The End of the Age

Jesus referred to “the end of the age” as His return to this earth, when the peoples of the world will be separated into two groups; those who will be thrown into the furnace of fire and those who will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Jesus referred to “the end” and to “the End of the Age”.  These phrases are recorded twelve times in the gospels.  The purpose here is to determine the meaning of these phrases, as a background study to the interpretation of the controversial texts in Matthew 10:23; 16:28 and 24:34, where Jesus seems to say that He will return within the lifetime of some of His hearers.

Summary

Matthew 10 – The first time that the phrase “the end” is used in the gospels, is in the controversial Matthew 10:22-23, where “the end” is when “the Son of Man comes”.

Matthew 13 – Next the phrase “the end of the age” is used three times in Matthew 13, where it is described as “the harvest”, when the peoples of the world are separated into two groups; those who commit lawlessness” are thrown “into the furnace of fire”, while “the righteous will shine forth as the sun”.

Daniel 12 – The concept of “the end” comes from the book of Daniel.   The phrase, “the end of the age”, specifically, comes from the last verse of Daniel, where Daniel is told that he will “rise again” (come to life) at “the end of the age” to receive his “allotted portion”.  This “allotted portion” is described earlier in Daniel 12, where it is stated that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life” (v2).  Since others will awake to “everlasting contempt” (v3), Daniel 12, similar to Matthew 13, describes “the end of the age” as the time when the peoples of the world will be separated into two groups; those that “commit lawlessness” and the “righteous”.  What Daniel 12 adds is that people will again come to life at “the end of the age”.

Little Apocalypse – The next time that the phrase “the end” is found, is in the Little Apocalypse, in which Jesus foretold the events leading up to and at “the end”.  These chapters (Mt. 13; Mark 13; Luke 21) use the phrase “the end” seven times.  The Little Apocalypse confirms, as concluded above, that “the end of the age” is the Second Coming, when the people of the world will be separated into two groups; “those on His right”, who will “inherit the kingdom” (Mat. 25:34), and “those on His left”, who “depart … into the eternal fire” (v41).

Great CommissionThe only other place in the gospels where the phrase “the end” is found, is in the great commission: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20).

Matthew 10

The first time that the phrase “the end” is used in the gospels, is in Matthew 10, where Jesus sent His disciples on a mission trip on their own to the cities of Israel.  While giving them instructions, He said:

22You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

The end” is used here in the immediately context of the difficult verse 23.  Read in isolation, “the end” in verse 22 may be understood as referring to the person’s death, but in verse 23 Jesus said that He will come before His disciples have finished “going through the cities of Israel”.  He said, in other words, that He would come while they are still alive.  This implies that “the end” is when “the Son of Man comes”.  (A separate article is devoted to Matthew 10:23.)

Matthew 13

The next time that the phrase “the end” is used, is in Matthew 13 in Christ’s explanation of two of His parables.  Here the phrase “the end of the age” is used three times.

39 the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

49 “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The end of the age” is therefore “the harvest”, when the peoples of the world are separated into two groups:

Those who commit lawlessness” are thrown “into the furnace of fire” (vv42, 50), also called the “eternal fire” (Mat 18:8) or “lake of fire”, which is “the second death” (Rev. 20:14-15).

The righteous will shine forth as the sun” (v43, 49).

Daniel 12

The phrase “the end of the age” is found once only in the Old Testament, namely in the last verse of Daniel, where a supernatural being tells Daniel:

But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age“. (12:13)

The phrase “the end” does appear in the other books of the Old Testament, but only in Daniel is it used for the end of time.  This appears in various forms, such as “the end of the age”, the “time of the end” (Dan. 8:17, 19), “the end of time” (Dan. 12:4) and “the end time” (Dan. 12:9).  Just like Jesus used the phrase “Son of Man” from Daniel 7:13 to refer to Himself, He used the phrases “the end” and “the end of the age” from the book of Daniel.  The meaning of “the end” in Daniel 12 is therefore important for an understanding of “the end” in the gospels.

According to Daniel 12:13 Daniel “will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age”.  This helps to explain what “the end of the age” is:

Rest– Similar to Revelation 6:11, “rest” in Daniel 12:13 refers to the condition in which Daniel will be while dead, which the Bible often refers to as “sleep”, for instance “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep”.  (1 Cor. 15:20).

Rise again – “Rise again” in Daniel 12:13 refers to his coming to life again.  As stated earlier in Daniel 12, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake” (v2)

 

Allotted portion – The “allotted portion” is also explained by Daniel 12:2-3 when it says that “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life … Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

These verses are also the source of Christ’s reference in Matthew 13:43 to the shining of the righteous at “the end of the age”.

But Daniel 12:2 also describes what happen to the lost at “the end of the age”, when it says “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake … to disgrace and everlasting contempt”.

In conclusion then, in both Daniel 12 and Matthew 13, “the end of the age” is when the peoples of the world are separated into two groups; “those who commit lawlessness” and the “righteous”.  While the emphasis in Matthew 13 is on “those who commit lawlessness”, Daniel 12 emphasizes “those who have insight”.  An additional principle found in Daniel 12 is that, at “the end of the age”, people will come to life again.  Similar to John 5:27-29 and Revelation 20:4-5, it says that both “those who commit lawlessness” and the “righteous” will come to life.

Little Apocalypse

So far, four of the twelve occurrences of the phrase “the end” in the gospels have been discussed.  The next time that this phrase is found is in the Little Apocalypse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), in which Jesus foretold the events preceding and at “the end”.  In these chapters this phrase is mentioned 7 times.  This shows the unique end-time focus of the Little Apocalypse.  The Little Apocalypse is discussed in a separate article.  In summary:

Questions – The disciples asked two questions:

  1. When the temple will be destroyed?
  2. What will the sign of His coming and of the end of the age be (Matthew 24:3)?

Jesus’s answer may be divided into three broad sections:

First: General Principles – Jesus commenced His answer by warning them that people will mislead them by saying “the time is near” (Luke 21:8).  He then told them that wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and pestilences are not signs of the end (Mat. 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9).  He also warned them that they will be persecuted (Mt. 24:9).  So far He has not answered their questions.  He only gave general principles; applicable to all times and places.  But then He concludes this first section by mentioning “the end” twice:

but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved … this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Mat. 24:13-14; Mark 13:13).

Second: Jerusalem –He then warned them to flee to the mountains when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, because that will be a time of extreme distress; if God did not shorten that time, all people in Jerusalem would have been killed.  This happened in A.D. 70.

Third: Second Coming – In the third section He described His Second Coming.  He first told them that false prophets will arise that claim that He has already come.  He then described the signs of His coming, namely when the powers of heaven will be shaken, resulting in the roaring of the seas.  They will then see Him coming “in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26), and “He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds” (Mark 13:27).

The phrase “the end” is not used in the third section, but since this concludes Christ’s description of the future events, this is “the end” to which He referred at the end of the first section.  When He comes His angels “will gather together His elect from the four winds” (Mark 13:27).  This means the other will be left.  As stated a little later in Matthew 24 “one will be taken and one will be left” (v40-41) to be destroyed (Rev. 19:21; Luke 17:29-30).  Matthew 25 continues the discussion of His return (v31), when the people of the world will be separated into “those on His right”, who will “inherit the kingdom” (v34), and “those on His left”, who “depart … into the eternal fire” (v41).  Please see the article on the Second Coming in the New Testament for more detail.

This confirms, as concluded above, that “the end of the age” is His return to this earth, when the people of the world will be separated into two groups.

Great Commission

The only other place in the gospels where the phrase “the end” is found, is in the great commission: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20).

Conclusion

Judgment Day –  “The end of the age” therefore refers to His return to this earth, when the peoples of the world will be separated into two groups.  “Those who commit lawlessness” will be thrown “into the furnace of fire”, but “the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mat. 13:41-43; 49-50).  It cannot be interpreted, as some do, as the attack on Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70.

TO: Table of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Content

The Lord is coming soon.

Jesus said, His disciples believed and the entire New Testament teaches that the Lord is coming soon.

Jesus said that He will return soon.

Jesus said that He does not know when He will return (Mt. 24:36; Mark 13:32), but He nevertheless said that He will return soon; while some of His hearers are still alive:

While sending His disciples out on a mission trip “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:6), He told them to hurry, for they will not have enough time to visit all the cities of Israel before He comes (Mt. 10:23).

Teaching His disciples that they must take up their cross and follow Him because it is foolish to gain the world and lose one’s soul (vv. 24–26), He concluded, “whoever loses his life for My sake will find itfor the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Mt. 16:25-28; cf. Luke 9:27 & Mark 9:1)

After saying that everybody will see Him coming on the clouds with power and great glory, He told a parable to warn Him disciples to be watchful, and concluded, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away“ (Mt. 24:34-35; cf. Mark 13 & Luke 21).

