Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Understanding His Coming - When and What For




The Coming of our Lord is one of the most important topics for a Christian, yet today, we see so much confusion about this blessed hope. There is more apathy on this topic in Christiandom
then knowledge from the Scriptures. Some believe Christ came in 70 A.D. and others believe He will come after the Tribulation. Some see Him coming before the Tribulation. The Day of the Lord is not one specific point in History. Israel rejected our Lord at His first coming or presence with us, and then God opened the door for all to come to Him. Romans 11:1-36 Israel has been put temporarily aside in this age of grace. The Day of the Lord will be a time line of events in history, not a specific one day. It will begin with the ending of the times of the Gentiles in this present eon or age. Christ is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. He has been using a policy of hands off, in this wicked age of man's......but that time is about to end. Christ Jesus is about to stand up and be manifest to all creation, At this time His body will also be made manifest. He will
SNATCH UP his body from the pending danger in this cosmos of world affairs, and we will be changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye to be in a new glorious, immortal body like unto that of our Lord. We will there after be with the Lord where ever He is. He will then adopt a glorious HANDS ON POLICY. He will be working behind the scenes in this world and her tribulations and appear at will much the same that He did for 40 days and nights to his own only after His resurrection. His presence will be as a thief in the night in this dark world of the New World Order,
consisting of ten kingdoms or areas ruled by one ruler from the United Nations....THE "ANTI CHRIST". Just do a Google search about Project 21 and another on the New World Order, and see how many trade groups are planned to be in this one world government. Daniel speaks of a time that when these 10 kings exist, a stone made without hands will come down from heaven and dash these kingdoms to powder and set up a Kingdom that will not end. This is talking about the coming Kingdom of God to be ruled by Christ Jesus for a 1000 years. All this is to be started when Christ Jesus stands up to start a hands on policy in the affairs of mankind with the span of time called the Day of the Lord. The day of mans rule over himself will be over with the unannounced presence of the Lord to His body and those believing in Him through out the time of Jacob's trouble, the Tribulation. At the end of this span of time called the Parousia, the Lord will appear to Israel and all eyes will then be able to see Him in a Glorious outshing. The heavens and earth will be shaken and no one able to stand, and those against Him, His enemies will be destroyed at the brightness of His appearing. His feet will stand on the Mt. Olivet just as they left from it.

Two Phases of His "Presence"

When Jesus speaks about his return he is not referring to a single moment of time when he will appear, but his talking about a return that covers a period of time. It will begin with a an arrival, when he will come like a thief in the night. This will be the beginning of his "presence." But that presence will continue throughout all the time of trouble on earth, but behind the scenes, as it were, invisible to the world. Then, "after the tribulation of those days," he will manifest his presence visibly, appearing in power and great glory.

This invisible presence of Jesus on earth is not something wholly new. During the forty days after his resurrection he was in exactly this condition. He appeared and disappeared among his disciples and they never knew when he was coming or when he would go. He was suddenly there, and just as suddenly gone. He was here, but not here. For forty days this manifestation went on until he ascended into heaven. When he comes again he will resume the same relationship to the believing Jews and Gentiles of that time. The church will be caught up to be with him, to join him in that remarkable presence during the terrible days of trouble on earth.

The Church Removed

The removal of the church is described also in other passages. Paul writes to the Thessalonians about that, too in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:

"For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming [parousia] of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep [died]. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."

This event is called the "departure" of the church. An older word for it is the "rapture" of the church. As you will note in what Paul says about it, it is intended to be a source of comfort to Christians. It is called in Titus 2:13 "our "blessed hope." It means that one whole generation of Christians will not physically die, but will pass directly into a "glorified state", as Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration before the astonished eyes of Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:2). No wonder one Christian said, "I'm not waiting for the undertaker; I'm waiting for the uppertaker!"

Don't let your imagination run away with you in trying to conceive what this event will be like. It is highly likely that it will not be visible to the world. It will be unseen and unfelt, with no disturbance of graves and nothing to indicate that anything has happened other than the strange disappearance of thousands. Just as the body of Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and passed out through the tomb in which he had resided without any physical manifestation whatever, so this event will take place. The stone was not rolled away from Jesus' tomb to let him out; it was rolled away to let the disciples in-so they could see what had happened. When Peter came in and found the grave clothes still lying as though wrapped around a body, but with the body absent, he was convinced that something unusual had occurred. So this will be a silent event, recognizable only by the unexplained disappearance of many. Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:51,52:

"Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed."

THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

COMMENTATORS HAVE OFTEN portrayed the second coming of Jesus as a single dramatic event (Matt. 24:21, 29), following the Great Tribulation, where the Lord will suddenly appear in power and great glory, visible to every eye (Rev. 1:7). The church will be caught up to meet Him and will then return with Him to earth (1 Thess. 4:13-18) where He will judge the living and dead. This either establishes His millennial kingdom or ushers in the new heaven and new earth, depending on which millennial view the commentator holds.

