The Didache 34 – Watch For Your Life’s Sake

Posted: July 14th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately. Today we reach the end of the Teaching and the conclusion of this series.

Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead — yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.” Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

Watch for your life’s sake. Is that truly our attitude as we go about our business each day? Oh, not in fear and not in ways that cause us to withdraw from those around us. And not in obsessive ways that we see in some trying to calculate the moment or constantly looking for signs. But simply ready for we do not know the hour. I remind myself that I also do not know the hour of my death. I’m reminded of the parable Jesus told of the man who made plans to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold his wealth of grain. He was a fool for he had no time left at all.

I like my modern luxuries and wealth very much, thank you. But it is easy to be lulled into comfortable rhythms and complacency. It is so very simple to stop watching. My tradition has abandoned the disciplines (church calendar, set prayers, corporate fasting, etc.) that maintain rhythms in our lives that are different, that remind us that we are not governed by anyone or anything other than Christ, that act for our healing so that we might work out our salvation in fear and trembling, the salvation that flows from Christ, that we might participate now in the Kingdom of Christ.

This also affirms once again the resurrection of the dead, which Paul defended so eloquently in 1 Corinthians 15. If the dead are not raised, then our faith is meaningless. We are not looking forward to some disembodied existence like Plato’s happy philosophers. Our spirits and bodies are inextricably intertwined and interdependent. Only in that union are we living souls. Death is the ultimate enemy Christ had to defeat for our salvation. We were enslaved to death and through death to all sorts of powers, evil, and sin. But Christ has “trampled down death by death” and we in him we find life.

Thanks to those who have meandered through the Teaching with me. I hope you’ve found something interesting somewhere in my reflections on it.


9 Comments on “The Didache 34 – Watch For Your Life’s Sake”

  1. 1 Cameron said at 7:31 am on July 14th, 2009:

    Great conclusion, Scott. Thanks for this series. I’ve enjoyed it.

  2. 2 mike said at 2:53 pm on July 14th, 2009:

    …..”We are not looking forward to some disembodied existence like Plato’s happy philosophers. Our spirits and bodies are inextricably intertwined and interdependent. Only in that union are we living souls”………. please help me here rabbi…..

  3. 3 Scott said at 6:59 pm on July 14th, 2009:

    Cameron: Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    mike: I’m not a teacher of any sort, especially spiritual. I would be happy to help sort something out as best I can, but it’s not clear to me what your question is. Can you expand a bit?

  4. 4 mike said at 8:49 pm on July 14th, 2009:

    well..i’ve always been taught and believed that we would have a disembodied life when we die…”spirits” if you will..forever in the presence of God our Father…i’ve never heard any other christian teaching to the contrary…..also..i have been taught that we are 3 dimensional spirit-soul-body…and that we “war” with our flesh…you said: “Our spirits and bodies are inextricably intertwined and interdependent”…you teach as if we cannot be separated from our bodies……please explain..

  5. 5 mike said at 9:07 pm on July 14th, 2009:

    P.S. ……your skills of exegesis along with your knowledge of early church history and practices “makes” you a teacher of sorts whenever you speak…..

  6. 6 Scott said at 9:58 pm on July 14th, 2009:

    Hmmm. When you call me “teacher” I think of what James writes in his letter and tremble. I’ll try to be cautious.

    I will start by saying that if you want what I understand is a good basic popular level book on this topic, it’s my understanding the N.T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope is among the best. If you are not familiar with him, he is presently the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and is easily one of the foremost biblical scholars of our age. I have not yet read that specific book though it is on my reading list. However, I have read quite a bit by Bishop Tom and listened to many of his lectures. I have also read many reviews of that particular book and I’m confident I know what you will encounter in it.

    I recommend a particular book because there is simply no way I can do justice to your question. I’ve heard that there are Christians today who teach what you describe and I believe some strains of it run within my own tradition. But my direct experience is limited and I won’t pretend to understand the nuances of any particular version of that teaching. I don’t. I will try to unpack the meaning behind what I said in a few paragraphs. It will be difficult.

    First, we have to go back to the Jewish understanding of what it meant to be human. We see it, of course, in the creation narrative in the second chapter of what we call Genesis (from the Septuagint title for that book – but that’s another topic altogether). In the Hebrew Scriptures, the books are known by their first few words, so that book is called (in Hebrew) “In the beginning”. From the very beginning we see that God formed us from dust (representing our bodies) and then breathed into us (imparting spirit) and only then are we called “living souls”. We don’t have the space to develop the topic here, but Hebrew scripture develops from that point. Soul references the whole person and there is really little concept of a spirit somehow existing separate from the body. By the time the Maccabees are reached, though, the idea that the people of God will be resurrected at the end of the age is well developed.

