Welcome back to part seven of our series on the “Coming of the Son of Man” according to Jesus. As we move further along in this series I want to remind you that we have seen from what Jesus has said up until this point in His discussion with His disciples that He wasn’t trying to tell them about His second coming, the end of all things, and the final consummation of the ages for all time. Instead, He was simply using the same kind of familiar, Old Testament language and phrasing that was repeatedly used for thousands of years to describe the “Coming of the Lord” in spiritual judgment … NOT a physical appearance.
So when we examine all of this in its proper context, we see that Jesus is simply telling His 1st Century Disciples, “I am the One who descended from the very abode of God; and I am the ONLY ONE who can explain Him. I am the one Ezekiel saw sitting on the throne. I am the one whom Daniel saw ascending in glory and dominion before the Ancient of Days. I am the One that John saw on the island of Patmos whose eyes are like a flame of fire and whose face shines like the sun, and whose voice is like the sound of many waters. And when the Pharisees questioned me themselves in John chapter eight saying, ‘…whom do You make Yourself out to be?’ This is why I told them, ‘Before Abraham was born, I AM!’”
And later on in His earthly ministry, when Jesus looks directly into the face of the high priest, right before He is delivered up to be crucified, this is why He prophetically tells him in Matthew 26:64, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter YOU will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
And that blistering excoriation wasn’t lost on the High Priest; because he completely understood what Jesus was saying, which is precisely why he responded by shouting, “Blasphemy!” and then tore his robes. He knew exactly what Jesus was claiming to be and sadly, within his very lifetime He was unwilling to repent and therefore consequently saw the judgment of the Son of Man come against his city, his temple, and his own life.
So again, the coming of the Son of Man was going to be a first century event that the High Priest was going to see and experience in HIS lifetime. But so were the disciples.
And this is why Jesus had already previously told them in Matthew 16:28, “28Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
And those weren’t the only times Jesus made those kinds of declarations because He said the same kind of thing on many different occasions all throughout the gospel accounts:
Matthew 10:23, “But whenever they persecute YOU in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, YOU will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.”
And in Mark 13:26 Jesus told the people living in the first century they would, “… see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
And in Mark 9:1 He told them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”
And Luke records it this way in Luke 9:27, “But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
And stop right now and remind yourself of the incredible story that comes to us out of the book of John that from John 21:18-23. Sadly, this particular section of scripture is so often ignored or it is woefully misinterpreted; but when you examine it at face value, and just read it in its most plain and obvious sense, then it is found to be commensurate with everything else we’ve read in the gospel accounts and it makes perfect sense with everything else that Jesus has said and prophetically declared.
And remember, this story is Jesus having a private conversation with Peter after His resurrection and they had just finished eating breakfast together. In that conversation He tells Peter, “Truly I say to YOU…” And He also says, “[What] if I want [John] to remain until I come, what is that to you?”
In other words, Jesus wasn’t saying John the Apostle would live until the end of world and the return of His second coming at the final consummation of the ages …… that would be IMPOSSIBLE! He was simply saying that John would live until Jesus’ spiritual coming arrived in judgment against the nation of Israel …… and lo and behold, that is PRECISELY what happened; John DID live that long!! Again, Jesus was not a false prophet!
John actually lived long enough to see the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the nation of Israel as a whole. In fact, according to tradition, he was the only disciple who didn’t suffer a martyr’s death.
And Peter WAS martyred by being crucified upside down at the hands of a maniacal, Roman beast named Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; so that part of Jesus’ prophecy also came true.
Incidentally, this is why John records in Revelation 1:7, “7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.”
So how anybody can miss this, quite frankly, is beyond me. Which is why John made sure to provide the clear, literary explanation by stating categorically, “…yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?’”
All of this means that receiving a letter and encouraging admonition from someone like James, the half brother of Jesus, would carry such weight and impact upon the early believers. It’s why he told them in James 5:7-8 to, “7…be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”
So clearly, all of these statements by Jesus to His disciples, to Peter and John privately, to John during his vision on the island of Patmos, and to the high priest, can ONLY have a first century fulfillment. There’s just no other logical explanation when we read all of these passages in their most plain and obvious sense.
Indeed, the metaphorical and apocalyptic “Coming of the Son of Man” was fulfilled just as Jesus said it would be … IN THE FIRST CENTURY.
