Christ Coming in Vengeance
2 THESSALONIANS 1:7-10. verse 7:
And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.
How was Christ to be revealed and to whom was he being revealed? Verse 8 tells us:
In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This was not a beneficent Christ coming back to the disciples who were anxiously desiring to see him, but rather a Christ who was coming in vengeance upon those of his former people who did not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah.1 These were the people:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
This verse tells us what the punishment and destruction is. Much more than the physical terrors of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and the enslavement of the Jewish nation, the true destruction was the banishment of these people from the presence of God. This is the definition of spiritual death. To those people who made the decision to follow Christ, however, this coming was one of joy and vindication, as verse 10 conveys:
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.
The saints (that is, the Christian disciples) were glorified here because they were victorious through
Christs actions against the old Jewish nation. That day was the Day of the Lord when Christ came against the unrepentant Jews in A.D. 70.
(Parallel verses: MARK 8:38, and LUKE 9:26)
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Fathers glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.
In these parallel references (different authors accounts of the same event or words), we read of a coming event and also find a reference to a specific judgment that should occur at the time of that coming. Is this passage referring to a yet future coming of Christ (and, therefore, a future judgment event)? We only have to read the next verse to see that it cannot be so. Verse 28 says:
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste of death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
This is a plain statement by Jesus. In saying this, he places a distinct time frame on the prophecy of his coming the life spans of those disciples he was speaking to. The phrase some standing here is not allegorical or figurative. Christ meant exactly what he said. If none of the disciples who heard Jesus speak these words lived to see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom, then Jesus lied to them and the words of the Bible cannot be trusted.
To see that these verses are also speaking of the spiritual coming of Christ against the persecuting enemies, it is helpful to read Marks version in Mark 8:38-9:1
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Fathers glory with the holy angels. And he said to them, I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.
It was to that very generation of sinful people that God was coming. The words sinful and adulterous are key words that let us know that the subjects of Gods actions here are the unbelieving Jews. Only those who had the Law could be judged by it (and so be found sinful). It was the Jewish nation, once holy and set apart from all other human cultures, that had acted as a religious prostitute in accepting outside cultures, religious influences, and business practices, and by becoming entangled in legalism and worldliness, losing the heart of their religion.
This is why Jerusalem is pictured as a prostitute or harlot in the 17th and 18th chapters of Revelation. The great city (representing the entire nation) is pictured or symbolized as a woman who is:
Full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication...the mother of harlots... drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus
The formal Jewish religion had become nothing but an empty and decaying shell of the glorious thing it once was, and it was persecuting and murdering Gods true people, the followers of Christ. God was going to bring about its destruction within the lifetimes of some of those disciples that Jesus spoke with. Revelation 18:8
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
Now it is made plain to us what Jesus meant by rewarding every man according to his works at the time of this coming. All those whose works consisted of choosing not to believe in the Christ would perish in the war and they would be eternally lost to God. (Tentmaker Ministries believes this view is in error. No one is “eternally lost.” The Greek word “aionios” an adjective of “aion” means a period of time in which the end is not in view, it does not mean eternally.) Those who chose to follow Jesus would be aware of the warning signs of the coming conflict and so escape it. Revelation 18:4
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
The judgment that was to be delivered was also a part and parcel of this prophecy. Christ promised to enact this judgment when he came in his kingdom.
If the kingdom has come, then so has the judgment! In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter states:
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God, and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
This judgment is, of course, not limited to the Jewish nation of the first century. It is a general judgment on all human beings that continues today for us. Christ began immediately to reward men for their works specifically, their works of accepting and obeying Christ in the first place as opposed to denying him and returning to the Judaism or paganism from whence they came. If their works in this regard were positive, they were and are rewarded with eternal life and contact with God (1 John 5:13).
On a ongoing basis, then, this judgment requires that all Christians must continue in works of righteousness rather than evil in order to stay in contact with God and remain in his Kingdom (1 John 3:9-10;5:18). Our acts of righteousness could never, of course, bring about our salvation. Christs sacrifice for sin did that. Our acts of sin, however, certainly do judge us, and this is an ongoing judgment that began with Christs spiritual return (for he is the High Priest and Judge in his Kingdom). Fortunately for us, our Judge is a merciful and loving one, and he will listen to our true repentance and will forgive us if we fail (1 John 2:1).
Matthew said that the event the disciples would live to see was Christ coming in his Kingdom, and Mark said till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power. Does this mean that the Kingdom itself did not come into being until that event in A.D. 70? No, all the verses after the gospels that speak of the Kingdom, speak of it as established something that all the Christian brethren were a part of. As we have seen, it had been completely established on the Day of Pentecost.
In these verses, Jesus did not say that he was coming to bring his Kingdom, instead, he was coming in his Kingdom. God and the Kingdom of God (which is God and all his peoples, and which represents all of his power) was coming in vengeance against the common enemy to destroy that enemy.
This is why, in Mark, he speaks of coming with his angels, and coming with power and in the glory of his Father. These terms are typical symbolic words found in all of the similar prophecies of the destruction of Judea, and their use here by Jesus shows us that this is the subject of this coming.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:22-26. verses 22-24:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christs at his coming. Then cometh the end
Here is the great promise and hope of Christianity the gift of eternal life with God. In this passage, Paul states the order of events. First, Christ gained eternal life when he took up his own life and returned, spiritually, to God the Father at the ascension. Second, they that are Christs the Christian disciples received eternal life when they were baptized after Christs coming to them on Pentecost. Then, says Paul, comes the end. The end of what?
It was the end of the legal, religious, and social world that they all were living underthe world of the Jewish Law.
Paul goes on to say in verse 25:
For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet .
This tells us plainly the purpose of this event. Christ was to put all his enemies who were also the enemies of his Bride, the Church under his feet, which is to say he would defeat them and they would have no power or dominion over him or his people, the Christian disciples. The actions of the destruction of the Jewish world in A.D. 70. were, in fact, the predetermined effect of what happened nearly 40 years earlier in the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In verse 26, which we touched on earlier, we have another indicator of when these events were to take place. Let us look at it again:
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Has death been destroyed by Jesus Christ? In the very next verse, Paul affirms it:
For he hath put all things under his feet
Christ destroyed death by overcoming it when he rejoined the Father at his ascension. This death that is called the last enemy was not physical death, for that had been overcome before, as in the raising of Lazarus. No one today is promised eternal physical life. The death that was overcome was spiritual death the separation from God that caused Christ to cry out from the cross, Why have you forsaken me?. It was spiritual death which Christ overcame when he went back to the Father in Acts 1, and he was the first being to accomplish this.
Jesus, the Word, had left the Father and Spirit and had gone into the Hadean realm, but he was given the power to take his life up again as he tells us in John 10:18
...I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.
He did this as his beloved disciples watchedexperiencing the Vision of him ascending in that spiritual state to rejoin the Godhead. The last enemy was destroyed. It is only because of his victory in this regard that we have the opportunity to receive eternal spiritual life. If Christ has not yet accomplished the destruction of the last enemy, then we cannot claim to have eternal life. Do we have it? John tells us in 1 John 5:13
These things have I written unto you That ye may know that ye have eternal life.
Because of his victory over physical and spiritual death, Christ reigns as the supreme King over all life. Certainly, he came as he promised to his disciples and just as certainly, he came in destructive retribution to those who would be enemies of his people. He destroyed death and began his reign by the actions of the cross, resurrection, and ascension, but the final destructive actions against the Jewish nation did not occur for some 40 years. Why the delay? Simply because God was still yearning for his people to repent and find the new way of reconciliation to him through Christ. He provided this time for Christianity to be taught throughout the Jewish world and for the Jews (and, of course, the Gentiles as well) to respond to it. Those who chose not to respond to Christ were destroyed in the great Day of the Lord.
Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him
In this verse, one of the most well known passages concerning a coming of Christ, we see him coming with clouds. To many, this scene may seem unprecedented a new phenomena that will occur at the end of the world. The careful Bible student, however, will recognize this type of manifestation from earlier passages. For instance in Isaiah 19:1, the prophet warns:
See, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, and is coming to Egypt....
Here we have the same imagery God coming with or upon a cloud. In both of these passages, we have an identical situation. In Isaiah, God is coming to take vengeance upon the Egyptians not in a direct supernatural way, but by causing other human armies to come against them. In the Revelation passage, it is the Jewish nation that has sinned, and God is causing the Roman army to come against them. In Jeremiah we can see the same kind of situation and the same imagery aimed at Judah. In chapter 4:6, God, speaking through the prophet, warns the people of Judah:
For I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction.
God would use the Assyrian army to destroy the nation of Judah if they would not repent. In verse 13, Jeremiah describes God taking this action in this way:
Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! For we are spoiled.
We should note how the horses and chariots of the
pagan human armies are spoken of as Gods horses and chariots.
We are familiar with the idea of God being associated with a cloud in a more literal way from the accounts of Exodus and Numbers, but this usage is different. We are examining passages of prophecy here and, again, symbolic language is being used. The likening of God to a cloud or having him come in or with clouds simply means that God was coming in a spiritual manner, rather than directly, for we know that God is a spiritual being whom no man hath seen .. .at any time (1 John 4:12).
In the passage in Revelation we see a similar situation, and John is looking for the same sort of thing to happen to the Jews. God would come against Judea and the persecuting Jewish authorities, but his coming would be spiritual in nature, taking the form of the actions of the pagan Roman army.
That this is the proper interpretation becomes obvious when we examine the phrase, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him. Although a Roman soldier literally pierced Jesus as he hung on the cross, it was the Jewish nation who murdered Christ and to whom was assessed the responsibility for and the consequences of that act. This is made very plain in several New Testament
passages, including Acts 2:22-23;36
Men of Israel...this man was handed over to you by Gods set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross... Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
and Acts 7:52
And now you have betrayed and murdered him....
Every Jewish eye would see the coming of God in the events of the Roman invasion. In the last part of
Revelation 1:7, we read:
and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
In the last part of Matthew 24, we saw how the symbols heaven and earth were used to represent the Jewish authorities and the people under their authority. This is a consistent use of the symbol earth throughout the scriptures. When used in a prophecy, the word earth means the nation or people subject to the prophecy. It does not mean the entire planet earth in our modern scientific sense.
This prophecy is all about the land of Palestine and the people who live there at that time. Who were the kindreds of Palestine? Obviously, they were the twelve tribes of Israel, who were especially kindred in their fierce religious isolation from other peoples.
Why were the Jews wailing? As we have determined, it was because every eye (that is, everyone subject to the prophecy) would see the actions that represented Christs spiritual coming in vengeance and realize that this coming was against them and it would destroy them as a nation and as a society set aside from the rest of mankind. The Jews had rejected God for the last time they were his people no longer.
2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-12. verses 1-2:
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
For anyone studying the prophecies of the New Testament who is not aware of the nature of symbols and the conventions of the timing of Hebrew prophecy, this passage can create great confusion. It has been used by many to assert that the prophecies are still unfulfilled in our time. In many places in the New Testament these events are described as coming soon or at hand. Here, however, Paul warns that the Day of Christ is not just at hand. What can we make of this and the strange verses that follow it?
First, let us identify for certain the word that was translated as at hand in this passage. In the Greek, it is the word enistemi which has the meaning of something now present or just now coming into being3. This verse makes it obvious that the Thessalonians thought the prophesied Day of Christ was impending immediately at the time Paul wrote this letter. In fact, the congregation in Thessalonica had apparently received a forged letter (a letter as from us) which promoted the idea that the Day was upon them right then. This had disturbed many of these Christians, perhaps even panicked some who did not understand the interpretation of the prophecys symbols. Paul wrote this letter to calm their fears (that ye not be... shaken or be troubled), and then to explain to them what some of the events would be that would lead up to the Day of Christ so that they could understand and react rationally to it.
Paul wrote this letter in A.D. 52 or 53, about 17-18 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. We should recall that all the apostles had special gifts bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit and that one of these was the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians, chs. 12-14). In the form of prophetic vision, Paul was able to see what was coming. He began to describe to the Thessalonians the events that were going to happen before Christ would come against the persecutors in the great Day of Christ. In verse 3 he begins:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
(2 Thessalonians 2:3)
In this first verse of his prophecy, Paul states two things that would have to occur before the Day of Christ. The first is that there would be a falling away. If we recall our earlier discussion of Matthew 24, we will note that this is one of the events that Jesus also prophesied would occur during this time between the cross and the Day of the Lord. In Matthew 24:11-12, he said:
And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.
As we learned in that study, many new Christians fell away under the duress of the tribulations and the pressures from family and long religious tradition. This fits naturally with the difficult and dangerous conditions surrounding the new congregations of Christians. With the increase in persecutions and martyrdom of Christians, many who initially claimed that name grew cold and denounced Christ to save themselves from physical torture and death.
The second thing Paul prophecies is that the man of sin, son of perdition would be revealed. The next few verses contain a description of this event one that many assume is still to happen in our future. Just who is this man of sin? Does this in any way fit the history of the times when Paul was writing this letter?
If we look down to verse 7 for a moment, we hear paul say:
For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way.
[2 Thes.2:7 NIV]
Here we understand that the first part of this mysterious event is underway even then, during the time that Paul was writing this letter to the Thessalonians.
To understand what Paul is referring to, we must realize that these prophecies concern Christ coming in vengeance against his enemies. The enemies can be generally categorized as any and all persecutors of his people on earth. We have seen how God used the Roman army to come against the Jewish state and
destroy it, but the pagan Romans were also persecutors of Christianity and were also included as subjects of the coming in vengeance of Christ.
This is one passage where this understanding is the key to the proper interpretation of the prophetic language. In verse 7, Paul was referring to the current state of the Roman authorities, and he gives us, prior to the fact, an accurate description of what would occur between the time he wrote this letter and the events of AD. 70. Let us see how this interpretation works.
First, in verse 7, we hear that the secret power of lawlessness is already at work. What is this power? Any time we are studying a Bible prophecy that has as part of its subject matter the concepts of law or lawlessness, we can be certain that it is referring to only one thing the law, the Law of Moses. Here, the power of lawlessness is simply that power in the world of the prophecy that is not subject to the Law. In this case, that power is Rome. It is called the secret power because this is a prophecy and Rome was not yet at war with Judea at the time Paul was saying this. Since the power 5 not yet being revealed against them, it is referred to as secret. This lawless power the Gentile, human power of the Roman Empire would be unleashed against the rebelling Jews, but not until certain things happened. Paul goes on to describe this:
But the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way
With the Roman Empire as the subject, it makes sense to look to the Roman authorities to see who this one is. At the time Paul wrote this letter in A.D. 52 or 53, the emperor Claudius was on the throne. He was succeeded one or two years later in A.D. 54 by Nero Caesar.
If we apply this to the prophecy, we see that Claudius is the one who now holds it back that is, the prophesied events will not occur while Claudius is on the throne. He will continue to do so that is, to restrain the events from occurring until he is taken out of the way. In 54, he is removed and Nero comes to the throne. Now let us see how the prophecy characterizes this new Roman ruler. Verse 8:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.
(2 Thessalonians 2:8)
In the person of Nero Caesar, we have an important subject of Bible symbols. Nero was a fully wicked tyrant and sadistic man who persecuted many people during his reign. As the head of the Roman Empire, he also represented the Roman authority during the time of the Jewish rebellion. He was the one who later declared the war against the Jews. Recall how verse 3 characterizes him as the lawless one who is the son of destruction.
When the prophecy speaks of Christ coming in vengeance against his enemies, those enemies are any and all peoples or powers who are persecuting Christs church. The Jewish authorities are the main persecutors, but they were by no means the only ones. The Romans, as well, began to persecute the Christian followers, and this persecution began with the reign of Nero Caesar!
Nero himself caused unspeakable tortures to be committed against the Christians who were in Rome, including having them impaled and set afire to be gruesome torchlights for his gardens
In verse 4, Paul describes the lawless one this way:
He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in Gods temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
[2 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV]
We know that most of the Caesars, going back as far as Augustus, claimed divinity and were deified after their deaths by the Roman populace as a sign of respect. Some years earlier than Nero, the emperor Caligula had threatened to place his own statue in the Temple at Jerusalem. This was only averted by his timely death. Nero had a statue as large as the one of the god Mars placed in the temple of Mars, and some of his military officers bowed down before statues of him after victorious campaigns in the field.
In placing himself equal to Roman gods and over any foreign gods, the Roman Emperor placed himself over the Jewish God. The Romans were surprised when the Jews made such a big issue out of Emperor deification. It was just common practice to place the Emperors statue in the government buildings and temples of all the tributary nations, including Judea. Obviously, to the Jews the idea of Nero or anyone else placing his image, as a god, in the Jewish Temple was completely unthinkable and an abomination.
This aspect of the Roman Authority placing himself as equal or above God is one of the aspects of the persecuting authority that Paul is describing in his prophecy in verse 4.
