Bibliano and Amigo: Discussions on Eschatology (Lesson #1, Coming on Clouds)

“They will see the Son of Man Coming on clouds of heaven with power and great glory… Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:30, 34)

AMIGO: The Second Coming! Now that will be a glorious day.

BIBLIANO: What if I told you that the “Second Coming” already happened?

AMIGO: I’d say you were completely nuts. (Under his breath: And I would unfriend you on Facebook.)

BIBLIANO: Well, let me ask you a question. This text certainly seems to say that Jesus taught that He would return in his own generation. Right?

AMIGO: Well, “this generation” must mean “race.” So, that could mean thousands of years later.

BIBLIANO: My good friend, “race” is a different word in the Greek. The word genea is used in this passage, while genos (race) is not. The New Testament is perfectly clear. Every time the phrase “this generation” (genea) is found it means the generation of people living in the first century. Just look up these passages: Matthew 11:16; 12:38-45; 23:29-39; Luke 17:25 as examples. You can’t miss it.

AMIGO: Whoa. That’s not what the TV rapture preachers teach.

BIBLIANO: Maybe we should stick with Jesus over those modern false prophets.

AMIGO: Oh, don’t tell me that David Jeremiah, Benny Hinn, and Hal Lindsey could all be wrong!

BIBLIANO: The point is whether Jesus was wrong. Either H was wrong—or people have misunderstood what our Lord meant by his Parousia, i.e. his “Second Coming.” I believe it is the latter. Jesus was saying that He would come IN JUDGMENT against Old Covenant Israel, just like YHWH came numerous times in the Old Testament.

AMIGO: Actually, Bib, I’m perfectly happy believing the world is about to end. But if Jesus’ credibility is at stake, I better figure this out. Tell me more.

BIBLIANO: Let’s just consider some other passages. When do you think that Matthew 10:23 was fulfilled?

AMIGO: Well, to tell you the truth, I have pretty much ignored that passage because it seems to say that Jesus would return while some of his disciples were still alive. I just don’t know how to deal with that.

BIBLIANO: There is some two dozen passages that also teach the imminent return of Jesus, including Matthew 26:64; Hebrews 10:37; Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6-20; etc. We can’t just put our head in the sand and be true to Scripture. Just picking another passasge, when do you think that Matthew 16:27-28 was fulfilled?

AMIGO: Wow, I admit that it sounds a lot like Matthew 10:23—Jesus returning while some of those living in the first century were still alive. But perhaps it was talking about the Transfiguration or about Pentecost.

BIBLIANO: My friend, there are several reasons why it could not be either of those. For example, Matthew 16:27-28 is about judgment, and there was no judgment at either the Transfiguration or Pentecost. This text is consistent with Matthew 10:23, where the context is also about judgment (verse 15).

AMIGO: What judgment could have occurred while some of those living in the first century were still alive?

BIBLIANO: Well, Jesus told the Jews of his day that He would judge THEM for their apostate condition and refusal to accept Him as the Messiah. Just consider Matthew 21:33-46; 22:1-14; 23:29-39, 24:1-8, where Jesus warned the Jews that He would take the kingdom away from them, burn their city, destroy their temple, and give the kingdom to another group. This all happened in AD 70, when the Lord used the Roman army to destroy Jerusalem and the temple.

AMIGO: But what about the clouds?

BIBLIANO: In the Old Testament, CLOUDS are used symbolically to portray God’s presence, judgment, or proclamation. People did not see God literally, but saw what He did or perceived his presence in other ways. Consider the following passage excerpts, where clouds FIGURATIVELY represent God’s judgment on groups of people: “He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick CLOUDS dark with water. . . . and the foundations of the world were laid bare.” (Psalm 18:4-15, judgment against David’s enemies) “Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them. Behold he comes up like CLOUDS . . . .” (Jeremiah 4:5-31, judgment against Judah) “And the Lord is riding on a swift CLOUD and comes to Egypt, and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence. . . .” (Isaiah 19:1-15, judgment against Egypt)

AMIGO: I’ve been a Christian all my life and NOBODY ever pointed out these passages to me.

BIBLIANO: There are lots more passages in the Old Testament we could consider. But, let me just ask you about another New Testament passage: When do you think Matthew 26:64 was fulfilled?

AMIGO: Good grief. I honestly never noticed this before either, or at least I refused to see it. Jesus was telling the Jews that THEY THEMSELVES would see Him coming on clouds of heaven.

BIBLIANO: I have good news for you. Jesus was not a false prophet. He came in the manner and time that He predicted.

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