Let’s move on and stop and read from Matthew 24:29-30, Mark 13:24-26, and Luke 21:25-28.
So the first thing we should do is slow down and properly digest what Jesus is saying in these passages. He says, “…immediately after the tribulation of those days.”
So let’s break this down very carefully. He says immediately …… IMMEDIATELY. It might be a dumb question, but what does immediately mean? Well, just for the sake of discussion, I looked it up in the dictionary. It means: Without lapse of time; without delay; instantly; at once. Which is why Jesus used the Greek word: eutheos (you-thay-ose) when He made this statement because it means: Straightway, immediately, forthwith. In fact, here’s how eutheos is used in just a couple of other passages in Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 4;20, “18Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ 20 (eutheo) Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”
Matthew 8:3, “Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And (eutheo) immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
So what all of this clearly shows us is that when Jesus says immediately, He means immediately. He doesn’t mean ten years later, a hundred years later, or even the absurd THOUSANDS of years later that many say He does! He means IMMEDIATELY.
So IMMEDIATELY after what? After the “tribulation” of THOSE DAYS. Not OUR days … THOSE days. Well we just saw last week back in part six, how the word “tribulation” was previously used by Jesus in verse 21 when He says, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.”
And I told you that the Greek word thlipsis which is translated into the English as tribulation is used 43 times in the New Testament. And the most revealing usage of that word comes to us from Rev 1:9 where the Apostle John says to the 1st Century believers all over the Roman Empire, “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation (thlipsis) and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.”
He says, “I John … fellow partaker IN THE TRIBULATION!” This is John the Apostle, a man living right there in 1st Century Rome, declaring to the early church that HE is a fellow partaker, along with ALL THE OTHER BELIEVERS, in the tribulation.
In other words, it’s already going on! And he’s saying, “I’m suffering because of it just like you are. We’re in this together! We’re experiencing the persecution, the sacrifice, the loss, the hardship, and the tribulation that Jesus said we would!”
So Jesus is saying that IMMEDIATELY after that tribulation…the tribulation of the first century…the tribulation of THOSE DAYS; something further was going to occur. And what is it that is going to occur …… some “Heavenly Horrors.” What do I mean by heavenly horrors? Well, Jesus uses some apocalyptic, symbolic, and even hyperbolic language that should be familiar to ANYONE who has taken the time to sagaciously read the Old Testament more than just once.
He says, “…the Sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
And sadly, just as soon as the average Christian reads those statements, they throw away their cognitive reasoning, they forget about all of the 28 verses spoken by Jesus before this, and they immediately begin thinking of John Hagee’s book The Four Blood Moons, or Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth, or the charlatan Jonathan Cahn’s book The Shmitah, or even Dan Brown’s book and now Hollywood movie The Da Vinci Code.
But what they really need to do is stop trying to read and interpret scripture through the lens of their local newspaper, or the lens of some Hollywood movie, and instead read and interpret it through the lens of other scripture. Again, the kind of language used here by Jesus is nothing more than a recapitulation of the kind of language that God has repeatedly used all throughout the Old Testament to describe His coming in spiritual judgment over and over again.
In fact, for starters, these statements by Christ are practically verbatim and a direct quote from Isaiah 13:9-11 which says this, “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, cruel, with fury and burning anger, to make the land a desolation; and He will exterminate its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; the sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light. 11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless.”
Now some people say, “No Marc, you’ve got it all wrong. Isaiah’s prophecy here in verses 9-11 are describing the final judgment of God upon ALL humanity after the second coming of Christ; which is the same thing Jesus is talking about in Matthew 24 so you’ve got it all wrong.”
But there is one giant … GLARING … and for some, a quite annoying problem; and the problem is verse one. Because regardless of what anyone says or believes erroneously about this particular prophecy, God succinctly and clearly reveals to us WHO the prophecy is for because Isaiah 13, verse one says: “The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.”
So this prophecy had ONE audience, ONE people group, and ONE nation in mind … sixth century B.C. BABYLON. And that’s it! This prophecy isn’t meant for anyone else or any other epoch of time no matter what anybody says … its fulfillment occurred over 2,500 years ago when the Babylonians were sacked by the Medes and Persians and there is no other explanation or additional fulfillment necessary or intended!