In verse 8, Paul speaks of Jesus overthrowing and destroying the lawless one. Does this mean that Paul is looking for the usurpation of Nero from his throne by the events of Christs coming? No. Nero represents the Roman Empire and thus any and all pagan powers. The Jewish society was to be literally destroyed by the events of Christs coming, but the pagan powers would be conquered in a different way. Revelation 20:3,7-8 tells of the beast or serpent that must be:
set free for a short time loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog
Gog and Magog are symbolic names that represent the pagan races that were outside of the Roman Empire. If we include the Roman Empire and all other pagan peoples in one categorization, we have essentially all the forces of heathenism that were outside the Law of Moses or in other words, the Powers of Lawlessness. These peoples were, according to these prophecies, to be allowed to go about their pagan ways for a period of time, some of them continuing to persecute Christians.
We know, however, that Christianity, suffering grievously at first, did not die out and did not remain small and of little influence in the pagan world. In fact, the vast and powerful Roman world became subject to the Christian faith as the Church grew and spread throughout the lands. Thus, we see Pauls prophecy describe the ultimate destruction of these powers by the spiritual coming of Christ in vengeance against his enemies.
In verses 9-12, Paul finishes his prophecy:
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned [literally: judged] who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
[2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 NIV]
This ties together the timing of the reign of Nero and the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem. Paul says that the coming of the lawless one will be in accord with, which simply means at the same time with, the false prophets, magicians, and so on that we saw were common during these years.
Here is the cause of the falling away of verse 3. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul calls these false prophets seducing spirits teaching doctrines of devils, and says that because of these people, some shall depart from the faith.
For the Christians, it was a warning and a test the same that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
For the Jews, it was the choice to follow the Messiah, Jesus Christ, into a spiritual kingdom that was victorious over all its enemies, or follow the Zealots in a futile and deadly military battle against Rome. Those who believed would be saved, but those who did not those who delighted in wickedness, would indeed perish in the great events shortly to come to pass.
We are not the Thessalonians to whom Paul was prophesying and we should not make the mistake of assuming that his explanation to those early brethren that the Day of Christ was not just at hand means that it is still unfulfilled almost 2000 years later. It was Pauls purpose in speaking this prophecy to assure the Thessalonians that the events of the Day of Christ were not immediately upon them, but that certain events must first occur. Then, in only a short time less than 20 years the end would come and Christ would come in vengeance against the enemies of his Bride, the Church.
It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lots wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it
The imagery in this discourse is almost identical with the passage in chapter 21 of Luke and in Matthew 24. The meanings are the same. Just like this, refers to the preceding passage where Jesus tells his disciples that the days leading up to the revealing of the Son of Man would be similar to the days of Noah or Lot, where the people were living sinful lives and when sudden and (to them) unexpected destruction came upon them. Only the chosen ones of God, Noah and his family and Lot with his family, were given the information to know how to escape.
In this instance, it would be the Jewish nation, living in decadence and sin, which would be destroyed by God. The Christians should watch for the signs and so escape, but they should be alert and move quickly when the time came. Remember Lots wife! Jesus warns them. After the siege began, there would be nothing for the Christian brethren in Jerusalem. They must not delay their escape, and they must not look back at the old Jerusalem as a holy place anymore. Its days of religious significance and authority had come to an end.
In the first part of this passage, the Pharisees had tried to test Jesus by asking him when the Kingdom of God would come. In verse 21, he answered them:
Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
The kingdom was not a physical one. It was a spiritual kingdom. It was to be found within the hearts and minds of the peoples of the Jewish nation itself. These who made up the kingdom, the disciples who accepted Christ, would soon suffer great tribulations and persecutions at the hands of the unbelieving Jews and Romans. Many would be killed for their belief
It was these Christian martyrs who cried out from under Gods alter in Revelation 6:10
How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, doest thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
In Luke, chapter 18:7-8, Jesus tells the disciples that God would indeed avenge his own elect:
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly
Let us note that Jesus promised them their avenging quickly. If these martyrs were not avenged by God during the times that their murderers were still living on the earth, and if they still have not been avenged by the revealing of the Son of Man even today, then Gods promise to so avenge them quickly or speedily [KJV] was not kept.
The members of the Church today do not cry out to God to be avenged. We do not suffer as a whole from any mortal terrors and persecutions as the first Christian believers did. The faithful disciples Prior to A.D. 70. had a great deal to be avenged for as they suffered from their persecutors.
God, however, was true to his promise of a speedy application of justice upon those persecutors. He was revealed in the power of the war against the Jewish nation and that nation was destroyed and taken out of the way of the Church. In the last part of verse 8, Jesus asks a rhetorical question to remind his disciples not to lose their faith and fall away:
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
As we have seen, many did fall away from the faith and were lost from God and were physically lost in the war. Many others did keep the faith, even in the face of torture and physical death. They knew the signs to watch for the signs of the impending war actions that would come upon Judea. Luke 17:34-37
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together, the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.
Those who remembered the signs and were faithful would escape and those who did not would be trapped and doomed. Here as in Matthew 24:28 the Roman army is symbolized as the eagles who have gathered together to devour the body, which is the unbelieving Jewish nation.
HEBREWS 10:19-37. verse 37
For in just a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay
He of course, is Jesus Christ, and the passage leading up to this promise or prophecy of Christs coming gives us insight into the meaning and timing of this coming.
After an inspiring passage beginning in verse 19, the Hebrew writer says in verse 25:
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
[Hebrews 10:25 NIV]
What Day was this? Like other New Testament authors, this writer fully expected that day to occur
shortly, certainly within the lifetimes of his peers. Otherwise, these Christians would have no need to hear and heed this kind of exhortation. If we continue to read the passage; we can see who is the subject of the events that were to occur. In verses 26-27, we read:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
The Christians were being exhorted to remain faithful and not to slip back into their old traditions as their Jewish brethren and countrymen were trying desperately to get them to do. To so leave the faith would, for that person, nullify the sacrifice of Christ that is, that person would be lost. Then he or she would be just like the rest of the Jewish nation: left with only a fearful expectation of the destruction to come. They would, in fact, become one of the enemy themselves.
It was the enemies of God, or as the KJV puts it, the adversaries, who were to be consumed and devoured by God. These enemies were the people who were persecuting Gods chosen ones, his Church. In verses 28-29, we read:
Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Here is a clear reference to the Jewish nation that had rejected the Christ. The unrepentant Jews would be judged by their own Law. By physically killing the Son of God (trampled.. .under foot), rejecting his authority and salvation (treated as unholy the blood of the covenant), and by failing to understand or accept the spiritual nature of God (insulted the Spirit), the Jews had committed the ultimate sin and had to suffer the ultimate punishment. This punishment was the total destruction
of their nation and religion. This was the event that the Christians were looking for as a Day soon approaching.
What would God do to the Jews? Verses 30-31 tell us:
For we know him who said, It is mine to avenge; I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The first of these two verses confirms that this retribution by God on the Jewish nation was to be a fulfillment of prophecy. The two quotes are from Deuteronomy 32:35-36 and show that God knew that this would happen and that the Jews would be cut off. It was, indeed, a dreadful or fearful thing to come under the wrathful judgment of the true God, as the Jews found out in the events of A.D. 70.
1 PETER 4:12-13
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
What was this painful trial that these Christian brethren were suffering? Once again, we see a reference to the persecutions that the Christians were undergoing at the hands of the Jewish authorities. Peter reminds them not to be surprised at these events, as if it were something strange that is, something unforseen. They had received prophecy of these tribulations from Jesus himself, and they should realize that these trials were to occur and that they would only last for a while.
In fact, Christ would be revealed in a short time in the glory of victory over those persecutors. These suffering Christians would then be overjoyed in the victory and the relief of persecutions. We should note that this persecution and the revealing of Christ in glory would be happening to those people to whom Peter was speaking.
When would this revealing of Christ take place? Let us read verse 7 preceding:
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer.
1 Peter 4:7
The revealing was at hand, right next to happening. These brethren were instructed here to be clear-minded and prayerful as they watched for the revealing of Christ. Peters warning and instructions to them would be useless if these events did not occur to them. The revealing of Christ which Peter was speaking about here was not something that would happen thousands of years in the future. It was imminent at hand. It happened to that generation.
Let us read verses 16-17 following:
If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Here, Peter uses the phrase the House of God to represent all his peoples collectively, Jews and Christians alike, and states that judgment is to be delivered on all these people and that this judgment would begin now (the time is come). This was the judgment of those who accepted the gospel as opposed to those who did not. The Christians would suffer, but not be ashamed. The unbelieving Jew would receive the negative judgment and suffer the consequences. Peter asks ominously, what shall the end be of them?. This is the same judgment that is still taking place today. Everyone who hears the gospel is judged by whether or not they accept it and become
followers of Jesus Christ.
1 JOHN 2:28
And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.
Here, John calls for the Christians to remain faithful to their belief in Christs divinity and the promise of God (v.25) which was eternal life. The last days before the coming of Christ against their persecutors were being endured by John and the tormented brethren at the time of this writing. In verse 18 preceding, we read:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
This is one of the plainest passages indicating that these events belonged to the time of the writers and original hearers of the New Testament. Many today would have us believe that John and the other authors were simply mistaken and overzealous in looking for the coming of Christ. John says we know it is the last hour. Jesus says behold, I come quickly. Were Jesus and John mistaken or are those who criticize them?
John says that the indicator of the last hour is the appearance of the antichrist. Who is this antichrist that John refers to? In verse 22 he tells us:
he is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
[see also Ch. 4:3]
Anyone who denies Christ or God is anti (against) Christ. The reference in verse 18 to many antichrists is certainly focussed on the false prophets and scoffers that were prophesied earlier and were numerous at that time. The reason John says that this is how we know that it was the last hour is because these false prophets were one of the signs that they were to watch for as prophesied by Jesus himself. With all the signs coming to fulfillment, and the distress of the persecutions and tribulations peaking, John knew that the very last hour had come before Christ would be revealed in the great events of A.D.70.
2 PETER 3:3-13. verses 3-4
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.
As we studied earlier in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul said that a falling away of the faithful would occur before the Day of Christ, and Jesus prophesied that the love of many would grow cold in Matthew 24:12. Here, Peter prophecies that scoffers would come in the last days. As, after the death of Jesus, time went on and nothing dramatic happened, these people would begin to doubt the promised coming of Christ and would lose their faith and fall away from the Church. Many of the Christian disciples were faithful and true to Christ, but some were easily swayed back into their Jewish traditions and religion, especially as the persecutions continued and the Christians seemed to be in danger of eradication.
To these disbelievers, the perception that Christ was powerless and that nothing would occur to give hope and life to the Christian Church was only an illusion.
In the next verses, Peter reminds them of the destruction of the Flood and tells them in verse 7:
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
[2 Peter 3:7 NIV]
What present heavens and earth is this? It is tempting for us to instinctively think of the physical universe and planet when we read such verses, but we should remember that this is a prophecy by Peter and that symbols, once again, are being employed. When Peter uses the Mosaic Flood as an analogy, he is not implying that a similar natural destruction is coming. The Flood is used here as a type of the flood to come. The event that Peter is symbolically predicting is the flood of the Roman army and the war that drowned and destroyed the Jewish state in A.D. 70.
The heavens and earth are simply the Jewish religious/political authorities and the lands of Palestine and the people who lived there. They were the ungodly men ungodly because they had rejected and killed the Christ, and still rejected him who were being kept (by the gracious mercy of God who wanted all to repent and come to him) unto the day of judgment and destruction. This phrasing tells us that this is another day of the Lord just like the ones we see exampled in the Old Testament.
How do we know this is not future? In the next verse (v.8.), Peter says:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
This verse has been used by many to justify the long centuries between the earthly days of Christ and a presumed future coming. The idea seems to be that because God is timeless, his statements to us that have time references are really meaningless. If God, for instance, says that something will happen soon, it might not be soon to us humans; or by the same logic we could presume that God might say that something will occur a thousand years from now, and then it could take us by surprise by happening tomorrow.
They would say that when Christ states, This generation shall not pass until..., and, Behold, I come quickly, that he could mean not for 2,000 years!
When we examine this concept, it deflates rapidly under our scrutiny. In reality, this verse is evidence in precisely the opposite direction. Peter is arguing for the punctuality with which God keeps his promises when they fall due. It does not matter if the time specified for their fulfillment is very short one day or very long a thousand years! Time, as humans count it, is not of consequence to the Almighty God. We might not keep a promise after a great length of time has passed, but Peter reminds these disciples that God will not be negligent. A single day, or a thousand years is all the same to God. When the promised time has arrived, that which was prophesied will certainly occur.
In this case, the promised event was the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men, and it did come just as God had promised and all his holy men had prophesied. in verses 9-10, Peter emphasizes Gods promptness:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
At the time Peter wrote this letter, the brethren were under duress from the tribulations and some were perhaps complaining to Peter. God had promised to avenge them speedily, and nothing was apparently happening. Peter reminds them that Gods purpose in delaying the Day of the Lord is to allow time for his people to repent and accept him. The promise would be kept, however, for the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise. It would be kept soon.
It is important to note that each time a delay in these prophesied events is mentioned by one of the apostles, he gives them the reason for that delay, and then he reemphasizes the nearness of the fulfillment of the prophecy.
In the next verse, verse 10, Peter goes on to describe that great and terrible Day:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Here again, we are tempted to think that the physical universe is the subject of this prophecy. It is from this verse and others like it that so many have obtained the idea that the universal creation, including this planet Earth, will be consumed and destroyed in some end time event. Once again, however, we are hearing a prophecy, and again we are seeing the apostle use symbols. A very good way to illustrate this is to examine the word elements. What were the elements that were going to melt away or be burned up? Does this word refer to the scientific idea of the elements of matter all the stuff of the universe?
The Greek word for elements used here is stoicheion. According to Young10, the literal meaning of the word is elements, rudiments, first step. The root of the word is stoichos, which refers to a straight ruler or rod, and is used to signify those who walk according to a straight rule. Throughout the New Testament this word is used to mean one thing. In Galatians 4:3, Paul wrote:
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.
Paul is not saying that they once lived as slaves in caves under the ground. He is teaching that we Jews who are now heirs of Christ, were, before Christ, under the elements, or rudiments of the world. This was a world of people and the rudiments that they were under were the ordinances of the old Law of Moses. They were bound to or in bondage to that Law. It was the elementary way in which God interacted with his people. As Paul said in chapter 3:23-24 just prior:
The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
The Law was the collection of rudiments, or elements, that the people lived by. The Christian brethren were warned not to return to those laws and ordinances. A little further on in chapter 4:9, Paul tells them:
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
The word translated elements here is, again, stoicheion and was the Law that once kept these former Jews in bondage (because no man could keep that Law perfectly).
In Colossians 2:8,20, Paul warns the brethren of some of the Jewish scoffers:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?
The word used here is also stoicheion. It was the old Law of Moses that Christians had left behind when with Christ they became dead from the rudiments. The Jewish world of people still following those rudiments and elements were still a physically live and powerful force, however, and this is the world that would be coming to a cataclysmic end!
In our passage in 2 Peter, we see these same elements melting away with fervent heat. It was the old Law which had constrained them that melted away. There is no justification for assigning this imagery to a presumed end of the physical universe.
What is the meaning of the symbol fervent heat or fire? The author of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 12:29
For our God is a consuming fire.
It is the word and actions of God himself that would cause the Law and the followers of it to come to an end. Christ ended its religious authority by fulfilling it at the cross, and God destroyed the earthly manifestations of it in his coming in A.D. 70.
In the last part of verse 10 of our study passage, once the Jewish religious authorities (heavens) have passed away and the old Law of Moses was deactivated by God (elements melt with fervent heat), then:
the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
This symbol earth refers to the place of the prophecy in this case Judea and tells what would become of it in the times being prophesied. It would be burned up along with the works that are therein. What works were in the land of Judea at the time that the Romans destroyed that land? The Jewish nation was there and it was the Judaic culture, religion, and political system that was burned up in the actions of war in A.D. 70. The Bible does not speak of the physical destruction of this planet here or anywhere in the scriptures. In fact, it speaks of its permanence. The Psalmist wrote (Psalms 104:5) of God:
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed forever.
and Ecclesiastes 1:4 tells us:
Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever
In this prophesied destruction of the earth, the subject of the destruction was being presented as a symbol.
In verses 11-12, Peter goes on to say:
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. [NIV]
The Christians were to be living righteous lives in the face of the adversities they were experiencing. They were looking forward with great eagerness to that Day of God which would bring them out from under the persecutions and make them victorious in Christ over all their enemies. This is what Peter means in verse 13, when he states
But In keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
What promise was this? It was the promise of Luke 1:70-74, that they should be delivered out of the hand of our enemies. The new heaven and earth are also symbols. The heavens are the new religious authority, sanctioned by God. The new earth is the place of that prophecy and the people who dwell there. That new authority and people are, as the Hebrew author tells us in chapter 12:23, the general assembly and church of the first born a kingdom which cannot be moved. It was the Kingdom of God, the Church of Christ, which being established on Pentecost, was to be soon redeemed from its mortal earthly enemies. It was this victorious Church that Peter and the others were looking forward to this new era of relationship with God where instead of unrighteous men wallowing in tradition, there would be only the spirits of just men made perfect.
When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
To whom is Christ appearing here? It cannot be to the Christians, for they were to appear with him! The Christian brethren had already recieved Christ at Pentecost and were even then with him and the Father, spiritually.
Verses 1-3 preceding:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Christ and those who follow him were to spiritually appear together to someone. In verses 5-6 he warns the Christians against an ungodly lifestyle and in so warning them, describes the people to whom they and Christ are to appear:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.
In the Greek, those who are disobedient, is actually the Sons of disobedience. Here again, we have a clear reference of God coming in vengeance on his sinful people, those who refused to accept Christ and die to their own sin. In this coming of wrath, the Christians are pictured as coming with Christ because they were the ones being subjected to the persecutions, and, of course, because of their acceptance of Christ as the Messiah. Their victory over the sinful and disobedient peoples was assured. This is why the Christians appear with Christ in glory.
1 THESSALONIANS 1:10; 2:19. chapter 1:10
And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
In the introduction of this letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul speaks of his love for the brethren there and makes this reference to their waiting for Jesus. He qualifies this statement by telling them what purpose is to be served by this coming. Jesus was going to come with wrath, and these faithful brethren, along with all the Christians, would be rescued from the coming wrath. What wrath is this?
A little further on in chapter 2:14-16, he tells them:
For you, brothers, became imitators of Gods churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from all your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them fully.
Here again, we have a clear reference to the purpose and subject of Christs appearance. It was to be a coming in vengeance and wrath against those who were persecuting the Church and who had totally rejected Jesus Christ. Very plainly, Paul tells us it is the old Jewish nation that would be receiving this wrath of God. These were the people who killed the Lord and who displease God. They were causing suffering to the brethren in Judea and were being hostile to all the Christians and were trying hard to keep them from bringing the Gentiles to Christ. Through these actions of persecution of Christs people, Paul says that the Jews heap up their sins to the limit. The limit had indeed been reached. It was the limit of Gods tolerance for their sins and it would be the cause of Gods wrath upon them. This wrath had come upon them to the uttermost, as the KJV has it. It was total and their destruction would be total.
Some have made the argument that because Paul prophesied and warned of the coming of Christ to many congregations that were not in the land of Judea, such as this group at Thessalonica (in Macedonia, which is modem day Greece), the event he is talking about could not, therefore, have been the destruction of Jerusalem and the Judaic system. They would argue that these non-Judean brethren were outside the theater of war and of the dangers of persecution that are warned of by Jesus and the other prophets and were therefore not in need of the warnings and prophecies therefore, the coming event must be something else and will occur in our future.
This passage in 1 Thessalonians shows us that the congregations in these other lands were also suffering the tribulations and persecutions to an equal measure as the brethren in Judea. Verse 14 again:
You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews
The churches in Macedonia, Asia (Turkey), Rome, and elsewhere were also under terrific pressure and persecutions, not only from their own pagan countrymen, but also from the Jewish communities that existed there. These people got it from two directions at once! Thus, Paul speaks in chapter 1, verse 3, of:
your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV]
and in verse 6:
in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
[1 Thessalonians 1:6 NIV]
When the Roman war against Judea finally came, these brethren would be in the dark as to the fate of the church in Jerusalem. Through the obscuring clouds of war, they would be wondering if the Christian church would survive. This was the reason that the prophecies were given to them as well as to the brethren in Judea itself. They would need to know what was happening in Judea, and understand that God was in control of these important events. Unlike the church members in Jerusalem, they would not need to be delivered from the literal war actions. They were, however, just as much a part of the church, and they would be delivered from the judgment placed on those who did not accept Christ. Although the Thessalonians had no need to flee to the mountains in a literal sense, they had to be reassured and have hope for the ultimate victory of God over the persecuting authorities in his terrible day of wrath.
In the final verses of chapter 2, Paul states his sadness that he could not come to the brethren at Thessalonica again, and states in verse 19:
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming."
How could the Christian brethren in Macedonia be present with Christ at his coming in wrath against the Jewish nation? It was to be a spiritual coming of God manifested in the physical actions of the pagan Roman army.
Paul kept his sadness over their physical separation in perspective by reminding them that they were all together spiritually in Christ. All Christians, regardless of their physical location, were before God in his presence in this great Day of Jesus Christ. They were comforting one another with these words, that they would all be spiritually participating in this glorious victory over their collective enemies. Paul, for one, was expecting that event to happen very quickly!
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their God is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Here we have a description of the enemies of God and Gods People. This letter was written in about A.D. 62, just three or four Years before the Roman Jewish war broke out. These Christian brethren were suffering under the hands of those enemies, but Paul promises them that the enemys destiny is destruction. These Jews were glorying in their dedication to following the old Law of Moses, Which was really glorying in their shame, because they did not accept Christ.
Their mind was on earthly things making money on the Temple Steps, making themselves look good delivering long and dramatic public prayers concentrating their energies and minds on the wealth and cultures of the world rather than the words of God, and looking for an earthly Kingdom and Messiah King who would magically protect them from the Romans and everyone else.
The suffering Christians were different from these people, for, as Paul says in verse 20, our citizenship is in heaven. In other words, this is where we reside as Christians right now. Those Christians in Philippi were citizens of heaven even then.
It is revealing to look at the Greek word that is translated citizenship here. It comes from politeuma, which Moulton renders as a community or commonwealth.12 This is the community of Christians the Church which is a true commonwealth. It is our spiritual abode and our state of being. If we have all of our spiritual wealth in the commonwealth of Christians and are citizens of heaven, then there is no need for a return of Christ to us in order to set up another heavenly kingdom. If the kingdom of heaven is yet future, then neither we nor the Philippians could be citizens of that realm.
The completion of verse 20 says that it is from this realm or commonwealth that we eagerly await (look for KJV) a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, these Christians cannot be looking for Christ to come back to them in order to religiously save them. They are already saved souls who are citizens of heaven and who were even then in Christs presence. Yet, this coming of Christ would be in the role of Savior.
What is the meaning of this? Obviously, they were looking for Christ to come for the purpose of saving them from the tribulations and murdering of the Jewish and pagan persecutors. He would so come in the actions of the Romans, and this would make his coming spiritual in nature. This is why we see the Philippians looking for Christ to come from there that is, from the heavenly realms.
When would this coming occur? Just a bit further on, in chapter 4:5, Paul says:
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
The event that would save the Christian Church from destruction was indeed at hand. It was very near to them only three or four years away. The final part of the study passage, verse 21, can cause some confusion if not studied very carefully. Paul states:
[Christ] by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will he like his glorious body.
Many believe that this statement and others like it mean that there will be a supernatural change in the physical bodies that we inhabit at the time of Christs coming. To understand this properly, we must remember that Paul is prophesying again, and he is using symbolic language.
The key to interpreting this verse is the Greek word that is translated lowly or vile (KJV) in reference to the bodies of the Christians prior to Christs coming. The word is tapeinosis, which Moulton renders as depression, meanness, low estate, or abject condition. The bodies of the Christians are pictured here as being in an abject condition or a low estate because they are under the persecutions of the enemies mentioned in verse 18. It has nothing to do with their actual physical bodies. At Christs coming to save them, they would be changed changed into the likeness of Christs body. What is the body of Christ like? It says that it is glorious! Christs body is glorious because he is victorious over those enemies. So, the Christians would be changed from a state of being abject and low (under the persecutors) to a state of glorious victory over those persecutors. This would be accomplished through the saving powers of Christ in his actions of AD. 67-70.
We must be careful not to fall into the trap of interpreting symbolic terms literally. As religiously saved peoples, they already had a spiritual body that had the same form as that of Jesus Christs. This Spiritual body (or soul) is what God gives all of us and makes us to be in his image. It is this body that, upon our salvation, is eternally alive with Christ, and the Philippian congregation along with all the Christians were alive in their spiritual bodies even as Paul wrote this letter to them.
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
Note the purpose of this coming of the Lord it is to judge ungodly men, and specifically these ungodly men that Jude writes about. Also, the Christian saints all the brethren in spirit were to be coming with the Lord in this judgment.
Who were these ungodly people that were the subject of this coming and judgment? Jude is speaking of the ones who were infiltrating the churches and trying to twist the teachings and influence the believers to return to Judaism or at least to Judaize their Christianity. Some were false teachers and others were simply opportunists who had no belief in Christ, but tried to take advantage of the good will and charity of the brethren. Jude says of them (verses 4, 12, 16):
For certain men who were marked out for condemnation13 long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm shepherds who feed only themselves. These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
These were the ones that the Lord and all his myriad holy ones were coming in judgment against. This is part and parcel of the same spiritual coming against all the enemies and persecutors of the original church. The enemies would include all who were ungodly. This judgment and this coming cannot be yet in the future, or these evil men have not yet been judged and punished. We know that these people were the ones who were to be watched for during the last times. Verse 17-18:
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
These were the scoffers that Jesus and the apostles warned them to watch out for. They were infiltrating the churches and trying to corrupt them even then. This was to happen in the last times, and, as John stated in 1 John 2:18
it is the last time...even now are there many anti-christs, whereby we know that it is the last time.
That time was upon those Christians and the spiritual coming of the spirits of all the saints along with the Spirit of God in judgment of all those scoffers and persecutors was imminent in the war actions of A.D. 67-70.
1 CORINTHIANS 4:5
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
When the Lord accomplishes this coming, he would bring certain hidden things to light. What were these hidden things? They were the hidden things of darkness, or as he puts it in 2 Corinthians 4:2, the hidden things of shame.
We know that from the time of Pentecost, Christ and God dwells in our hearts and we dwell in him. There is nothing that is hidden from God not even our secret or hidden thoughts. If we harbor any hidden things of shame in our minds, God already knows about it and if, by bringing to light, we mean that God will make these things known to all men, then this would not place us in a condition to receive his praise. As Christians, we are all forgiven of past shames and are living righteous lives (or otherwise there is something amiss in our commitment to Christ).
This verse talks about a coming event of the Lord and it talks about a specific time when judgment would begin. This is a prophecy just like all the others and its subject is identical. In this case, the hidden things of darkness or shame were the apostasies and defilements of the Jews against God which were hidden under the guise of holiness and ritual supplication to God all the trappings of the great Law of Moses, but without the heart and soul of it.
During the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the Zealots firmly believed that God would be behind them in their revolt against Rome, even after they had turned his holy Temple into a fortress and a place of weapons and had filled its courts with dead bodies.
The spiritual coming of the Lord in the actions of the Roman armies brought to light the attitudes of the Jewish people that were the source of the defilements. It made manifest the counsels of the hearts of these apostate Jews. They were proud, vain, violent, dogmatic and completely sinful people hiding under a veneer of religious affectation and spectacle.
When the time came, these people would be judged and the sentence would be carried out. After this event, every person who had separated themselves from that old nation and purified themselves through Christ would have praise of God. They would be in the position of glorious victory over their enemies.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you. Whom the heaven must receive until the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
When Jesus Christ is sent, it would bring the times of refreshing. Refreshing in contrast to what? It was the removal of the great enemies of the Church that would bring refreshing from the tribulations and persecutions that were perpetrated by those authorities and peoples.
Let us note that this refreshment would come from the presence of the Lord. It was the power and actions of Christ that would cause the refreshing. It was Christ coming in vengeance and victory over those enemies that refreshed the Church and gave it the ability to live on in the world of men.
This sending and coming of Christ to bring the times of refreshing was something that had been preached before unto you. That is, it was the subject of all the prophecies that the brethren had heard and had been taught by the apostles, Jesus himself (as in Matthew 24), and all the Old Testament prophets.
Verse 21 says of Christ that the heaven must receive him until the time of the restitution of all things that God had spoken of through all the prophets. This simply means that, after the cross Christ would not be made manifest physically anymore to the world. John 14:19
Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more.
When Christ then came (spiritually!) to exact the vengeance against the persecutors, it would be the time of the restitution of all things. The word could be rendered, restoration. It would be the time when something would be restored or made right again. What thing? It was all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. In other words, it was the final fulfillment of any and all of the prophecies that were ever made.
How can we know that this coming, refreshing, and restoration would be an event of those times in the first century? Let us read the next three verses (22-24):
For Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will becompletely cut off from among his people. Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days.
This prophet was, of course, Jesus Christ. Anyone (of the Jews) who did not listen to him, accept him, and become Christians, would be cut off from his people. His people were no longer the old Jewish nation, but were, instead, the new Church. All of the prophets foretold Christ and Christ came to fulfill those prophecies (Matthew 5:17-18). The final fulfillment (chronologically) was the destruction of the enemies in the coming of Jesus Christ in the last days. As Paul confirms, those prophesied events were to happen in these days the days of the people living right then.
When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
In the first part of this chapter, Jesus had given the apostles special power to heal and cast out unclean spirits and sent them out to preach the good news to the Jews only (verses 5-6). In verse 7, he told them:
And as ye go, preach saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and as we have seen, it came to them on the Day of Pentecost. From that time onward, the apostles were going from house to house, village to village, and city to city, setting up congregations wherever they could. They were successful in some areas, rebuffed in many places, and persecuted everywhere. The cities of Israel included any place where the Jews were living, and this tour of duty for the apostles included all the mission trips of Paul and the others.
According to this prophecy, they would not be able to complete this effort before the time came for the Son of Man to come. What time was this? What was the Son of Man coming to accomplish? In verses 13-14, Jesus tells them that if they are rejected at a particular place, they should withdraw their peace from it and shake the dust off their feet as they left. In the next verse, he says:
it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city.
and in verse 22, he tells them:
And ye shall be hated of all men for my names sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
What was this Day of Judgment? What was this end? These specific peoples and cities would see this great day of judgment. It was the end of the Jewish nation and religion in the war of A.D. 67- 70. The apostles would be busy making their rounds and the disciples of Jesus day would still be alive to see this great event. If this coming of the Son of Man is still in our future, then Christ did not tell the apostles the truth. He led them to expect his coming soon, within their own lifetimes, only to back out of his promise. We know, however, that Christ spoke the truth and his coming would occur just when he said it would. Inverse 34, Jesus states the nature of this coming:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
It would be the swords of the Romans, under the spiritual control of God that would cause the end to come upon the Jewish nation (on earth).
LUKE 12:36-43. verse 40:
You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
This coming would be a surprise event to some, but not to the Christians Jesus tells those disciples he was speaking with that you also must be ready. The unexpectedness of the coming was to take the adversaries by surprise, indeed, but the disciples would be watchful for the signs of the coming event and would take the appropriate actions! Luke 12:37, just preceding:
Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching .
They are blessed because they obeyed Christs warnings, watched for the prophesied signs, and escaped the war and were saved. As we have read in Eusebius, the faithful disciples did flee from Jerusalem and all of Judea after seeing the signs come to pass. They spent the years of the war in Decapolis at the place called Pella outside the Jewish realm. Neither Jesus nor his disciples knew just when the events of his enemys ruin would occur, but as
1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 reminds us:
Ye are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are the children of light.
In our passage in Luke, Jesus goes on to tell a parable of a servant who, when his master delays his return, begins to do evil things and forget to watch. In Luke 12:47, he says:
That servant who knows his masters will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.
Those disciples who turned away from Christ under pressure of persecutions or from simple apostasy (deciding not to believe or care anymore) would be caught up in the war actions and treated to the same fate as the rest of the unbelieving Jewish nation. They would indeed be beaten with many blows. The responsibility to watch out for the signs of the times was crucially important for those men and women.
The signs were to be obvious and were to occur to that generation. In Luke 12:54-55, Jesus speaks to the Jewish crowd and remarks on how good they are at foretelling weather from the signs visible in the sky. In verse 56, he asks them:
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
What kind of time was this going to be? In Luke 12: 49-51 preceding, Jesus states:
I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
The baptism was, of course, his crucifixion. The fire was not quite kindled at the time Jesus spoke this, for he was still here as a physical man and this fire would be a spiritual blaze. It would come upon the earth, which is always the place of the people involved in the prophecy. This is, in fact, another prophetic statement by Christ. The division he would bring in the spiritual coming of AD. 70. was the great judgment and dividing of the righteous from the unrighteous, that is, the believers in Christ from those who rejected him. That judgment and division is everlasting and continues even today.
Again, we should ask the question of the relevancy of Christs warnings to the people he was speaking to, if the events being warned of were not to occur for thousands of years. When such a lengthy time period was to be involved in a prophecy, such as the one to Daniel (Daniel 11 and 12), we see that it was so indicated as when the angel tells Daniel in chapter 12:9
go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.
