There is such fear expressed all over the internet about the return of the Lord, the Apocalypse, the End Times, and great predictions of dates for September or October 2015, or 2016. This fear is not found in scripture. The fear is generated by men who are twisting God’s word to mean something it does not say. We just need common sense, and some clear thinking to be able to discern His word. Let’s look closer in this Part II at what the Scripture actually says about the Coming of the Lord, and when it really happened.
The New Testament was written over a period of years during the first century A.D. It recorded the genealogy of Christ, His birth, His earthly ministry, His death, His burial, His resurrection, His ascension, and the establishment of His church and of His kingdom. These events had a time and place during the first century A.D. At the date of this writing, that makes the New Testament almost 2,000 years old. Thus, the New Testament is an historical record for us, one just as historical as the Old Testament.
When we read the Old Testament we have no trouble recognizing the historical nature, and know that the events it records happened to another people in an earlier place and time. But, when people today begin reading the New Testament some have a tendency to take the words recorded out of the first century and slip them into our day and time. That is a mistake. We must read the New Testament knowing the events recorded, and the words spoken happened in the past.
In order to prevent any misunderstandings, it is important to know who is being spoken to, and when. We must place the time of the word, the time of the speaker, and the time of those spoken to. We begin with just a few of the time texts and pointers found in the New Testament. (Bold emphasis is mine. Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quoted is from the KJV.) Try to put away all learned views, clear your mind of what you think you know, and see what the words actually say.
Heb. 9:26, “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
ASV Heb. 9:26, “else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
When was Jesus manifested? When did He appear on earth? When was he sacrificed?
We know that he was manifested and that He was then sacrificed in the first century A.D. Again, following the principles of basic Algebra, if A equals B, and if B equals C, then A must also equal C. If Jesus appeared (was manifested) in the first century A.D., and he appeared at the end of the ages, then the end of the “world” (KJV) or “ages” (ASV) was in the first century AD.
Since we are reading this text some 2.000 years later, and the physical world and universe are still here, then the word “world” as used here was not referring to the “cosmos”. The “world” spoken here was aeon, or age, and was the known customs and societal rules, the religious and political structure, the lifestyle of their day and time.
Let God’s word speak for itself. Let it mean what it says! The scripture must rule our understanding. We must let go of any preconceived notions, or taught or learned concepts which are contradictory to the Scriptures. We must comport with the Scripture.
Matt 11:13, ”For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”
Every word of God is profitable, even the little words. The conjunctions and prepositions are just as important as the nouns and verbs in God’s word. In fact, they are critical! “For” is a conjunction, linking the previous sentence and thought to a concluding thought. “Until” is a preposition, a time marker, and is used by God to indicate an end of things.
In vs. 7-12 of Matt. 11, Jesus is telling the people who John the Baptist was. Vs.13 pinpoints the time of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies… until John. When did John the Baptist come? He came before Jesus, clearing His path, in the first century A.D. In vs. 12, Jesus told them that the Kingdom of Heaven “suffereth violence from the days of John the Baptist until now…” The words “until now” were spoken by Jesus in His contemporaneous time frame, in the first century A.D.. Not in our day and time. Rather, in the first century. The evil and violent ones were even then persecuting the Kingdom of Heaven, in the first century, during Jesus’ earthly life.
Matt 12:39,40; “But he answered and said unto them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.“
When? Answering the question asked by the scribes and the Pharisees who were seeking a sign, Jesus tells them the sign to look for. He is pinpointing their generation in the first century A.D., when He would be sacrificed, when He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, as the wicked and evil generation to be judged. Vs. 41 & 42 go on to specifically state that their generation will be judged by Nineveh and the Queen of the South, because a greater than Jonah, and a greater than Solomon “is here.”
Present tense “is here”. When? It was in the present tense for them, for those hearing Jesus speak, for those listening in the first century A.D.
Matt 16:28; “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
Unless we are to entertain the notion that some people from the first century A.D. are even now still living on earth, then we have to acknowledge that Jesus said He would come in His kingdom in the their lifetime, in the first century A.D.
Since His death was only days away from the time he spoke these words, Jesus was not contemplating some of His disciples dying before His own death on the cross. Nor is this a comment of the few more days that would pass before the establishment of His church on the day of Pentecost. The reference to some of them still living means that enough time, years, will have passed for some of them to have died either in the persecution, or of natural causes. Enough time would have passed so that some of them will have died before he came in his kingdom. But, some would still be living to witness His coming. Jesus is speaking here of his second appearance promised to that generation.
In Matthew Chap. 10, Jesus is giving specific instructions to his disciples, speaking directly to them, for their missionary journeys throughout Israel. These specific statements are not instructions for us today. In Matt 10:23, Jesus tells them, “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.“
The disciples were told that they would not finish their mission to all of the cities of Israel before the Lord would come again. Remember, we must discern and analyze who is being spoken to and when. Some instructions are generic, meant for all people of all time. Some instructions were specific, only to a certain person, or group of people. We must know the difference.
Matt 23: 31-36; “31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: 35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. 36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”
Jesus spoke these words to the scribes and Pharisees almost 2,000 years ago. It is a judgment specifically addressed to those of that generation, and to the evil people Jesus was speaking to as He stood before them 2,000 years ago!. They, the scribes and Pharisees, would kill (in their future, in their day and time) and crucify the wise men and prophets He would send them. They would scourge the wise men in the synagogues. They would persecute the wise men and scribes from city to city. The persecution spoken of was pinpointed for that generation, and it was that generation, in the first century A.D. which would fill up the measure of their fathers, and suffer the judgment for all of the righteous blood shed from Abel to Zacharias.
The religious and political leaders of the Jews, the Saducees, scribes, and Pharisees, of the first century A.D. would eventually crucify our Lord, and persecute the Christians. They would use Saul and others, and hide behind the Romans to do it. They held this power until the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. After A.D. 70, and the destruction of the temple by the Romans, the scribes and Pharisees, the High Priest and priests of the Jews could not have caused this level of persecution, as they were killed, and scattered. The Jews would hold little if any power and authority after the destruction of Jerusalem, and would have no more influence with Rome.
The study of the Old Testament teaches us, just as the Jews were taught from their childhood, that the meaning of the phrase “a Coming of the Lord” was a day of judgment. Jesus has been seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven since he received the Kingdom in the first century A.D. He is here with us now! He has been judging the world ever since, and each judgment is a Coming of the Lord. I am sure He has come in judgment many times since the first century A.D. But, the subject coming spoken of in the New Testament was pronounced on that generation, in that century, in the first century A.D.
Jesus came again, just as he said he would, when he came in judgment against Israel in A.D. 70. He appeared a second time, just as he promised he would, to those listening to Him in the first century A.D.
Today, as we study the New Testament, it is incorrect to be ascribing the contemporaneous statements spoken to the people who lived in the first century A.D. to a future coming some two thousand years later. It is anachronistic to do so. In Part III we will study some of the Old Testament prophetic language.