Years ago, I bought entitled Soothsayers of the Second Advent by William Alnor. I bought the book for two reasons— it had a catchy title and it was (literally) in the bargain bin for $1.97. The book was written 25 years ago and most of the end-time predictions with which it deals are too dated to be directly helpful. He mentions things like--
- The Jupiter Effect: The rare alignment of planets that was seen as Revelation's “signs in the sky” that would usher in the end-time.
- Identification of Antichrist: Various suggestions from Henry Kissinger to Pope John Paul II to Ronald Reagan.
- Mark of the Beast: Its our VISA card (VI= 6, zeta= 6th letter, and “a” is backward 6). OK, once a month I'm willing to entertain the idea of VISA as the mark of the beast.
- Gog and Magog: The former leaders of the USSR were Gromecho, Ogarkov and Gorbachov. God! Give me some time and I could probably find a Magog in there someone too.
The book was written before the Y2K, Harold Camping or Mayan calendar debacles, so it misses many newer examples of this same end-time frenzy. Alnor debunked the hot end-time theories of his day and provides a warning for the soothsayers of the present. You'd really think that eventually the soothsayers would cease saying sooth, but then people keep buying what they're selling!
Jesus himself tried to derail some soothsayers in our reading for today in Luke 19. He was coming near Jerusalem, and there were those who thought “the kingdom of God was going to appear at once” (NIV) or “immediately” (ESV). The NLT puts it, “to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away.” In other words, many of the Jews expected that the Messiah would come and immediately establish his kingdom in Jerusalem. They had the end-time all figured out, and if Jesus was the Messiah, then they had him all figured out as well. In fact, they were ready to make him their king whether he wanted to be or not! (see John 6:15). As Jesus draws near Jerusalem, there was an expectation that something was about to happen (it did, but not the something they expected). So Jesus told a parable to stress that God’s kingdom was different type of kingdom (Luke 19:12-24)
This "Parable of the Minas" is very similar to the "Parable of the Talents" in Matthew 25, though it has a slightly different setting. Here a nobleman goes to a distant country to have himself declared king and leaves servants in charge of his estate. This actually has something of a “ripped from headlines” quality—Herod Archelaus travelled to Rome in B.C. 4 to secure permission from Caesar to take his father’s title as “King of the Jews.” As in the parable (v. 14), a delegation went to Rome in protest… and lost. As in the parable, Herod Archelaus killed his political rivals on ascending the throne. So Jesus seems to use a familiar story as the basis of this parable.
The basic details here are the similar to as the more familiar parable in Matthew 25. The master goes away and the servants don't know exactly when he will return— only that he would return. The servants had to be ready for their master's return, and the way they were to be ready was to use the money that he left behind in their care. The specific financial details of the two parables are different--
- In the Parable of the Talents, the servants are given different amounts with the productive servants making the same return.
- In the Parable of the Minas, the servants are given the same amount, but they present a different rate of return to the master.
In both parables, the servant that is not ready (who has not put his gift to work) is condemned. And the basic point of both parables is the same—we don't know when the master is coming, so we must use what he gives us now so that we will be ready when he comes.
Remember, Jesus told this parable to people who thought that “kingdom come” was coming at any minute. He isn't trying to disabuse them of that believe; He is rather trying to get them to see that coming means. And what it means is that we must be ready at all times because we can't know when kingdom come will come. Does the Bible leave the impression that Jesus is coming soon? No! It comes right out ands says it!
- Romans 13:12- "The night is nearly over; the day is almost here"
- James 5:8- "Stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near"
- 1 Peter 4:7- "The end of all things is near"
Jesus really is coming soon, but soon is always God's own timing and not our own. When one days is like a thousand years, then how soon is soon? Soon could be at any time. And if the end could come at any time, then it could be NOW! That doesn't mean that we should look for signs in the sky or climb tree to get closer to him when he comes. The point is that we'd better be busy doing kingdom work now so we will be ready for kingdom come when kingdom comes. All of those "coming soon" texts are ETHICAL in nature. Jesus is coming soon, so we'd better be living in a certain way. We'd better be spreading our talents and minas around now so that we'll be ready for kingdom come--
- Romans 13:12- "…so let us put aside the deeds of darkness."
- James 5:9- "Don’t grumble against each other or you too will be judged"
- 1 Peter 4:7- "…Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled."