Johann and Louise: Training Disciples to Make Disciples in Southern Africa
It was the largest Puffadder I had ever seen!
And boy, was he mad. The room was full of people who seemed more or less oblivious to his presence, and I knew that if I didn't act quickly, someone would be bitten. A bite from a Puffadder is lethal and often leads to death.
I lunged forward and grabbed him by his neck, keeping a very firm and tight grip to prevent him from biting me! He hissed angrily and began to coil his body around my arm in an attempt to pull his head out of my hand. He was strong and I knew it was only a matter of time before he managed to pull himself free. I looked around helplessly, not knowing what to do. Just then two people came up beside me. In their hands they had a cord...a threefold cord...which they looped around the snake's neck and pulled tight. The snake was instantly rendered harmless and I let go and these two people took him away.
Then I woke up. It was a dream...but what a dream!
The Lord showed me that the threefold cord was the prayers of our supporters...while Satan tries so hard to undermine the work of the ministry, seeking to discourage us, to hurt and harm us, to distract us by making us focus on the many negatives in our world...it is the faithful prayers of our supporters that prevent him from doing his diabolical worst.
Yes, of course we need financial support...but oh how much more do we need your prayers! We simply cannot...and I know this sounds like such a cliche...but truly, we cannot do what we do without your prayers!
In this dream, God has shown me that without you, Satan would harm us...you are our rope holders, as William Carey put it...our threefold cord holders...and we are truly grateful.
Johann and Louise spent two years helping to develop the St. Frumentius Seminary in Gambella, Ethiopia. At present, they are mostly working in Southern Africa where they are serving in seven southern African countries, although they continue to work with the Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa as well as other southern and northern African countries, through engaging in a disciple making movement in order to grow the body of Christ. They are partnering with J-Life and other like-minded ministries. This ministry is massive and has the ability to reach thousands.
We are sent through the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders, a missionary sending community, engaging in building relationships with the worldwide church to experience the broken restored, the wounded healed, the hungry fed, and the lost found through the love and power of Jesus Christ.
Both Matthew and Mark have what
scholars call a “transition passage” at this point in the Olivet Discourse
where He purposefully moves from one subject to another in an attempt to answer
the two questions posed by the disciples at the beginning of this section. Luke
does not have this transition passage in his retelling of the event, but stays
on the topic of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
Before we look at this transition
passage we need to remember that the disciples’ question had two reference
points. The first had to do with the destruction of the Temple predicted by
Jesus that sparked off this discussion. The second had to do with the end of
time or the Second Advent of Christ. It is also helpful to remember that the
disciples use the Greek word parousia when asking about His return…in the first
section of His reply Jesus consistently used a different word, erchomenai, except in verse 27. This difference is not clear in translation.
However, from the transition passage on, Jesus began to use the word parousia. Also two words are used for ‘end’, sunteleia and
Why is this important? This is
important as it indicates that there are two distinct forms of reference in this
passage, one looking forward to the end of time and the Second Advent and the
other towards the end of a very specific historical event that served to
vindicate our Lord’s claims of Messiahship. As we have discussed this in the
prior sections, we will not rehearse these important grammatical indicators
here. Let it suffice to say that we must be aware of Jesus’ choice of words in
His reply as it helps us see the different time references, one within the
lifetime of that generation (plus minus 40 years) and the other at an unknown
point in the future.
It is also instructive to note
that Jesus used two very different illustrations as transitional aids. The
first has a clear sign that something is about to happen. The fig tree heralds
the coming of summer. So everything Jesus had said up to this point served as a
sign of the first ‘end’ – His coming on the clouds of judgement as the
triumphant King and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70. This
addressed the ‘when’ part of the disciple’s question. But in stark contrast
with this the illustration following indicates that there are no signs of the
return of the travelling man. The verses in between these two illustrations
make the difference clear.
Both Matthew 24:34-35 and Mark
13:30-31 function as concluding statements that seem to point to an end to the
previous discussion. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things
take place.” Then both Matthew24:36 and Mark 13:32 begin with a subject matter
transition grammatical structure device used to mark off new material, peri de, translated ‘but of, concerning, or regarding’ (see the use of
this device in Matthew 22:31; Acts 21:25; 1 Corinthians 7:1, 8:1, 12:1; 1
Thessalonians 4:9, 5:1). By using this device Jesus was clearly shifting gears,
as it were, by reaching back to the disciple’s second question. Having dealt
with the first, He now moved on to deal with the second. As such these verses
introduced new material. Jesus left the AD 70 prophecy with its many signs
behind and began to address His unexpected…no signs…Second Advent (Matthew
24:36-25:46; Mark 13:32-36).
“But of that day and hour…”
“However, no one knows the day or the hour…”
What is interesting to note here is
that Jesus, in His limited knowledge as the Son Who chose to live His earthly
life never more than Man, knew the temporal markers (note the plural use of “days” as opposed to the singular
specific “that day”) for the
destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, but He did not know the timing of His
own Second Advent! The signs that would mark the timing of the imminent events
to come upon this generation are
lacking when it comes to that day and
hour. Here it seems that the word ‘this’ stands in contrast with the word
‘that’. In the second section there is no imminent temporal indication such as
in the first (this generation) –
rather Jesus seems to anticipate an unknown and distant future event.
