At this point in the orientation process I feel it is necessary to include some additional thoughts and details to the important issue of why Christ came the first time. Why did God become man and dwell among us? That sounds like an interesting Christmas theme! Understanding why Christ came the first time will provide an important perspective as we study the second coming. Certainly there are numerous reasons to offer as to why Christ came, such as to redeem us and secure our so-great salvation. But I have something specific in mind, and the development of this thought begins in Gen. 1:27-28:
vs. 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
vs. 28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NASB)
What is a major command given to mankind as presented in the second half of verse 28? Man is to rule. What happened latter on in Genesis 3 that jeopardized man’s authority to rule over God’s creation? Man disobeyed God and forfeited that right and authority to rule over creation. Who usurped this authority from man, proclaiming himself as the new ruler? The answer is, Satan.
To document this we turn to Matthew 4 which records the temptation of the Christ by Satan. Verses 8 and 9 reveal at the time this event takes place Satan claims rulership of planet earth. My point is this: the Hebrew of the Old Testament paints the picture of the coming Messiah–what He would be like and what He would accomplish on behalf of mankind. It also has a great deal to say about how grand it will be when Messiah rules in, and through, His Kingdom here on earth. The Greek of the New Testament confirms the fulfillment of God’s promises to redeem mankind from the slave market of sin and from bondage to Satan. It also contributes much information as to how the “title” of the earth is restored back to God and the “authority” to rule over the world is reclaimed by the Father and the God-man, Jesus Christ! Let’s turn to Revelation and read a couple passages.
Rev. 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” (NASB)
Rev. 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
vs. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.
vs. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (NASB)
The point of the two passages is, there will be a literal, physical, coming Kingdom of Christ on earth, and certain believers are going to reign with Him. There is a spiritual kingdom on earth in existence right now, but that is a different, although related subject. Many New Testament passages discuss kingdom issues, but it is often difficult to distinguish which kingdom is presented in a given passage of scripture. Now let’s check out Matthew 13. The background for chapter 13 is chapter 12. In chapter 12 our Lord had received criticism from the Scribes and Pharisees and He rebukes them for their complete lack of faith and insight. But there were multitudes of people that wanted to hear what Jesus had to say and they considered His words.
Matt. 13:1 On that day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea.
vs. 2 And great multitudes gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole multitude was standing on the beach.
vs. 3a And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,… (NASB)
Jesus is going to speak to the multitudes using at least 7 parables in this chapter. It would be good if you read the entire chapter yourself now, but I shall provide verses of special note.
vs. 11 And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”
vs. 24 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
vs. 31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.”
vs. 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field.”
vs. 47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind;”
vs. 52 And He said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old.” (NASB)
Were you able to pick up on the major theme? If you answered “The kingdom of heaven”, you are right! The important issue is the multitudes had the earthly kingdom rule of Messiah on their minds, and a big reason for this was because our Lord seemed to be pressing this issue in much of what He said. Consider the Lord’s Prayer (or, Disciple’s Prayer) of Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4. The Lord teaches us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” Even the 12 disciples had the “fever” about the coming kingdom. In the gospels we read about their questions…and their disputes.
Matt. 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Matt. 20:20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.
vs. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left.” (NASB)
In Luke chapter 20 it is recorded that at the Last Supper a dispute arose among the disciples as to who should be regarded as the greatest, apparently in connection to hopes of obtaining a premier position in the coming kingdom. Finally, even after the resurrection, one of the issues they were eager to know about is recorded in Acts chapter 1. “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?”
What’s my point to all this? Throughout the Old Testament period, during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, and even subsequently after His ascension into heaven, the scriptures often speak of the Messianic kingdom. God will reclaim His right of rulership over the earth, demonstrated by His future, literal, physical reign during the millennial kingdom. It is a major biblical theme and it was on the minds of the Jews of our Lord’s Day. But before this kingdom rulership is initiated, the specifically-stated purposes for the Divine discipline of the Israelites listed in Daniel 9:24 must be completed.
