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“End-Timey” stuff in The Shack Bible

Dear ShackBible readers,

You may have noticed that The Shack Bible approaches “end-times” stuff a little differently than what some of us are used to.  For an example, look at my paraphrase of Matthew 24 and compare it to what you hear on Christian radio.  Anyway, The Shack itself doesn’t really address this topic.  But there is a coherent vision of God behind it all, and I have tried to take that way of thinking and use it to approach the various biblical texts that talk about this kind of thing.

Just in case this sort of thing is interesting to some of you (and even though I know many of you would find this to be a total snooze), I just posted on the Trinity and Humanity blog about how I read the “end-timey” parts of the Bible, and how I think it fits with the theology behind The Shack.



John 16.8-11 – Sarayu takes on The Matrix

When I launch Sarayu into the Matrix, she will contradict the core beliefs that make it run.

(9) The Matrix functions on the lie that problems are caused by rule-breaking.  Sarayu will prove that problems come from beliefs that do not fit with Reality.

(10) The Matrix functions on the lie that righteousness is something achieved by a few heroic individuals who can climb the religious ladder all the way up to heaven, and to hell with all the losers who can’t quite manage it.  Sarayu will show that I, the Son of Man, have ascended to Papa’s right hand, and that I’ve brought the entire world with me.  On behalf of all, in my own body I have forged human righteousness — right relations between Papa, humanity, and the rest of creation.

(11) The Matrix functions on the lie that the world will be saved by killing all the ‘bad people.’  Sarayu will show that the world will be saved only by destroying the dark power that works evil in the lives of all people.

Matt 24.23-51 – Chaos galore!

(23) Don’t fall for fake messiahs. (24) There will be lots of them, complete with fancy tricks.  But you know me.  Don’t fall for it. (25) Don’t forget I told you this. (26) Don’t follow them to look for me hiding in a cave or basement. (27) You don’t need anyone to tell you where lightning is, because it brightens up the whole sky.  Likewise, you won’t need anyone to tell you the Son of Man has come to begin exercising his rule over all things.  When the destruction I have prophesied comes to pass, everyone will see it. (28) A hovering flock of vultures is visible to everyone.  No one needs to be told about the corpse on the ground beneath them.

(29) In the wake of all this carnage, everything will fall to pieces. Chaos galore!  Kings will fall.  Society will break down. Thrones will fail. The powers will be shaken to their foundations. (30) When this prophecy comes to pass, everyone will see me vindicated over my enemies.  They will see that I truly am what Daniel prophesied — the true Son of Man, now come to heaven to rule at the right hand of the Ancient of Days.  They will weep.  My enemies in Israel will see what Egypt saw [Isa 19.1] — The Son of Man making war on them from above, bringing their dark schemes to utter annihilation.  (31) His messengers will spread out to all corners of the earth, and their proclamation will gather Papa’s children to his arms.

(32) When you see buds on the fig trees. you know summer’s almost here. (33) Likewise, when you guys see these signs, you know my coming is about to arrive. (34) Of the people alive right now, some of them will live to see this happen. This will be the proof for the whole world that I am a true prophet. (35) My word is reliable in ways unlike anything you have ever seen.  The fulfillment of this word will be my vindication.

(36) Your generation–the people alive right now–will see this day, but none of us knows the timing any more precisely than that.  Not you, not even me or the angels.  Only Papa knows.  (37) On the day the Son of man is vindicated and his enemies are destroyed, it will be like the day of Noah’s flood. (38)  People were going on with their everyday lives right up until the day Noah boarded his boat. (39) It was completely unexpected when the flood came and took them to their destruction.  It will be just like that on the day when the Son of Man comes to the throne in heaven and begins to exercise his rule over the world. (40) It will be unpredictable, this flood of violence that is coming.  Two men will be working in the field, and the flood will take one but not the other.  (41) Two women will be working in the kitchen; one will be swept away and the other will be left.

(42) Here’s the point: Stay awake, because you will not see it coming if you’re not paying attention to the sign I told you about. (43) If a thief told you when he was going to break into your house, you would stay awake and protect your house. (44) In the same way, you need to stay awake and watch for the sign.  For that day will come when you’re least expecting it.

