'In the name of the Lord...we command these people and warn them to lead orderly lives and work to earn their own living.' -- II Thess 3:12

In his book, "God and Empire," author Dominic Crossan shows how the Book of Revelation differs from the apocalyptic sections of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke -- especially when it comes to the "end of the world."

Most of us picture a vengeful, destructive God finally "setting things straight" on earth: God will punish evildoers. When this earth and its horrible inhabitants are decimated, God and Jesus will welcome the just into the realm of eternal, heavenly joy.

In all the Christian Scriptures, we find such a vindictive divine personality only in the book of Revelation.

In Sunday's Gospel (Luke 21:5-19), Jesus certainly talks about "things [which] are about to happen," and mentions "wars and insurrections," warning that "nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom."

He says we'll have to endure "earthquakes, famine and plagues," and experience "awesome sights and mighty signs [coming] from the sky." But, for Luke, these happenings are to be looked upon as natural phenomena. Never does his Jesus say these are how God inflicts God's wrath on a sinful earth.

Everyday events
Christians are not to think these happening are prerequisites for Jesus' arrival. According to Luke, his readers must be prepared to live their normal lives until their natural deaths without expecting Jesus' Parousia to interrupt that process.

Luke's theology directs his readers' eyes from heaven (from whence Jesus will come) to the everyday people and events of life (in which the risen Jesus is already present). Here, now, disciples of Jesus should be able to discover and surface His presence -- even in the middle of persecution.

The author of II Thessalonians, writing at least a generation after Paul's death, seems to buy into the same theology (II Thess 3:7-12). The writer zeroes in on the most down-to-earth happenings in the community. Address-ing readers in the "person" of Paul, the author reminds them that the Apostle was no slouch.

Even while evangelizing others, Paul constantly worked for his room and board -- unlike the freeloaders in earshot of this letter.

MYOB, people
Others, because of the free time their refusal to work provides, are "conducting a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others."

The things people are concerned with here and now are far more important than wasting time in futile attempts to pinpoint the exact time and place of the Parousia.

Malachi (3:19-20) seems at first to be more at home with the book of Revelation than with Luke or the II Thessalonians author. He speaks about the "proud and evildoers" being burned into stubble.

Yet, remember that when the prophet was active, there was no concept of an afterlife as we know it today. Malachi seems to presume that the same sun which is a problem for proud evildoers will be a blessing for those who "fear [Yahweh's] name."

No one knows why Jesus' Second Coming still lies in the future. We can only be certain that the time we're allotted should be a period in which we imitate the non-vindictive historical Jesus -- even when we're tempted to put the book of Revelation at the top of our reading list.