Note that, in each instance above, He emphasizes the truth of His words.  Yet, 2000 years later, He has not returned.  Some people just bluntly conclude that Jesus made a mistake.  Others proposed various, sometimes desperate, solutions for this conundrum.  These articles evaluate various proposals, and conclude with a view that has major implications for our understanding of the kingdom of God.

The apostles also believed that the Lord is coming soon.

Some commentators propose that Jesus did not really say that He would come soon.  They propose that He actually referred to something else, such as to the coming of the Holy Spirit, or to God coming in judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  However, it is not only Jesus that said that He would come soon; this concept is found everywhere in the New Testament, for instance:

Paul wrote: “Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Rom. 13:11-12).  “God … will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom. 16:20).  “The time is short, from now on it would be wise for those who have wives to be as if they had them not” (1 Cor. 7:29).  “The Lord is coming soon” (Phil. 4:5).  Similar to what Jesus said, Paul also wrote that we will not all die before He comes: “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:50).  “We who are still alive … till the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15).

The author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote that “all the more as you see the Day approaching. …  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.  For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay” (10:25, 36-37).

James wrote: “The coming of the Lord is at hand … the Judge is standing right at the door” (5:8, 9)

Peter wrote: “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7). “it is time for judgment to begin” (1 Pet. 4:17).

John wrote: “The world is passing away …  it is the last hour.  Even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour.” (1 Jn. 2:17-18).

In Revelation John also wrote: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” was “to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6).  Jesus three times said, “I come quickly (or soon).”  (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20; cf. 3:11).

These statements that the Lord is coming soon are found all over the New Testament.  Only two authors in the whole New Testament don’t have anything to say about His soon return.  We conclude that the authors of the New Testament believed that the Lord is coming soon because that is what Jesus taught.

Partial Solutions

Some people find a technical solution that addresses one verse but not the others.  They might, for instance, argue that the “I come quickly” statements in Revelation can be understood as “I will come suddenly”.  Or they might say that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the last generation that will witness the signs of His coming.  But the idea that Jesus would come soon is found all over the New Testament.  These partial solutions therefore do not solve the problem.  We need to find a solution for all of these statements put together.

 

Long time

Jesus told parables in which He said that “the bridegroom tarried” (Matt. 25:5) and “after a long time the lord of those servants comes” (Matt. 25:19).  “Long time” is the exact opposite of “soon“.  These parables imply that there will be a long time before He returns.  The very statement that “some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Mt. 16:25-28) also implies a long time, for it means that some would have died by then, which implies a number of decades.  However, a “long time” is not inconsistent with Christ’s statements of the nearness of the end.  For any person twenty years is a long time to wait, but it is still within the lifetime of “some who are standing here”.

Unexpected

Jesus also said that “the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:39), and some therefore propose that ‘soon’ should be understood as ‘unexpected’, but these are two different concepts that are able to co-exist.

Mistaken

Some propose that Jesus thought that His return would be soon, but that He was mistaken; what He predicted did not happen.  He said that He does not know when He will return (Mt. 24:36; Mark 13:32), but He mistakenly believed that “the end of the age” (Mat. 24:3) would be in the near future.  Jesus and his apostles were wrong about one of the most important doctrines of the church.

However, this view would be inconsistent with the evidence we have of His supernatural knowledge and abilities, including the miracles He performed, and the wonderful things He taught.

Thousand Years as One Day

Peter explained the delay as follows:

2 Peter 3:3 … in the last days mockers will come with their mocking … 4 … saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” … 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

That Peter had to explain the delay implies that the Christians were already then asking questions about the delay.  Peter here explains the delay by giving two reasons, namely:

  • Time does not matter for God, for with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day), and
  • His motive is to save all; He is not wishing for any to perish (die).

We should not use Peter’s words to argue that God meant “soon” from His perspective of time, because that would imply that God purposefully deceived His disciples, which we cannot accept.

We should rather interpret Peter’s words as meaning that Jesus was to return while some of His hearers were still alive, but that God delayed His return, “not wishing that any should perish”.  This concept is discussed further below.

Next article: Was His promise to return soon fulfilled in His Resurrection, Ascension and Enthronement?

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Did Jesus return in His Resurrection?

Was Jesus’ promise, to return soon, fulfilled in His Resurrection, Ascension and Enthronement?

Resurrection

Some argue that Jesus came when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection.  They justified this as follows:

By the resurrection from the dead” Jesus was “declared the Son of God” (Rom. 1:4).