But just stop and look at the language that is used in this incredible prophecy. Because even though God did in fact visit the Babylonian nation in divine judgment let’s examine and realize all of the things He DIDN’T do:
- He didn’t show up physically in person … so He CAME but not physically.
- He didn’t make the stars stop shining.
- He didn’t make the Sun burn out and go dark.
- And He didn’t make the moon turn to blood and stop reflecting the Sun’s light.
- And lastly, He also didn’t punish the entire world … He only punished the nation of Babylon.
So the words used in Isaiah’s prophecy are not meant to be taken woodenly literal; and so it goes with the words used by Jesus in His Olivet discourse. In the same manner that Isaiah used the sun, moon, and stars as judgment metaphors against Babylon, so too did Jesus useD them as metaphorical, judgment images against the nation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem.
In addition to all of that, if we try and make Jesus’ metaphorical images walk on all fours as it were, and force them to be woodenly literal, then we are left with some serious conundrums and ridiculous absurdities.
Jesus said, “…the Sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Let’s start with the Sun. If the Sun goes dark what is that? Yup, cosmologists and astronomers call it a Super Nova! It’s a big deal!
For those that don’t know, here’s a very quick, down and dirty explanation on how stars work: Stars run on hydrogen fuel. When stars fuse hydrogen into helium, they burn, thereby releasing heat and light. That heat and light of course travels at the speed of light but even at 186,000/second (or 11,160,000 miles per hour) it still takes 8 minutes for it to reach the earth.
But when the star runs out of hydrogen it starts to contract, becoming smaller. And, as the core of the star contracts, it gets hotter. This makes the upper layers of the star expand, and as the star expands, it turns into what’s commonly known as a red giant.
When the core is hot enough, the helium starts to fuse into carbon. Once the helium gets used up, the core expands and starts cooling down. The core finally cools into what is known as a white dwarf, and then ultimately into what is called a black dwarf. At this stage it has so much mass that after the helium is used up, it still has enough carbon to fuse it into heavy elements like iron. When the core turns to iron, it no longer burns (or as Jesus says, it’s black and darkened). The star’s own gravity then causes it to collapse, and then it explodes into what is known as a supernova. What’s left of the core can often form what astronomers then call a black hole.
Now many prophecy pundits want us to believe that supposedly during the “Great Tribulation” things like this are going to happen – the Sun is going to go black and lose all of its light. They say that Jesus is prophesying that after the rapture occurs, the sun is going to go dark, the moon is going to turn to blood, and the stars are going to rocket towards earth. In other words, the Sun dies … it goes dark. A Super Nova occurs. But the problem is NOTHING can survive a Super Nova! Especially a little old celestial planet like earth that exists in the exact same solar system as the Sun!
Close proximity, planetary objects don’t survive Super Novas – let alone the human beings living on them! There will be NO LIFE LEFT ON EARTH if the Sun goes dark and implodes on itself because the EARTH WON’T EXIST! It’ll be sucked into the black hole left by the death of its own Sun.
Forget all the books you’ve read, and all the programs you’ve heard on the radio, and all the Hollywood movies you’ve seen …… if the Sun goes out YOU’RE TOAST! When the Sun no longer puts off heat and light, and is no longer burning hydrogen it turns into an unstable mass of carbon and iron and we’re all done for! Humanity simply doesn’t survive the death of our Sun…period!
And regardless of what you hear anyone say or claim, people will not be wondering around the earth for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of years looking up at the sky where the Sun once was, and pondering and despondently musing to themselves, “Man, I guess the Bible was right. We’re sure in for it now. How are we supposed to survive for the next thousand years until Jesus comes back?” That is literally physically and astronomically impossible!
And if that doesn’t convince you then most assuredly this last one should. Jesus said, “…the stars will fall from the sky.” And of course a myriad of end times soothsayers will say, “Yep, and that’s the same thing the book of Revelation tells us. It says in Revelation 6:12-13, ‘12 I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.’ So during the Great Tribulation after the rapture, it’s going to be a proverbial hell on earth because the Sun will be dark and people will have to try and run around dodging all the stars that will be falling from the sky like ripened figs falling to the ground. It’ll be the worst case “Frogger” they’ve ever experienced!”
But there’s one more a giant, glaring problem … can anyone survive a cataclysmic event like the impact of star, after star, after star into the surface of the earth? Are we really supposed to believe that when Revelation 12:4 says that a great red dragon is going to appear in the cosmos and swipe down a third of the stars from heaven with his tail to the earth, that that is REALLY going to happen?