    The Christian perspective radically differed in that Jesus had been bodily resurrected in the middle of time and that was (among many other things) the firstfruit of our own resurrection. It gave it specific shape. You see this most clearly developed theologically in 1 Corinthians 15, but it pretty much permeates the NT. What you do not find in the NT is any sense that the human can be defined or can exist apart from the body. Yes, there is an intermediate period between the time our bodies sleep and the day of the resurrection, but very little is actually said about it.

    Jesus told the thief that he would be with him that day in paradise. Obviously Jesus didn’t stay in “paradise”, so that is one mention of the intermediate condition. Paul tells us that to sleep is to be with Christ which is far better. Jesus told us that in his Father’s house there are many temporary dwellings or waystations (the actual meaning of the words translated mansions or rooms) that are prepared for us. But there isn’t much said. Somehow God sustains us after death until such time as he prepares our new bodies which are both continuous and discontinuous with our present bodies. The NT says a great deal more about the Resurrection of the Dead, though it remains something of a mystery.

    What you have described is a particular form of dualism that seems related to the gnosticism of the first few centuries that flowed from the interaction between Christianity (actually beginning with Judaism — you see some of that in Philo) and strands of pagan Greek thought heavily influenced by Plato. I certainly can’t explain Plato in a few sentences, so if you aren’t familiar with him and his philosophy, you can probably find a primer in wikipedia. The particular form of this dualism is a tension between the spirit which is good and the physical which is evil. So our good spirits are trapped in our evil physical bodies and our ultimate salvation consists of our release or escape from these bodies into the purely spiritual realm for an eternal existence as disembodied spirits.

    I tried to think of ways to say it gently, but I can’t think of any. That is neither the Jewish nor the Christian perspective. I have no doubt that God is working to save people and even works mightily within those people who have no other knowledge. I believe God is working everywhere to save men with whatever tools we give him. So I’m not going to deny any work God might have done and be doing in and through such groups.

    Nevertheless, that is not the fundamental Christian perspective of reality. God created the material world and it was good. God created us, body and all, and it was very good. And it is still good today. We turn from God. We damage creation. We became subject to death and thus “sin”. But God’s creation remains good and his project is one of restoration and recreation, not tossing it out and starting over. And the Holy Scriptures are very, very clear. Though we don’t know details, we do know that our eternal life will be in resurrected bodies of the same sort that Jesus, the Son of God, presently has.

    Feel free to let me know where I have confused you more instead of clarifying. I hope something I said helped.

  7. 7 mike said at 1:03 am on July 15th, 2009:

    …….i sincerely appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions concerning our mutual faith or should i say not so mutual faith..it will take time to “process” your points….im experiencing a kind of surreal/Twilight Zone thing happening here…. i think God may be showing me truths that i had been incapable of accepting up till now….my theology was influenced by earlier experiences in the pentecostal church and then the charismatic movement of the 70s….Derek Prince/Bob Mumford..ect ect …somewhere along that time i ” backslid”…today i no longer adhere to my own theology…im 53 ..i dropped out of high school..im a recovering alcoholic and drug addict …im divorced..i have 2 good kids and i live in lexington ky with a girl i love and been with for 15 years….i frequently listen to Roy Masters…and i voted for Obama…….this should provide ample background to draw a reasonable assesment of where im coming from when i ask such seemingly rudimentary questions concerning christianity………

  8. 8 Scott said at 6:18 am on July 15th, 2009:

    Grace and peace, Mike. It sounds like you’ve reconstructed a life more worth living from one that was disintegrating. I don’t really share a similar story, but I am/was a teen parent (you stop being a teen, but the parent thing continues) and also a high school dropout, though I immediately got my GED and have over the intervening more than quarter century put together most of a college degree. I haven’t had a great deal of interaction with the charismatic movement past or present though it was part of the landscape I had a bit of exposure to growing up. Hmmm. As I reflect, I realize I had a bit more than just a slight exposure and something that was much closer to home, but I wasn’t directly involved. And that’s a story for another day. Or not.

    With a background in the charismatic movement, you might find some of the Illumined Heart podcasts by Kevin Allen interesting. He is now Orthodox and his podcast, of course, reflects that, but his personal background is in the charismatic movement. I’m not particularly pointing you to Orthodoxy. I’m not Orthodox myself. But as I reflected, I thought of his just completed series of interviews with a subdeacon who was an altar server as a boy for St. John the Wonderworker, a 20th century saint who was Archbishop of San Francisco. They discuss the charisms or gifts of the Spirit for which he was known. I think of that because in Orthodoxy you find a much more holistic, grounded, humble, and bodily expression of the miraculous charisms than I think you often do in the charismatic movement. I think that might help you. Or not. But it came to mind. The Illumined Heart podcasts are here:

    The Illumined Heart – http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/illuminedheart

  9. 9 mike said at 8:24 pm on July 15th, 2009:

    thanks..i’ll chech them out