Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Jesus and His Kingdom: part 5: When Is He Coming?

I was reminded of another passage of the very strong "doozie" Mr. Ellis refers to in his quote.
...he believed he would return very shortly to rule his kingdom in person. It is also quite obvious that Jesus was wrong about when he was coming back.
The original passage I am familiar with is from Matthew 26 where Jesus interacts with the Sanhedrin.
The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."

"Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Yet there is a similar idea and apparent contradiction in Matthew 16:
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."[emphasis mine]
Let's deal with the Matthew 16 first. If Jesus really meant to equivocate the Son of Man coming into His kingdom in verse 28 with verse 27 and His entering into His glory at the Final Judgment, then we must see Jesus is speaking incoherently in the same paragraph.

Now I do not approach the text with a radical skepticism. Since the context and culture of Jesus is probably different from my own, then we must keep in mind that the thoughts expressed must be interpreted in that light. Not only do we allow for this kind of thing today when cultures collide and misunderstand each other, we ought to allow for this when dealing with the Bible.

First notice Jesus states, "some who are standing here will not taste death". In context, this ought to contrasted with taking up the cross. Jesus explains here and in Matthew 24:9 that the Disciples would be killed for the sake of the Gospel. He is explaining to them that their lives would be judged at the Last Day when Jesus enters into that position of Final Judgment.

The second difficulty is the meaning of "the Son of Man coming in his kingdom". I believe the idea that is being expressed here is similar to Matthew 26:64. But again, what is that meaning? A few years ago I heard a sermon on Revelation 1:7 on the coming of Christ.
7Look, he is coming with the clouds,
The idea of "coming" is throughout the book of Revelation. Here are some examples.
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

2:5Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

2:16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

Rev 3:3 'So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
If we do not assume a strict literal approach to Revelation, it can be seen that the coming of Christ throughout the book may very well be Christ visiting every generation. If we keep in mind that Christ visits the earth and in particular His people during this age, a very significant event could explain the meaning of this phrase.

Keeping in mind that Jesus predicted the judgment of Jerusalem within the generation of those currently living, the fall of Jerusalem would have made a huge impact in the lives of that Jewish nation. It would be in that act that Jesus would be known as the One He claimed to be. We see this kind of language throughout the Old Testament as well.

When Israel went through the Red Sea and and God destroyed the armies of the Egyptians in judgment, the entire world feared the Israelites. This did not mean the world became believers or that every single person would have known about the event. The world of that day would now know the judgment of God as it was revealed in those events. In fact, we still speak about the Exodus to this very day, even if we speak about it in an unbelieving manner.
Psa 96:13 Before the LORD, for He is coming, For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Isa 23:17 It will come about at the end of seventy years that the LORD will visit Tyre. Then she will go back to her harlot's wages and will play the harlot with all the kingdoms on the face of the earth.

Dan 7:13 "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.
From the reformed A-millennial Christian perspective, Jesus most certainly visited judgment against the nation of Israel. With many of the Disciples having been put to death by AD 70, only those few, who remained alive would have seen the fulfillment in their lifetimes. This would easily explain John's usage of "coming" throughout Revelation and the two passages raised in Matthew.

We must also keep in mind that Matthew is writing to the Jew in order to convince him of Christ as the Messiah. If the passage was written after AD 70, it would be absurd for Matthew to make a prediction that we all know to be false.

As a prediction prior to AD 70, the Sanhedrin in chapter Matthew 26 would have recognized the obvious reference to Daniel's prophecy. The Son of Man would have been seen as one who had authority to judge the nations. When Jesus claimed that they would see His Coming on the clouds, they would have not necessarily heard "Second Coming", but instead would have heard Him correctly. That He would come against their nation and judge them for their rejection of the Son of God. Notice Matthew 11:
20Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21"Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
We know from history that Sodom was already judged. Yet there seems to be a future judgment of all the nations. So in conclusion, I would argue that there is both a temporal judgment that occurs now in this age, and one that comes at the Final judgment at the end of the age. This, again, reminds us of Jesus' own teaching of the Now and the Not Yet phases of His kingdom.

But back to the original question. Does the prophecy of Matthew 24 exegetically teach that Jesus really predicted His Second Coming in their lifetimes? In the next post I will cite both Sam Waldron and Kim Riddlebarger.

1 comment:

Howard Fisher said...

Some more supporting verses that certain acts in history are so that we know the God of Israel is Lord.

Exodus 7:

3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

Joshua 4:23 The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."

1 Kings 8

59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.