and what is not. The smugly parade their faith as if they alone possess the keys to life’s greatest mysteries and everyone else must bow to their special wisdom. This lunacy must be stopped in the name of rationality, reason and common sense thinking.

Evangelicals should be the laughingstocks of the modern world. To equate belief in traditional or biblical Christianity as anything more than ancient superstitions and not much different from Greek mythology is an affront to reason and science.

Christianity is faith based not fact based. It is primarily emotional and experiential not rational and evidential. It is fueled by fear of death and hope of heaven which clouds reason and obscures facts. It is repopulated mostly by the children of its followers who indoctrinate and socialize them into its beliefs and culture. Some enter through a door of desperation, seeking deliverance from substance abuse, terminal disease, impending death, financial hardship, relationship struggles, depression or mental health issues, loneliness, death of a loved one or any other personal crisis.  

Dissenting voices are castigated and villainized as anti-God,  anti-Jesus and anti-miraculous to preserve faith and prevent defections. Sermons and literature are laced with content intended to foster dependency on God and facilitate trust in his promises to provide for all of life’s needs. A dualistic world view of good versus evil, light versus dark, God versus Satan is taught to heighten fear, create responsibility and inspire devotion. The prospect of a final day of divine reckoning is anticipated and celebrated to inspire obedience and confidence in coming justice. 

Evangelicals are like a man in a brightly lit room complaining how hard it is to see who then walks into a completely dark room and proclaims how clear things have become. 

Evangelical ideology: A clear and present danger

In conclusion, none of this would be worrisome were it not for the impact and influence evangelicalism is having at home and abroad. I have watched from the sidelines for several decades as evangelicals have steadily increased their efforts to permeate all strata and segments of society in an effort to effect change. For years their reach was short and limited. This has changed under the Trump administration.

Arguably for the first time in their history, evangelicals have unprecedented access and influence to the White House. The only question remaining is how much more damage can they do to civil rights, the environment and political stability? 

Evangelicals are gambling with house money. In their eschatological minds, they have nothing to lose. The prospect of The Rapture guarantees their exemption from global catastrophe whether political or environmental. They will enjoy front row seats as the world implodes in a catastrophic apocalyptical climax. This sense of total detachment from concern for the planets survival and the irresponsibility for global stewardship it breeds should alarm us all.

Published by ronarends

I was born in London, Ontario, Canada. I attended Capernwray Bible School (England and Austria), Moody Bible Institute (Chicago, Il.), the University of Western Ontario (London, Ontario), London Baptist Seminary (London, Ontario) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Dallas, Tx.). I have had several temporary jobs over the years but my focus has alway been on an investigative study of the Bible, Jesus and Christianity particularly evangelicalism. Currently editing a massive literary undertaking deconstructing Christianity and Jesus.

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