This scenario has numerous difficulties connected with it, however, not least of which are the several promises in the New Testament that the true church will not be present during the Great Tribulation. A key to understanding the teaching of the New Testament on this subject is the Greek word "parousia". This word is commonly translated "coming," which in the mind of the reader projects the vision of the single dramatic appearance described above. But parousia should properly be translated "presence." This is the mean-ing given first by both Thayer and Arndt and Gingrich lexicons and includes the idea of an entrance, a consequent duration, and either an exit or a continued presence. It is not, therefore, a single event (V), but a continuum (I---------I) of unspecified duration.

This meaning is the only way to make sense of Jesus' revelation in Matthew 24 of His return to earth in the last days. There He describes a coming in power and glory immediately following the terrible time of trouble that He calls "the great tribulation" and the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars from heaven (Matt. 24:28-30). But it would be impossible for such a coming to take anyone by surprise who knew of our Lord's description. For in the same chapter Jesus speaks of His coming as unexpected and sudden as the flood came upon the people of Noah's day; and He likens it to a thief creeping into a household at night, without warning, and surreptitiously removing its treasure (vv. 36-44). Yet how could His coming be both unexpected and preceded by such cosmic events of dramatic character?

The only answer is that one passage describes His initial, totally unheralded and unexpected appearing while the other describes the disclosure of His presence by a dramatic display of power and glory after the Tribulation has run its course and the sun, moon, and stars have done their predicted thing.

Jesus' coming like a thief would be a fulfillment of I Thessalonians 4:13-18: He would catch up His true church to Himself and then remain on earth during all the events of the Tribulation, but in the same conditions He manifested during His forty-day post-resurrection ministry when He appeared and disappeared at will. After the darkening of the sun and the moon He would disclose His presence to the entire earth in fulfillment of Matthew 24:28-30 and Revelation 1:7. Thus His initial, thief-like coming, His continued presence behind the scenes on earth, and His final revelation in power would all be covered by the term parousia. It is noteworthy that where Paul refers to the public revelation of Jesus in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, he calls it "the splendor of his coming" (NIV), which literally means "the epiphaneia" ("out-shining") of his parousia ("presence").

The Rapture and the Second Coming

The First and Second Advents of Jesus the Lord are both described in Titus. Notice that the Second Advent is divided into two phases: The coming of Jesus for his saints (his parousia, the event we call the rapture) and his coming in glory (his epiphaneia,) with his saints:

"For the grace of God has appeared [the First Advent of Jesus]
for the salvation of all men,
training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions,
and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world,
awaiting our blessed hope, [the rapture]
and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
[the Second Coming in glory]
who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity
and to purify for himself a people of his own
who are zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:11-14)

Jesus will come for his body, the true church at an unexpected hour. This is made clear by the use of the term "like a thief in the night." Seven years later Jesus will be publicly unveiled on earth, with his saints:

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Matthew 24:36-44)

"For the Lord [Jesus] himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel's call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, 'There is peace and security,' ...[WATCH FOR FORCED PEACE IN ISRAEL BY UN AND USA !] then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1 Thessalonian 4:16-5:11)

The Greek word used to describe the return of the Lord Jesus for his church, parousia, occurs in 2 Peter 1:16, 1 Cor. 15:23, 1 Thess. 3:13, 4:15, 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, James 5:7,8, 2 Peter 3:4, Matthew 24:3, 27, 37; 1 John 2:28. The Greek word means an arrival and a consequent remaining with someone.

2Pet. 1:16 "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

1Cor. 15:23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

1Ths. 3:13 "...so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

1Ths. 4:15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.

1Ths. 5:23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2Ths. 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

James 5: 7-8 Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

2 Peter 3:3-4 First of all you must understand this, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation."

2 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Matthew 24:3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?"

Matthew 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

Matthew 24:37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man.

The Second Coming of Jesus in power and great glory openly before the whole world is described by the Greek word epiphaneia which means a shining forth. This word occurs in 1 Tim. 6:14, 2 Tim. 4:1-8; 2 Thess. 2:8, Titus 2:13.

1 Tim. 6:14-16 I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

2 Tim. 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom.

2 Thess. 2:8-10 And then the lawless one will be revealed (apokalupsis), and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing (epiphaneia) and his coming (parousia). The coming (parousia) of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved

Titus 13-14 "...awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds

The following passages refer to the Second Coming of Jesus, His open unveiling in glory at the time He comes to set up His kingdom on earth:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)

"Behold, a day of the LORD is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him. On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuous day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light. On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter. And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one." (Zechariah 14:1-9)

"Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:11-16)

