When will Jesus return?

Rev. Willem Glashouwer Monday 16 August 2010 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

The inhabitants of Jerusalem were filled with great anticipation.How triumphantly Israel had cried out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” Great crowds preceded and followed Him, waving palm branches and casting their garments on the road.

And as He came riding on a donkey, He fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, who had said, “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech 9:9b; see also Matt. 21:1-11).

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see Me again until you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39, emphasis added).

Jesus, Son of David—in More Ways Than One

It is clear that everyone knew that Jesus was of the lineage of King David, because on various occasions people addressed Him as “Son of David.” Even the blind beggar near Jericho called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38b). But they probably did not realize that He was the Son of David through two lines. One was the line of His mother, Mary; the other was the line of His adoptive father, Joseph. The one line descended directly from Solomon (see Matt. 1:7), who ascended the throne after His father David, while the other line came through Nathan (see Luke 3:31), one of David’s other sons (see 1 Chron. 3:5;14:4), perhaps the eldest, who might have had a strong claim to the throne had not God’s choice been otherwise (see 2 Sam. 12:24; 1 Kings 1:28-31; 2:1-4). The name of Nathan, David’s son, appears in the lineage of Mary, and that of Solomon in the lineage of Joseph.

The line of Coniah cut off

But one member of Joseph’s line was Coniah, of whom Jeremiah prophesied: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah” (Jer. 22:30). Because God’s Word can be trusted, it is clear that none of Coniah’s descendants would ever sit on David’s throne again, even though they could trace their ancestry to Solomon. So, though the Jewish people might have considered that Jesus had a legal right to the throne of His father David, through His adoptive father, Joseph, that line had actually been blocked by the words of Jeremiah. Jesus could not have been the biological son of Joseph; if He had been, that would have blocked His access to the throne of David. But yet, through Mary, He still had access to the throne as a descendant of Nathan!

Jesus the spotless Lamb

There are, of course, other reasons why Jesus could not have been a natural child of Joseph. At the beginning, at creation, had not the Lord said that from the seed of the woman the Savior would be born to crush the head of the serpent? (see Gen. 3:15). Also, did not the prophet Isaiah prophesy that a virgin would conceive and bear a son who would be called Emmanuel, God with us? (see Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). It was necessary for Jesus to stand outside the line of sin of Adam, which would have come to Him through the seed of Joseph had He been a natural, biological son of Joseph. Jesus had to be without sin Himself (see Rom. 5:12-14; Heb. 4:15; 9:14) in order to be the spotless Lamb who would take the sins of the world upon Himself (see John 1:19,36). Moreover, in order to sit on the throne of His father David and to rule over Jacob with a Kingdom that would have no end (see Luke 1:32-33), which is what the angel Gabriel promised to Mary, He had to be outside of Joseph’s biological lineage, because of Coniah. Yet, even when the miracle of the virgin birth was unknown to His fellow Jews, He still had every legal right to the throne of His father David through His supposed father, Joseph.

The Crowds Will Cheer Again in Jerusalem

Matthew tells us that the crowd who accompanied Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (an animal of peace) and not on a horse (then considered an animal of war) were shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matt. 21:9b). In Luke, the cry was, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38a). Luke also reports that “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes’” (Luke 19:41-42). And when something is hidden, one simply cannot see it.

Jesus looked far past the cheering crowd surrounding Him and declared,

“The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:43-44).

Jesus knew that this entrance into Jerusalem was the way to the cross, not the way to the throne of His father David. He knew that He would freely give His life (see John 10:17-18), so that as the Prince of Peace He would establish true peace between God and men by removing the stumbling block of sin. He knew this had to happen first, before He could usher in the Kingdom. And He also knew that one day in the future the crowds in Jerusalem would once again shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Fall and restoration of Jerusalem

In His mind’s eye, He saw first the cross, then the resurrection and the ascension, then the terrible fall of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in AD 70 by the Roman legions. Then He saw the nearly two thousand years, when the Jews would be scattered all over the world, and then, later, …the city of Jerusalem again, a Jewish State once more, and another triumphant entry, when yet again there would be the shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

He had said, “You shall not see Me again.” But He did not say, “From now on you shall never see Me again.” Indeed, Israel will not see Him again until they greet Him as the great Son of David who shall ascend the throne of His father David in Jerusalem: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39b). One day He shall reign in the midst of Jacob, just as the angel Gabriel had announced.

This will not be a spiritual, heavenly reign. David’s throne stood in Jerusalem. Since His ascension, Jesus has had all power/authority in Heaven and on earth, and He sits with His Father, the eternal God, on His throne (see Matt. 28:18-20; Rev. 3:21; 4:2-3; 5:6-7). But when He returns, He will sit on the throne of His father David in Jerusalem (see Ps. 89:27- 29,36-37; 2 Sam. 7:12-16).

There will be a short period of darkness all over the world, and then that time will arrive. The stage is presently being set in the Middle East with a reestablished Jerusalem in a reestablished Israel and a reestablished Jewish people, surrounded by a new “Roman” empire and all the Old Testament enemies in the Arab countries. The miracle of the national rebirth of these enemies is as great as that of Israel. Jesus had said, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees” (Luke 21:29b). The whole forest is back in place in the form of Israel and its surrounding hostile countries. We are awaiting the arrival of the main Actor on the world stage who will bring this terrible phase of world history to a happy ending—happy for Israel as He comes to give her rest, and happy for us who will rest along with Israel, although in a different way.

Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus came from Bethany on the Mount of Olives (see Matt. 21:2) to the city and that Zechariah saw Him returning to the Mount of Olives (see Zech. 14:3-4) and from there entering the city? Ezekiel, too, saw God’s glory returning to the temple, entering from the east (see Ezek. 10; 11:22-23; 43:1-7).

The Abomination of Desolation

After Jesus had uttered His prophecies about the future of Jerusalem, He left the temple. It says, significantly (see Matt. 24:1), that He would not be returning to it, for everything that the temple represents was present in Him, in His body. And that temple was to be destroyed and… rebuilt in three days! (see John 2:13-22; Matt. 26:61; 27–40; Mark 14:58; 15:29). On the third day, He would rise from the dead.

Jesus loved the temple in Jerusalem. Now, with His disciples, He left His beloved temple and went to the Mount of Olives, with its wonderful view of the whole city and especially of the beautiful buildings of the temple. When the disciples proudly pointed out the temple complex that Herod had magnificently restored, Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2b). This prophecy was fulfilled with horrible accuracy by the Romans 40 years later, in AD 70.

Luke records that Jesus said:

“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers [because they cannot flee quickly]! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations” (Luke 21:20-24a).

After the uprising under Bar Kochba in AD 135, Jerusalem was again taken by the Romans, razed to the ground, and reestablished as a Roman city, Aelia Capitolina, with entry forbidden to Jews. “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until [again “until,”] the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). “Look, your house is left to you desolate,” He had said, “until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:38-39b).

Even before His death and resurrection (it was still two days before Passover, when He would be handed over to be crucified—see Matt. 26:1-2), while sitting on the Mount of Olives, Jesus prophesied His return. After centuries of “signs” (compare, for example, Matthew 24:3-14 with Revelation 6), He saw Jerusalem surrounded again. He foresaw the “abomination of desolation,” standing in the holy place (a rebuilt temple, or the two mosques that are standing there right now?), as prophesied by Daniel the prophet. And again, He advised the Jews in that future to flee. “Pray that your flight will not take place in winter [on account of bad weather] or on the Sabbath [because all traffic in Israel is at a standstill]. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Matt. 24:20-21; see also verses 15-19).

These things were not totally fulfilled when Jerusalem was captured by the Roman Legions in AD 70. There was no “abomination of desolation” in the temple then, and no defilement comparable with that of Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BC when this Hellenistic ruler forbade the Jews to practice circumcision or keep the Sabbath. This Greek-Syrian usurper placed a statue of the Greek god Zeus (Jupiter) in the temple and offered sacrifices of swine (the most unclean animal of all animals for Jews, according to the law of Moses). His actions led directly to the Maccabean revolt, and Jewish victory! After that, the Jews cleansed the temple and purified it in order to restore the service to the one true God. Still today, the Jews celebrate Chanukah to remember this victory and the rededication of the temple.

Jesus foresaw a similar kind of abomination in the endtimes, when Jerusalem would again be a city and the capital of a Jewish State of Israel.

When Will He Come?

People have always asked this question. Nobody knows the answer, not even the angels, not even the Son (see Matt. 24:36). Only the Father knows the moment when He will say to His Son, “Now You must return to earth to fulfill all the promises I have made about the Kingdom that would come.” Hence, we must be prepared every day. Never trust anyone who answers with all kinds of calculations or impressive schemes or schedules as if he has been consulting a train timetable. The Bible is not a jigsaw puzzle of which people can debate how the pieces should fit together. If the Lord would have wanted us to know the order of events, He would have provided that information in the Scriptures. But He did not. The only order of events that I know of in the Bible is found in Matthew chapter 24, the great discourse of Jesus Himself about the future.

Even the disciples, sitting on the Mount of Olives, asked Jesus when He would return, but Jesus did not give them a direct answer. What He did say to them (and to us) is, “Watch out that no one deceives you” (Matt. 24:4). First, there will be false christs, false prophets, wars, famines, hatred, lawlessness, plagues, earthquakes, a lack of love, the fall of Jerusalem, and a worldwide dispersion of the Jews.

But there will be also two positive signs: the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world, as a testimony to all nations (that is, to the whole non-Jewish, Gentile world—see Matt. 24:14); and there will be the return of the Jews to the land of Israel, the restoration of the fig tree with new leaves and new life (see Luke 21:29-31). Both signs are being fulfilled in our days. Jesus says: Then the Kingdom of God is near. Then the end will come. Jerusalem will be on the world scene again, and there will be an “abomination of desolation” in the holy place and such oppression as has never been seen before. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened; otherwise, no one would survive.

Are You Ready for His Coming?

The signs of the times indicate that His coming is rapidly approaching; the Jews are being reestablished in their own land; and Jerusalem and many other ruined cities in Israel are being rebuilt. But He might come for you at any time that He gives orders to His angels to bring you to Him. At any moment, He may take you to Himself. Then you will see Him, just as He is! (see 1 John 3:2). Whoever worships Him now, who kneels before His cross, and receives Him as his or her personal Savior and Lord, and confesses all sins, will receive cleansing through His shed blood and will know, “I too belong to Him. He is my Lord and Savior! Heaven is my home! And when He comes, I will be forever with Him and I will participate in His future that will last for all eternity.”

Adapted from ‘Why Israel’, chapter 5: The first “until” – until the Son of David Comes.

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