Verses 26 & 27
“Therefore, if they say to you, ‘Behold, He [the Messiah] is in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Behold, He is in the secret chambers,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines even to the west, so also will be the coming [presence] of the Son of Man.”
The very fact that Jesus made the prophecy of the end of Israel on the occasion of this discourse is evidence that His prophecy was meant to reveal that He was the Son of God who had all these things under the control. After His crucifixion and ascension, He assumed all control over all things when He was seated at the right hand of God, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is name, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come” (Ep 1:21). Simply because we do not see all things under His control does not mean that He is not in control (See Hb 2:8).
All things at the time He made the preceding statement were under His control. Immediately before the betrayal and crucifixion, Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into His hands” (Jn 13:3). He knew He had been given all authority over all things before His ascension (Mt 28:18). When He ascended to reign, and this prophecy was fulfilled, many of the unbelieving Jews would come to realize that He was made King of kings and Lord of lords at the time of His coronation. The suppression of the nationalistic Jews in A.D. 70 would reaffirm His existing kingdom reign in the age that followed after A.D. 70. In the consummation of national Israel, the whole world had the opportunity to believe that Jesus was right, and that He would be who He said He was until the consummation of the world.
But before the end of national Israel there were those false christs (messiahs) who led gullible Jews into the wilderness in hope of organizing an independent state of Israel in Palestine. Jesus was here warning the disciples not to accept anyone who would lead them into believing that the Christ would come in time in a manner that would be characteristic of His final coming. When Jesus comes at the end of time it will not be a happening that must be communicated by people to people. It will be an event that will happen at the sound of the last trumpet, with the voice of an archangel (1 Th 4:15,16). In other words, Jesus says that if others come to say that they are “the Christ,” then they should not believe them. The unbelieving Jews may not have been able to connect all the dots, but at least the Christians of the time would have had their message proven true in the fall of national Israel.
The next personal coming of Jesus will be worldwide and heavenly announced with the sound of a trumpet. As lightning is seen when it strikes, so there will be no need to go forth and proclaim that He had come. All the Jews throughout the world will realize that what Christians spoke on these matters in reference to Jesus being the Messiah, had come true.
Gathering Of The Vultures
“For wherever the carcass [of dead national Israel] is, there will the vultures be gathered together [to consume it].”
The carcass is the Israelite nation that died forty years before at the cross. When the Jewish religious leaders rejected and crucified the Messiah, they signed their own doom. Therefore, the nation was dead even before the arrival of the vultures (the Roman army). It was a dead carcass awaiting its own consummation.
When the new covenant was bought and paid for by the blood of the incarnate Son of God, the covenant of the blood of bulls and goats passed away (Hb 10:1-4). When this happened, Jesus wiped “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He took it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Cl 2:14). This revealing statement about this matter was understood in reference to all those who obeyed the gospel:
“Therefore, my brethren, you also became dead to the [Sinai] law through the body of Christ, so that you should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, so that we should bring forth fruit to God” (Rm 7:4).
The problem with the nationalistic Jews in the decade leading up to the consumption of the carcass in A.D. 70 was that they had missed the opportunity to be married to the Messiah. In their refusal to be married to Christ through obedience to the gospel, they shunned the King of kings who was in control of all those things that would befall them in A.D. 70.
The gathering “vultures” was the Roman army that came to consume the dead nation. Vultures come when they see death. National Israel, therefore, was dead before the vultures arrived on the scene. When the disciples started seeing the gathering of the Roman army into Palestine, they knew that it was mealtime for vultures.
The unfortunate part of this story is that many Jewish Christians were deceived into believing the recruiting Jewish nationalists, and thus they sent themselves to death in the end. Some Jewish Christians had evidently refused to terminate the Passover/ Pentecost journey to Jerusalem to visit family and friends. Jesus was giving everyone warning signs in order to keep themselves away from the area, but the vultures were going to consume the carcass of nationalistic Israel. The vultures showed up over the carcass on the Passover/Pentecost of A.D. 70.
Termination Of Nationalistic Aspirations
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun [of national Israel] will be darkened and the moon will not give her light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
The great tribulation of verse 21 would precede the final destruction of the city. Therefore, immediately after the tribulation of those days, the splendor of the Jewish nation would fall by the destruction of Israel’s pride, the city of Jerusalem and the temple.
Jesus used apocalyptic judgment language from the Old Testament to portray the final doom of Israel. Such language was commonly used by inspired writers in the Old Testament to symbolize the fall of nations (See Is 13:6-18; 14:12; 24:23; 34:4; Jr 4:23,24; Ez 32:7,8; Dn 8:10; Jl 2:30-32). The sun usually represented the king or monarch of the nation. The heavenly bodies represented the rest of the government leaders.
We must not allow ourselves to become inconsistent in understanding Jesus’ use of metaphorical language in this context to be a literal falling of the sun, moon and stars. We consistently interpret such language as it was used in the Old Testament. Such language referred to the fall of an earthly kingdom.
When God shakes the heavens, there is great change on earth among the nations. This is the meaning in Haggai 2:6 from which Jesus brought the figure, “shaking the powers of the heavens” into the context of the fall of national Israel. Haggai wrote, “For thus says the Lord of hosts; ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations’” (Hg 2:6,7).
God was going “to shake” heaven and earth again in order to sift out of national Israel those who could not be shaken because they had submitted to the kingdom reign of Jesus in their hearts. This is precisely what the Hebrew writer stated when he wrote a few years before A.D. 70:
He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things that cannot be shaken [the gospel] may remain“ (Hb 12:26,27).
National Israel would be physically removed in order to allow the “Israel by faith” to shine forth. The catastrophic national event of terminating Israel would allow those who were righteous through their obedience to the gospel to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). The Hebrew writer continued,
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hb 12:28).
At the time of the writing of Hebrews 12:28, the kingdom of Jesus was in the process of being established among the Jews throughout the world as Jews came to believe in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah), and then give witness of their faith through obedience to the gospel. The kingdom reign of King Jesus was being received.
[Next in series: Aug. 8]