Let none in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
-2Thessalonians 2:3
I believe that there is a strong possibility that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is speakingof the rapture. What do I mean? Some pretribulationists, like myself, think that the Greek noun apostasia,usually translated "apostasy," is a reference to the rapture and should betranslated "departure." Thus, this passage would be saying that the day of the Lord will not come until the rapture comes before it. If apostasia is a reference to a physical departure, then 2Thessalonians 2:3 is strong evidence for pretribulationism.
The Meaning of Apostasia
The Greek noun apostasia is only used twice in the New Testament. In addition to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, it occurs in Acts 21:21 where, speaking
of Paul, it is said, "that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake (apostasia) Moses", The word is a Greek compound of apo " from" and istemi "stand." Thus, it has the core meaning of "away from" or "departure." The Liddell and Scott Greek Lexicon defines apostasia first as "defection, revolt;" then secondly as "departure, disappearance."[1] Gordon Lewis explains how the verb from which the noun apostasia is derived supports the basic meaning of departure in the following:
The verb may mean to remove spatially. There is little reason, then to deny that the noun can mean such a spatial removal or departure. Since the noun is used only one other time in the New Testament of apostasy from Moses (Acts 21:21),we can hardly conclude that its Biblical meaning is necessarily determined. The verb is used 15 times in the New Testament. Of these fifteen, only three have anything to do with a departure from the faith (Luke 8;13; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb 3:12). The word is used for departing from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:19),from ungodly men(1 Tim. 6:5), from the temple (Luke 2:27), from the body (2Cor. 12:8), and from persons (Acts 12:10; Luke 4:13).[2]
"It is with full assurance of proper exegetical study and with complete confidence in the original languages,"concludes Daniel Davey, "that the word meaning of apostasia is defined as departure."[3] Paul Lee Tan adds the following:
What preciselydoes Paul mean when he says that "the falling away" (2:3) must come before thetribulation? The definite article"the" denotes that this will be a definite event, an event distinct from theappearance of the Man of Sin. TheGreek word for "falling away", taken by itself, does not mean religiousapostasy or defection. Neitherdoes the word mean "to fall," as the Greeks have another word for that. [pipto, I fall; TDI] The best translation of the word is "to depart." The apostle Paul refers here to adefinite event which he calls "the departure," and which will occur just beforethe start of the tribulation. Thisis the rapture of the church.[4]
So the word has the core meaning of departure and it depends upon the context to determine whether it is used tomean physical departure or an abstract departure such as departure from the faith.
Translation History
Thefirst seven English translations of apostasia all rendered the noun as either "departure" or "departing." They are as follows: Wycliffe Bible(1384); Tyndale Bible (1526); Coverdale Bible (1535); Cranmer Bible (1539);Breeches Bible (1576); Beza Bible (1583); Geneva Bible (1608).[5] This supports the notion that the wordtruly means "departure." In fact,Jerome's Latin translation known as the Vulgate from around the time of a.d. 400 renders apostasia with the "word discessio, meaning 'departure.'"[6] Why was the King James Version thefirst to depart from the established translation of "departure"?
Theodore Beza, the Swiss reformer was the first to transliterate apostasia and create a new word, rather than translate it as others had done. The translators of the King James Version were the first to introduce the new rendering of apostasia as "falling away." Most English translators have followed the KJV and Beza indeparting from translating apostasia as "departure." No good reason was ever given. Departure info from Thomas Ice.

Read the Scripture: Matthew 24:29-31

The most dramatic event in all history will be the visible appearing of Jesus Christ. No one can possibly miss it when it occurs. He himself describes it for us in Matthew 24:29-31:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

This is the most prophesied event in the Bible. The Old Testament contains many references to it, and it has been estimated that in the New Testament one verse out of ten refers to this coming of Jesus Christ. If all the references to this event were taken out of the New Testament, you find it unintelligible in many parts.

From "Presence" to Unveiling

But we must be careful to understand it in relation to the parousia, the presence of Jesus, which has been going on since the Church was taken out of the restrictions of time before the end of the age began. This flaming advent is part of the parousia, actually the event that marks the end of the secret presence. It is the outshining of his presence before the eyes of the whole world. What he has been in secret to his own during the dark days of the tribulation, he now will be openly before the whole world. He will especially manifest himself to the Lawless One. Paul says, "The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

That last phrase, "his appearing and his coming," is literally, "the epiphany of his parousia." Epiphany is a word that means unveiling, or outshining. Taken in that sense, Paul is calling this dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ, "the unveiling of his presence." It is the startling climax of the whole period which Jesus calls "the close of the age."

The final crashing crescendo of civilization's last hour will be accomplished in three sweeping movements. Each of these is traced in broad strokes by Jesus. The first is a violent activity in nature:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

Notice that the Lord Jesus distinctly separates this event from the Great Tribulation. The tribulation will be essentially the manifestation of the naked brutality of man, the exhibition of the cruelty and unbelievable violence of the human heart unrestrained by grace. It is described for us in detail in the book of the Revelation, especially in the judgments of the seals and the trumpets. It will be a time when the horrors of Nazi persecution, reflected in the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Dachau, will be repeated all over the earth; a time when violence stalks the streets, and the nuclear witches of terror scream through the skies. As Jesus said, it will be a day of unprecedented human evil, of terrible slaughter and human suffering.

But immediately following this tribulation terrifying signs appear in the heavens. The phrase, "the powers of the heavens will be shaken," suggests severe gravitational disturbance of the solar system. This in turn would produce phenomenal effects on the earth. Showers of meteors will flash through the darkening skies. Earthquakes cause the land to heave and shake, and great tidal waves sweep the coasts. Luke reports that, "men [will be] fainting with fear," and there will be great "distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves." Volcanoes erupt, spouting out streams of lava and vast clouds of cinder and ash which obscure the sun and the moon. The sun is darkened and the moon reddens and is finally unable to shine at all.