After His resurrection, He said that “all authority” was given Him (Mat. 28:18-20).

In Matthew 10 Jesus instructed His disciples to go to Israel only (v5-6), but after His resurrection, He gave His disciples a new commission to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mat. 28:18-20).  Thus ended the special mission to Israel.  Judaism came to an end at the crucifixion.  At that moment her rituals, sacrifices, temple, priesthood and her whole status, were nulled.

However:

The Apostles still expected His soon coming after His resurrection (See The Lord is coming soon).

The disciples did not experience major persecution prior to His resurrection, as Jesus said they would, before He returns (Mt. 10:16-23).

The Bible nowhere use such language (e.g., “the Son of man is come”) for His resurrection.

His resurrection was too soon.  Jesus would not have said, “some standing here who will not taste death”, for something which was to happen only about a year later.

When Jesus said that he would come soon, He also said that, when He comes, will be “the day of judgment” (Mt. 10:15, 23; 16:27-28).  His resurrection was not “the day of judgment”.

The preaching to Israel only did not come to an end at the Cross.  Ten days after His ascension God gave His followers the power of the Holy Spirit to preach specifically and exclusively to Israel.  This resulted in the exponential growth for the church, but limited to Israel.  For a number of years after the Holy Spirit was received, the gospel message focused on die leadership of the Jews and on Jerusalem only.  See the article on the Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.

Enthronement

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven (Acts 1:3), where He “sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19; cf. Acts 2:32; 5:31; Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:20; Rev. 3:21; etc.).  Some argue that He came, not to the earth, but He came to God’s throne at His ascension.  This is justified as follows: 

When Jesus told His disciples to preach “that the Kingdom of God is at hand” (10:7), they probably understood this to be what was prophesied by Daniel 7, where Jesus comes—not to the earth—but to the Father (v13), to receive “dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion” (v14).  This was fulfilled, they argue, by Christ’s enthronement, when He ascended to heaven.

After Jesus “sat down at the right hand of God” and the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter explained, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).

Revelation 12 describes what happens in heaven when Christ ascended to heaven (see the article War in Heaven).  At that time a loud voice announced: “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come” (Rev. 12:10).

However:

Some of the objections against this proposal are similar to those against the previous proposal.  This includes that the Apostles still expected His soon coming after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that the disciples did not experience major persecution before this time, that the Bible nowhere uses “the Son of man is come”-language for His enthronement, that it was too soon to justify the saying “some standing here who will not taste death”, and that His enthronement was not “the day of judgment”.

Holy Spirit Received

Some argue that Jesus came representatively at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out, ten days after His ascension.  This is argued as follows:

By saying, “the Father … will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; … I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16, 18), He promised to come to them in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told His disciples to preach that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt. 10:7).  Since, in that chapter, both the “Kingdom of God” and His coming (Mt. 10:23) were imminent, His coming could be understood as the coming of the “Kingdom of God”.  Similarly, Matthew 16:28 says that He will come “in his kingdom”, which is argued is not His physical return.  In the parallel verses (Luke 9:27 & Mark 9:1) Jesus does not say that He will come at all, but only that “those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God”.  Jesus therefore did not promise that He would come physically, but that “the Kingdom of God”, which is the spiritual kingdom that exists in the hearts of born again believers, would come.

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit inaugurated the new dispensation.  Some of those who listened to His voice in Galilee and elsewhere saw the power of the kingdom of God manifested on a scale unmatched during His ministry. Within a few weeks, the number of His followers multiplied tenfold; His kingdom was visibly on the march.

However:

The objections against previous proposal also apply to this proposal.

Some rely of the phrase “kingdom of God”, which is found in some of the verses under discussion (Mt. 16:28; Luke 9:27; Mark 9:1), to justify the view that this is not His physical coming, but a spiritual coming.  However, the “kingdom of God” is not something which will one day come, for it already exists.  Jesus said “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21)Only the saved can see it today, but one day it will become visible to all.  So when Jesus said, “There are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27), it must be interpreted by the context, and the context is that the Son of Man will come in the glory of the Father and with the holy angels (v26).  The same applies to Matthew 16:28 and Mark 9:1.  See the article What is the “Kingdom of God”? for more detail.

Next article: Was His promise to soon return fulfilled in the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?

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Did Jesus return in A.D. 70?

Was His promise to soon return fulfilled in the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70?