(45) Think of it like this: The master chose one servant to be in charge of the other servants, to take care of them and keep them fed.  He blessed one servant so that the other servants would be blessed through him.  (46) How wonderful for that servant if the master were to arrive on the scene to see him faithfully doing his job! (47) The master would promote him on the spot. (48) But what is the master to do when he finds the servant (49) abusing those he was meant to bless, growing fat while the other servants starve? (50) When that servant least expects it, the master will arrive on the scene to right those wrongs.  (51) He will fully expose the wicked servant as his enemy.  The bitter truth will be told, the truth that is the only hope for both the oppressed AND the oppressor.



Verse 30:  The “Coming of the Son of Man” is a reference to a vision recorded in Daniel, wherein he saw the Son of Man coming from earth to heaven and sitting at Yahweh’s right hand.  Note that it is an “upward” movement, not a “downward” one.  The Greek word for “coming” (erkomai) can be used to indicate both coming and going.  To interpret this as a description of the Second Coming is biblically inaccurate.  When Israel saw the Son of Man coming on the clouds, they were experiencing what Egypt experienced–destruction.  Egypt did not literally see Jesus galavanting in the sky, and neither did Israel when this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D.  Also, “stars falling from the sky,” etc are used all over the Bible to describe political chaos, and that is exactly what happened in 70 A.D.

Again, for some good scholarship on this, I recommend N.T. Wright’s SURPRISED BY HOPE.

Matt 24.1-23 – Coming soon: The Age of the Messiah!

(1) The disciples were all like “Oooooo” and “Aaahhhh” about how grand the temple was. (2) Jesus said: “Don’t be so easily impressed by this big pile of rocks. It’s going down; the whole thing—KABLOOEY!

(3) Later as they were hanging out on the hill, they asked him: “When is that going to happen? How will we know that you’ve come to the Father? How will we know that this present evil age has ended and that the Age of the Messiah has begun?

(4) Jesus answered: “Don’t let anybody trick you. (5) Lots of people are going to say “Look at me! I’m the Messiah!” Lots of people will fall for it, but my coming will not be like that.

(6) Don’t freak out when wars happen; in the time before the end of this evil age, such things are par for the course. (7) Wars, famines, and earthquakes (8) are just how it begins. (9) Before this age ends, you Twelve will be hated, betrayed, tortured, and killed because of me.

(10) Many will lose sight of the gospel. They will betray and hate one another. (11) They will fall for get-religious-quick schemes. (12) They will live without healthy boundaries, and they will experience the consequences — cold and frightened hearts. (13) But not you guys. Stick with me, and you will be safe from those perils. (14) You will spread the good news — that I am your king and defender — all over the place. Then–at most 40 years from now–this age will end, and the Age of the Messiah will begin.

(15) Watch for the sign of Daniel: The abomination standing inside the Temple. (16) When you see that, get out of town. Head for the hills. Literally. Run into the mountains and hide. Don’t waste a single second. (17) Don’t run back into your house (18) to get your stuff. There will not even be time for that. Just RUN. (19) It will be hard for those who are pregnant or have little kids. (20) It will be even harder if it happens in winter, or on a Sabbath when people are crammed into the Temple courts. Pray that it will not be so. (21) Because that is where it will start — a massacre the likes of which you have never seen. (22) Without Papa’s intervention, absolutely everyone there would die. (23) But she will intervene. She will intervene for you guys, the ones chosen to witness to what you have seen.



Like the ancient creeds, The Shack doesn’t have much to say about eschatology (“last things”).  The creeds affirm the Second Coming, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life; but don’t say anything about the elaborate scenarios imagined in various “end times” novels.  The Shack seems to follow the creeds here. 

But since the Bible does talk about eschatology, The Shack Bible has to address issues not directly addressed in The Shack.  So the paraphrase above does not necessarily reflect the eschatalogical views of Paul Young or his book.  It merely expresses my best read of the relevant texts.  And my best read says that many of our “Second Coming” texts (Matthew 24, for example) are not talking about the Second Coming at all; rather, they refer to a catastrophic event that would befall Jerusalem within 40 years.  There are plenty of Second Coming texts out there, but Matt 24 is not one of them.

If you dislike my eschatology, you can blame N.T. Wright who has taught me so much about this and other topics.  If you’re looking for a good read on the topic, I highly recommend his highly readable Surprised by Hope.

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