Unbelievable as all this may sound to our ears, nevertheless, it very likely does not include anything which has not happened before within the memory of mankind! The Russian scientist, Immanuel Velikovsky*, has amassed a tremendous amount of evidence from many sources indicating, quite apart from any religious connotation, that in the past there have occurred similar times of volcanic eruption, seismic activity, and disturbances in the solar system. It is the conviction of this scientist that the plagues of Egypt during the time of the Exodus under Moses were part of a world wide upheaval in nature caused by a comet closely approaching this earth. Its gravity drew the waters of the sea into huge tidal waves and caused volcanoes to disgorge great flows of lava which came pouring from the mountain ranges of earth. The comet then went on to become the planet Venus, which often appears in our sky as the morning star.

These theories are disparaged in some scientific cirecles, but all agree that Velikovsky has gathered together and enormous amount of evidence for strange happenings in the past. The discoveries of the rocket "Voyager" on its trip to Venus helped to confirm certain claims of Velikovsky concerning the nature of this planet and its origin, and there is now much scientific interest in Venus.

Even in relatively modern times there are many unexplained celestial phenomena. By no means should we assume that science is able to explain all that has taken place in even the immediate past. In one of his public speeches while president, John F. Kennedy mentioned the unexplained Dark Day which occurred in the month of May, 1780, when all of New England was for many hours plunged into total darkness. No one has ever been able to explain it, but it remains a fact of history. From time to time the papers report the falling to earth in various places of great chunks of ice weighing sometimes four to five hundred pounds. No one yet knows their origin.

Voices from the Past

To face honestly the unresolved mysteries of the past is realize how readily these words of Jesus can be fulfilled. It is not only Jesus who tells us of these earth traumas, but other prophets from the Old Testament have foretold them. For instance, Joel 2:30,31 says:

"And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes."

Isaiah also describes the same event, using very similar language in 13:9, 10:

"Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light."

And in Revelation 6:12-14, the apostle John describes it in very vivid terms.

"When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place."

All these passages confirm the words of Jesus that some celestial force will create these tremendous events upon earth, and will thus introduce the final act in the drama of civilization as we know it.

The Unveiling of Christ

This violent upheaval in nature is followed immediatly by the sign of the Son of man in heaven and the visible appearing of Jesus Christ to all the earth:

"Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

As we have already noted, this is the outshining of his glory; the sudden unveiling of his presence. It is often called the "second coming," though in truth that term covers the whole period of Christ's secret presence. But it will be the second time the world sees Jesus Christ. The last time it saw him was on a bloody cross, writhing in the agonies of death, apparently a shameful failure with no glory, no power and no success. But when it sees him again it will see him coming triumphant in power and glory.

The event will be preceded by the appearance of "the sign of the Son of man" in the heavens. The disciples had asked him at the beginning of this discourse: "What will be the sign of your coming?" This question he now answers, though not as completely or clearly as they or we might have liked.

When the disciples asked the question they did not mean, as we frequently take it, "What is the sign that will mark the time of your coming?" Inevitably we associate signs with schedules. But the disciples knew better than that. They meant, "What is the event which will reveal the meaning of your coming?" This is always the purpose of signs in Scripture. That sign, Jesus now says, will appear in the sky just before he is made visible.

Let us not miss the fact that he links this sign with the statement, "then all the tribes of the earth will mourn." We shall examine that more fully a bit later, but from other Scripture it appears that he means the tribes of Israel. Since this sign is thus linked with Israel it strongly suggests that the sign will consist of the reappearance of the cloud of glory which accompanied the nation Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness for forty years. It was called the Shekinah, and was the sign of God's presence with his people. Much later, when the Temple was built and Solomon dedicated it to God, the Shekinah glory came down and took rest in the holy of holies upon the Ark of tbe Covenant as the sign that God was dwelling with His people.

This shining cloud may well be what Jesus himself is referring to when he says, "They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven." There is an obvious reference to this same event in Revelation 1:7. There John says: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him." Of course it can simply refer to the atmospheric clouds, but the repeated emphasis seems suggestive of more. When Jesus thus appears it will mark the close of the age, but it will also be the opening event of a new age, and the supreme characteristic of that new age will be that God dwells with His people. In Revelation 21:3, John describes it, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them." Since the Shekinah is the sign of God's presence with man, it is fitting that it should reappear as the sign that explains, clarifies, and reveals the meaning of Christ's coming. He comes that he may be, as the Old Testament prophets whispered, "Immanuel-God with us."

God With Us---In Power

The shining cloud will be followed by the dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ himself. It is not a silent appearing, not something that takes place in a corner, but a bold, triumphant revelation. As we have seen, John declares that every eye shall see him. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8, Paul speaks of a time: When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." The present age, when God allows man to have his head, is brought to an end and God now reasserts his right to rule over all the earth. It is described in striking language in Revelation 11:15: "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.'"

The reference of Jesus to his coming "with power and great glory" reminds us immediately of the closing words of the Lord's Prayer. How many times have you prayed, "For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory?" That prayer reflects the anticipation of God's people, through all the dark centuries, of the eventual coming of that flaming hope when the power and the glory of the universe will be in the hands of the One to whom it rightfully belongs.