Also, in the preceding sections,
Jesus was at pains to inform His disciples concerning historical events they
would ‘see’ so that they might be able to know when to leave the city and flee
into the Judean hill country. But here no one, including angels and Jesus
Himself, know when that very particular day of His Second Advent would occur.
Thus the first section urges the disciples to be ready to flee…in the second
there is no such opportunity for escape…rather there is just a call for obedience,
faithfulness, diligence, and continuance in the faith.
Again, in the previous section,
there was a distinct possibility that people seeing the signs could be misled
to believe that they were safe by false prophets and false messiahs…but in this
section under review, the Second Advent is shown to be something unmistakably
visible to everyone and, as such, any attempt at deception would be impossible.
Also, the social circumstances are contrasted as the first section reveals a
time of great upheaval, chaos, and uncertainty, whereas the second section
indicates a time of tranquillity – life as usual continues right up to the
unexpected arrival of Jesus…people are marrying and eating and drinking and
working – just like at the time of Noah.
Throughout the Church era there
have been people who were convinced they were living in the “last days”…but
they were mistaken. Even there are many, one example will be sufficient. In
1918, the Rev Arthur Walkington Pink, a British Bible Teacher who served as a
Pastor in the United States, wrote:
the end of the Age is upon us. All over the world, reflecting minds are
discerning the fact that we are on the eve of another of those far-reaching
crises which make the history of our race…Those who look out on present
conditions are forced to conclude that the consummation of this dispensation is
at hand…The sands in the hour glass of this Day of Salvation have almost run
out. The signs of the Times demonstrate it. ‘But,’ it may be asked, ‘Have not
other ages, as well as the present been crowded with signs of distress?’
Undoubtedly…They unduly magnified the evil, and erred in their calculations…But
today, the Signs are so plain they cannot be mis-read, though the foolish may
close their eyes and refuse to examine them. What these Signs are we have shown
at length in chapter six and if the evidence there furnished has not convinced
the reader that the Lord is at hand, then there is little hope that any further
arguments drawn from Scripture will do so.”
Pink was wrong. Others have been
wrong…sincerely wrong…but wrong nonetheless.
We would do well to learn from
these historical errors. Final dates and times are known only to our Father and
we are not called to speculate about when Jesus will return…we are called to be
witnesses to the reality of Jesus present reign as the one who has gained
victory over sin and death, who has overcome the world and its ruler, who has
triumphed over principalities and powers of darkness, and who has led captivity
Pink, A W,
The Redeemer’s Return, Calvary Baptist Bookstore, Ashland, KY, 1918, 318-319.
Two things were drummed into my
head during hermeneutics classes at seminary: “context is king” and “Scripture
must interpret Scripture”. What my professors meant was that the Bible is one
Word that remains consistent in its message from the opening chapters to the
closing chapters and if we are to be faithful in being messengers of the
message, we must be diligent in ensuring that what we convey is what it
actually says…and not what we or others think it says or ought to say, for that
These two principles are vital in
the understanding of our present texts. If we fail to see the larger
context…the origin of the prophetic language used by Jesus in these verses…and
if we fail to understand the meaning of these statements in the light of their
use in other parts of Scripture, we will fail to interpret correctly what Jesus
actually said and meant at the time.
The first thing to notice is the
time-designate that governs this passage. In Matthew 23:36 Jesus said that the
judgment He described would fall on the generation alive at the time. A few
verses later, He repeated this: “I tell you the truth, this generation will not
pass from the scene until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34) What
things? The things we are about to consider in this study. May we not be guilty
of twisting the clear meaning of Scripture to suit ourselves!
In the previous study we saw that,
in Scriptural and historical context, the “great tribulation” referred to the
destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Jesus now stated that immediately
following this cataclysmic end of the old order something earth-shatteringly
dramatic would happen. Let’s look at what Jesus said exactly as He said it as
recorded by Matthew:
Immediately after the affliction of those
days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give her light, and the
stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And
then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and then will wail all
the tribes of the land, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds
of heaven with power and much glory; and He will send His messengers with a
great trumpet sound, and they will gather His elect out of the four winds from
(the) ends of (the) heavens to (the) ends of them.
Was Jesus referring to a literal
cosmic event or was He using prophetic or proverbial language that would have
been understood and correctly interpreted by those hearing Him at the time?
Personally, I believe the latter and I hope I will be able to demonstrate why as
we look at the rest of Scripture. At this point, may I remind the reader that
the Jews at the time were well versed in the Scriptures…most of them knew a
large part of the Old Testament by heart. Unlike most modern followers of
Jesus, they would have been able to recall an entire passage or book or
biblical motif or teaching simply by hearing one or more sentences of
Scripture. So, we need to ask ourselves, where in the Old Testament is the sun,
moon, stars, and general cosmic upheaval mentioned?
