Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Harmony of the Olivet Discourse Part 5

Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-36; 17:22-37)

In the previous article, the tribulation came with a woe. The picture of the woman in travail, the "beginning of sorrows," a woman giving birth reached its height in the Great Tribulation. Now, Jesus gives us the sign of the coming of the Son of Man – the Messiah.  
The Coming of the Son of Man (24:27-30)
27 For even as the lightning goes forth from [the] east and flashes to the west, also in this manner will be the coming of the Son of man.  28 For wherever the corpse might be, their vultures will be gathered together 29 Moreover, immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give off her light and the stars fall out of heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  30 and then the sign of the Son of man will appear in the heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will grieve and they will see the Son of man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and much glory.

The coming of the Son of Man is described graphically as the lightning goes forth. Just as lightning travels across the sky so will be the Lord's return. His coming will be sudden, like a flash, glorious, powerful and unstoppable.  The term Son of Man is a commonly used term for Christ by the Apostle Matthew (cf. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40; 13:37, 41; 16:13, 27, 28; 17:9, 12, 22; 18:11; 19:28; 20:18, 28; 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; 25:13, 31; 26:2, 24, 45, 64). Its root is found in the Old Testament and speaks of "the Son related to mankind" - a genitive of relation. The term is used of men (esp. Ezekiel) as well as the Messiah. It identifies Christ with mankind, relating Him to mankind, not only with an emotional and physical sense in His humanity as the incarnate God-in-the-flesh, but also in a judicial sense as He had to die as the representative of mankind! Another term, the "Son of God" speaks of Jesus' relationship to God, so we get the doctrine of the God-man, wholly God and wholly man - the unique Son related to God and the Son related to mankind.

He came in the flesh as the Son of Man, dying on the cross as a perfect representative of mankind, dying as a substitute for mankind, was buried and resurrected as the first fruits and for our justification (cf., Rom. 4:25). He will come again - that same One who died on the cross for mankind, will come again; so the term the Son of Man specifically identifies the one who will come again. His return will not be like His first coming in the flesh with the purpose of being the suffering servant (cf., Isa. 53), but rather as a Judge (cf. John 5:24-30), a conquering King (cf., Zech. 14:1-9; Rev. 19:11-16). His coming will involve great global astronomical events. Luke indicates that the event will also cause the sea to "roar" and will create a great panic on earth even causing men's hearts to fail, literally "breathing their last" (21:25-26).

With His first coming and death on the cross, the earth experienced a period of darkness (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44) and the earth shook (Matt. 27:51). How much more will the signs from heaven be magnified and the earth shake upon His second coming!   

His coming is given direction, notice the raw Greek, "as the rising of the sun (the east) and shines until the setting of the sun (the west)," that is, He will return starting from the east and moving to the west. This is how the Old Testament relates His coming (cf. Ezek. 43:2).    

For wherever the corpse might be, their vultures will be gathered together. Verse twenty-eight is strange and traditionally been a hard verse to interpret, but it clearly indicates the carnage of the Tribulation and death even from the very sight of His coming! The picture is that of a great number of bodies lying dead for the scavengers to feed upon. The picture is that of Ezekiel 39 and Gog:

 And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal; 2  and I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel. 3  I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand. 4  You will fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you as food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field.
5  You will fall on the open field; for it is I who have spoken," declares the Lord GOD. 6  And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the LORD. 7  My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. (Ezek. 39:1-7)

This description by God in Ezekiel moves to its height as the birds and animals feed upon the dead and is describes as a great sacrificial meal:

As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Speak to every kind of bird and to every beast of the field, "Assemble and come, gather from every side to My sacrifice which I am going to sacrifice for you, as a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. 18  You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, as though they were rams, lambs, goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. 19  So you will eat fat until you are glutted, and drink blood until you are drunk, from My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. 20  You will be glutted at My table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all the men of war," declares the Lord GOD. 21  And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them. (Ezek. 39:17-21)

It should be noted that the battle of God and Magog are usually place during the tribulation or someplace it at the start of the tribulation and not at the end of the tribulation. The great battle at the end of the tribulation is called Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Since this description in Matthew is in response to the disciples question of when will the end come, Jesus replies with those things that must take place for them to watch for, as such, the battle of God and Magog will most likely be after the rapture of the Church and before the last three and a half years of the tribulation.  
Moreover, immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give off her light and the stars fall out of heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The second coming of the Lord will be exhibited by the dramatic events of heaven. Some have taken this as "dramatic hyperbole," but there is nothing in the text to drive one to make this metaphoric. While Scripture does describe nations as stars, the context clearly defines the metaphor. Here, the context is clearly upwards to heaven and relates the event to the Lord return from heaven. This is a literal event – the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give off its light and stars will fall out of heaven. It is describing the glories of the sun, the lesser glory of the moon and the even lesser glory of the stars will make way for the supreme glory of heaven, namely, the glory of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:31). 

The term the powers of the heaven will be shaken imply a fundamental change in the created universe. There was a period in earth's history when the sun moon and stars functioned in a different way. In the garden period there was a very different functioning of the sun, moon and stars. Again, after the fall, the sun, moon and stars seem to function differently, then again after the flood, season are established where the sun, moon and stars function differently. It appears that in the millennium there will be another dramatic fundamental change to the earth and the heavens as the glory of the Lord will come to the front.    

Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heaven.  The "sign of the Son of Man" is not specifically given, just that it will appear or be brought to light in the sense of literally seeing with the eye or seeing with the mind. And since the direction is provided as from "in the heaven", most naturally, it will be literally seen by the eye. Most likely the sign will be His glory coming in the cloud! This, after all is the traditional expectation of His appearing. He comes in the cloud!     

The result of this seeing is, all the peoples of the earth will grieve and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven. All people groups, literally, "all the tribes of the earth will be cut [to the heart]." The Greek kopto means "to cut, strike, to beat one's breast for grief," so the usual translation to mourn or grieve. Those who are left on earth will grieve, most likely because they will have seen so much destruction, so much death, then, with the appearance of Son of Man, the Son of Righteousness will cut to the heart. And not only for their sins and their forsaking the Lord, but because of so much destruction, much like an end of a sequence of great battles where the blood flowed high, the exhaustion extreme, and the war is lost. The lamentation and grief "cuts to the heart" and the losing side beats their breast in grief.    

Then the Son of man will come upon the clouds of heaven with power and much glory.  When the Lord returns He comes in a cloud (cf. Ex. 24:15; 34:5; 40:35; Isa. 19:1; Ezek. 38:16) and His appearance will be in glory and power, His great strength will be clearly visible. Notice that His glory is described with the adjective "much," a magnified glory.     

The Regathering of Israel (24:31)

 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they will gather together his, the chosen ones, from the four winds, from the farthest bounds of [the] heavens to the farthest bounds of it.  

When He returns, Israel will be gathered from the four winds. All Israel who is left will be saved. Angels are messengers of God, but too, they serve as divine attendants of God as Cherubim are said to defend His Holiness, while Seraphim surround the throne as they attend His holiness.  The ministry of angels to the person Christ are extensive as Gabriel predicted His birth (Luke 1:26-38), but angels protected Him in his infancy (Matt. 2:13; 2:20). They ministered to Him after the temptation (Matt. 4:11) and strengthened Him at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). They announced His resurrection (Matt. 28:5-7; Mark 16:6-7; Luke 24:4-7; John 20:12-13), and attended His ascension (Acts (1:10). They will attend His Second Coming (Matt. 25:21), as well as serve an important part of the regathering of Israel.

The trumpet will mark the blessed event. This is a trumpet blast of glad tidings not of war. A blast marking the regathering of the Jews back to Him. A fulfillment of the promise that "He will be their God and they will be His people" (cf. Jer. 30:22; Ezek. 36:28). A fulfillment of the Abrahamic, Land, Davidic and New Covenants comes to fulfillment with the blast of a trumpet. A satisfaction of the Feast of Trumpets which foresaw a Sabbath rest – God's chosen people will finally have a day of rest and peace.   

The Parable of the Fig Tree (24:32-33)

32 But, learn the parable from the fig tree. When the tender shoot of him is arisen and a tender one, shooting out, you come to know that the summer [is] near.  33 And in this manner, you, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, by [the] door.

This parable communicates the certainty of the Messiah's coming. When you see the fig tree's shoots that means summer is near. As Dr. Wolvoord notes, "When the events described in the preceding verses occur, it will be a clear indication of the second coming of Christ being near. The sign in the passage is not the revival of Israel, which is not the subject of Matthew 24, but rather the details of the Great Tribulation which occur in the three-and-a-half years preceding the Second Coming." (John Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible (Chariot Victor Publishing, 1999), p. 391)   

No One Knows the Day and Hour (24:36-44)

36 But concerning that day and the hour, no, not even one has known not even the angels of heaven, if not my Father alone. 37 But just as the days of Noah so will it be and the coming of the Son of man.  38 Just as they were in the days before the flood, eating and drinking  marrying and giving away in marriage until of which day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not know until the flood came and it carried them all away also in this manner will be the coming of the Son of man.  40 At that time two will be in the field the one is being taken and the one is being left.  41 Two women grinding in the mill house  only one is being taken and only one is being left  42 Watch then, that you have not known in what definite time your Lord in coming.  43 But this you know that if  the master of the house had known of what watch the thief is coming he would have watched and would not permit his house to be broken through. 44 Through this also you, you be ready because in what hour you do not suppose, the Son of man is coming.

Jesus did not want them to know the day or hour, but rather to perform their duties with the expectation of His coming at any moment. There are signs, keep watch, and when you see them, know them.

Who is Wise and Faithful (24:45-47)

45 Who is the faithful and wise servant which his  Lord established over his household to give them food in due measure. 46  Blessed [is] that servant who his lord, when he comes, he will find in this manner doing. 47 Truly, I say to you that he will place him over all that is in his possession.

Jesus did not want them to waste away in a panic while He is away. They are to be doing His business, while He is away, so that when He returns He will find them doing what He asked.

Who is the Evil Servant (24:48-51)

48 But if that bad servant might say in the heart of him, my Lord is delaying to come. 49 And he might himself begin to strike this fellowservants, but eating and drinking with those who are among the drunken. 50 The Lord of that servant will be present in [the] day that he is not looking for, and in an hour that he does not know.  51 And he will cut him in two and he will set his portion with the hypocrites there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.


Jesus closes chapter twenty-four with what Dr. Hindson says are "three words of application, answering the question of how we ought to live in light of our Lord's return." (Ed Hinson, Matthew (AMG publishers), p. 217) (1) "Be on alert" (literally, "be on guard"); (2) "Be ready;"  (3) Keep serving." We are not to be idol, not wasting time, but doing the daily work of God – abiding in His word and making disciples. These great parables speak volumes concerning that end.