Today we read some interesting passages both have elements of their internal structure that are important to understand.
Old Testament – Exodus Chapter 20 – The Ten Commandments
We all know there are 10 Commandments. Or are there? If we look carefully we see that there are more than just ten specific commands:
“And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
3. You shall not bow down to them or serve them….
4. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, ….
5. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
6. Honor your father and your mother…
7. You shall not murder.
8. You shall not commit adultery.
9. You shall not steal.
10. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
11. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house;
12. you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant,
13. or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
Obviously when teaching or discussing the “Ten Commandments” one must summarize them by combining the commands of first ones or the last ones. This is done as human convention because we are cultured to think of things in groups of ten. How they are combined sometimes causes controversy. However, this is a tempest in a tea pot. What matters is that you understand and teach them faithfully.
The New Testament – The Olivet Discourse
Jesus’ discourse on the Mount of Olives about the signs of the end of the world is a fascinating study of the structure of ancient speech making. These people are from an oral tradition so they used memory tricks to remember and organize their speeches. The Olivet discourse uses an “Inclusio” to mark the beginning and the end of the discourse. The beginning and end of the discourse is marked by the reference to “this generation”. Inside the Inclusio is a “Chiasm”. This is where the ideas (or theme) of the discourse are stated until the climax is reached and then repeated in reverse order. Likes this: “Inclusio A, B, C, Climax, C, B, A, Inclusio”. The Olivet Discourse actually starts in Chapter 23 (remember chapter and verse were added later). Here is the entire discourse with the theme preceding it.
A. INCLUSIO: Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
B. GATHERING REJECTED: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
C. SEE THE SON OF MAN: See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
D. GOING AWAY: 1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple.
E. THROWN DOWN: 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
F. KNOWLEDGE SOUGHT: 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying,
G. SIGN OF COMING: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
H. FALSE MESSIAHS: 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
I. PROTRACTED TIME OF SUFFERING: 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
J. TRIBULATION: 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.
K. DO NOT FALL AWAY: 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
L. WICKEDNESS: 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
M. THE END: 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
CONCLUSION = PREACH THE GOSPEL: 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, …
M. THE END: …and then the end will come.
L. WICKEDNESS (SACRILEGE): 15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place ( let the reader understand),
K. FLEE – RUN AWAY: 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.
J. TRIBULATION: 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.
I. SHORTENED TIME OF SUFFERING: 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.
H. FALSE MESSIAHS: 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ! ‘ or ‘There he is! ‘ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
G. SIGN OF COMING: 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
F. KNOWLEDGE DENIES: 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
E. FALLING DOWN: 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
D. APPEARING: 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, …
C. SEE THE SON OF MAN: …and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
B. GATHERING SUCCESSFUL: 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
A. INCLUSIO = THIS GENERATION: 32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
While the discourse is undoubtedly referencing the end of days early Christians understood it in a second way. For them the “abomination of desolation” spoken of in line 15 was a clear reference to the defilement of the Temple in Jerusalem. This happened in A.D. 70 and lead to a Jewish revolt in the city. This brought about “war and rumors of war” by the “vultures”, who are the Romans (b/c their standard is an eagle) and because the emperor pretended to be a God, “a false messiah”. Thus when the city was surrounded by Roman troops the Christians new it was the end. However, something interesting happened. Power plays were happening in Rome and the leader of one of the factions called back his troops from Jerusalem to assist. This lead to a shorted time of suffering so the Christians did what had been instructed by Jesus, they fled the city. The power struggle in Rome was resolved more quickly and the troops that had left Rome were turned back without having gotten very far. They returned and again sieged the city, destroying it. The burned the temple, which was a building plated from top to bottom in gold. After the city was taken and the temple burned the gold that had adorned it had literally melted in between all the stones so the roman soldiers took the temple apart brick by brick to remove the gold in between the stones. This fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy, “Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
If your interested in learning more about the Olivet Discourse and how it can be interpreted I recomend David Currie’s great book, “What Jesus Really Said About the End of the World”.