In reality, not only could humanity not survive NUMEROUS impacts of a multiple stars upon planet earth, but it couldn’t survive even a SINGLE impact of one isolated, solitary star … and here’s why:
Let’s not forget that stars are not tiny comets, or little fragments of interstellar dust and cute little asteroids. “Stars” are what we call the luminary objects we see in the night sky that are either reflecting some galactic Sun’s light – often from millions of light years away (i.e. planets), or they are actual suns themselves.
And the Suns which supply the reflective light for other planets out in the Universe are cosmological entities which burn off hydrogen from their core and create the light and heat that planets like earth utilize to sustain life. And Suns are huge … ENORMOUS in fact … they are truly ASTRONOMICAL in size compared to measly terrestrial planets.
To put this in clear perspective take a look at this short video clip that explains just how enormous they really are: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoW8Tf7hTGA)
As the video just showed, the SMALLEST known Sun in the universe right now is larger than Jupiter and therefore about 12 times the size of our earth’s diameter! 12 times!! That means you could lay twelve planet earths side by side across its equator.
Now what do you think would happen if that star/sun hit our planet?
Oh, no biggie, we’ll just rise up from the ashes and rebuild! Yeah right…
And then consider for a moment that as the video explained, there are hundreds of billions of both Suns and other planetary objects in our galaxy. So let’s just use a REALLY, REALLY conservative number and say that when Jesus says that, “…the stars will fall to the earth,” He’s only talking about 1% OF THEM! 1%
And then, let’s just talk about 1% of just ONE billion, not HUNDREDS of billions! If you don’t know, 1% of just ONE billion is actually ten million!! So do you really think the earth could survive the impact of ten million stars … stars that in some cases are at least 12 times as big as the earth itself? SERIOUSLY?
And the book of Revelation is supposedly stating that A THIRD OF ALL THE STARS will be thrown to the earth. Well for goodness sake, a third of just ONE billion, not HUNDREDS of billions, is 333 million!! 333 million!! This is exactly the kind of nonsense that causes many non-Christians to laugh at the gullibility and ignorance of many Christians.
Here’s a quote from non-Christian astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, “You know one of the signs of the second coming, is that stars will fall out of the sky and fall to the earth. To even write that means that you don’t know what those things are. You have no concept of what the actual universe is. So everybody who tried to make proclamations about the physical universe based on Bible passages got the wrong answer.”
I would think that by now if any thinking man truly thinks, than he or she will see with resolute clarity that if we try and force a woodenly literal interpretation into the words of Jesus during His discussion with the Disciples on the Mount of Olives, or even into the words of many other prophetic and apocalyptic passages of scripture, then we will find ourselves very quickly moving headlong into the interpretive land of the absurd within a just very short period of time.
And this is why in Luke’s rendering of Jesus’ words we see the following admonition and encouragement (Luke 21:28), “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up YOUR heads, because YOUR redemption is drawing near.”
Again the context here is clear. Jesus is still looking into the eyes of His first century disciples and telling them that THEY are going to be seeing and experiencing all of these things so get ready!
And He tells them that when they do experience and see these things begin to take place, “…lift up YOUR heads, because YOUR redemption is drawing near.”
So no matter how bad it got Jesus is telling them to hang in there, endure, you’re going to make it, just hang on and before you know it, you will be receiving the crown of life.
Which is why Jesus told them back in verse 25, “Behold, I have told YOU in advance.” I’m telling you this BEFORE it happens, so that when it does happen, and YOU see it, you’ll remember what I’ve told you and you’ll know what to do.
At the end of the day, we can rest assured that in all of these apocalyptic images and descriptive prophesies, Jesus is not trying to describe some kind of impossible, woodenly literal, astronomical event that is supposedly going to occur at the time of His second coming or at the time of some kind of fanciful “Great Tribulation” in the 21st, 25th, or even 28th Century.
He is simply answering the Disciples questions with the same kind of metaphorical language that would be familiar to any garden variety Jew and scrupulous student of scripture, who would be immensely familiar with the phrasing and literary verbiage that is used time and time again all throughout the Old Testament, to describe the spiritual coming of God in judgment and sovereign power upon His creation.
See you in part eight!