Overview:

In A.D. 70 the Romans invaded Israel, destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and slaughtered a large number of Jerusalem’s people.  This was about 35 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it was Israel’s darkest hour.  Most commentators propose that Christ’s promises, that he would return soon, were fulfilled in these events.  They argue that most, if not all, of the book of Revelation and of Matthew 24 was fulfilled in the events of A.D. 70.  This proposal is based on the following arguments:

  1. There are unmistakably common elements in the Saviour’s warnings in Matthew 10 and the Little Apocalypse (Matthew 24, Luke 21 & Mark 13), and since the Little Apocalypse deals with both the destruction of Jerusalem and the return of Christ (Matthew 24:15-22), it is concluded that the destruction of Jerusalem is the return of Christ.
  2. Divine punishment is commonly referred to in the Bible as a “coming”.
  3. The return of Christ is often described as destruction (Matthew 24:29-30; Revelation 6:12-17).
  4. According to two first century historians an event occurred in A.D. 66, which was similar to the second coming, as described in Revelation 19:11-14.

Arguments in more detail

The old Jewish economy was set aside by the Roman invasion of Palestine in A.D. 66-70, the destruction of temple by Titus in A.D. 70, the mass slaughter of many of their inhabitants and the scattering of others.  Concerning this war, Jesus warned, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21).  Josephus confirmed that the Roman-Jewish War was, in fact, the worst war the Jews ever faced.  (The Wars of the Jews preface 1, preface 4.12, 5.10.5)

One argument used to support the proposal that His promise, to return soon, was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, is the correlation between Matthew 10, which contains one of Christ promises to come soon (v23) and the Little Apocalypse (Matthew 24, Luke 21 & Mark 13):

In both Jesus warned His disciples that they will be persecuted by the Jews (Mt. 10:16-17; Lk. 21:12), that they will be brought before governors and kings (Mt. 10:18; Lk. 21:12), that they will be hated by all men on account of Jesus (Mt. 10:22; Lk. 21:17), that the persecution will be so great that even family members will betray each other to the authorities (Mt. 10:21; Lk. 21:16) and that endurance will be required, for deliverance will come eventually (Mt. 10:22; Lk. 21:19).

In both Jesus promised His disciples that they are not to be anxious about what they will say when they are brought before governors and kings, for the Holy Spirit will give them appropriate words (Mt. 10:18-20; Lk. 21:13-15).

On the basis of these common elements, and since the Little Apocalypse deals with both the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:15-22) and the return of Christ, it is then concluded that the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is the return of Christ referred to in Matthew 10:23.

A second argument is that divine punishments are commonly referred to in the Bible as a “coming”.

(1) When Jehovah sent the Babylonians to ravage the southern kingdom of Judah, Isaiah depicted the event as an invasion of the Lord himself (Isa. 13:2-5).

(2) Christ warned the erring churches of Ephesus and Pergamum that if they do not mend their rebellious ways, He would “come” and bring punishment upon them (Rev. 2:5, 16).

(3) In Jesus’ parable the king “sent his armies” to destroy those who murdered his Son “and set their city on fire” (Mat. 22:7).  These murderers are the Jews, and their city was destroyed by the Romans.

Thirdly, the second coming is described in Revelation 19:11-14.  Here, Jesus rides a white horse.  “The armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses”.  The revelationrevolution website mentions two first century historians who recorded a similar event in A.D. 66, which marked the beginning of the Jewish-Roman war. 

“before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities” (Jewish historian Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3)

In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”  (Tacitus (pagan historian) The Histories 5.13.)

The parallels between these two accounts and Revelation 19 are striking.

Josephus also mentions a star-shaped sword hovering over the city of Jerusalem the year before the Jewish revolt.  Concerning this portent, Josephus says that the people were so badly deceived by false prophets that they had not given credit “to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation” (The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3).

It is argued that the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is different from the return of Christ which we expect, but just like the disciples thought the Messiah would be an earthly king and that the Kingdom of God would look like the days of King David, the arrival of Jesus might be very different from what we expect it to be.  For one thing, Jesus and the angels will not physically come riding on horses.

Objections to this proposal

Firstly, John wrote his gospel, letters and the book of Revelation after A.D. 70, and he still expected Christ to return soon (1 Jn. 2:17-18; Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6, 7, 12, 20).

Secondly, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is nowhere explicitly called the coming of Christ.

Thirdly, it is not valid to argue that Matthew 10:23 deals with the destruction of Jerusalem simply because the Little Apocalypse also deals with it.  In the article on the Little Apocalypse it is argued that that prophecy distinguishes between:

  • General experience of believers, applicable to all times and places;
  • The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70; and
  • The return of Christ.