It was to try to prevent this that the Tempter met Jesus in the wilderness in the beginning of his ministry and tempted him three times. The final temptation was to take him to a high mountain and show him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. There the devil said, "All these will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me." In effect he was saying, "Mine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory." And he was right!-for the moment. Jesus did not rebuke him for some preposterous claim that had no justification. Rather he answered him, using the only weapon that is available to a believer in any hour of darkness or temptation, the unchangeable word of God. He said to him: "It is written, 'You shalt worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"

With those words Jesus set aside the temptation to take a seeming short-cut to the goal for which he came. Instead he went on to the darkness of the cross, the agony and the blood of death, in order that he might make possible the hour he is describing here, when he will come to take the kingdoms of the world, in power and great glory.

When Israel Mourns

The unveiling of Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings will also accomplish certain immediate events. The first will be the mourning of the nation Israel. As we have already noted, the Lord's reference to "all the tribes of the earth will mourn" does not mean tribes of Indians, but tribes of Jews. In the verse from Revelation already quoted, John says, "All tribes of the earth will wail on account of him." It will be the mourning of Israel in her hour of national sorrow.

Their mourning will be in direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 12: 10,11: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo."

Why will they mourn? Because they will be looking on him whom they have pierced. To their utter astonishment they will discover that the One who appears in power and great glory bears in his hands the marks of nails and in his side the wound of a spear. Of course, all the world is guilty of piercing the Son of God, but the Jews were particular instruments in that respect.

Perhaps the very words of their mourning are recorded for us in a well-known passage from the prophet Isaiah. In the day that Israel shall look on him whom they have pierced, they will say to each other:

"Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed."

They will recognize in that day that the one whom their fathers, in ignorance and blindness, had crucified was the one who had loved them and given himself for their sins. They will cry out in sadness and heartache over the long years of rejection that have followed his crucifixion.

Righteousness Triumphs---At Last!

But that is not all that will happen to Israel when Jesus appears in power and glory. He also adds, concerning himself, "He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

Once again we do not need to be in doubt as to who these elect are. Isaiah 11:11, 12 helps us here:

"In that day [the context makes clear it is the end of the age] the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."

Jeremiah also confirms the same promise. The whole thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah should be read to note the beauty of its language and the lilting gladness of its promise. But in verses 7,8 he says:

"'...the LORD has saved his people, the remnant of Israel.' Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her who is in travail, together; a great company, they shall return here."

Certainly this gathering will include the 144,000. Perhaps also it will include as many as are left alive of the "great multitude" of Gentiles who believe in Jesus because of the testimony of the remnant of Israel. Jesus himself, in his description of this same gathering given in the parables of Matthew 13, suggests that others are included. He says, in verses 40-43:

"Just as the weeds [tares] are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin ......
Many have confused this gathering by the angels with the removal of the church, described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Nothing is said here of gathering the elect into heaven, but rather, as ordinary living persons, they are gathered into an earthly kingdom. There is no resurrection of the dead mentioned at all, while in the case of the removal of the church, this is a primary emphasis.

Furthermore, when the church is removed there is no suggestion that evil men are judged, but in the passage quoted above from Matthew 13, Jesus makes clear that "all causes of sin and all evildoers" will be removed from his kingdom at the same time that the elect are gathered. This he emphasizes further in another of the Matthew 13 parables, verses 47-50:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So will it be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth."

Doubtless it will be at this time that the Lawless One will come to his end as it is described by John in Revelation 19:19-21:

"And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse [the LORD Jesus]and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh."

The Jew and You

In this review of his dramatic return to earth, the Lord Jesus has laid great stress upon its effect on Israel. Probably you, like the vast majority today, are not Jewish but Gentile. You may well ask, "What significance has all this for me?" As we have already noted, whenever God wants us to understand how he will handle us as believers today, he holds before us the history of the nation Israel.

Briefly retrace the history of this race and you will see what is meant. In that desperate hour when they were slaves and serfs, in bondage in Egypt, the angel of death passed over and spared them, and in that first Passover they were born as a nation by the grace of God. They were redeemed, brought out of bondage, and set free. Then, in the marvelous phrasing of Moses, God carried them on eagles' wings and bore them along, upholding them, and sustaining them by miraculous interventions on their behalf. (see Exodus 19:4.)

But his goodness and grace were repaid, for the most part, by pride, arrogance, and a self-righteous effort to please him without any genuine conviction of heart. They fell to murmuring, complaining, and grumbling, in constant frustration of God's efforts with them. At last there follows the story of gradually increasing moral failure and of final dispersion in moral bankruptcy and despair.

For centuries they wandered throughout the length and breadth of the earth, preserved as a nation, but still in unbelief. Even when they were allowed to go back to Israel and establish themselves as a nation, again they did so in unbelief. But, says Jesus, the hour is coming when by an act of sovereign grace, without any merit on their part, God will bring them back again to the land. This time it will be an hour of mourning and repentance when they will understand at last what God has been wanting to do with them. They will then enter into a time of national health and wholeness and will become the instrument of blessing to all the earth.

