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The Coming of the Lord in Judgment

15 Nov
Coming of Christ

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The Lord tells us in Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11 that he will not give his glory to another. Yet, Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:27 that he will come in the glory of the Father. Paul says in Philippians 2:6 that, before he became man, Jesus was in the form of God and was equal with God. Late in his earthly ministry Jesus prayed to his Father, asking that he would glorify him with himself—i.e. with the person of the Father, which was the glory he enjoyed before creation (John 17:5). In other words before he became man, Jesus was God and with God (John 1:1). Therefore, for Jesus to say he would come in the glory of the Father (Matthew 16:27), he was saying he would come in the glory not of man but of God. He would come again (i.e. his Second Coming) as the Lord had come in the past—i.e. in the Old Testament. What would that look like in the context of the New Testament?

I believe to say he was coming in the glory of the Father (Matthew 16:27), in reality, defines the nature of Jesus’, then, future coming. How could God come physically, if he is Spirit (John 4:24). In order for God to die, like a man, he had to set aside his form as God and embraced the form of a man (Philippians 2:6-8), because God in his glorious form cannot die, nor can he be seen (John 1:18; 1Timothy 6:16). Understanding the context of Jesus’ coming, presents a problem for futurist who are looking for the Second Coming to be a visible return, in the sense that Jesus would come on a literal cloud, visible to anyone and everyone. If God cannot be seen in his glory (1Timothy 6:16), how could Jesus ever come to the earth visibly in the glory of God? There simply isn’t a scriptural reference that would support such a coming.

If we take Jesus at his word, i.e. that he would return in the glory of his Father, then we can logically deduce from this that Jesus’ Second Coming would be similar to the Lord’s coming in judgment against Babylon in Isaiah 13. Just as Jesus’ coming was to announce the Day of the Lord, so too was the judgment of Babylon a Day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:9). Anytime the Lord comes to judge a nation, it is called the Day of the Lord. Notice, as well, apocalyptic language is used to describe Babylon’s judgment: The stars in the heavens, the constellations, the sun and the moon don’t give their light (Isaiah 13:10). These are the same signs that were to precede the coming of Jesus (Matthew 24:29-30). Since the Lord “came” to judge Babylon through the armies of the Medes (Isaiah 13:17), wouldn’t that indicate that, if Jesus’ coming was to be in the glory of the Father (Matthew 16:27), he would have come through the Roman armies to judge Jerusalem in 70 AD? If not, why not?

Commenting on Isaiah 13, John MacArthur makes the following claim:

“This prophecy seems to have had an immediate application to the judgment and destruction of Babylon (v.1, 17; cf. Daniels 5:30-31). Yet the full meaning of the prophecy clearly looks beyond Babylon to a yet-future eschatological fulfillment, as evidenced by two things: 1.) The cosmic and worldwide catastrophes spoken of in the prophecy (v. 10-13), and, 2.) Isaiah’s references to the Day of the Lord (v.6) which is spoken of as a yet future reality long after the judgment of Babylon (cf. Peter 3:10)” [John MacArthur, The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Coming and the End of the Age (Wheaton, Ill; Crossways, 1999), 227].[1]

It should be noted that John MacArthur simply states, without showing any support for his statement, “the full meaning of the prophecy clearly looks beyond Babylon to a yet-future eschatological fulfillment…” What some may view as foundational support is mere conjecture on his part, namely: cosmic, worldwide catastrophes are literal, and the Day of the Lord is a single, one time historical event. If apocalyptic language is figurative rather than literal, then there doesn’t have to be a future fulfillment of the destruction of Babylon, nor the modern day rise of Babylon in order to effect that destruction.[2] Finally, if there is more than one Day of the Lord, MacArthur’s whole argument falls, because not only doesn’t a new Babylon have to rise in order to be destroyed, but the apocalyptic language **must** then be taken figuratively, not literally, as MacArthur assumes must be the case.

In Isaiah 34 the prophet foretold the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 34:8) and the judgment of Edom (Isaiah 34:5). He uses apocalyptic language in Isaiah 34:3-4, saying, “all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll…” This, also, is similar to Matthew 24:29-30 and the coming of Jesus. However, this particular Day of the Lord and coming of the Lord is put in the past by Malachi 1:2-4. There the Lord speaks of his love for Israel, saying that he had chosen them and destroyed Esau, Israel’s brother. The Lord had already destroyed Esau’s nation, and, if they decided to rebuild, he would destroy them again, because of how they treated Israel, their brother (cf. Obadiah 1:10-17).

In order to say there is only one day of the Lord, and the apocalyptic language **must** be taken literally, one is forced to conclude that God will contradict himself and raise up Esau, whom he said would never arise again to be a nation, because, if they thought within themselves to rebuild, the Lord would tear it all down. In other words, they would never rise again. Obviously, from where I stand, Esau has been judged, apocalyptic language must be taken figuratively, and, therefore, Jesus’ Second Coming occurred in 70 AD. To say otherwise would be to base one’s eschatology upon presumption, because there is no support for such in God’s word. In fact, God would have to contradict himself in order to establish the futurists’ argument.

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[1] Citation from: Don K. Preston, Like Father, Like Son, On Clouds of Glory (Ardmore, Ok.; Ja-Don Management Inc., 2017), 3.

[2] John MacArthur admits: “It is certainly true that the apocalyptic sections of scripture are filled with symbolic language.” See MacArthur; The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Coming and the End of the Age (Wheaton, Ill; Crossways, 1999), 122.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 15, 2017 in Eschatology, Prophecy

 

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2 responses to “The Coming of the Lord in Judgment

  1. Eddie

    November 15, 2017 at 08:03

    Thanks, Dave. I appreciate your response and honesty about your own walk. Similarly, I have run into problems in my own church home. I love the church and have recently gone to the leader of our small groups (we are a mid-size church, I think) and told her I wouldn’t be continuing as a Sunday school teacher / moderator, after my lesson on 2Peter was complete, and I told her why.

    She was willing to allow me continue teaching using a different format, but, after I read an example of what she meant, I told her I couldn’t do that. All in all, the meeting went quite well. But, I understand your dilemma. The Lord will work this out for you, just as he has done with me. Lord bless you.

     
  2. Dave White

    November 15, 2017 at 07:49

    This was very helpful in filling in the gaps in my understanding. As I have said before, even with 50+ years in baptist and now charismatic churches, prophesy teaching has never been logical to me. Interestingly, I am still ‘in the closet’ on this issue because I don’t want to be a source of confusion in our congregation. God Bless

     
 
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