These words of prophecy spoken by Jesus and the apostles were delivered to those specific people and were given as warnings and signs for them to watch out for. Specific rewards were promised to them for obeying or for disobeying those warnings. If the coming of Jesus Christ was to be far off in the future, he would have sealed up those words just as he did before. Now, however, he had unsealed them, just as we read in the Revelation as the seals are undone in chapter 6, and as we read in the opening in verse 3:
Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophesy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
It was time for the words to be revealed!
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. But the righteous will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
Here, the Hebrews author quotes the prophet Habakkuk (ch. 2:3-4) concerning the coming of Christ, and he asserts that this coming will I be in just a very little while. The literal translation from the Greek is even more emphatic. It is mikron oson, oson, which means a very, very little while. Christ would come soon indeed, and would not delay.
As in other passages, emphasis is placed here on the differing results of obeying versus disobeying Christs warnings. Those who shrink back from their belief in Christ either from apostasy or from persecutions, would be destroyed. They would be destroyed in terms of their spiritual relationship to God and also would be destroyed physically in the war.
The believers, on the other hand, would be saved from these destructions. To accomplish that reward, however, they would have to persevere through the tribulations and pains that they were then undergoing.
He tells them then that if they have done the will of God, they will receive what he has promised. What was the will of God? To persevere and to watch out for the prophesied signs and take the correct actions. What was the thing promised? It was simply their salvation from
the destructions brought against their enemy. It was the fulfillment of the promise of Luke 1:70-74, that:
We should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.
Their salvation was not delayed for thousands of years. It came to them in a very, very little while in the great spiritual and physical events of the destruction of Judea.
The Christian brethren were able to endure that terrible time leading up to the war because they were citizens of the great Kingdom of God, the Church. Even though they were under duress and many had lost their possessions, the Hebrew author tells them you endured because of (v. 34):
knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven [literally: in the heavenlies] a better and enduring substance.
This substance was their spiritual life eternal life with God, and we know that life was not a promise yet to be fulfilled for them, for he says, you have it.
MATTHEW 26:64 (parallel verses in Mark 14:62, and Luke 22:69)
hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
This scene takes place in the court of the High Priest in Jerusalem. Christ has been brought in for judgment as a blasphemer, and is being questioned in front of Caiaphas, the High Priest, along with the Elders and Scribes (v. 57). These people, the Sanhedrin, formed the religious authority over the Jewish nation as set forth in the Law of Moses.
In their presence, Jesus prophesies his own return, and he is talking to these very people when he says you shall see the Son of Man coming. It was to these persecuting Jewish authorities that Christ was to come! If he did not come to them, then his prophecy and warning were meaningless to Caiaphas and the others who heard him speak this awesome promise.
Jesus says that these men would see him sitting on the right hand of power. This power was the power to destroy the Jewish nation both physically in the war and spiritually in Gods transference of religious authority to the new kingdom of Christ. The High Priest and Elders of Judaism would indeed see the power first hand in the destruction of their land, religion, and themselves in A.D. 70.
Jesus also characterizes his coming to them as coming in the clouds of heaven. This shows that he did not mean to come against them in a personal, physical manner like an earthly king coming to overthrow them. He would use other pagan armies to accomplish that, but the Son of Man would be present in these actions spiritually. Again, Jesus was prophesying and was using symbolic language and figures that these erudite Jews would readily understand. Coming in the clouds of heaven is a symbol often used in the Old Testament scriptures to indicate a spiritual event, and these Jews knew that Jesus was promising a spiritual overthrow of their authority and power.
By asserting that he was going to accomplish this himself, Jesus gained their sentence of death. Until he came in power and in the clouds of heaven to stop them, persecutions of his people would continue at the hands of these men and the rest of the unbelieving Jews and pagans.
Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lords coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient, and stand firm, because the Lords coming is near. Dont grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The judge is standing at the door!
James wrote this letter (sometime between A.D. 50 and 63) to encourage his brothers in Christ who were all suffering under the torments and oppression of the Jewish authorities. He advises them to have patience in the face of these trials and to look for relief from them in the same way that a farmer looks for the relief of seasonal rains to water his dry fields.
This relief was to come to those brothers to whom James was writing, or else he was mistaken and not an inspired writer. In verse 8, he states that the Lords coming is near. Literally, this can be translated as has drawn near. It was near to them only a few years away, and they were to stand firm and be patient for that great event which would remove their persecutors from power and allow the Church to live and grow.
James warns them not to grumble against one another (other translations use the words groan or murmur). Moulton renders the Greek word here as meaning to give vent to querulous or censorious feelings in other words, dont quarrel or censor one another about belief and perseverance in the face of these oppressions. If they did, they would be judged that is, they would cease to persevere in their belief and would not follow the warning signs, and would so perish in the events of Christs coming.
Then he states:
The judge is standing at the door!
If the Judge (who is God) is still standing before the door some 2,000 years later, after all these people have been dead and gone and have failed to see him coming to rescue them, then someone should open that door and let him in, for he is not the powerful God that we thought! No, he did come to put an end to the persecuting authorities and make the Christians victorious. In the next two verses (10 and 11), James reminds them:
Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Jobs perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James gives these brethren who were suffering, a powerful reminder that God would rescue and reward them. He refers to the story of Job, who suffered such terrible things. Job was severely tested, but he persevered in his trust in God, and he was rewarded in the end. This is the promise that James is holding out to these brothers, that if they only hang in there for a while longer, they will be blessed in the same manner that Job was blessed by God. This is the God, he reminds them, who can rescue them with power, but is full of compassion and mercy to his chosen people, the Christians. He is also full of compassion and mercy toward his former peoples, the Jews, for this is the reason he allowed that period of time between the cross and the war. He allowed it so that those people would hear of the Christ and would accept him, whosoever will.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said Lord, who is going to betray you?) When Peter saw him, he asked, Lord, what about him? Jesus answered, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me. Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?
Here is a statement from Christs own lips which confirms that his coming would not be thousands of years in the future. Jesus indicates to Peter that John would physically live to see the coming of Christ.
John, the author of this gospel, is, of course, the one whom Jesus loved. The word that is translated return in the NIV really should be come, as the KJV says. It is from the Greek eschomai which means to come
Jesus was not aware of the exact time of the coming, as he told them in Mark 13:32, but he did give them many indications that the event would take place within that present, living generation. He told them some standing here... and this generation shall not pass until... and all these things shall come upon this generation. This is another one of these indicators.
We know that, although the other apostles were all killed by the time of the war in AD. 70, John lived into his 90s and survived the war. He did, in fact, live to see the coming of Christ, both in returning to his disciples on Pentecost, and in the spiritual coming in vengeance against the enemies in A.D. 70. This is why John can say in l John 5:20
and we know that the Son of God is come
Moreover, we know that it is John who saw more directly than anyone else how the coming in AD. 70 would be a spiritual coming, for it was he who wrote the Revelation visions that describe that event. It is apparent that many of the disciples who were with Christ at that time were not able to understand the spiritual nature of the events that were occurring. On occasion, Jesus became exasperated that they could not see what he was doing. Many of them even held onto the idea that he was going to set up a physical kingdom.
In this instance, once again, they misunderstood Jesus and thought that he was telling them that John would never physically die. John himself corrects these rumors and ideas directly. He tells the gospel reader that this is not what Jesus said, rather only that John would live to see Christs coming. Many today still misunderstand Christs words here.
If Christ has not come again, then somewhere on this planet is a very old and frail man who still waits for a tarrying master to come for him.
1 PETER 1:3-7, 13, 20. verse 7;
That the trial of your faith might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing [revealing] of Jesus Christ.
What trial of faith was this? Let us back up a bit and read the Preceding verses starting with verse 3:
...in [Gods] great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by Gods power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
You are the Christian brethren that Peter was addressing. The trials were obviously the persecutions that they were then undergoing at the hands of their Jewish countrymen. They were suffering grief from these people and were afraid for the future. Peter is reminding them that God had already provided a new birth for them into the spiritual Kingdom and the inheritance of eternal life. This is eternal spiritual life, as he indicates by characterizing it as being kept in heaven for you (literally: reserved in the heavens for us).
Now, because of their faith or belief in Christ, these Christians were shielded by Gods power from the kind of spiritual fate that their Jewish kinsfolk had suffered that is, spiritual separation from God and they were taken care of in this way continuously through until the coming of the salvation. Now, if they were shielded by God due to their faith and were already spiritually and religiously saved, then what is this salvation to come?
It was, of course, the physical salvation of the Church as a whole from the persecutions of the enemy of the Church. This salvation was ready to be revealed in the last time. John confirms that these were the last times in 1 John 2:18, and we know that this is true from Peter also, who says in verse 20:
[Christ] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
The brethren were suffering physical oppression, but only for a little while and Peter was reminding them to greatly rejoice in the knowledge that Christ would be revealed in judgment against their oppressors very shortly in these last times.
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
This verse occurs at the conclusion of the parable of the ten virgins. In it, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast. (The Bride, along with Christ as the Bridegroom, is a commonly used symbol for the Kingdom or Church.) At this wedding feast, some of the attendants are watchful and ready for the groom to arrive, and some are not watchful and so miss out on the feast.
He states that the kingdom of heaven would be like this then or at that time. This was the time of reconciliation between Christs sacrifice at the cross and the destruction of earthly Judaism in the spiritual coming in A.D. 70. The attendants (the virgins) symbolized the Christians who had heard of the wedding and planned to attend it that is, they believed in Christ as the Messiah. Some would be wise and watch for the signs and so would not miss the wedding feast. Others would forget to watch, and so would not be prepared when the groom came to partake of the feast. They would be the ones who fell away from their faith and who were then caught up in the destruction of the Jewish nation.
These disciples were told to watch, because they were not to know the exact time of the coming, but once again we should remember the important clarification given to them by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all the sons of light .So then, let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert [literally: let us watch]
In Hebraic symbols, light means knowledge, and it was knowledge of the things to watch for that made the faithful brethren able to escape the destructions. They would not make the mistake of being asleep when it was time to go. There was no need to warn these people to watch if the event Watched for were to occur not only after their generation, but thousands of years later.
1 CORINTHIANS 1:7-8
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth in A.D. 57 or 58 to correct many problems that were occurring there, but in this opening section, he thanks God for their presence and reminds them that, along with the grace of Christ, they have been given all the special gifts of being Christians at this time. The gifts were such things as prophesying, speaking in foreign tongues, the reception of special knowledge, and the ability to properly interpret symbolic knowledge. All of these gifts were important to the new church in these troubled times, but they ceased to be needed after the events of A.D. 70.
The Christians were all looking forward to the great climax of that war. Paul promises that God will keep them strong to the end, that is, he would keep the church viable and physically intact until the end of the time of persecutions and the removal of the persecutors who did not accept Christ. The Christians who did not fall away and who remained faithful would be blameless in Gods judgment on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This phrase is always used to indicate a judgment event on a particular human group (usually the holy Jewish nation). It was the Jewish nations final judgment that was the subject of this day of our Lord. Just a little further on in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2:6, Paul says:
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coining to nothing.
It was the rulers of this age, the age of the Jewish Theocracy who were coming to nothing very soon, indeed. They are the stars that fell from heaven in Matthew 24:29, when the Sanhedrin and all the persecuting authorities within the world of the prophecy were destroyed and removed from the path of the church. They Saw, as Jesus Christ told them they would, the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64).
Matthew 25:31-46. verse 31:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he ut upon the throne of his glory.
The use of the symbolic term glory in Biblical prophecy signifies a victory. In this case, it was the victory of Jesus Christ over the enemies of Christ and his people, the church. He would come in his glory, meaning he would win the battle, and then he would sit on the throne of his glory. This meant that he would be victorious over all earthly kings and kingdoms and would rule from his position of preeminence his glorious throne.
Also, when he came against those enemies, his holy angels would come with him. Who were these angels? In Jude 14, that writer states:
see, the Lord Is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones.
and in Colossians 3:4, we read:
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The Old Testament prophet Zechariah prophesies of this in Zechariah l4:5
And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal And the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
The persevering Christians who were watching for the signs of the war events would be spiritually coming with Christ in that Day. The Word angel simply means messenger or one sent, and here refers to those spiritual Christians who were victorious over their enemies through the power of Christ and God.
The remainder of the study passage is a description of the great and final Judgment of God toward humanity. This is a primary source for the image many have of a Great Judgment that occurs at the end of the world, universe, and time. Is this something yet future for mankind? Let us read verses 32-34:
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
So, we see the straightforward separation of the accepted by God from those who are not accepted. The sheep are, of course, the Christians. 1 Peter 2:25
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls.
Part and parcel of this judgment, however, is the actual inheritance of the Kingdom of God by the sheep. We all know that an inheritance from a will can only be had once the testator has died (Hebrews 9:16-17). Also, the inheritance is given to the beneficiaries shortly after the death. The inheritance to the Christians was the Kingdom. Did they come into possession of the Kingdom? Yes, they did. As Daniel prophesied in Daniel 7:1 8
But the saints of the most high shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
so we read in Hebrews 12:28
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace
and Colossians 1:12-13
Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.
If the Kingdom came into their possession during these first times of the church, then we must assume that the judgment also has occurred. In 1 Peter 4:17, he says:
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
If this great judgment event has not yet begun, then God has not yet defeated all his enemies as we know that he has done. Evil would still have power over the Christian and the inheritance of the Kingdom would still be off in the future. We know, however, that this ultimate judgment began with that first generation of believers and it is an ongoing spiritual judgment that we are subject to today. It judges men on their belief in God and the kind of lives they choose to live on this planet.
In John 3:18 he says of Christ:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned [literally: judged], but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son.
In the final verse of the study passage, Jesus states that the wicked Would:
go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46)
As a result of this final Judgement, the rewards would be handed out to the participants. The unbelievers would be punished for all time (they would be spiritually outcast from the presence of God), and the Christians would be given eternal life. If the judgment has come, and the Kingdom has been inherited then the reward of eternal life must also have been granted to the righteous Christians. Was it granted to them? 1 John 5:13
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
They and we, as Christian believers, are a part of Gods flock sheep - judged in the positive and separated from the rest of mankind as a holy (separated out) people. We live in the glorious Kingdom of God right now and we live in God and he lives in us (1 John 4:13). We also can do what Paul told Timothy to do in 1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called
PHILIPPIANS 1:6,10; 2:16
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
So that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. Holding forth the word of life, that I may rejoice in the day of Christ
These references by Paul to a Day of Christ are the same as all the others we have examined. That phrase always refers to God coming against a nation using human armies as his means. It becomes obvious that this is the meaning here when we read chapter 2:15, the verse preceding the last passage:
That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:15)
The NIV here uses the words generation and universe, and so loses some of the connection of the symbolic imagery that is important here. The crooked and perverse nation is, of course, the old Jewish nation that had become an abomination to God. The Christian brethren shone as lights in the world in that world, the world of Judaism. They shone as lights because they possessed the knowledge of the will of God in the gospel of Christ, and they lived their lives according to his will rather than in the ungodly manner of their former kinsfolk.
Certainly, the Christian today is a light unto the present ungodly world. That is the nature of the difference between those who follow God and those who do not. The important point here is to remember that when the Bible authors spoke of the nation and the world they were referring to their own specific situation and did not speak about the physical universe in a modern scientific sense.
1 PETER 2:12
Having your conversation honestly among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Peter is exhorting his brethren to remain righteous and to do good works during their present time of distress for the sake of setting an example to the Gentiles concerning the power and glory of God.
The key phrase in this passage is the day of visitation. In the Old Testament, this phrase (sometimes stated as the time or year of visitation) is used many times and in all cases it meant the judgment of a nation or people by God. Again, the NIV is less consistent and clear in its use of other words such as reckoning for visitation, but these passages all derive from the Hebrew word pequddah and the meaning is the same.
Let us examine one example to fully illustrate this usage. In Isaiah 9:8,10:4, we read of the prophesied destruction of the north kingdom of Israel. In chapter 10:3, the prophet states:
And what will ye do in the day of visitation and in the desolation which shall come from far?
This desolation was caused by God but carried out through the actions of pagan human armies which came to Israel from far. Earlier, in chapter 8:1 1-12, Isaiah is more specific about what will happen:
Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together. The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind, and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this, his [Gods] anger is not turned away .
For other examples of this, see Exodus 32:34; Jeremiah 8:12, 10:15, 11:23, 23:12, 46:21, 48:44, 50:27, 51:18; Hosea 9:7; and Micah 7:4.
