There is such fear expressed all over the internet and in many books about the return of the Lord, the Apocalypse and Armageddon, and the end the world. Many dates have been predicted for Christs’ return that always come and go without result. Instead of questioning their basic understanding of God’s word, the false prophets immediately begin to predict the next date for the end of the world.
This fear is not based in scripture. The fear is generated by men who are twisting God’s word to mean something it does not say. We need to become aware of their political agenda, and connect a few dots. We also need to look closer at what the scriptures actually say about the Coming of the Lord because God did tell us when.
The New Testament (NT) 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., during the “fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4).
At the date of this writing, that makes the NT almost 2,000 years old. Therefore, the New Testament is an historical record for us, one just as historical as the Old Testament.
When we read the Old Testament (OT) we have no trouble recognizing the historical nature. We know that the events it records happened to another people in an earlier place and time. But, when people today begin reading the NT some have a tendency to take the words recorded out of the first century A.D. and slip them into our day and time. They treat the NT as though it was written yesterday to us.
That is a mistake. We must read the NT 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 the first audience. We begin with just a few of the time texts and pointers found in the NT. In coming to God’s word we clear our thoughts and our ideas from our mind, becoming receptive to His thoughts only, and see what His 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.” (KJV)
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.” (ASV)
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. As Jesus appeared (was manifested) in the first century A.D., and as we know He appeared at the end of the ages, then the end of the “world” (KJV) or “ages” (ASV) occurred in the first century AD.
Since we are reading these verses some 2.000 years later, and the natural, physical world and universe are still here, then the word “world” as used above was not referring to the “cosmos”. The “world” spoken here was aeon, or age, and was the time period, their customs and societal rules, their religious and political structure, the lifestyle of their day and time. The “end of the ages” had come upon those of the first century A.D.!
We submit to God’s word, and let it mean what it says. The scripture must rule our understanding. Any preconceived notions, or taught or learned concepts which are contradictory to the Scriptures must be discarded.
Matt 11:13, ”For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”
Every word of God is profitable (2 Tim. 3:16), 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 often used by the Holy Spirit to indicate an end of things.
In vs. 7-12 of Matt. 11, Jesus told 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 baptizer 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; not when we are reading it. Rather, in the first century A.D. The evil and violent ones were even then persecuting the Kingdom of Heaven, 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 told them the sign to look for. He was 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 would 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 would die before He came in his kingdom. But, some would still be living to witness His second coming. Jesus was speaking here of his second appearance promised to that generation (Heb 9:28).
In Matt. chap. 10, Jesus gave specific instructions to his disciples, speaking directly to them, for their missionary journeys throughout the cities of “Israel.” These specific statements are not instructions for us today. In Matt 10:23, Jesus told 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. These included those cities with Jewish population throughout Asia, beyond Judea that still sent the tax to Jerusalem.
Keep in mind who was speaking, when He was speaking, and to whom was He speaking. 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 was a specific judgment addressed to those unbelievers of that generation; spoken to the evil people 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 Jesus 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 Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees of the first century A.D. would eventually crucify our Lord, and persecute His called-out ones, His “ekklesia.” They would use Saul and others, and hide behind the Romans to do it. They ruled and 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 priests of the Jews no longer had power to continue the persecution, as they were killed, and scattered (Dan. 12:7). The Jews had 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 and time of God’s judgment poured out upon the wicked.
Jesus has been seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven since He received the Kingdom at His ascension 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 Judea and Jerusalem 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 “soon” and immediate prophesies 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 look at some of the Old Testament prophetic language.
(All bold emphasis is mine. Expanded and edited May 29, 2018.)
“What is the Meaning of Ekklesia? ” by Wayne Jackson at ChristianCourier