World English Bible translation
"Behold, I have told you all things beforehand.13:24 But in those days, after that oppression, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light, 13:25 the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. 13:26 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 13:27 Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky.
13:28"Now from the fig tree, learn this parable. When the branch has now become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that the summer is near; 13:29 even so you also, when you see these things coming to pass, know that it is near, at the doors. 13:30 Most assuredly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things are accomplished. 13:31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 13:32 But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but only the Father. 13:33 Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don't know when the time is.
Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. He had also, knowingly, come to die. He knew that He would be handed over to the chief priests and be killed. He had told these things to the disciples. It was all a part of God's plan. He also knew that on the third day He would rise again. Death would not have the final word. For this end He came into the world. For this end He had come to Jerusalem.
On about the third or fourth day Jesus had been sitting on the Mount of Olives across a valley from the Temple. The disciples with Him had looked back on the beauty of the Temple and all the activity of the city and commented on the massive stones that had been used to build Herod's Temple. Jesus told them not to be too impressed. There would soon be a time when not one stone would stand on another. The Temple would be utterly destroyed. The disciples were taken aback and four of them asked Him in private what He had meant by this. His response, that we have studied for three days now, has been called the Olivet Discourse, named after where it took place. It had also been called, at time, the Little Apocalypse.
Now I will admit a great failing on my part. I don't understand this passage very well. "The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light, the stars will be falling from the skyÖ" The coming of the Son of Man to gather the elect is something that I can understand somewhat. That these events would take place at the end of the present age I can, and do, believe. I would have a harder time believing that the world could continue on forever. There is a note of finality that I think strikes a chord in the human heart. There must be a day of completion, a Day of Judgment.
But Jesus also plainly states that "this generation will not pass away until all these things are accomplished." I know that there are ways that people try to stretch things to explain what this means. There are answers that can be given that range from the completely far-fetched to the almost plausible. We could approach this from a scholarly position and agree on what the majority of orthodox teachers would say.
But, I believe that there is a larger lesson that can be learned at times like this with passages like this. When you don't understand the "clear meaning" of the passage, don't try to stretch it until it looses that clear meaning. God has given the Scriptures so that common people can understand it. That is not to say that we can understand all parts of it immediately or even that most common people will believe it. But, it is written to be understood. God wants to communicate. He is not trying to hide. If there is a part that you just canít understand right now, don't twist it out of shape until it fits what you think it SHOULD say.
It's OK if some of it doesnít fit immediately. We have all of eternity to understand it.
Donít let the obscure passages distort the plain teachings of scripture. Jesus tells us to, "Watch, keep alert, and pray." This I can understand. This I can do. The answers that this will bring may one day lead me to the meaning of this passage. Or perhaps I will never understand it in this life. That is up to God to decide. When He wants me to understand it, He will make it clear. Faith in all things. Keep faith and all things will be made clear.
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