This is the same scenario we see happening in the prophecies of the New Testament and the events of the Roman conquest of Judea in A.D. 67-70. The Lords anger was not tumed away from his former people, and this time they were utterly cut off. We have another mention of this visitation a prophecy of it, in fact in Luke 19:43-44:
[Christ speaking of and to Jerusalem]:
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
This time of thy visitation would be the final destruction of Jerusalem (and therefore the political and religious system it represented), and it would come at the hands of its enemies. This prophesy is a very precise description of the actual siege and destruction of Jerusalem. As we have examined previously, the Roman general Vespasian followed by his son Titus subdued Judea, and finally closed in Jerusalem with a deep trench and a huge dirt wall or berm. This sealed the city and peoples fate and they were destroyed.
The Romans were but a tool, however, for it was God and Christ who visited the Jewish nation with such ultimate vengeance.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:23
May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here, Paul is reassuring these brethren that God will protect them from the negative judgment that would soon befall the Jewish nation. At the coming, they would be kept on Gods right hand as his faithful sheep, and they would not be condemned in the spiritual judgment or in the physical destructions.
In verses 4-6, just preceding this, is Pauls reminder to them that they must watch for the Day. Being the children of light, they would not be caught by surprise when that great Day came. They would know what was happening in Judca and they would know that the Church would survive and be victorious over the persecuting enemies. Their entire being, both spiritual and physical (spirit, soul, and body) would be preserved from destruction, and they would be held blameless because they had accepted the Messiah. Those who did not accept Christ would be blamed and they would be punished.
1 TIMOTHY 6:14-19. verses 14-15:
That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall shew who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
This appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ would be to accomplish a certain purpose which is indicated in the following sentences. He would be appearing to show that he is The King over all kings, men, lands, and realms. He is the one who is blessed by the Father to be that King, and in verse 16, we read that he is the one:
Who only hath immortality
It is only through Jesus Christ that anyone can attain immortal life (John 14:6).
When did Christ begin his reign as King? Logically, it was at the beginning point of the kingdom (for there can be no kingdom without the king). The Kingdom of God, as we have determined earlier, had been received by the disciples and they were living within it even at that time. It began on the Day of Pentecost with the spiritual coming of God to the apostles.
If Christ had already come to the Christians and was reigning as the King in his Kingdom, the Church, then what was this appearing? In verse 15, Paul says Christ is to show himself as the King of kings and that this would occur in his times. Christ would indeed show himself to be the supreme King by coming in retribution against the enemies of his people. Because the Jewish High Priest and the Elders thought that God was on their side, they assumed that they represented the greatest power on the earth. By rejecting the Messiah, they would be shown their error very convincingly. As Jesus told them in Matthew 26:64
Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
In verses 17-19, Paul tells Timothy to remind the brethren who happen to be wealthy to keep to the right attitude and be ready to share and distribute to their needy brothers and sisters who were suffering in the persecutions. They would, in so doing, lay up a store for themselves of spiritual riches which would be a foundation:
against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
That time to come was the terrible time of war and destruction that all of them were to watch out for and flee from. Those who persevered in their faithfulness would be delivered and would retain their hold on eternal life, the great gift of the Only King.
1 THESSALONIANS 5:2-10
For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, Peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
What we have concluded previously concerning the phrase Day of the Lord applies equally here. That day of destruction would come suddenly upon the apostate Jewish nation and those people would all be forced back into their great fortress city, Jerusalem, where they assumed God would surely protect them from the Roman invasion. This is why they are pictured here as saying, peace and safety! The city was their presumed safe haven from the attackers.
This assumption would be their downfall, however, as their destruction will come on them suddenly.. and they will not escape. Due to Romes military efficiency, they did not escape that trap. They either died outright in the battles or famine, or they were chained and carried away as captive slaves into foreign lands.
How did the Christian brethren who were in Judea escape this destruction? They knew the signs that were prophesied by Jesus and the others and they knew when to leave the country (which was not the instinctive thing to do). We have referred to the next verse many times in this study, but here it is again in its proper place in this letter. Verses 4-6:
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all the sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
They were to be awake, alert, and on the watchout for the signs of the war events so that they could escape the wrath of God against the old Jewish nation. The ones in Thessalonica and elsewhere were to watch for the signs also, so that they could know what was taking place in Judea and so understand that the Church was not coming to an end along with the Jewish state. The Christians outside Judea were under persecutions also, and the removal of the Jewish authorities and their influence would be of great comfort to all believers everywhere.
In verses 9-10, Paul says:
For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
The Christians were not appointed by God to suffer wrath. They were not to be subjected to the terrible defeat and ruin of the Jewish nation. They would, instead, receive salvation. Now, we know that they had already received religious salvation at the time of each persons baptism into the Kingdom. The salvation of this verse was their salvation from the persecuting enemies. If this verse means religious salvation and this Day of the Lord is yet future, then the salvation that Christ brings is yet future, and we are yet in our sins.
Notice verse 10 which indicates the nature of our relationship with God. This shows clearly that the Christian does not have to physically die to be with Christ in heaven.
Eternal life was something that every Christian had right then, and we have right now as Christians today. We live together with him whether we are awake or asleep. This means that whether we are alive in our physical bodies or have died physically, the Christian is eternally alive with Christ. This is spiritual life and it comes to us when we become Christians. When our physical time has ended and our bodies die, our spiritual life continues on with Christ, and we simply slip out of our earthly shell. This is the great promise of God a promise that he has kept. All we have to do is accept the gift take hold of eternal life and live our lives as righteous men and women.
2 Timothy 4:1-2
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction.
This is Pauls charge to Timothy to preach the gospel. This NIV rendering is somewhat unclear. The proper translation should be that the judgment of the living and dead would occur kata, which is according to or in the course of Christs appearance. It was, in fact, to accomplish this judging of men that Christ was to appear. He would appear spiritually to the persecutors, and the Kingdom would also appear, for Christ was to come with all his saints at his side.
This was not the initiation of the Kingdom, for the Christians already possessed it (Hebrews 12:28). It was the spiritual appearance of that kingdom along with the power of God in the actions of the Roman army. At that time, God would pass judgment on those unbelievers who were persecuting the Church. He would judge in the positive those who were living that is, those who possessed eternal spiritual life: the believers. He would judge in the negative those who were spiritually dead: the unbelievers and pagans who did not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. He would divide the sheep from the goats.
This divine judgment of the spiritually living and dead is the same that is spoken of by John in 1 John 3:14
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abides in death.
This death and life has nothing to do with the physical body. The Christians were already resurrected (have passed from death unto life): from spiritual death to life. Those who were not righteous and who did not believe were abiding in death they were literally living in death. They were physically alive, but spiritually dead to God.
How can we tell that this appearing Paul speaks of is not Something other than the spiritual appearing of Christ against his enemies in A.D. 70? In chapter 3:1, he tells Timothy:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
Here is a direct reference to the last days of the Jewish nation and the danger that was inherent to anyone caught up in it. In the next several verses, Paul describes the attitudes of the apostate Jews who were to be judged and destroyed. The list of their attributes (such as proud, boasters, blasphemers, unthankful, and so on) indicates the state of decay the Jewish religious leadership had attained. In verses 4-5, he calls them:
Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof
The Jewish elders were traitors to their own religion because they had denied and crucified the Messiah. They denied the power of the true religion while maintaining an outward show or form of religious piety and tradition. They were the scholarly type who never took the things they learned to heart. Verse 7:
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
In verse 9, however, Paul states flatly:
But they shall proceed no further....
and in verses 12-13, he cautions the brethren:
all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers [or impostors] shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
When would this occur? In those last days (v.1.). These are the very same things Jesus himself prophesied to them and warned them of in Matthew 24.
Not very many of those who decide to live godly lives in Christ today are persecuted for that decision. The Christians of Paul and timothys time were all persecuted in some manner, until those evil men and
impostors were removed from the scene.
These passages lead us directly into Pauls charge to Timothy to preach the gospel during these troubled times and to look forward to the tremendous day when Christ would appear to make the Church, his Bride, victorious over those evil ones.
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
This passage is almost identical with the passage previously discussed in 2 Timothy 4. Paul and all the Christians prior to the destruction of Jerusalem were looking for that blessed hope. What were they looking for? The hope is joined with and to the appearing. It was the long awaited appearing of Christ to defeat the enemies. In verse 12, preceding, Paul speaks of living righteously:
in this present world. (1 Timothy 6:17)
or as the NIV correctly states: in this present age. It was the age that was coming to an end in these last times and although religious authority had been transferred to the Church at the events of the crucifixion, the old body of Judaism had yet to physically disappear. The final prophecies were yet to be fulfilled.
Here, too, Paul speaks specifically of the Jewish people who were corrupt and were persecuting the brethren. In chapter 1:10,16, he Says:
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers specially they of the circumcision. They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient .
(Titus 1:16, NIV)
In verse 14, he reminds the faithful that they should not be:
...giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
It was a constant temptation and danger for the newly converted Christians who were originally Jews to slip back into that tradition and rely once more on commandments of men and laws and ordinances rather than on the grace of Christ. There were many Jews who made it their business to infiltrate the congregations and try to influence their former religious kinsmen to return to their ancient traditions. These judaizers were especially dangerous and were some of the false teachers and deceivers that Paul and the others warned of.
1 PETER 5:4
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
At the coming of Christ against the persecutors, the faithful flock would join him in the glorious victory. The crown of glory is simply a symbolic picture of that victory. It does not refer to the Christians moral salvation or acquisition of eternal life, for these things were already theirs. When would the Shepherd appear? In verses 6 and 10, Peter says:
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
The little flock of Christian believers had to suffer for a while under the heavy hand of Jewish tribulations before, in due time, they would be exalted and made perfect (which means complete), and they would be established in the world, made strong able tosustain themselves independently as congregations and, overall, become well settled after the fiery trial (ch. 4:12) that they had suffered through.
An important distinction should be pointed out here, that this establishment after the events of Christs appearing in A.D. 70 was not the establishment of the Kingdom or Church itself. We have seen that the
eternal Kingdom was fully theirs (Hebrews 12:28) and could never be moved. It was religiously complete and in effect as the New Covenant.
This was, rather, the establishment of the Church as a viable physical entity after the end of all of the prophecies. The people who made up Christs body on Earth were no longer in danger of being literally exterminated. God had promised them that they would be spared total decimation, as Jesus stated in Matthew 24:22
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elects sake those days shall be shortened.
Those days of tribulation were shortened, at least short enough that the existence of the Church was not endangered, and when the Chief Shepherd appeared, the faithful did receive their crowns of glorious victory. Those crowns are the ones we also, as Christians today, wear in the eternal marriage feast of the King.
One other note of interest in this passage is in verse 13, at the close of Peters letter. He refers to the Jerusalem congregation as the church that is at Babylon. This is an indication that the situation was becoming dangerous and tense for the flock there, as the time for fulfillment of the prophecies approached. Peter is resorting to using a symbolic code name for Jerusalem. This was for their own protection from the prying eyes and long arms of their enemies. This is the Same symbolic coding that we see in full form in the imagery of Revelation.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:26
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lords death until he come.
In this passage, Paul was quoting Jesus concerning the Lords Supper. This ceremony was performed by the believers to proclaim or announce the Lords death. It was an outward, physical act symbolizing their belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and as the sacrificial lamb for sins. As a symbol of his death, it serves that purpose today and is a valid and edifying service. Jesus had commanded them (verse 24):
this do in remembrance of me. (1 Co. 11:24)
The remembrance was not as for someone who is not with them and must be remembered, but it is in remembrance of Christs death and what that means to all who believe in him.
The idea some have that Jesus is gone away from us and we must partake of this ritual in order to remember him, is insupportable, for we know that Christ had returned to them in the Spirit on Pentecost and dwelt in them even at that time, and he surely dwells in every believer today. In Matthew 26:29, during the Last Supper, Jesus said:
I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Fathers kingdom.
Christ did leave the apostles alone for a very short period from the Ascension to Pentecost, but we know that he returned to them on that day to drink that spiritual drink with the apostles. Notice that he tells the apostles: that day when I drink... with you. He returned very quickly indeed and established his spiritual Kingdom (Hebrews 12:28) and came to dwell in them and they in him. 1 John 4:13
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his spirit.
That Spirit was the total spirit of God: the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ, for these three are one(ch. 5:7).
We must understand that whenever we partake of the Lords Supper, Christ who is spiritually in us partakes of it with us as he did with the apostles on that fateful night. Now, we live in the new day that is everlasting and our brother and Savior Jesus Christ is here with us now and forever.
He was with them in Corinth as well, so what did Paul mean by proclaiming Christs death until he come?
This verse could be paraphrased to say every time you take the Lords Supper from now through the time he comes, you testify to the world your belief in his deity and sacrifice for sins.
Their lives were a living testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ. They partook of the Lords Supper not only to honor Christ themselves, but also to certify or make a statement that they were believers and would accept Jesus as the Messiah in the face of Jewish and pagan persecutions.
Here, again, we see the Christian congregations that were looking for the end to those persecutions and were in that time of regeneration (Titus 3:5; Matthew 19:28) for the old nation to repent and accept the Messiah before the final judgment descended upon them. The faithful were to perform this symbolic service of the Lords Supper in order to proclaim their belief in his death and resurrection to the unbelieving world. They were to do so until he come come to save them from worldly destruction.
The word until does not mean that they did not need to continue to observe the Supper after Christs coming in vengeance. Until does not preclude after, and the New Testament prophecies and scriptures do not look to the times after A.D. 70, nor do they instruct any specific things other than to continue in righteousness and love and life everlasting.
1 J0HN 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
This passage is a continuation of the one we examined earlier. In verse 28 of chapter 2, John speaks of the Christians as not being put to shame before Christ at his coming. This was because they believed in him and heeded his warnings of the coming war. In this Passage in chapter 3, John goes on to say that when Christ makes this appearance, the Christian faithful would be like him for they would see him as he is. What does this mean, and can we find some supporting passage to help us understand this?
In chapter 4:16-17, John states:
And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
This tells us that we already possess and embody the nature of God right now, for these first Christians possessed the nature of God right then in this world. What is this nature that we possess? If we are as he is, then how is God? It is simple. God is love, and we are loving people. As John put it in verse 16, we live in love and so live in God who lives in us.
The readers of Johns letter would take comfort from this because John says that their attitudes and actions of love would make them victorious and confident in the time of Gods judgment against their persecutors.
All of this book is a great testament to the power and glory of love and an exhortation to righteous living under the influence of that loving spirit which comes from God. It is as righteous, loving people that the Christians, then and now, were like God.
What, then, did John mean by stating that what we will be has not yet been made known? Was he speaking of this nature that we as Christians share with God? Was he speaking of a form that they would take a form just like Gods at the time of his appearance?
We know that God is a spirit (John 4:24), which no man has seen at any time (1 John 4:12). We know that the Christians were already with God in the spiritual realm, or the heavenlies after Pentecost and Christs spiritual return to them. We know from several passages that we have studied that the believers were to appear or come with Christ at his coming and that this was to be a spiritual event. They would be coming in vengeance and victory over their persecutors.
John is speaking from a time shortly before that great Day of the Lord when the events so long prophesied would occur. To mankind, it has always truly seemed darkest just before a storm, and this was the situation here as John and the others looked into that maelstrom of war and death
and wondered about the final outcome for themselves and their families. They were peering into a cloud of war and uncertain events and, although they knew with confidence that the victory would be theirs in the end, they were filled with apprehension as the terrible times approached.
In this verse, John is simply stating that neither he nor the other believers could see all the way through the Coming events and picture just how their own situation would be resolved. He did know, however, that they would be like God at the time of his appearing. They would be like him in form and in nature, for they were already eternally alive in the spirit and they were loving people who believed in the name of Jesus Christ.
It was this collective spiritual congregation of believers who came with Christ at his Day, and who shared in that victory. They saw him as he is, in the same way that we do see him now. He is a spiritual creature whom we know through the words of the scriptures. He is LOVE ITSELF. Whenever we love one another, we see God, for this is how we are like him. How do we know that this appearance of Christ or of God is not something in the future and that we are not to change into some kind of other body at that event? Simply because we know that Christ was already there with the Christians even as John put hand to pen. He tells us himself in chapter 4:2-4
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come...is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:2)
This confession has generally been understood to be one of professing that Jesus Christ, the physical man, was the Messiah believing as the NIV states it that Jesus has come. As we discussed earlier, however, the KJV is the accurate rendering here and it means just what it says. Jesus Christ had indeed come as a physical man and had been killed, resurrected, and ascended into the spiritual state with God the Father. Now, though, John says he is come and come in the flesh. How is this possible? He answers in verse 4: he that is in you. Christ was indwelling in his people. This was a spiritual life in the believers, and it is the flesh of those people the Christians in which Christ had come right then and there. This is true even today and forever: Christ lives in us and we can truly say that he is come to us and we represent his fleshly existence.
