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Which ‘Coming’ of Jesus?

21 Jul
Second Coming

from Google Images

As I consider the writings of the New Testament, I have to wonder at our modern understanding of the apostolic teaching concerning the coming of Jesus. We seem to offer a picture of the Apostles believing the end was near, but which one of us truly imagines any one of them carrying around signs like “Repent! The End is Near!”? Doesn’t it seem obvious that what we believe is in error, as it pertains to the apostolic understanding of the coming of Christ ? After all, if I truly believed Jesus would return in my lifetime, I would hit the streets every day. My bank account would reflect an expectation of short term needs, and owning a home would never have been a consideration. How about you? Can we expect less of the Apostles?

To be sure, Peter did leave his fishing business, and the other apostles left their worldly means of support in order to witness full time for Jesus, but there is absolutely no evidence that they sold their homes and/or lands in efforts to feed the poor and finance the mission field. Moreover, we don’t see any one of them, whether Peter, Paul or the Hellenist Messianic believers, who were expelled from Jerusalem following the death of Stephen, rushing through the countryside as reporters of an imminent end.

What do we see? Well, as I mentioned in a resent blog, following Stephen’s death, the Hellenist Messianic believers preached (Acts 8:4) and discussed (Acts 11:19) Jesus with folks as they were scattered abroad from Jerusalem across the Syrian Province. This preaching and discussing presupposes lengthy stays at different communities to which they traveled. An example of a typical community in which preaching and discussing occurred would be Samaria, where Philip ministered immediately following Stephen’s death. One could hardly believe Philip’s ministry was a ‘weekend wonder’ or even accomplished over a period of weeks. It had to have taken at least several months or even a year or longer. At this rate, it would hardly be wrong to conclude that the arrival of the Hellenist Messianic believers in Antioch could have been before Paul’s own expulsion from Jerusalem and ministry in Syria-Cilicia (Acts 9:30). In fact, he was probably ministering in Tarsus and its surrounding regions for at least a year before the arrival of the believers from Cyprus and Cyrene in Antioch (Acts 11:20).

Nevertheless, however the ancient evangelistic effort took shape, it wasn’t a mere ‘reporting of what Jesus had done and an expectation of his imminent return.’ No! The New Testament has the Apostles expecting Jesus to return in their generation, but their evangelistic efforts were worked out in such a way as to build up Messianic communities throughout the empire and preparing them for life in the then present world.

When the Apostles asked Jesus just prior to his ascension into heaven—“Will you at this time restore again the Kingdom of Israel?” (Acts 1:6)—the Lord responded with “No!” At least this is our interpretation of his response (Acts 1:7-8), is it not? Don’t we believe the Apostles knew less than we do about what Jesus told them? Who really understood Jesus better, the Apostles or us? Didn’t they expect him to return in their generation or expected lifespan? How is what they believed about Jesus reply (Acts 1:7-8) compatible with what they believed about the end of the age and the coming of Jesus?

In Matthew 24:3 they asked Jesus what sign would there be of his coming. Common sense would demand that they understood Jesus’ coming quite differently than we do today. First of all, not one of them expected Jesus to die, so what would Jesus’ coming mean in that context? Secondly, when Jesus did die, the Apostles thought all was lost. They all threw their names in with Jesus, but now he was dead, and they feared for their own lives. Yet, while he was still alive, they asked for the sign of his coming (Matthew 24:3), and he gave it in Matthew 24:30—that is, the sign of his coming would be his judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple. In fact, Luke offers an added indication that Jerusalem would be surrounded by the armies of Rome (Luke 21:20-21). How, therefore, could the coming of Christ, as the Apostles understood it to be, be the same kind of coming that we believe that to be today? Their question in Matthew 24:3 was put to Jesus, while he was yet alive, and at that time they had no idea he would be dead in two days!

It seems to me that we need to reconsider what the Second Coming of Christ really means.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 21, 2010 in Prophecy, Religion, Second Coming

 

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2 responses to “Which ‘Coming’ of Jesus?

  1. Eddie

    August 8, 2010 at 22:32

    Hi! You are very kind, and I am glad you are enjoying what you read here.
    I am not certain I understand your question, but I’ll reply and you tell me, if I’ve told you what you want to know. Indeed, the Kingdom of God is within each of us, but it goes beyond that to the outer realm. If God rules our hearts, what we do outwardly reflects our submission to him and, therefore, the Kingdom of God will also extend one day over the globe and include the submission of all nations. For, everyone will one day bow their knee to Jesus, as the Scriptures say, not in forced submission, but to the glory of God—there is no glory for God, if submission doesn’t come from the heart.
    Concerning Jesus’ judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 CE, Jesus foretold this before the illegal Sanhedrin that met during the night to condemn him to die. God always judges according to our sin. Most often he judges us out of our own mouths. Annas, who ruled from Jerusalem and the Temple, exalted his power over the Messiah, Son of God. He charged Jesus with blasphemy, punishable by death, when he, himself, committed blasphemy against God (the Father) and his Son, who is Jesus. Annas never repented of his sin, so Jesus judged him and the place he claimed he ruled.
    More than this, I see no connection between Jesus’ judgment of Jerusalem and the Temple and the Kingdom of God within us. There is an outer kingdom, but if God doesn’t rule man from within, he will never rule man in the outer world, unless it is by force.
    Concerning the rest of your comment, we agree that we need to mature or grow up in Christ. However, I don’t think we have to be “delivered” from the fact we are children—we simply grow up in him. I have two daughters. They grew up in my home. I enjoyed them when they were babes, and I knew one day I would also derive great pleasure in a mature relationship with them, but I never thought they had to be “delivered” from their childhood—only to grow up. It would be a shame and a tragedy, if they acted like a three year old at the age of 30. But, if they did, they would still be my daughters, and I would love them.
    Likewise, the Scriptures claim that we are, today—at this very moment—the sons of God (1John 3:1-2). We are as he is—unknown to the world, strangers, but known to God, our Father.
    You show many signs of a deep thinker in the Scriptures. I encourage you to keep praying and letting God teach you all the things you desire to know. When you don’t know what you want to know, the Spirit within groans in speech understandable only to God, so that in an unspeakable prayer, God will grant the desires of your heart. Believe he will do it, and you won’t be disappointed.

    Lord bless,

    Eddie

     
  2. nsearch4truth

    August 8, 2010 at 16:32

    I am really enjoying your blogs and the fact that you desire to dive “deeper” into the scriptures! Have you ever considered what the physical destruction of Jerusalem point so spiritually, given the kingdom of God is “within” (and “we” are that “city”)?

    What’s really interesting, to me, is that there is a difference between “a child” and “a son” (Gal 4). We have to be “delivered of the child” (as was Paul; 1 Cor 13) and this can only happen by Christ (the Son) being formed in us (Christ in you, the hope of glory), right?

    Jesus said: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:18)

    We are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise when we first believe (even as “babes” who are “yet carnal”) but as we “grow into the head” that is Christ we are “delivered of the child” and receive “the adoption of sons”…. sort of going from “age” to “age” as we go “from glory to glory”. The “age to come” being that of “a son” (as opposed to “a child”).

    All blessings in Christ!

     
 
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