If you read carefully the book of Romans you will see that the same story is told in chapters 5-8. These detail for us the way God has designed to bring men into genuine liberty, genuine joy and the true excitement of life. In chapters 9-11 of Romans' Israel is brought in as the illustration of all this. These trace for us the way God will work with us. When we come to the place of utter spiritual bankruptcy, when we stop thinking we can contribute something of value to God, and begin at last to rest, to rely wholly upon his ability to do everything through us-then we begin to enter into the fullness of life that God has planned for man. This is the meaning of God's dealings with Israel.

Two Phases of His "Presence"

When Jesus speaks about his return he is not referring to a single moment of time when he will appear, but his talking about a return that covers a period of time. It will begin with a secret arrival, when he will come like a thief in the night. This will be the beginning of his "presence." But that presence will continue throughout all the time of trouble on earth, but behind the scenes, as it were, invisible to the world. Then, "after the tribulation of those days," he will manifest his presence visibly, appearing in power and great glory.

This invisible presence of Jesus on earth is not something wholly new. During the forty days after his resurrection he was in exactly this condition. He appeared and disappeared among his disciples and they never knew when he was coming or when he would go. He was suddenly there, and just as suddenly gone. He was here, but not here. For forty days this manifestation went on until he ascended into heaven. When he comes again he will resume the same relationship to the believing Jews and Gentiles of that time. The church will be caught up to be with him, to join him in that remarkable presence during the terrible days of trouble on earth.

The most dramatic event in all history will be the visible appearing of Jesus Christ. No one can possibly miss it when it occurs. He himself describes it for us in Matthew 24:29-31:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

This is the most prophesied event in the Bible. The Old Testament contains many references to it, and it has been estimated that in the New Testament one verse out of ten refers to this coming of Jesus Christ. If all the references to this event were taken out of the New Testament, you find it unintelligible in many parts.

From "Presence" to Unveiling

But we must be careful to understand it in relation to the parousia, the presence of Jesus, which has been going on since the Church was taken out of the restrictions of time before the end of the age began. This flaming advent is part of the parousia, actually the event that marks the end of the secret presence. It is the outshining of his presence before the eyes of the whole world. What he has been in secret to his own during the dark days of the tribulation, he now will be openly before the whole world. He will especially manifest himself to the Lawless One. Paul says, "The Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming" (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

That last phrase, "his appearing and his coming," is literally, "the epiphany of his parousia." Epiphany is a word that means unveiling, or outshining. Taken in that sense, Paul is calling this dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ, "the unveiling of his presence." It is the startling climax of the whole period which Jesus calls "the close of the age."

The final crashing crescendo of civilization's last hour will be accomplished in three sweeping movements. Each of these is traced in broad strokes by Jesus. The first is a violent activity in nature:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken."

Notice that the Lord Jesus distinctly separates this event from the Great Tribulation. The tribulation will be essentially the manifestation of the naked brutality of man, the exhibition of the cruelty and unbelievable violence of the human heart unrestrained by grace. It is described for us in detail in the book of the Revelation, especially in the judgments of the seals and the trumpets. It will be a time when the horrors of Nazi persecution, reflected in the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Dachau, will be repeated all over the earth; a time when violence stalks the streets, and the nuclear witches of terror scream through the skies. As Jesus said, it will be a day of unprecedented human evil, of terrible slaughter and human suffering.

But immediately following this tribulation terrifying signs appear in the heavens. The phrase, "the powers of the heavens will be shaken," suggests severe gravitational disturbance of the solar system. This in turn would produce phenomenal effects on the earth. Showers of meteors will flash through the darkening skies. Earthquakes cause the land to heave and shake, and great tidal waves sweep the coasts. Luke reports that, "men [will be] fainting with fear," and there will be great "distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves." Volcanoes erupt, spouting out streams of lava and vast clouds of cinder and ash which obscure the sun and the moon. The sun is darkened and the moon reddens and is finally unable to shine at all.

Unbelievable as all this may sound to our ears, nevertheless, it very likely does not include anything which has not happened before within the memory of mankind! The Russian scientist, Immanuel Velikovsky*, has amassed a tremendous amount of evidence from many sources indicating, quite apart from any religious connotation, that in the past there have occurred similar times of volcanic eruption, seismic activity, and disturbances in the solar system. It is the conviction of this scientist that the plagues of Egypt during the time of the Exodus under Moses were part of a world wide upheaval in nature caused by a comet closely approaching this earth. Its gravity drew the waters of the sea into huge tidal waves and caused volcanoes to disgorge great flows of lava which came pouring from the mountain ranges of earth. The comet then went on to become the planet Venus, which often appears in our sky as the morning star.

These theories are disparaged in some scientific cirecles, but all agree that Velikovsky has gathered together and enormous amount of evidence for strange happenings in the past. The discoveries of the rocket "Voyager" on its trip to Venus helped to confirm certain claims of Velikovsky concerning the nature of this planet and its origin, and there is now much scientific interest in Venus.

Even in relatively modern times there are many unexplained celestial phenomena. By no means should we assume that science is able to explain all that has taken place in even the immediate past. In one of his public speeches while president, John F. Kennedy mentioned the unexplained Dark Day which occurred in the month of May, 1780, when all of New England was for many hours plunged into total darkness. No one has ever been able to explain it, but it remains a fact of history. From time to time the papers report the falling to earth in various places of great chunks of ice weighing sometimes four to five hundred pounds. No one yet knows their origin.