This fleshly existence was the very thing that was in danger in the times John wrote this letter. The very body of Christ was being persecuted, just as Christs own fleshly body had been persecuted on the cross, and by the same people. This is why John states:
Ye have overcome them . (1 John 4:4)
Had the Christians overcome the Jewish persecutors? Not in the physical world, just yet, as they looked for the actual events and actions that were soon to occur, but rather, they were already victorious in their choice of God as their avenger:
because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.
God had the power to overcome the persecutors and the promised punishment and destruction was not in doubt.
In verse 3 of the study passage, John states that:
Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
[1John 3:3, NIV]
What hope was this? Just the hope that they would soon see the actions of God against their enemies the actions that had so long been prophesied and was now so near. It was the hope that they would live through that time of terror and uncertainty and come through to a perfect situation where the Church of Christ could flourish without suffering from the ever present danger of the old and corrupt Jewish nation. Then they would see what form the church could take in the world of men.
In enduring this waiting time, they were to purify themselves. This was purity in righteous living and in love. How pure were they (and are we) supposed to be? Just as he is pure! How pure is Christ? Verse 5 states: in him is no sin. The call to be a follower of Christ demands that we turn away from all unrighteousness that is, everything that is not right. This is a definition of sinless that we will examine shortly, and it is a wonderful aspect and a true rcquirement of living in Gods eternal Kingdom.
1 THESSALONIANS 3:12-13
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Here also, Paul exhorts his brothers to remain blameless and holy, which means righteous (so that no blame can be directed at them) and set apart from the rest of worldly mankind as the special chosen nation of God. The word holy means set apart. Just as John does in 1 John, Paul here emphasizes the importance of love in the brotherhood.
This passage is identical to many others we have studied which indicate that the Christians would be participants in this coming of Christ. When the Lord Jesus Christ came with the Father, the holy ones, or all his saints as the KJV puts it, would come with him. These were the faithful Christians who were appearing with Jesus in the same spiritual form that he took when he came against the unbelieving Jewish nation in the war events of A.D. 67-70. Christ could not be coming to the Christians if they were to be at Christs side, Participating in that coming.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:50-57, 16:22
Here, we shall examine a passage that is often misleading and difficult for many to understand. To begin with, let us read Pauls words in the conclusion of this first letter to the congregation at Corinth. In chapter 16:22, he ends the letter by saying:
If anyone does not love the Lord a curse be on him.Come, 0 Lord!
Pauls fervent wish for a speedy return of Christ is the direct reference here to a coming, but earlier in chapter 15, he speaks in some detail of the events associated with the last trumpet and a resurrection of the dead. Verses 50-53
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changedin a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
Before we leap to any conclusions about this event, we should ask some questions. We should consider what event is characterized and indicated by the phrase last trumpet. Who will be the subjects of the change that is to occur? What is the nature of this change? When will it occur? Who is being resurrected? What is the nature of this resurrection (what kind ofresurrection is it)?
First, let us consider the resurrection spoken of. Throughout the first part of chapter 15, Paul talks about the resurrection of those who believe in Christ. He begins by restating the truth of Christsown resurrection, then affirms that a resurrection is an essential function for and hope of the believers, or else we are of all men most miserable (v. 19).
The word resurrection is taken to mean a transformation from death to life. We know from studying the Bible that the authors speak at various times not only of physical death and life, but also spiritual death and life. Which kind of death and life were the subject of Pauls passage here? In verse 32, Paul says:
If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.
[1Co 15:32, NIV]
Clearly, Paul is speaking of a resurrection from physical death here. Those Christian martyrs who gave their physical lives in the unspeakable tortures of their persecutors would gain a life would be resurrected in some manner. What manner of life would they be resurrected into? Verses 42-44:
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
It is clear that the resurrection would result not in graves being opened up and reanimated bodies arising, but instead, a physical death resulting in a spiritual life. The body which would be received would be no
physical shell, but a spiritual form that would beimperishable or eternal. It would be a form of the same nature as the form that Christ exists in now (v. 49).
In verse 50, Paul goes on to state that:
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God .
Now we know that the Christians since Pentecost had already entered into the Kingdom of God, and were in possession of that inheritance even then. Colossians 1:13
[The Father] Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdon,of his dear Son.
and Hebrews 12:22,28
But you have come to mount Zion, to the heavenly jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn .
Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved .
How could these physically alive Christians, inhabiting fleshly bodies, be in possession of the Kingdom of God if Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit it? Is the Kingdom of God theirs in promise only? No. This is a mystery that Paul has explained before. In Romans 8:8-10, he tells us:
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
How can Paul say that the present Christians and his own person were not in the flesh and that their flesh was dead? He was, after all, speaking and writing this from a fleshly body! In the next verse, he answers this:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
This is a kind of miracle that occurs each and every day. We tend to forget that our own act of living is a miracle that God has worked and continues to work every moment. He quickens our fleshy bodies to be his holy Temple in this physical realm (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The flesh of our bodies is dead in one very important way. We are dead to unrighteousness and sin. God has given our bodies life in order to contain beings who love and believe in him.
If our spirit is alive and Gods spirit lives in us, then we have that spiritual form or body even now. The fact that we have it at the same time that we inhabit this fleshly body should not be problematic for us, for we remember that Jesus, in John 17:15, asked of the Father that:
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world .
When Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom, he does not mean that Christians must physical1y die inorder to become part of that Kingdom. It means that the Kingdom is spiritual in nature not a physical kingdom like Judea or Rome and that no one who is not alive spiritually can enter into it. No one who is fleshly minded and who is looking for a physical earthly kingdom will see the Kingdom of God, for they will be blind to its true nature.
In chapter 5, verse 49, just preceding this verse, Paul states that:
As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
At first glance, this seems restrictive fleshly is past and heavenly is future, but does shall bear mean only in the future? If it does, then have borne must mean only in the past! If we restrict this statement to this definition, then where is Paul? He would be out of existence! When he says we have borne the earthy form, he does not mean that they are not bearing it right then. When he says we shall bear the heavenly form, he doesnot mean that they are not bearing it right then! He is speaking in a nonrestrictive sense here. The fact is, that the Christians were bearing both a physical and spiritual body at the same time, just as we also do today. They certainly would continue to bear their heavenly body in the future. They would be spiritual creatures who were glorified in the victory that Christ would bring over their persecutors.
Now, we move from verse 50 to verse 51, and Paul says:
Listen, I tell you a mystery .
whereupon he begins to tell them some specific things about the future. We should recognize it by now Paul is prophesying and the formal prophecy begins here in verse 51.
To understand this prophecy, it is essential to understand that although predictions are a common element of prophecy, they are not the function of prophecy. The prophet was a messenger of the divine knowledge which came from God himself. He was a teacher who highlighted and emphasized spiritual truths. His function was not only to predict, but at times to instruct, rebuke, entreat, encourage, denounce, and warn. When predictions were made, he used symbols, dramatic imagery, parables, visions, proverbs, and riddles to make his point.
All of the Old Testament prophets spoke their predictions from the point of view of existing conditions, drawing future events and consequences from past and current situations. Often, the visions or symbols he used were not exclusively future to the prophet as he spoke.
An important example of this is the book of Revelation, where John, in chapter 1:19, is instructed by Jesus Christ to:
Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
[Re 1:19, NIV]
The vision is not exclusively of future events. The same thing is apparent in this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul is seeing things in this vision of prophecy that are past, current, and future, all in one package. Let us examine it to see that this is so. In verses 51-55, he continues:
we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality .Then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, 0 Death, is your victory? Where, 0 Death, is your sting?
Two things are described here, along with their results. One is that the believers are changed, and the other is that the last trumpet will sound. These events are linked. How will the believers be changed? Paul says it is the change from mortal to immortal, or from perishable (fleshly bodies) to inperishable (spiritual bodies). We have already established that the Christians were in possession of their eternal spiritual bodies at that time (as do we, now). When did this acquisition of the immortal body or form happen? In John 3:5, Jesus said:
I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit.
It happens when the believer obeys God and is baptized into Christ! It is when the newcomer to Christ partakes of the typical death, burial, and resurrection of the baptism that he is actually and truly resurrected into immortal, spiritual life. In Romans 6:3-4, Paul reminded them:
Dont you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
[Romans 6:3-4, NIV]
When this resurrection happens for a believer, then (and right then) his death has been swallowed up in victory! That person is alive in Christ and Christ is alive in him.
When, in our study passage, Paul links this with the event of the last trumpet, he is taking a broader view of the meaning of Christs actions from the cross through the Day of the Lord in A.D. 70. As we have examined previously, he stated earlier in verse 26, that:
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (1Co 15:26)
We know that Christ destroyed death by the actions of his own death and resurrection. He was the first to overcome spiritual separation from the Father and he accomplished this when he ascended again in Acts 1. Notice that even though Paul uses the phrase shall be destroyed, he confirms that this is a past event in the very next verse:
For he hath put all things under his feet.
and this is confirmed in 2 Timothy 1:10
Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Why, then, does he place the resurrection at the time of the last trumpet? Simply because he knows that the last trumpet sounded its note IN EFFECT when Jesus Christ overcame death at the time of his resurrection and ascension. The fact that it took some 40 years of human time to culminate in the final physical result of the destruction and removal of the old Jewish nation is unimportant in terms of the prophecy because the event that caused that destruction was initiated before the prophecy. That event was Christs death, resurrection, and ascension.
How, then, do we know for certain that this resurrection Pauls peaks of is the spiritual resurrection into eternal spiritual life that begins for each person at baptism? When he quotes Isaiah and Hosea about Death being swallowed up in victory and 0, Death,where is thy sting?, he immediately follows up in verse 56:
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
[1Co 15:56, NIV]
It is plain and obvious from this verse that the Death that is being referred to is spiritual death, or separation from God. Thisdeath is defined as sin and the power behind sin was the Law the Law of Moses, that is. It was not possible for anyone outside ofthe Law of Moses to sin and be judged by that Law. The Law defined the rules and so defined sin for those who were under the Law. (The Gentiles prior to Christ, were, of course, completely cut off from God, not even having the imperfect Law to gain indirect access to him.)
The fulfillment and cessation of that old Law was one of the things that Christ came to accomplish as we have examined in Matthew 5:17-18. He fulfilled the Law at the time of his death on the cross, and the veil of the Temple was torn from top to bottom to show that the spiritual wall of separation was no longer there between man and God, and the old Law was finished. Now, if any doubts remain that the events Paul was speaking of contained elements both of future and past, the next verse, 57, should seal them:
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
[1Co 15:57, NIV]
The actual victory of the physical destruction of their enemies was some ten or so years away in their future, but Paul says that God gives us the victory (Greek didonti, present tense, active voice)! How does he give the victory? That victory was already theirs through the Lord Jesus Christ, or through the actions and events of Christ. It is because of what Christ did in sacrificing himself and the Jewish nations rejection of him that the victory was predetermined and assured to Paul and the others even though the actual end time events of the last trumpet the war and destructions of A.D. 67-70 were yet to happen to them.
There are two sections of prophecy in this chapter (verses22-28, and our study section in verses 51-57), and both contain elements that are future to Paul and elements that are past or are currently in place for him. In both passages he gives a qualifying statement that shows us that some elements that have been characterized as being in their future are actually accomplished facts (verses 27 and 57 respectively).
From the viewpoint of Paul acting as the prophet of God, the entire 40 year period from the cross to the war is seen as one complete episode comprised of: Christ fulfilling the old Law and thus ending it, replacing it with the New Covenant of Christ; Christ overcoming spiritual death and offering that resurrection to anyone who would believe on and accept him; the resulting spiritual resurrection of many believers as they are baptized into Christ; and the coming of Christ against the remaining followers of the old Law to stop the persecutions and to take them out of the way of the new Church. This is the total vision of Pauls prophecy.
Those who decided to follow the Messiah were changed indeed as they moved from the old covenant into the new one and saw the awesome end of the apostate Jewish nation from which they had come. Those who believed and obeyed Christ, received eternal spiritual life with him and this life was extended even to the Gentile World. So it is made possible that we can obtain this resurrection this change ourselves 2,000 years later and forevermore. As Peter exhored them in Acts 2:38-39
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call.
1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-17
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lords own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
These verses require similar interpretational methods as those we employed in the previous discussion of 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. This passage has also been misinterpreted by many who look for a future fulfillment of these things.
First, Paul wishes to tell the brethren two things about those who fall asleep. This phrase was commonly used to refer to those people who were physically dead, in the same manner that we might say those who have passed on. The ones referred to here by Paul are the Christian brethren who have been killed or martyred under the ongoing persecutions because of their belief in and confession of Jesus Christ. This was the hardest test for these first Christians, that many would have to pay for their new found belief in Christ with their lives.
The brethren whom Paul was addressing were obviously wondering about those loved ones and friends who had died. Would they have died in vain? Would they be a part of the victory over the enemies that was promised to occur shortly? Paul wrote this to settle their hearts and minds and to explain what was to happen.
In verse 13, Paul indicates that he will do two things. First, he will inform them about the martyrs (we do not want you to be ignorant), and second, he will comfort them ( or to grieve). Now, in comforting them, Paul does not promise them that they will have an earthly reunion with these dead Christians. Nowhere does God promise that physically living men and women will see their dead loved ones reconstituted in a fleshly body and thus be reunited with them in that manner.
How, then, does Paul comfort them concerning these? He promises them that God will bring with him the martyrs. Let us not assume anything concerning an interpretation of this statement just yet. Let us note that it is not specified to whom this coming is to be made, nor is it yet specified the manner or form of this coming with the martyrs. Immediately following in verse 15, Paul says:
According to the Lords own word, we tell you .
[1 Th 4:15, NIV]
Just as in the passage in 1 Corinthians 15, we find a key phrase here that indicates the explicit beginning of a formal prophecy. With this introduction, which indicates the source and authority (Gods direct word) of the prophecy to follow, Paul immediately utters it and once again he uses symbols and figurative language. This format and form is consistent throughout the New Testament. The first statement he makes is:
we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
[1 Th 4:15, NIV]
First, let us note that at the time of the coming of the Lord, some of Pauls contemporaries would still be alive and left as physical men and women. The coming was to happen within that generation! Placing this event in the future would deny the comfort that Paul was giving these Christian brethren to keep them from grieving.
Now, these physically alive Christians would not precede the martyred ones. Precede them meaning what? Because the word rise is used later in the passage, referring to the dead in Christ, many simply assume that he means preceding them in a resurrection from death to life. Verse 16:
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
[1Th 4:15, NIV]
Let us well note, however, that these martyrs who were raised here were dead in Christ. Whatever this rising is, it cannot be a spiritual resurrection, for these Christians were already resurrected spiritually and living in Christ right then, even though their earthly bodies had been destroyed. They received that resurrection when they were baptized into Christ. They were dead physically, but eternally alive with God, for as Jesus told the Sadducees in Matthew 22:32
God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
If we rule out resurrection from physical death to spiritual life as the meaning of rising, can we assume that it means one from physical death to a new physical life? No, we cannot. As we have seen before, the nature of resurrection is only from physical and spiritual death to spiritual life. Let us read again the explanation of the manner or mode of resurrection Paul gives us in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable . It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
There is no resurrection of the physical, fleshly body after biological death. It is not promised and the mode of resurrection specifically precludes it. This rising, then, was not a physical resurrection, either.
What is the nature and meaning of this rising of the martyred Christian spirits? We must remember that this is a prophecy and that Paul is speaking in symbolic language. The key to understanding this passage is in recognizing the event that Paul is portraying here. That event is a coming of the Lord, and in verse 16, we read:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God
[1Th 4:16, NIV]
This is the same imagery and the same format of symbols as we have seen time upon time before in the Bible. It has the same meaning and refers to the identical event. The Lord Jesus Christ, along with the full power and presence of God, would come spiritually against the enemies of his people. He would bring with him the souls of those Christians who had died and also the souls of the Christians who were still living. They would collectively come in vengeance against the enemy through the vehicle of the Roman army.
Thus we see the symbols used: Christ comes down from heaven, signifying the place of power and authority. He speaks a loud command, signifying the words of judgment that he delivers to the apostate
Jewish nation. He speaks that judgment with the voice of the archangel, signifying Christs role as the one delivering the message of God to the people being judged. Angel means messenger of God, and Christ is pictured or represented here as the archangel, that is the most important and prominent of Gods messengers. Christ is, of course, the Word of God itself. He comes to them with the trumpet call of God, signifying, as it always does, a Day of Visitation or Day of the Lord a day of judgment and destruction to a nation or people.
It should be obvious that this prophecy is cut from the same cloth as the others we have examined. It refers to the great day of fulfillment of the prophecies in the war actions of A.D. 70. It was the coming destruction of the spiritually adulterous and physically persecuting Jewish nation that would relieve the brethren of the new Church.
Understanding the subject of this coming, we can now put into place the correct interpretation of the rising of the dead in Christ along with the rest of the passage. In Revelation 6:9-11, we see a portrayal or representation of the Christian martyrs the same people Paul is speaking about in this passage as those who are asleep, and who rise. In Johns passage, he says:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood? Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.