My first point of reference is
the dream of Joseph in Genesis 37:9-11. “Soon Joseph had another dream, and
again he told his brothers about it. ‘Listen, I have had another dream’ he
said. ‘The sun, moon, and eleven stars
bowed low before me!’” (Italics mine) Note that his father immediately
understood what this dream meant as he said in verse 10, “Will your mother (the
moon) and I (the sun) and your brothers (the eleven stars) actually come and
bow to the ground before you?” This dream is later fulfilled when they all actually
bow down before Joseph, by that time seated at the right hand of Pharaoh in
This seems to indicate that the sun and moon and stars could be used to
symbolically portray those in authority in a family setting at least.
However, it seems that this
figurative understand also applied to other authority figures. Isaiah applied
this imagery to Babylon and Edom when predicting their destruction (Isaiah
13:10, 13; 34:3-5). Ezekiel used the same figures of speech when describing the
fall of Egypt (Ezekiel 32:2, 7-8). Joel also applied this to Israel (Joel 2:1,
10). So, we need not resort to strange literal interpretations of Jesus’s words
in this case…He was simply using prophetic imagery to indicate the overthrow of
It is important to note at this
point that, grammatically, what appears (or what becomes apparent) is the
“sign” and not the “Son of Man”. “Then Christ defines what the sign signifies:
it is the sign that the Son of Man is now in heaven. That is, this sign
(whatever it is) will signify that Jesus is in heaven above – despite the
Jewish authorities and rulers of the temple killing Him (Matthew 16:21; 20:18;
26:3-4, 59, 65-66; 27:20), sealing His tomb (Matthew 27:62-66), and denying His
Jesus spoke about this reality being visible to those who condemned Him to
death in Matthew 26:64, “And in the future you
will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and
coming on the clouds of heaven.”
In this statement, it seems that
what Jesus was saying was that those condemning Him to death would “see” Him
seated at the right hand of God by His coming on the clouds of heaven. It is
interesting to note that at this point the High Priest declared Jesus guilty of
blasphemy. Why? Because he knew Jesus was quoting from Daniel 7:13 (see also
the response of the Jews in Acts 7:56-57 when Stephen used this verse in
reference to Jesus). “Coming on the clouds” was an image used only of God
coming in judgment (cf. Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1). It is an image, I believe,
that has its origin in the Exodus. In Israel’s redemption from slavery in
Egypt, God guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud. When the
Egyptians pursued them and seemed to have trapped them on the shores of the Red
Sea, this pillar of cloud moved between the two opposing forces. Just before
dawn, the Lord looked down from the cloud and judged the Egyptians while
protecting and liberating the Israelites (cf. Exodus 14:19-25).
What does this have to do with
Jesus’ statement in our passages? The Jerusalem leaders and Temple authorities
had condemned Him to death and were actively persecuting His followers. A
careful reading of the letter to the Hebrews indicates that many Jewish
believers at the time were tempted to abandon their faith in Jesus as it seemed
that the Old Testament system was still firmly in place and, as such, there was
nothing to suggest that Jesus was, in fact, reigning as King. But it is the
destruction of the vestiges of the old order that vindicates all of our Lord’s
claims about Himself and it effectively removes any obstacle in the way of
spreading the Word in the minds of those who were in doubt.
It is in the judgment of
Jerusalem, the fulfilment of Jesus’ words, that He is shown to be King reigning
at the right hand of God with authority over both heaven and earth. In this
sense, those who had rejected Him, the Cornerstone of the New Temple (Matthew
21:42; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7), would ‘see’ that they had
been wrong. This would fulfil what was written by the prophet Zechariah 12:10,
“They (the family of David and the people of Jerusalem) will look on Me whom
they have pierced and mourn for Him as for an only Son.”, and predicted by
Jesus in Matthew 26:64, “…you (the leaders of Jerusalem and Temple authorities)
will see the Son of Man…”, and in Matthew 24:30, “…there will be deep mourning
among all the tribes of the land.”
In Luke 4:17-21, Jesus indicated
that in Him the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 61:1-2 was fulfilled. This
imagery was drawn from the Year of Jubilee legislation found in Leviticus 25.
At the onset of this Sabbath year, a trumpet would be sounded according to
Leviticus 25:9. All those who had lost property could return to their land at
this time. With the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, both enemy and
follower would finally see the reality of the Jubilee fulfilled in Christ. Now
the messengers of the reigning King of kings could continue to go announce the
greater liberation from slavery to sin and to gather (note the use of the same
word in Matthew 23:37) His elect or chosen ones from the ends of the earth (cf.
Matthew 21:43; 22:9; 28:19; Acts 1:8).
There was a reason why Jesus
prefaced the “Great Commission” with the words, “I have been given all
authority in heaven and on earth.”It is
only because Jesus is presently reigning at the right hand of God that we have
a message to proclaim at all.
This is my
translation directly from the Greek text.
Just as an
aside: Most scholars will agree that
Joseph is a ‘type’ of Christ…that his life and ministry foretells that of the
Kenneth L, The Olivet Discourse Made Easy, Apologetics Group, Draper, VA, 2010,
word ge is consistently used
by Matthew to mean Israel, Matthew 2:6, 20, 21; 27:45. Also, the word fulai is only used twice
in Matthew, here and in Matthew 19:28, where it specifically refers to the
tribes of Israel.