As always, a new day has begun!! Let’s see if I can wrap up my points on the Olivet discourse today…
And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Jesus has been teaching on the end of the temple and the temple age. Remember how impressed his disciples were with the grandeur and beauty of the temple? “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”” Mark 13:1 ESV. Well, Jesus was not as impressed. “And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”” Mark 13:2 ESV. Then he begins to talk of wars and tumults, tells them they will be hated because of his name. He tells how they will be arrested, tried, dragged before councils and governors, and some would lose their lives. He tells them not to worry, though about what to to these councils and governors, for the Holy Spirit would lead them through. In other words, he told them what would happen throughout the book of Acts.
“”But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” Luke 21:20 ESV. This is the sign. The sign that the end is coming. The sign of the End Jesus is teaching about, the end of the temple and temple establishment, along with its hierarchy and control. At this sign those listening should go, go, go!! Get out of town!! It is the sign of the days of Roman vengeance, Rome has had enough!! The time of the Gentiles (Romans) is about to be fulfilled.
And fulfilled it was. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. What does Jesus mean here?? This is a clear reference back to Daniel chapter 7, Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, the beasts of empire. First a lion, then a bear, then a leopard, then one that’s just monstrous. But then a son of man comes, a son of man because he will not act beastly…“”I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14 ESV. A son of man to bring the Kingdom of God, given honor and glory and dominion and a kingdom. A kingdom which will not be destroyed. Jesus is connecting the end of the temple with the full inauguration of the Kingdom of God on the earth. It’s the end, but it’s also a beginning. It’s not the end of the earth, not the end of the world, it’s the end of the temple and the systems of hierarchy and domination that came along with it. The end of the exclusion of people from the temple. No longer will people be threatened with their own death for going too far into the temple. The friend of sinners invites all who would come straight to the new Holy of Holies, his communion table, where to this day we participate in his broken body and shed blood on the cross.
And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” When you see these things happen, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, when finally one stone is not left upon another, when you’ve seen the wars and tumults, been turned over by mother, father, brother, sister to the authorities, when you’ve gone through the trials, been brought before the Sanhedrins and councils and rulers and testified to who I am, when some of you have lost your lives (but not a hair on your head will perish!) you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. I know you see that. THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTILL ALL HAS TAKEN PLACE!! Some of you, maybe most, are trying right now to rationalize this to fit your picture of what the End is supposed to look like, trying to remember why Jesus wasn’t actually saying that the end will come before the generation of people he is talking to will pass away. Why this generation did not mean this generation. We have to figure this out, because clearly, the End has not come, because clearly we are still here, right. But very clearly, Jesus is saying, very directly, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. This generation, listening to me right now, some will still be alive when what I am talking about will happen. In other words, he’s not talking about something that is going to happen 2000 years later. He’s not talking about 21st century politics, he’s not talking about terrorism, hurricanes, nuclear weapons, climate change or anything else we try to fit this into. I know we have created billion dollar industries based on “end time signs“, someone you know is buying bunkers, guns, ammunition, water, and freeze dried food. But whatever use they may get out of these things, the end times signs they are based on have come and gone.
Very simply, Jesus is not a false prophet. Because every single thing he predicted here, happened. Not today, not tomorrow, but nearly 2000 years ago. The End Jesus predicts, happened. In AD 70 the temple, with its temple establishment, with its systems of power, domination and control, came to an end. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. The world came to an end for those who were hearing Jesus talk. Heaven and earth passed away. The world as they knew it, faded away.
Don’t believe me? Look at what Jesus said to Caiaphas the high priest just a few days after, the day before he is crucified. “But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” Matthew 26:63-64 ESV. Are you the Messiah?? But look at Jesus response. You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. He’s talking to Caiaphas, the Caiaphas recorded by Josephus is history, a specific man in a specific time, and he tells him, you, Caiaphas, you will see the son of man predicted in Daniel (and don’t think Caiaphas did not immediately understand the reference), you will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. Because the temple was going to end, which Jesus has been giving all along as the beginning of the inauguration of the kingdom of God, which is just about the only thing Jesus ever talked about. This end is not coming 80 or 100 or 200 generations later (isn’t it funny how no one selling you supplies for the end times thinks we have 80 more generations to go?). This generation will not pass away, and you, Caiaphas, will see the coming if the Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.
It is clear from the text here that Jesus is talking about the end if the temple and the temple age, not the end of the world as we are looking for it. Jesus is not talking about the destruction of the earth, as hard as we seem to be trying to achieve exactly that.
Of course, in Matthews account of the Olivet discourse, he tells his disciples this – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 ESV. What about this, this never happened, did it? Well, let’s go to the book of Acts and the day of Pentecost. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”” Acts 2:1-11 ESV. That’s a long tract, I’m just going to focus on this – Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. The Holy Spirit comes like tongues of fire, and the gospel is preached to devout men from every nation under heaven. Hyperbole or not, the gospel was preached to all the nations. According to the bible, this is fulfilled.
Look at how the book of Acts ends. “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” Acts 28:28, 30-31 ESV. The Kingdom of God is among us. The Kingdom of God has come.
We are Christians, remember? That means that we, of all people, should have a hopeful vision of the end. And we do!! Christ shall come again!! But, what is the sign of that?? THE DEAD ARE RAISED!! As we live our lives under the reign of Christ, we seek to embody and enact this Kingdom of God more fully in this life. As people who anticipate the age to come, we seek to live under the reign of Christ fully here and now. As we grow old and die, we will be absent from the body, present with the Lord in a place He calls paradise, that’s not the end we are looking for.
Remember the apostles creed? Maybe you don’t, but it ends this way – He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen. The sign of the coming of Christ is this – the resurrection of the body. Again, the dead are raised!! As evidenced by Jesus’ own physical, not spiritual, resurrection. He is the firstborn among the brothers of the children of God, His is the resurrection that foreshadows the general resurrection of the dead, which will signal his return.
We are heading for the dead being raised and Jesus Christ being fully acclaimed as Lord. Not doom and gloom, wars and rumors of wars, famine and strife. The End Jesus was talking about was the end of the temple, the temple establishment, and the temple age. The Kingdom of God endures and we are part of it.
We may (will) ultimately murder each other by the millions with the use of nuclear weapons, but it doesn’t have to be this way. This is not the End Jesus was predicting. The End Jesus was predicting happened in AD 70, you can go to Jerusalem to see the ruins, they are still there.
We may cause heaven and earth to pass away (again), the world as we know it will eventually come to an end. Our world systems, the world we know and the only one we can imagine, will eventually come crashing down.
But the words of Jesus Christ will not pass away.
“”And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Luke 21:25-33 ESV