Voices from the Past

To face honestly the unresolved mysteries of the past is realize how readily these words of Jesus can be fulfilled. It is not only Jesus who tells us of these earth traumas, but other prophets from the Old Testament have foretold them. For instance, Joel 2:30,31 says:

"And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes."

Isaiah also describes the same event, using very similar language in 13:9, 10:

"Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light."

And in Revelation 6:12-14, the apostle John describes it in very vivid terms.

"When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale; the sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place."

All these passages confirm the words of Jesus that some celestial force will create these tremendous events upon earth, and will thus introduce the final act in the drama of civilization as we know it.

The Unveiling of Christ

This violent upheaval in nature is followed immediatly by the sign of the Son of man in heaven and the visible appearing of Jesus Christ to all the earth:

"Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."

As we have already noted, this is the outshining of his glory; the sudden unveiling of his presence. It is often called the "second coming," though in truth that term covers the whole period of Christ's secret presence. But it will be the second time the world sees Jesus Christ. The last time it saw him was on a bloody cross, writhing in the agonies of death, apparently a shameful failure with no glory, no power and no success. But when it sees him again it will see him coming triumphant in power and glory.

The event will be preceded by the appearance of "the sign of the Son of man" in the heavens. The disciples had asked him at the beginning of this discourse: "What will be the sign of your coming?" This question he now answers, though not as completely or clearly as they or we might have liked.

When the disciples asked the question they did not mean, as we frequently take it, "What is the sign that will mark the time of your coming?" Inevitably we associate signs with schedules. But the disciples knew better than that. They meant, "What is the event which will reveal the meaning of your coming?" This is always the purpose of signs in Scripture. That sign, Jesus now says, will appear in the sky just before he is made visible.

Let us not miss the fact that he links this sign with the statement, "then all the tribes of the earth will mourn." We shall examine that more fully a bit later, but from other Scripture it appears that he means the tribes of Israel. Since this sign is thus linked with Israel it strongly suggests that the sign will consist of the reappearance of the cloud of glory which accompanied the nation Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness for forty years. It was called the Shekinah, and was the sign of God's presence with his people. Much later, when the Temple was built and Solomon dedicated it to God, the Shekinah glory came down and took rest in the holy of holies upon the Ark of tbe Covenant as the sign that God was dwelling with His people.

This shining cloud may well be what Jesus himself is referring to when he says, "They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven." There is an obvious reference to this same event in Revelation 1:7. There John says: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him." Of course it can simply refer to the atmospheric clouds, but the repeated emphasis seems suggestive of more. When Jesus thus appears it will mark the close of the age, but it will also be the opening event of a new age, and the supreme characteristic of that new age will be that God dwells with His people. In Revelation 21:3, John describes it, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them." Since the Shekinah is the sign of God's presence with man, it is fitting that it should reappear as the sign that explains, clarifies, and reveals the meaning of Christ's coming. He comes that he may be, as the Old Testament prophets whispered, "Immanuel-God with us."

God With Us---In Power

The shining cloud will be followed by the dramatic appearance of Jesus Christ himself. It is not a silent appearing, not something that takes place in a corner, but a bold, triumphant revelation. As we have seen, John declares that every eye shall see him. In 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8, Paul speaks of a time: When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." The present age, when God allows man to have his head, is brought to an end and God now reasserts his right to rule over all the earth. It is described in striking language in Revelation 11:15: "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.'"

The reference of Jesus to his coming "with power and great glory" reminds us immediately of the closing words of the Lord's Prayer. How many times have you prayed, "For Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory?" That prayer reflects the anticipation of God's people, through all the dark centuries, of the eventual coming of that flaming hope when the power and the glory of the universe will be in the hands of the One to whom it rightfully belongs.

It was to try to prevent this that the Tempter met Jesus in the wilderness in the beginning of his ministry and tempted him three times. The final temptation was to take him to a high mountain and show him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. There the devil said, "All these will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me." In effect he was saying, "Mine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory." And he was right!-for the moment. Jesus did not rebuke him for some preposterous claim that had no justification. Rather he answered him, using the only weapon that is available to a believer in any hour of darkness or temptation, the unchangeable word of God. He said to him: "It is written, 'You shalt worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"

With those words Jesus set aside the temptation to take a seeming short-cut to the goal for which he came. Instead he went on to the darkness of the cross, the agony and the blood of death, in order that he might make possible the hour he is describing here, when he will come to take the kingdoms of the world, in power and great glory.

When Israel Mourns

The unveiling of Jesus as Lord of lords and King of kings will also accomplish certain immediate events. The first will be the mourning of the nation Israel. As we have already noted, the Lord's reference to "all the tribes of the earth will mourn" does not mean tribes of Indians, but tribes of Jews. In the verse from Revelation already quoted, John says, "All tribes of the earth will wail on account of him." It will be the mourning of Israel in her hour of national sorrow.

Their mourning will be in direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah 12: 10,11: "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo."

