Thursday, July 22, 2010

Past, Present or Future

The prophecies of the Second Coming are a major area of controversy. Everyone thought they had the First Coming figured out, and they were wrong. I suspect the Second Coming will turn out the same way. But I would like to look at the issues here.

We are told the Coming of Christ will be at a time no one knows (Matthew 24:36-51; Luke 12:35-48; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). But we are also told of recognizable events connected with that coming (Matthew 24:3-28; Luke 21:25-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4; Revelation 6:15-17). How are these reconciled?

I would suggest it is the Day of the Lord, a brief catastrophic period, which comes as a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2). Once it occurs, it will be obvious (Luke 17:22-24). Therefore, I take the various events connected with the Second Coming as literal judgments (see Revelation 8,9,16) to fit this. Also, taking them as symbolic and in the past leaves them open to interpretation and allows us to loosely predict the time of Christ's Coming. (This is also true of the symbolic interpretation of the letters to the churches in Revelation 2,3.)

Therefore, I see the "signs" given in Matthew 24:4-28 as mostly not being signs. The Lord Jesus is saying there will be wars, there will be disasters, there will be persecutions, but the end is not yet. In other words, do not jump at every war or earthquake, thinking that it is the time. But the first real sign is the coming of the Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15; this fits with 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4). One possible explanation is this is entirely a reference to the destruction of the Jewish temple by Titus. But in the contexts (Matthew 24:21-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-11), it is hard to make everything in these passages fit Titus. There is a tendency in Biblical prophecy to equate key events such as the rebuilding of the temple under Cyrus of Persia (Isaiah 45:1-7), the First Coming (Isaiah 53:1-12), and the Second Coming (Isaiah 60:1-22). In the same way, I see an equation between the defiling of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 8:21-26), the destruction of the temple by Titus (Daniel 9:26), and some as yet future event (Matthew 24:15). (Whether this last refers to a literal Jewish temple or the church or something else is beyond the scope of this post.) While it is tempting to identify this with some known person or institution (the Roman Catholic Church, theological liberalism, various individuals), the implication is that when this happens it will be clear. Scripture says that many Antichrists have gone out into the world (1 John 2:18), but we should not too quickly conclude any one is the last one. My main point in this post is not to press my particular view but to urge caution in jumping to conclusions in this area. Too many people have done this, only to be embarrassed later.

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