Thursday, December 9, 2010

Allegory in Matthew 24

The American Heritage Dictionary defines allegory as “The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.”  Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic example of allegory.  And for some time now, I have found the allegorical or symbolic approach to Bible interpretation to be increasingly enlightening. 

I find value in the way that Unity churches study the Bible as history and allegory and interpret it as a metaphysical representation of humankind's evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening.  The Bible is seen as a story about the spiritual life right now, and the characters in the Bible represent ideas in one’s own mind. 
The following quote demonstrates the use of allegory in another faith tradition: "There is a classical example in Tao quoted by Metzner, Ralph, Opening to Inner Light (© 1986 Jeremy Tarcher, Inc.) called the 10 Ox Herding by Kaku-an, 12th century Zen illustrator. It is an analogy or metaphor of a man looking for an ox by following its tracks. He finds the animal, tames it, and brings it inside his barn. The animal symbolically represents human’s raw or beastly emotions, feelings and impulses. Riding the animal represents taming the human emotions, impulses, feelings, etc., or the beast within every human. Clearly, this is an inward journey to develop self-control."  (The remainder of this article can be read here.)

So, from an allegorical perspective, I have come to view the Bible as the story of an inward journey of transformation in which the characters portrayed represent aspects of our own selves, some of which we have projected outwardly and personified. For example, principalities, nations, and kingdoms can be seen as facets of our personalities that hold sway over us and control us - sometimes against our (conscious) will.  Scripture also terms these forces that we are unaware of but that actually govern many of our actions as “the hidden things of darkness,” and promises they will all be brought to light.

Matthew 24
With that in mind, I’d like to take an allegorical look into Matthew 24 and the “end of the world.”  I’ve found in this wonderful passage a great pictorial view of the death to self (the beast inside) that must take place in all of us if we are to be transformed.

You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars.  You will begin to experience turmoil and wars within yourselves as the different aspects of your natures begin to battle.  Don’t be troubled!  These things must come to pass - they are necessary for your growth.  But the end is not yet.  Instead, these wars inside are only the beginning of your sorrows (vs. 8), for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (vs. 7).  The kingdoms of darkness inside of all of us – all those things that have dominion over you but that you’re not aware of – will war with the kingdom of light.  This will create great turmoil within you, and there will be a great famine (vs.7) inside of you.  As the powers that previously held sway over you are removed, you will feel a great hunger for them because you had learned to depend on them.  There will also be earthquakes in diverse places (v. 7).  Your whole world will be shaken, and you’ll experience this in many different aspects of your life – even to the very core of your being!  

When this gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world (v 14) – when this good news is heard in every aspect of our selves, all those nations, powers, principalities, and dominions in us – then the end will come! Then you’ll begin to see clearly the abomination that sits in the temple of God, the beast that lives inside all of us that has been sitting on the throne and ruling all of our lives!  When you see this beast, oh, don’t stop for anything then!  Press on and don’t look back (v 16-20)! For now you will face the greatest tribulation you have ever seen (vs.21)!  As a matter of fact, it is so horrendous that no could survive it unless God shortens it and gives us the strength to go through it (v 22). 

And after the tribulation of those days (v29)?  The end comes when the Christ inside of us puts down all other rule, authority and power, and delivers our personal Kingdom to God (I Corin 15:24). When this process is complete and the carnal nature (a.k.a devil, anti-christ, ego) inside of us meets its end, the eagles will gather where the carcass is and all that was “flesh” in us will be eaten by the birds (v 28).  We will see the Christ coming inside of us with power and great glory (v 30)! The tribes of the earth will mourn at this (v 30) – all the earthly things that formerly ruled over us will have cause to grieve, for their power is no more! The sun will be darkened and the moon won’t give her light (v 29) – the things we formerly depended on for illumination and understanding will seem dark in comparison to the rise of the Daystar in our hearts and the illumination that the presence of Christ brings into our lives.   What a glorious picture of the end of the world as we have known it!

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