Yet, referring back prior to the crucifixion, our Lord emphasized the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes it was referred to as the kingdom of God, usually depending on the intended audience of the gospel writer. If it was a Jewish audience, heaven may have been used, lest in mentioning God’s name the Jews be accused of using His name in vain, thus violating the First Commandment. If the audience was gentile, the phrase kingdom of God could have been used to make clear whom the kingdom centered around, who the sovereign on the throne was, reigning over the kingdom. Continuing with orientation, let’s pick up the story in Matthew.
vs. 17 And as Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them,
vs. 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,
vs. 19 and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” (NASB)
It must have been perplexing for the disciples to figure out what our Lord was plainly telling them. My opinion is they had a fairly shallow understanding of the magnitude of what the Lord said. Try to catch the drama that’s unfolding as they leave to go to Jerusalem.
vs. 1 And when they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
vs. 2 “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them, and bring them to Me.
vs. 3 “And if anyone says something to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
vs. 4 Now this took place that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying,
vs. 5 “SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.” (NASB)
Here they are, just outside the city getting ready for what most people refer to as “the triumphal entry” on what we call “Palm Sunday”. In fulfillment of prophecy Jesus is going to arrive on a donkey. As they enter the city the multitude that has been accompanying Jesus all day long start shouting and cheering and crying out!
Matt. 21:9 And the multitude going before Him and those who followed after were crying out, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” (NASB)
“Hosanna” means “save (or, deliver) now, we beseech Thee!” According to Vine’s Dictionary it originally was most likely a prayer, but apparently became an actual praise later on, such as in this context as well as others. The people, the multitude, were SAYING all the right things. “Hosanna to the Son of David” and “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD” were phrases that applied to the Messiah as revealed in the Old Testament scriptures. But now read the next two verses.
Matt. 21:10 And when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”
vs. 11 And the multitudes were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (NASB)
Look at what is said. Jesus and the procession with him enter Jerusalem and all the city dwellers want to know what the hubbub is all about. They must have figured that some dignitary had come to town without prior notice and maybe they were a little embarrassed that they hadn’t properly prepared to meet him. Naturally they ask, “Who IS this?” Now notice the incredulous response to this question by the multitude: “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” The PROPHET, Jesus from NAZARETH? Why didn’t they tell the people of Jerusalem that this was Messiah the Prince? Why didn’t they say, “Behold, the King of Israel!” Why didn’t they say, “This is the Anointed One, the Redeemer, the Most Holy One, Immanuel, The Prince of Peace, the Son of the Most High God! This is HE that was spoken of in the scrolls of the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms!”? It seems to me that the Israelites missed it–they missed the arrival of Messiah the Prince, their Deliverer! And, it could be I am just being a bit over-sensitive. Sure, Jesus was a prophet. But He was so much MORE. Okay, He was from Nazareth. But He came from HEAVEN.
My feeling is, perhaps on that momentous day hopes were high, but faith was shallow. The people knew what they wanted, but did not expect what they were offered. The majority of Jews were anxious for deliverance. Off and on they had been in bondage to gentile nations for centuries. During that time it happened to be the Romans who were calling the shots. The problem was they were only looking for physical deliverance from oppressive authority, while ignoring the fact they desperately needed spiritual deliverance from their bondage to the sin nature and Satan. God’s plan usually requires that spiritual deliverance must precede physical deliverance. The sad fact seems to indicate the pride and arrogance of most of the religious leaders caused such acute spiritual blindness and hardening of the heart that they missed the truth when the Truth stood in their midst, with the additional repercussion of misleading the people who trusted them to impart the Word of God. It became a case of the blind leading the blind. These people were not looking for the meek, gentle and lowly Jesus to deliver their souls from damnation, riding into town on a donkey. They were looking for a guy like Hercules, riding into town in a splashy chariot with a team of white horses, having invincible power, ready to crush the Roman authorities, avenging the humiliation endured by the Jews, throwing off Roman domination, rule and oppression, and thus elevating the nation of Israel to the position of world prominence and prestige they thought they so richly deserved.
But to refer to the Christ as just a prophet? And a prophet from Nazareth at that! I’m reminded of Nathanael’s response after being told by Philip the Christ is here! “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” he asked. Another issue comes to mind. Where do we find in scripture any account of any prophet arriving in any town calling so much attention to himself? I can’t think of any. It’s just my opinion, and I’m sure you get my point.
Getting back to the unfolding of events in the passages we are looking at in Matthew’s account, the whole city is now swollen with people as Jews from all over the Roman Empire have come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover week. This was the biggest holiday season of the year for Jews and Jerusalem. Our Lord makes His way to the temple to see if there is even a shred of evidence of anything remotely related to repentance and grief over the present spiritual condition of the Jewish nation. Once again, the religious leaders of the day demonstrate that for them, it was all about the shekel. He then leaves after receiving more insults, coming back the next day. The religious leaders team up– not to ask Him to open their eyes to the truth of the scriptures but to try and trip Him up in a question/answer game. The Lord utterly confounds them, then gives them the rebuke of their lives, culminating the day’s encounter with His famous “Lament over Jerusalem”.
vs. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
vs. 38 “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!
vs. 39 “For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” (NASB)
There are three points I would like to bring out from this passage, the first being from verse 37. I see Jesus lamenting over the potential that went unfulfilled. I believe He had a genuine sorrow that He was being rejected and actually disdained by the majority within the nation of Israel, as keenly evidenced by the rejection within the community of religious leaders especially. Understand, they had chosen by their own free will, their volition, a path that led to spiritual blindness. We see the consequence of that choice in verse 38. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!”