Why will they mourn? Because they will be looking on him whom they have pierced. To their utter astonishment they will discover that the One who appears in power and great glory bears in his hands the marks of nails and in his side the wound of a spear. Of course, all the world is guilty of piercing the Son of God, but the Jews were particular instruments in that respect.

Perhaps the very words of their mourning are recorded for us in a well-known passage from the prophet Isaiah. In the day that Israel shall look on him whom they have pierced, they will say to each other:

"Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed."

They will recognize in that day that the one whom their fathers, in ignorance and blindness, had crucified was the one who had loved them and given himself for their sins. They will cry out in sadness and heartache over the long years of rejection that have followed his crucifixion.

Righteousness Triumphs---At Last!

But that is not all that will happen to Israel when Jesus appears in power and glory. He also adds, concerning himself, "He will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

Once again we do not need to be in doubt as to who these elect are. Isaiah 11:11, 12 helps us here:

"In that day [the context makes clear it is the end of the age] the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth."

Jeremiah also confirms the same promise. The whole thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah should be read to note the beauty of its language and the lilting gladness of its promise. But in verses 7,8 he says:

"'...the LORD has saved his people, the remnant of Israel.' Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her who is in travail, together; a great company, they shall return here."

Certainly this gathering will include the 144,000. Perhaps also it will include as many as are left alive of the "great multitude" of Gentiles who believe in Jesus because of the testimony of the remnant of Israel. Jesus himself, in his description of this same gathering given in the parables of Matthew 13, suggests that others are included. He says, in verses 40-43:
Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

Many have confused this gathering by the angels with the removal of the church, described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4. Nothing is said here of gathering the elect into heaven, but rather, as ordinary living persons, they are gathered into an earthly kingdom. There is no resurrection of the dead mentioned at all, while in the case of the removal of the church, this is a primary emphasis.

Furthermore, when the church is removed there is no suggestion that evil men are judged, but in the passage quoted above from Matthew 13, Jesus makes clear that "all causes of sin and all evildoers" will be removed from his kingdom at the same time that the elect are gathered. This he emphasizes further in another of the Matthew 13 parables, verses 47-50:

Doubtless it will be at this time that the Lawless One will come to his end as it is described by John in Revelation 19:19-21:

"And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who sits upon the horse [the LORD Jesus]and against his army. And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. And the rest were slain by the sword of him who sits upon the horse, the sword that issues from his mouth; and all the birds were gorged with their flesh."

The Jew and You

In this review of his dramatic return to earth, the Lord Jesus has laid great stress upon its effect on Israel. Probably you, like the vast majority today, are not Jewish but Gentile. You may well ask, "What significance has all this for me?" As we have already noted, whenever God wants us to understand how he will handle us as believers today, he holds before us the history of the nation Israel.

Briefly retrace the history of this race and you will see what is meant. In that desperate hour when they were slaves and serfs, in bondage in Egypt, the angel of death passed over and spared them, and in that first Passover they were born as a nation by the grace of God. They were redeemed, brought out of bondage, and set free. Then, in the marvelous phrasing of Moses, God carried them on eagles' wings and bore them along, upholding them, and sustaining them by miraculous interventions on their behalf. (see Exodus 19:4.)

But his goodness and grace were repaid, for the most part, by pride, arrogance, and a self-righteous effort to please him without any genuine conviction of heart. They fell to murmuring, complaining, and grumbling, in constant frustration of God's efforts with them. At last there follows the story of gradually increasing moral failure and of final dispersion in moral bankruptcy and despair.

For centuries they wandered throughout the length and breadth of the earth, preserved as a nation, but still in unbelief. Even when they were allowed to go back to Israel and establish themselves as a nation, again they did so in unbelief. But, says Jesus, the hour is coming when by an act of sovereign grace, without any merit on their part, God will bring them back again to the land. This time it will be an hour of mourning and repentance when they will understand at last what God has been wanting to do with them. They will then enter into a time of national health and wholeness and will become the instrument of blessing to all the earth.

If you read carefully the book of Romans you will see that the same story is told in chapters 5-8. These detail for us the way God has designed to bring men into genuine liberty, genuine joy and the true excitement of life. In chapters 9-11 of Romans' Israel is brought in as the illustration of all this. These trace for us the way God will work with us. When we come to the place of utter spiritual bankruptcy, when we stop thinking we can contribute something of value to God, and begin at last to rest, to rely wholly upon his ability to do everything through us-then we begin to enter into the fullness of life that God has planned for man. When all enemies are desroyed, God will be all in all with His creation. None will have been cast out or lost from His hand. There will be no more pain and God will wipe away all their tears. He is in deed the Savior of all mankind.
God cannot fail. All things are possible with Him. Amen.

Title: The Power and the Glory Author: Ray C. Stedman
Series: What on Earth's Going to Happen? (Olivet Discourse) Date:
1970
From your friends at
www.RayStedman.org
Look up all the verses for the beginng of the parousia and his great outshining appearing at the end of the paousia to all the world in the Greek.
www.greeknewtestament.com/
Greek NT

1 comment:

Brother Mark said...

Happy waiting foe the BLESSED HOPE and happy is he who the Lord does not count his sins against him.
http://www.crossandthrone.com/to-the-beloved-in-rome-romans-46-8/