Here are the martyrs, waiting to be avenged for their deaths. The Lord promised them in Luke 18:7-8 that he would avenge them speedily. Why did God delay the day of vengeance? Only to let the prophesied time occur and to accomplish all that was foreordained by him, but that delay would be short they would wait only a little longer.
Following this scene, the terrible sixth seal is opened, which precipitates the destructions that God brought upon the nation of unbelievers. The martyrs would have to wait no more. In symbols, the fulfillment of Jesus prophecy in Matthew 24 occurs as the sun turns black, the moon to blood, the stars fall to earth, and all the kings, princes, rich men, freemen, and slaves call out (Revelation 6:16-17):
hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
After this terrible day of judgment, John sees the symbolic representation of the spiritual church, the collective souls of the believers arranged about the great throne of God. Then in Revelation 7:13, we read:
Then one of the elders asked me, These in white robes who are they, and where did they come from? I answered, Sir, you know. And he said, These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple
Here is the entire picture of the events concerning the Christian believers who were killed for their faith. Before the great day of wrath, the martyrs cried out for vengeance, pleading with God to do what he promised and give victory to them by destroying the enemy that had taken their earthly lives. Note carefully the way that John pictures these souls in this first scene, he sees them as UNDER the altar. This simply signifies that they are in a condition or state of distress and humiliation, suffering an injustice and not yet glorified in victory. In their anguish, they are in a position of supplication to the Lord on his throne.
After the terrible events of the sixth seal, the destruction of the enemies is complete and the vengeance of these martyrs is accomplished. Now, John pictures them as being BEFORE the altar, praising the Lord and serving him. This signifies the end result where the martyrs have been vindicated and they are no longer in supplication to God, but are glorified with him in the victory.
Here is the true meaning of the dead in Christ rising at the day of the Lords coming. It is not a spiritual rising, for they had already risen spiritually and were eternally alive in Christ. It is not a physical rising, for resurrection is spiritual in nature. This rising is a part of this prophecy, and the rising is SYMBOLIC IN NATURE.
The symbol of the dead rising is a picture of these martyrs, starting from a condition of humiliation, despair, and of being enormously wronged; rising to a state of vindication, relief, and tremendous glory in the victory over the ones who murdered them.
This vindication of the martyrs is what Paul is talking about when he told the Thessalonian brethren that they would not precede the martyrs. He did not mean precede in terms of literal timing, but rather, precede in terms of place of honor, importance, and the giving of credit where it was due. The martyrs gave their lives, and the living Christians who survived the great tribulation would want to and would by nature give the first honors and tributes to those souls with all the respect that was due them for their sacrifices. These still living Christians, however, were also persecuted and were also to be a part of the coming of the Lord against the enemy. This is why Paul goes on to say in verses 16-17:
The dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
[1Th 4:16, NIV]
The martyrs are symbolically raised from oppression to victory first (in order of honor) because of their ultimate sacrifice. Then those believers who were alive at the time of the coming were placed with the martyrs in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. These terms are both symbols, not physical or literal things. As we have studied earlier, both of these terms refer to the spiritual state. God came against nations in clouds because he came spiritually through the actions of human armies. God is a spirit (John 4:24), and that word is derived from the Hebrew and Greek words for wind, breath, or moving air. When Paul says the Christian souls will meet the Lord in the clouds in the air, he means it is a spiritual congregation and not a physical one. It is a real meeting, and it is also a symbolic one in signifying the collective victory over their enemies. Once this congregation in victory has happened:
So shall we ever be with the Lord.[v. 17]
The purpose of this statement is not to say that the Christians would be with Christ at some future time. They were already with the Lord in the spiritual state from the time they were resurrected in baptism. The operative word here is so. It means that they would be with the Lord in a certain way. The way that these Christians would be with the Lord forever, was to be with him in victory over the enemies!
Here Paul concludes his prophecy and tells them in verse 18:
Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1Th 4:18)
It would be of little comfort to those believers who were going through the great tribulations of persecution, many of them being killed for their belief, if they could not look forward to the vengeance and victory that Christ promised them would be shortly forthcoming. To place this or any other reference to a coming of Christ in the far future is to place those martyrs yet at the base of that great throne, weary with their plea to God to take vengeance upon their murderers after 2,000 years! To place this passage in the future is to withdraw from us and the first century Christians the spiritual life and connection with Christ and God that supposedly is to begin with these events at the end of time. To interpret this symbolic prophecy in literal terms and have the Christian believers actually flying through the atmosphere to meet Jesus in the physical clouds of this planet is a gross and lamentable misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Gods word.
The fact is that these things have all been fulfilled just as Paul prophesied, and just as Jesus Christ prophesied. The martyrs were vindicated and avenged when the murdering and unbelieving nation of Judea was totally destroyed in the war events of AD. 67-70. The Christians were spiritually and physically victorious over the persecutors, as God used the Romans as his tool to eradicate the threat to the Churchs existence. The Great Day of the Lord occurred and the Christians did meet Christ in the spiritual air of glorious victory as the old age came to its final end in the fulfillment of all these things.
Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
In the year 64, some six years before the destruction of Jerusalem, a great earthquake devastated parts of Asia Minor, the land known today as Turkey. Paul, Timothy, and many others had labored in this area as well as in Achaia (Greece), setting up churches and turning Jews and Gentile pagans from death to life in Jesus Christ. Before the earthquake, there were nine churches in Asia, but Colosse and Hieropolis were not rebuilt and the congregations in those places moved or were absorbed into the others nearby. This left only seven churches in Asia the same seven to whom the Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John is addressed. After AD. 70, the number of churches grew from this seven. This is a strong piece of supporting evidence that the Revelation itself was written in the years between AD. 64 and 70 just preceding the events of the RomanJewish war.
These fledgling churches were not steeped in the traditions and establishment of Christianity as we are today. They were new to this way and all of them came from older traditions that were difficult to leave entirely behind them. Those who were former Jews wanted to bring their Mosaic traditions with them into Christianity. The former pagans had trouble with the oneness of God and the seriousness and truth of this religion. They often tried to bring their traditions of idolatry and mysticism into the church.
The second and third chapters of Revelation are the famous letters from Jesus Christ to the seven churches which were in Asia. These are the only letters in the Bible written by Jesus Christ himself, given by direct vision to John.
In the study passage, the letter is to the church in the city of Ephesus. Although Christ praises this group for their hard work and perseverance, he has a warning for them as well. They had drifted away from their first love and were in danger of losing the heart of what Christianity is all about. Their works were good, but their hearts had begun to fall away. Jesus warns them of the consequences of this falling and tells them:
If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
[Re 2:5, NIV]
This imagery is a reference to chapter 1:12-13, where Christ is pictured as walking among seven golden lampstands. This is simply a symbolic picture of the seven churches to whom the book is addressed (ch. 1:20). They are pictured this way because the churches were like a light to the rest of the pagan and unbelieving world. Lamps, candles, and light are often used as symbols in the Bible and these symbols always refer to the light of knowledge.
In the case of Ephesus, if they would not repent, Jesus warns them that he would remove their lampstand from its place. This means that he would come in spiritual judgment against the apostate group and remove theirauthorization or authority as earthly purveyors of the true knowledge of the Kingdom of God.
God had given this church and the others who were struggling with righteousness and truth a period of time to get things right and be faithful to him. After this time, the results of his judgments would occur. Obviously, this is the same period that God allowed his own former people, the Jews, to be reconciled to him by accepting Jesus as the Messiah and following him into the Kingdom. At the time of the Day of the Lord, sentences would be issued and carried out against the unbelievers and also the believers who had not remained true. It was this fate that Jesus was warning the congregation at Ephesus about. If they did not repent, they, too, would be subject to Christ coming in vengeance against the enemies.
An important point should be restated here. Some have argued that the coming in judgment that Jesus promises some of these churches could not be tied to his coming in A.D. 70 because that event was the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea and these churches and peoples were all in Asia Minor far from the scene of the battles and destructions that the Romans caused against the Jewish nation.
Once again, however, the nature or form of Gods coming has been misunderstood and misapplied in this argument. We have said that the events of AD. 67-70 in Judea were the Day of the Lord the coming, appearing, or revealing of Christ in vengeance against the enemies of his Bride, the Church. This event was a judgment against unbelief in the Christ, and it was a legal sentence against those who did not believe.
This sentence, carried out against the Jews, was certainly a physical sentence in their case. They were killed and carried off into slavery and their lands, cities, buildings, and wealth were taken or destroyed by the Roman invaders. This physical destruction occurred against them because of their former long-held state of holiness to and special treatment by God. They had been Gods people, but they had rejected him. This destruction was prophesied to occur, and it had to occur.
This physical destruction was, however, only the outward manifestations of the REAL AND TRUE sentence against them. This sentence was spiritual death. The true penalty that the former Jews paid was that God himself withdrew from them and cut them off from his Spiritual presence. They had become spiritually dead to God. After the time God allowed for reconciliation, he would bring physical death to them and seal their fate forever.
This is the big picture, the true nature of the coming in vengeance against the enemies. It is this nature of coming that we must understand when we hear Jesus warn the churches in Asia of it.If the deteriorating churches in Asia were not to repent and return to their first purity in Christ as they were taught by the apostles, Jesus would come in vengeance against them because they would have removed themselves from the new holy nation and placed themselves right back in the pagan, unbelieving world that they had come out of. This coming of Christ would not necessarily have been physical as well as spiritual in nature! God was not promising physical destruction to these people. They were not the subject of the prophecies that called for physical destruction. They were not the overpowering human force that the Jewish nation was a force that could and would destroy the churches entirely. The Jewish nation had to be physically taken out of the way. These churches, should they fail, would not be in the same classification as the Jewish nation.
They would receive the same judgment and sentence, however. That true judgment and sentence was to be cut off from God spiritual death. That is the sentence that is applied to anyone who denies Christ and God. By not repenting, the lapsed churches would have committed the sin unto death (1 John 5:16), which is simply the degeneration into disbelief and the reversion to paganism. God would withdraw from them because of their disobedience.
Whether or not there was to be any physical destruction of these churches in Asia if they did not repent is irrelevant. The Day of Christ would have equally applied to them in the manner or form that really counted spiritual judgment. This is the way that Christ comes against unbelievers today. It is a spiritual coming and the unbeliever is cut off, even though his physical form lives on without apparent hindrance until its days are done. It is physical death that waits like a thief in the night for humans today. We do not know the hour of our biological death. We must believe and be righteous now, so that we may continue to live eternally with God.
Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
This comes from the letter to the church at Pergamum (or Pergamos). The ones Christ would fight against were the ones who held the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans (verses 14-15). These were some of those same types of people who, instead of persecuting the church from the outside, were posing as members of it and were trying to subvert it from the inside. We know nothing of the Nicolaitans other than these mentions of them in Revelation, but the reference to Balaam is plainly shown to be symbolic of those who were trying to introduce idolatry and it is generally agreed that the Nicolaitans were a similar group or faction within the congregation there.
Pergamum was a chief religious center in the Roman Empire. It boasted many famous temples including ones to Zeus, Athena, Apollo, Venus, Bacchus, Aesculapius, and others. Also, this city was a chief location for the cult of Roman Emperor worship, having established a temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar as early as A.D. 29. This environment was a difficult one for the church to exist within. Those who had been converted from paganism were constantly surrounded by that old tradition and surely felt pressure from their former friends and families to return to their pagan traditions.
In this passage, Christ is warning the church to remain pure and to repent from (which means turn away from) those pagan activities such as eating food that had been sacrificed to idols and partaking in the ritualistic practices of sexual immorality that were commonly associated with those false religions.
If they did not repent from these immoral behaviors, Christ would soon come to you and pronounce his judgment and sentence. He would fight these people who had been Christians but who had fallen. He would fight these idolaters in a specific manner:
I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
[Re 2:16, NIV]
This is no physical fight. This is a spiritual fight that God would certainly win. His method of fighting is to use the sword of my mouth, which is a reference to chapter 1:16, where Christ is pictured as:
out of his mouth came a sharp, double-edged sword.
This sword is a symbol, of course, and we find the meaning of it in Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The way Christ would fight the idolaters and faithless was with the words of judgment and sentence that he spoke against them. Christ is The Word in and of himself, and when he so judges and sentences men, there is no possibility of escape or misjudgment. God would look into the hearts of these faithless people and they would be spiritually judged and sentenced to spiritual death. They would be cut off from God and the Kingdom of eternal life by their own actions of apostasy.
If Christ did not come to these people soon, as he promised, then those idolatrous infiltrators and backsliders in the church at Pergamum were never engaged in the fight and never suffered judgment or sentence for their actions as Christ said they would be.
But that which you have already hold fast till I come.
This is part of the letter to the church at Thyatira, and this church had many of the same problems as Pergamum and others who were dealing with the infiltration of the congregation by those who would sanction idolatry and immoral practices. Here, the trouble is described, in verse 20, as the influence of:
that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.
This influence was tolerated by the church at Thyatira, and Christ was warning them to repent of her ways. God had given her time to repent, but she would not do it, therefore, she would be struck down.
It should be taken that, although an actual physical person was certainly involved in leading this apostasy, the name Jezebel is not a literal woman, but a symbol for those who would profess idolatry. The reference to the Jezebel of the Old Testament is obvious and it was a powerful symbol to those of the church who would be aware of the meaning of it.
In verses 22-23, Christ asserts that he would:
cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will strike her children dead.
These children were those who did not repent and who continued to follow these evil persons. They would be judged and sentenced by Christ, who would strike them dead spiritually dead. The continuation of verse 23 makes this plain:
Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches the hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
Again, some of these people may have received physical destruction or travail in the times of the Day of the Lord due to their apostasy, but the most important destruction by far was their spiritual destruction. God looks into the hearts and minds of every one of us and he is able to make a sure and accurate judgment on what we are, how we think, and what we do. If the Thyatirans of old, or we today, decide to do immoral and unrighteous things, then God will judge and sentence us according to our decisions.
In verse 25, then, Christ speaks to those in Thyatira who were still faithful to him through all the temptations and pressures. He tells them to:
Hold on to what you have until I come.
This is a simple plea to these people to persevere and to hold on to their faith in Jesus. They would soon see the terrible events of the Day of Visitation against the Jewish nation and they would then know that God was surely activating all judgments and sentences. The word until does not imply that they would not need to hold on to their faith after he came. The vision and prophecy here only looks to the times of the Day of Christ and not after. We, today, must also hold on to our faith in the reality and meaning of Christ and continue to live a righteous lifestyle in his name. If we slide back into unbelief or immoral and unrighteous practices, we also will be judged and sentenced by God, for the Judgment is active now.
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
In the letter to the church at Sardis, we find a similar warning by Jesus to repent and to remember what they had originally believed. This meant to actively think about their religious principles and to turn from their backsliding and obey Christ. If they did not heed the warning, Christ would come in spiritual judgment against them. The NIV has Christ say, if you do not wake up, which actually means to watch or look out for something. These Christians, like all the other churches, were to watch out for their own purity, watch out for the prophetic signs of the coming Day of the Lord, and watch out for their persecutors to be taken out of their way.
If this group or any church or church member did not watch for these things, then Jesus says, I will come like a thief. In their apostasy, these faithless ones would have placed themselves right back in the camp of the enemy and would be surprised by Gods spiritual judgment against them. They would no longer be able to see by the spiritual light of the knowledge they had abandoned.
In contrast to the dire warnings, Christ also shows them an image (in symbols!) of what their life would be like if they did repent and regain their purity and righteousness. In verses 4-5, he tells them:
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
These faithful souls who remained true to Christ would remain in possession of eternal spiritual life with God. This is represented in the symbol of the Book of Life. They, like the martyrs, are dressed in white, which is the symbol for someone who is righteous, pure, victorious, and vindicated by God.
This picture of positive spiritual judgment and life was presented to the church at Sardis as Gods plea for them to remain faithful during this period of persecution and trial. It would be the true reward for everyone of them who overcomes those present tribulations.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.
The letter to the assembly at Philadelphia is a wonderful relief from the forbidding warnings to some of the other church congregations. Here was a group of believers who had held on to their original faith and doctrines as taught to them by the apostles. God was pleased with this congregation and told them (verses 8-9):
...you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
These people who claim to be Jews though they are not, were the unbelieving Jews who had not accepted Christ as the Messiah. They were no longer true religious Jews, for they had completely forsaken God. The true Jews were and are the Christians! The old Jews were disinherited by God and that placed them in the camp of the anti-God, which is Satan. They are pictured as belonging to the Synagogue of Satan, for they were still following the traditions and regulations of the old Law of Moses, even though God no longer Sanctioned that Law. In claiming to still be the holy people of God, these people were liars.