Furthermore, the aspects of the Little Apocalypse that are similar to Matthew 10 are all found in that part of the Little Apocalypse that describes the general experience of believers, and are not specific to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Fourthly, A.D. 70 is too late.  Jesus said “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes” (Mt. 10:23), but the temple was destroyed only about 35 to 40 years after Christ spoke these words.  There would therefore have been enough time for them to reach all cities of Israel, particularly since they were given the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fifthly, when Christ promised that He would come soon, He also said that He will “repay every man”, that His angels will “gather together his elect from the four winds” (Mt. 10:15, 23; 16:27-28; 24:29-35).  These things did not happen at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Type

The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 should rather be seen as a type of the fullest destruction at the return of Christ:

Just like the Holy Spirit was poured out in power to take the message to Israel, so the Holy Spirit will be poured out in power to take the message to all the nations of the world (Rev. 11:11; 14:6).

Just like Israel rejected the gospel by persecuting the messengers, so the world’s nations in the end time will signal their final rejection of God by persecuting His messengers (Rev. 13:15-18).

Just like the first ‘generation’ saw “Jerusalem surrounded by armies” (Luke 21:20), so the final generation will see “the kings of the earth and their armies” (Rev. 19:19) surrounded by “the armies which are in heaven” (Rev. 19:14).

Just like the believers could flee safely to the mountains when Jerusalem was surrounded, so the end-time believers will be able to safely flee prior to the destruction of the world.

Just like God destroyed the power of the Jewish nation when there was nothing more He could do for it, so God will destroy the cities of the world when there remains nothing more He could do for them: “the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell” (Rev. 16:19).

The Little Apocalypse, which deals with both the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the return of Christ, thereby supports the view that the destruction of Jerusalem was a type of the end-of time destruction.

The end of the covenant with Israel

In Matthew 10 Jesus sent His disciples to only “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v5-6), but after His resurrection Jesus gave His disciples a new commission, namely to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).  However, the special mission to Israel did not end at the Cross.  To the contrary, for the first years after His death the gospel message focused exclusively and more intensely than ever before on the chosen nation.  This we see in the following:

That first great outpouring of the Holy Spirit was in Jerusalem for (Acts 1:4).  The Holy Spirit was poured out during the Jewish feast of Pentecost, when devout Jews from all around the world were gathered together in Jerusalem.  At that time the Holy Spirit was received only by Jews.  That first exponential growth of the church was limited to Jerusalem and to Jews only.  There-after, for a number of years, the gospel was preached only to Jews.  More specifically, the Holy Spirit through the believers worked exclusively in Jerusalem, where the leaders of the nation were.  (For more information, see the article Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.)

The period of time of urgent preaching to the Jews, to which 10:23 refers, only came to an end a few years after the Cross, namely when the nation of Israel sealed its rejection of God by persecuting the Spirit-filled believers.

Matthew 23:37-38 records Jesus saying,

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!”

The destruction of Jerusalem (“your house”) in A.D. 70 by the “Abomination of Desolation”, as prophesied in the next chapter (Mt. 24:15-22), therefore was the result of Israel’s rejection of God, firstly by killing Christ and secondly, a few years later, by killing His Spirit-filled followers.

It is therefore possible to argue that, when Israel rejected the Holy Spirit, about three years after Christ’s death, that Jesus at that time came in judgment on Israel by making an end to His covenant with Israel.  At that time the special protection, which Israel and Jerusalem enjoyed (Dan. 9:24), came to an end.  The destruction of Jerusalem, 30 of more years later, was then merely the consequence of this earlier event .

Objection: Although this proposal would explain the urgency—why “you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes” (Mt. 10:23)—other objections remain:

He did not reward each person according to his works and He did not come in the glory of His Father, with His angels when Israel’s period of privilege came to an end.

Even after the end of the period of Jewish privilege the Bible writers continued to claim that “the time is at hand”.

The end of the period of Jewish privilege is nowhere explicitly called the coming of Christ.

The next article discusses the proposal that, if the Jews had accepted their Messiah when, after His death, He send His messengers to them with the power of the Holy Spirit in preaching and miracles, Christ would have returned while some of His generation was still alive, but since they rejected this special message sent to them, His return was delayed.

NEXT: Why did He Not Return in the First Century as He promised?

TO: Table of Contents of the articles on the Second Coming

TO: General Table of Contents