My second point involves Ezekiel’s record of his vision of the departure of the Shekinah Glory of God from the temple in Jerusalem, in Ezekiel chapter 10, never to return until it returned in the Person of Jesus Christ. Because of rebellion and rejection by the Jews, the Glory of God was, once again, going to depart from them. I feel the word “house” as used here has two meanings. It can refer to the Jewish nation, as in the term, “house of Israel”, and secondly, to the temple, as in, the “house of the Lord”, the center of Jewish worship and service.
My third point involves Matthew 23:39. When I first took a closer look at this verse as I was searching the scriptures for the accurate truth, I thought to myself–what an odd thing for Christ to say. I mean, two days prior there were multitudes of people shouting “HOSANNA! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” They made a big procession as they came into the city, what with laying their garments and all those palm branches in the road for the donkey to travel on. It seemed to me like they did a fine job–with what they had to work with and the lack of preparation time and all. Well, there are at least two reasons He says this. One, most of the people He is confronting here in this rebuke were not involved with the “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem. The other, mentioned already, was most of the people were looking for someone to provide physical deliverance and were not that interested in the spiritual deliverance that must precede it. They hadn’t accomplished the very first item on the list of Daniel 9:24. They had not yet made “an end to sin.” They were still steeped in hypocrisy. Jesus knew that, as Messiah, He was about to be “cut off, and have nothing.” But He also knew He would be returning, and at that future time, the Israelites would be shouting in true belief, “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!”
Between the day the Lord uttered these words and the day of His second coming there will be a large time gap with numerous events taking place. This encounter constitutes His final words to the Jewish authorities (and the multitudes as well) until after the resurrection. Having concluded His poignant rebuke He exits the temple. I picture Him as pretty peeved or mighty miffed–about the same as when He overturned the tables of the money changers who were robbing the people by overcharging them. He wasn’t displaying His gentle side at this point. And guess who shows up to meet Him, all starry-eyed and excited? As we read on through this account, coming now to chapter 24, we see that it is some of the Twelve. You can guess what’s on their minds! I envision the reunion going something like this: “Master, look at these temple buildings! Won’t it be so cool to rule over the nations of the world from these headquarters! Won’t it be great when You establish Your throne here in Jerusalem and Your long awaited Kingdom begins as You reign over all creation, heh, heh, heh!” Of course the implication was they, as the Lord’s “right hand men”, would be reigning along with Him. I am reminded of the dispute that followed, regarding who among them was the greatest, recorded in Luke’s gospel, chapter 22. The religious leaders didn’t “get it.” They refused to. They turned their backs to the Lord’s teachings, the miracles performed and the prophecies–which now included a most obvious one; “BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU…” Most of the Jews of that day didn’t get it. The Lord’s chosen disciples it seems, still hadn’t gotten it. I picture the Lord with the same piercing stare and ice cold voice He had when rebuking the religious crowd inside the temple, answering the apostles as recorded in Matt. 24,
vs. 2 “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (NASB)
My guess is it was one long and quiet walk out of the gates of Jerusalem, down the Kidron Valley and up the other side to the Mount of Olives. Unlike the religious leaders of the day, the apostles wanted to “get it.” Perhaps now they began to realize the Lord is going away and they weren’t sure what they were supposed to do in the meantime. Now, here they are on the Mount of Olives, with three burning questions…and maybe a more somber attitude. What Matthew records for us in chapters 24 and 25 is one of the most extensive teaching lessons given by our Lord in all the gospels. It is commonly referred to as…the Olivet Discourse.
Recall that I stated this work to be somewhat of a journal of my personal studies. I now feel sufficient effort has been made in establishing the context essential for continuing our journey to “discover” the truth of God’s Word together. I will continue to insist on establishing the context of each step along the way so we avoid prominent pitfalls of errors of interpretation, causing so many differences of theological persuasion regarding this pivotal subject–the Second Coming of Christ. At this point orientation class is complete. I ask that you now take your Bible and read the whole chapter of Matthew 24. And don’t rush through it; give it a chance to sink in a little. Then we’ll be ready to really dig in as we journey through the rest of the study, beginning with the next chapter. Are you still “onboard”? The best “treasures” to be discovered are just ahead.