Christ tells the Philadelphians that these false Jews would be made to fall at the symbolic feet of the Christians and acknowledge that God had transferred his sanction and love to the believers in Jesus Christ. This is a spiritual event and is pictured in these symbols within this prophecy. The former Jews would experience this falling and acknowledging when their nation was overcome by the pagans and they were destroyed as a people. God would obviously not allow this destruction to happen to his holy and beloved people. The Jews would have to realize that they were no longer those people.
In verse 10, Jesus tells the Philadelphians:
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.
This phrasing should be familiar to us by now. This is the same trial and test that Jesus and the other prophets have been talking about for some time. It was the Day of the Lord that would come upon the entire world of Judaism. It would, indeed, test those who live on the earth, which is a symbol for the people who are the subjects of the prophecy in this case, the unrepentant Jews. They would fail that test which, as the Greek text more accurately puts it, is about to come.
The brethren at Philadelphia would be spared that trial because they had persevered and followed the commandment to be patient and to endure the persecutions and tribulations of these years. All who remained faithful and true to Christ would be spared the terrible spiritual judgment that was about to be delivered on the old Jewish nation and on paganism of any kind. Each of the believers would (symbolically speaking!) be made:
a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
[Re 3:12, NIV]
That new name was the name Christian!
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars.
Before we examine this particular passage, let us prepare some background by looking at the intervening scriptures in general.
Once we move past the letters to the seven churches and into chapter four of the book of Revelation, we enter a realm of almost pure and undiluted symbols. John tells us that these visions are spiritual in nature, for everything he relates to us was given to him in that manner. In chapter 1:10, he says:
I was in the Spirit on the Lords day....
In chapters 6 and 7, we saw the representation of the martyrs who were humiliated by their persecutors and were then vindicated by the power of the Lord when he came against those who had murdered them. In chapters 8 and 9, we see a representation of that terrible Day of Christ, where the angel cries out in chapter 8:13
Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth .
[Re 8:13, NIV]
These inhabitants were the unbelieving Jews who were about to be destroyed. As before, the earth is the place and the people who are the subjects of the prophecy.
In chapter 9, Christ is pictured as having the key to the bottomless pit (verse 1), which meant that he had the power over the last, most important enemy, spiritual death. He is then pictured as releasing from the pit (that is: by his power) a swarm of locusts.
This symbol represents the pagan human power that God is using to interact with the physical human world and events. It stands for the Roman army, which was given the power to come against Gods former people:
that they should be tormented five months. their power was to hurt men five months.
[Re 9:5, NIV]
This was the actual period of time involved in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, from May through September of AD. 70. The Romans were, however, to harm:
...only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
[Re 9:4, NIV]
The Christians were not to be a part of the destructions. The Romans would not have power over them, for those who were in Judea had obeyed the warnings of Christ and fled that country, and the spiritual judgments that Jesus was bringing against the Jews and pagans would not apply to any of the Christians. It was, of course, the Christian believers who had the seal of God.
In chapter 9, verses 7-9, we have a symbolic picture of the Romans that is about as close to a literal description as John could come and stay within the format of symbols:
The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like womens hair, and their teeth were like lions teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle.
In verse 16, John describes the number of the army of the horsemen as (literally rendered) two myriads of myriads, which was simply symbolic of an overwhelming number of warriors. They would overwhelm the Jewish nation and lay siege to the capital city and overwhelm it as well. Even then, the fanatical Zealot Jews failed to see their error. They would not repent of their evils and apostasy, and John states:
Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.
[Re 9:21, NIV]
Now, it is in this setting and at this particular time that the next verse (our study verse) places the actual coming of Christ.
He is symbolized as a mighty angel coming down from heaven. This means he is Gods messenger, the Word of God, bringing judgment to the people involved. He is bringing that judgment from heaven, which means from the authority of God. He is also described as being robed in a cloud. This, as we have previously discussed, is always a symbol for the spiritual realm. This coming is one of a spiritual nature or form, represented physically in the use of the Roman army.
Inverses 6-7 of chapter 10, we see Christ as the Angel once again:
And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, There will be no more delay!...The mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants, the prophets.
This is the great coming of Jesus Christ in vengeance against his enemies and the enemies of his Bride, the Church. The prophets had prophesied of this event, and now it was to be fulfilled, finished, and completely accomplished. There would be no more delay. Anyone caught unprepared for this spiritual and physical event would be caught up in it and judged by it. For the former Jews, there was no more time for repenting, for the period of grace that God had granted them in hopes of their reconciliation had come to a sudden end, catching them unsuspecting just like a thief in the night.
REVELATION 16:14-15. verse 15:
Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.
Again, we see the simile of a thief used to describe the manner or effect of Christs coming. The same things apply to this passage as to all the others that use this expression. God would take by surprise the unfaithful who were not watching for the signs of the coming judgment.
The Christian is encouraged to stay awake and keep his clothes with him, which is a symbolic way of saying he should remain faithful, righteous, and pure. Earlier, the martyrs were pictured as wearing white robes because of their sacrifice and perfect faith. The faithful ones who were reading and heeding Johns prophecy would keep their spiritual clothing and not be naked and shamefully exposed like their unbelieving peers.
What were they watching and waiting for? Verse 14 tells us:
[The unclean spirits] go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.
[Re 16:14, NIV]
The whole world here are the nations involved in the prophecy, which in this case were the Jews and the Romans, and the kings are the rulers and authorities of those nations. They were soon (from Johns viewpoint in time) to be gathered to do battle in the war in Judea. That war and the physical and spiritual destructions and judgments of it is the event that is characterized as the Great Day of God Almighty, the Day of the Lord, the Day of Visitation, or any of the similar phrases that are used in New Testament prophecy.
In verse 16, John says that God gathered these kings together to do this battle into a place:
called in the Hebrew tongue: Armageddon.
This famous place name is another symbol within the panoply of symbols of the book. This name is derived from the mountain called Megiddo and, as a symbol, refers to the national battlefield of Israel. Megiddo was located at the plain of Esdraelon, where many famous and important battles of Jewish history were fought. In many of those battles, the Israelites were far outnumbered by their enemy and had no apparent chance to succeed, but, because God was with them, his supernatural aid gave them the victory. This happened, for instance, in Judges 4, where the relatively small array of Baraks men went up against the 900 iron chariots and the multitudes and host of the enemys army. Barak should have been completely subdued by such a force, but God gave the Jews the victory over their overpowering enemy.
This is the reason for the use of the symbol Armageddon here. The Christians were in a similar situation. An apparently overwhelming enemy the old Jewish nation was going to be taken out of the way by God himself. It was a spiritual battle between the Christians and the rest of the unbelieving world, and, although the Christians were few in number, they had God on their side and they would be victorious in that battle.
In verses 17-20, we see through the lens of symbols the war against Judea and Jerusalem taking place. In verse 18, after the angel has started this event by pouring out his bowl, we see: flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake.
[Re 16:18, NIV]
Many people who realize that Revelation is written in symbols still are tempted to make certain ones literal. This is not speaking of a literal earthquake. It was the shaking and rending of the Jewish nation that is symbolized by the earthquake. It was the most tremendous and powerful quake to occur on the earth. What earth? The earth is also a symbol, as we have seen before. It was the place and the people involved in the prophecy and here that place was Judea. It was the worst upheaval and destruction to ever occur to the Jewish nation. It completely and finally destroyed that nation. We can find an identical prophecy of this in the Old Testament, in Ezekiel 38:19-20
...surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel and all the
men that are upon the earth shall shake at my presence....
This was no physical ground tremor. This shaking was the shaking of peoples, nations, and societies by the presence and actions of God himself!
In Revelation 16:19, we see the final effect of this earthquake in the destructions of the unbelieving nation:
The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
The great city was Jerusalem. It was great because it was the center of the Jews religion and the former dwelling place of God. It was divided by the Romans and razed to the ground. The cities of the nations were the other cities and towns of Judea that were also conquered by the Roman army in the invasion. These are referred to as belonging to the nations because the Jews were no longer Gods people they were cast out of Gods kingdom and placed in the same category as the rest of Gentile or pagan humanity, which is often called the nations.
Babylon is used as a symbolic name for Jerusalem throughout the Revelation. It is so used because Jerusalem (and the nation represented by Jerusalem) had forsaken God and had become a spiritual prostitute by accepting immorality, secular and idolatrous influences, and earthly kings, and by rejecting their true spiritual spouse, Jesus Christ. God remembered Babylon, meaning that he was now going to impute the sins of these people and sentence them accordingly. He was going to give her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. This was the final event of the old Jewish nation, the destruction that was called the day of Gods visitation and the Day of the Lord. It was the coming of Christ.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
He which testifieth these things saith, surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
To conclude this portion of our study, we turn to the final chapters of the Bible. In chapters 21 and 22 of Revelation, John portrays in symbols a picture of the Kingdom of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, finally victorious over all its mortal enemies and perfectly complete for ever more. This beautiful passage speaks not of something far off in our future. It is not a picture of a heaven yet to be or a paradise reserved for some era after a destruction of the universe as we know it. In chapter 21:2, John sees the new Jerusalem coming down from God, prepared as a bride, and in verse 3, the voice from the throne of heaven says:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
[Re 21:3, NIV]
It was the passing away of the old order that relieved the Christians from the persecutions. This is symbolized in the use of the phrase no more death, mourning, crying, or pain. They would no longer (as a whole) be in mortal danger from the Jewish and pagan persecutions.
According to this passage, God will dwell with men and that dwelling would occur now at the time of the fulfillment of this part of the vision. If this passage is speaking of something yet in our future, then God is not dwelling with men now and no men are his people. We know, however, that John said in 1 John 4:12-13
if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
The new realm was a spiritual one. It began on the day of Pentecost and it was victorious over its enemies in AD. 70. In the first verse of Revelation, chapter 21, John sees:
a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away."
The first heaven and earth were the same as the former things of verse 4 that had all passed away. What was it? It was the former covenant that God had held with mankind, the old Law of Moses and the people who still followed it. It was replaced with the new heaven and earth: the new covenant of grace, which was Christianity.
The author of Hebrews knew this when he wrote in chapter 12:22-24
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant .
The Church is the Heavenly Jerusalem and it is the New Heaven and New Earth, and the New Covenant. We have it now. The Christians living when John wrote this had it then. It is the perfect spiritual or heavenly realm of God and it is eternal. It is filled with the spirits of righteous men (persons living a righteous life) who are made perfect or perfectly complete by the fact that their enemies were destroyed and God accepts them into his spiritual realm regardless of their former sins (former sins are not imputed to Christians). They are perfectly righteous and perfectly victorious.
In chapters 21:9 through 22:5, the angel carries John away in the spirit to show him a vision of the Bride, the Lambs wife...that great city, the holy Jerusalem. This passage is a symbolic picture of the victorious Church. There was no Temple within it because God and Christ are the temple of it (verse 22). The old physical Temple had, along with the other former things, passed away. As Christians, we have access to the pure river of water of life (chapter 22:1) and the tree of life (verse 2). We have eternal spiritual life right now (1 John 5:13).
The gates of this realm are never shut (chapter 21:25), for the Church is open to whosoever will. Those who enter it are members of Gods family, his children, and are joyful to stand before his throne and serve him with praise and with righteous lives (chapter 22:3-4). The last thing the angel shows John about the New Jerusalem is that the Christians within it will:
reign for ever and ever.
This is the fulfillment of Daniel 7:18
But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
This kingdom and this church or assembly of people under God and Christ cannot be moved or shaken (Hebrews 12:28) to make room for any other kingdom or covenant. This is the final one, the perfect and complete covenant and law for men to be accepted and loved by God, whosoever will. As the angel (who was Christ) told Daniel in chapter 7:27-28
And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter.
Once the saints had taken possession of the spiritual kingdom, and all the enemies had been subdued, then all the prophecies would have been fulfilled and that is the end of the story. There is nothing further to tell after this is accomplished. As the angel told Daniel, this was the END OF THE MATTER.
With the great and perfect spiritual kingdom of God in place and inhabited by the believers for ever, even for ever and ever, there is nothing else to say in inspired scripture nothing else that we need to know about Christianity and how to be saved and how to understand the nature of God and his realm. That realm is finished and complete and we are living within it now if we are faithful to Christ.
The verses in chapter 22 that we list here as our study verses are all included in the epilogue that follows the vision of the Bride or the Church In verses 6 and 7, the angel closes the visions to John:
And he said unto me, these sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things ;which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. (Re 22:6)
These things were the visions of the entire book of Revelation. They were not for some future time long after John wrote them down. They were things which must be done shortly. There can be no twisting or stretching or manipulating of these words without introducing a gross rationalization that destroys the meaning of inspired scripture. Christ says Behold, I come quickly. His coming was not to be for the far off ages, but quickly and they were to Behold! This is like saying, look out for this event, it is about to happen! John and the first generation of saints were waiting and watching for the signs of it as Jesus had prophesied.
This is why they would be blessed if they kept the prophecies of this book. They would be aware of the nature of the war events and they would escape them and, more importantly, by keeping themselves pure they would escape the spiritual judgment delivered to the unbelieving world.
In the last chapter of Daniel (chapter 12:9-13), he had just received a vision of the same events that John saw in his visions. Daniel did not understand these visions and in verse 8, he says:
I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, My lord, what will the outcome of all this be? He replied, Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
For Daniel, the events he saw in prophetic symbols were still hundreds of years off in his future. If these same events that John saw were still to be thousands of years off in his future, the angel would have told him the same thing dont worry about it John, these things are sealed up until the end times. In verses 10-12, however, the angel actually tells John this:
Then he told me, Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me....
This instruction is the complete opposite of the one to Daniel. The time was near or at hand. The things that were being prophesied were ready to happen within a very short time, indeed. Daniels prophetic visions were a mystery. Johns visions were a REVELATION!
Christ would come quickly and he would bring with him his reward, which was to judge men according to their works (that is, their works of righteousness and belief versus their works of unbelief and wickedness). The times for instruction and reconciliation were over. Christ told John to let everyone stay in their then present spiritual condition, whether evil or righteous. The end was coming was upon them and they would all be judged according to their own spiritual state.
In verse 20, Christ, speaking through John, says:
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. (Re 22:20)
The words soon, quickly, near, and at hand either mean what they say, or the Bible is a jungle of nuance and personal opinions that is impossible to accurately interpret. Many today believe that the latter situation is the case, especially with the Revelation. When we place the prophecies within their proper time frame and relate them to the proper events, however, everything falls into place and there is no mystery and no need for rationalizing away the time statements that place the visions within that living generation.
Christ said he was surely coming quickly. He did not mean in two thousand years, or three or four. He meant exactly what he said. He came in vengeance against the enemies of his Bride those who would have murdered Her. He came in judgment and he passed sentence on the persecutors and all unbelievers. He used the Roman army as a divine tool to accomplish the physical part of his judgment. He, along with the saints who made up his church, came against those enemies spiritually. He came to the believers who were looking for him at the time of each persons baptism, beginning on the day of Pentecost. He came to fulfill all the prophecies that had been spoken since the beginning of time.
He surely and assuredly came quickly.
This concludes our examination of every reference in the New Testament to a coming, appearing, or revealing of Jesus Christ other than his coming as a fleshly man born of Mary. There are no other references to a coming of Christ.
As we have seen, all of these references are concerned with either one or the other of two events that have occurred in the past: the spiritual return of Christ to the waiting Christians who were looking for him, or the spiritual coming of Christ and the Christians in vengeance against their enemies, primarily the persecuting Jewish nation, in spiritual judgment and in the physical events of the war in A.D. 67-70. This final coming event was the fulfillment of all the Biblical prophecies and the end of the old age of the Law of Moses.
Nowhere does the Bible speak of anything beyond that time of AD. 70, except to say that the Kingdom of Heaven would last for ever. It does not speak of the end of this planet; it speaks of its permanence. It does not speak of a Christ who is away and who must, therefore, return to us in the future; it speaks of Christ living in us and us in him.
There are many possible approaches for people to take to interpret the Scriptures, but only one interpretation can be accurate without making the inspired Word of God so diluted and enigmatic that it ceases to hold any clear meaning for anyone. Traditions of men aside, the cumulative scriptural and historical evidence speaks for itself on these matters to anyone who approaches this subject with an investigating and reasoning mind. Those who would look for these things to be fulfilled at some time yet future must deal with the many statements of immanency and the illogic of a God who is not present with his people.
Traditional beliefs that have been handed down from parent to child and from teacher to student are the most difficult to set aside, even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. For many, a true understanding of the prophecies of the New Testament and a true assessment of the nature and present condition of the Church requires just such a settingaside of traditional concepts. Contextually and historically, we must, after a careful examination, come to the conclusion that all of these things have been fulfilled just as Jesus stated that they would be. We must come to the unshakable conclusion that we Christians are an integral part of that host of saints who have taken the Kingdom
and shall possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. (Da 7:18)
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