THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST HAS COME AND GONE - CENTURIES AGO - PART II
If you missed Part I of this series - Click here!
The famines and earthquakes that Jesus said would precede His return also occurred during the first century and some of these are recorded in the New Testament (i.e. the Book of Acts). Jesus was simply saying that things would continue, just as they did before, that there would still be earthquakes, famines, even marriages, before He comes to establish His Kingdom. He didn't mean that these things would increase in frequency. He wasn't saying, for example, that marriages would increase in frequency before He returned!
What about the supposed covenant of peace with Israel made by the Anti-Christ that the Book of Daniel talks about? There's no covenant of peace with Israel. As the great and eminent Bible commentator of old John Gill says about Daniel 9:27: "... but this is to be interpreted of the Roman people, spoken of in the latter part of the preceding verse; who, in order to accomplish their design to destroy the city and temple of Jerusalem, made peace with many nations, entered into covenant and alliance with them, particularly the Medes, Parthians, and Armenians, for the space of one week, or seven years; as it appears they did at the beginning of this week". Daniel 9:27 says the covenant is with "many". It has nothing to do with a covenant with Israel.
Before 70 A.D. Jews who became Christians still had to follow the religious rituals and traditions of the Jewish ceremonial laws (i.e. Scripture teaches that Timothy, whose mother was Jewish and whose father was Gentile, was circumcised, and that by the leading of the Apostle Paul himself. Because Timothy's mother was Jewish, according to Jewish law that made Timothy Jewish). So, even though Timothy had become Christian, the Apostle Paul still made sure to get him circumcised. Christ's Kingdom had not been established yet. But, Gentiles, who during this time became Christian, were not under obligation to follow the religious customs, rituals, and traditions of the Jewish ceremonial laws (Acts 15:20).
In the Book of Hebrews the writer says that “we are receiving a Kingdom”. The Kingdom had not yet been officially established before the destruction and judgment on Jerusalem which Jesus prophesied and which occurred in 70 AD.
After 70 A.D. and the establishment of the Kingdom none of the ceremonial laws applied even to the Jews who had converted. All the Jewish ceremonial laws came to a permanent end.
Now, the Kingdom is growing and will one day fill the earth. The Scripture teaches that at some point in the future the final judgment will occur. All the wicked will be once and for all destroyed and the Son will give the Kingdom over to the Father and God will be all in all.
Before 70A.D. believers who died remained in a state of death ("sleep"). After 70 A.D. all believers who had died (over the centuries) had their souls resurrected and united with their new and eternal bodies prepared for them in heaven, as Scripture teaches. Christians who are alive now, when they die, will not remain in a state of death (or "sleep") but, instead, their souls will instantly be changed (become immortal) and their souls also will also be united with their new and eternal bodies which, Scripture says, is reserved for them in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1). This is the on-going process of the Rapture.
The Apostle Paul says in in 2 Corinthians 5:1 that Christians have an eternal body (not a temporal body, but an eternal body) reserved for them in heaven (obviously the heavenly body is being kept for the time when their souls are resurrected).
In the context of Scripture Satan is now bound for a “thousand” years only to the degree that he cannot deceive all the gentile nations as he once did. Outside that limitation, Satan is as free to do his mischief as before.
The Millennium is symbolic and stands for the growth of Christ's Kingdom now. The number "thousand" is used symbolically just as when God says in Scripture that the cattle on a thousand hills are His. Of course, He owns more than the cattle on a thousand hills. It means all belongs to God.
In the Book of Daniel it says that Christ's Kingdom will be like a rock cut out of a mountain not by human hands (Daniel 2:34), and that this rock will grow into a mountain that fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35). Christ's Kingdom doesn't fill the earth suddenly but gradually. Christ said that His Kingdom would be like the leaven in bread which spreads gradually throughout the whole bread (Matthew 13:33).
Christ's Kingdom has always been spiritual, not political. It wasn't political then, it's not political now, and it's not political in the future. Christ rules spiritually in the hearts of men. This rule will affect politics, but the rule itself is not political.
Almost all evangelical Christians today have absolutely no deep understanding of Christian doctrine, theology, Scripture, including prophecy!
They only want thrills and the frills. They're looking for a literal, glitzy, Kingdom like the disciples in Jesus' day thought He would establish.
And just as the Jews of Jesus' day wrongly understood His first coming, Christians of today wrongly understand what Scripture means by His second coming.
The Old Jerusalem of Judaism has been destroyed in 70 A.D.and the New Jerusalem (Christ's Church) now stands forever in its place. The modern state of Israel today has every right to exist but only like any other nation. Modern Israel has nothing to do with Bible prophecy or Scripture.
Revelation says that the New Jerusalem is the bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2). We know from other Scriptures that the Bride of Christ is the Church, Christ's Kingdom permanently replacing the old Jerusalem of Judaism under the law. In Revelation 22:15you will read that outside of the New Jerusalem are evil doers - that's the world. We are in the world but not of it. The New Jerusalem is not a physical city where outside of its doors are evil doers. That's not how to interpret the passage.
In fact, unlike the time of the Babylonian captivity hundreds of years prior, the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was so complete and thorough that even the genealogical record of the priests and their lineage was totally destroyed. God has totally put away Judaism and Israel as a nation once and for all. Today's Judaism and modern state of Israel are not recognized by heaven's God.
The true temple of God now is the body of believers in Jesus Christ, as Scripture says in various New Testament passages.
What, then, did Jesus mean when He said "And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8). The "earth" here is none other than Israel. "Heaven and Earth" sometimes in Scripture is in reference to God's spiritual relationship with Israel. The "new heavens and the new earth" are a picture of the new covenant, of the relationship of God with spiritual Israel (which is the Church made up of both Jew and Gentile believers in Christ).
"In 2 Peter 3:10 we read that when Jesus returns (Peter refers to it as the "Day of the Lord," which in other Scriptures is in reference to Christ's Second Coming), the heavens will pass away and the earth shall be dissolved. This is not referring to the physical earth or heavens. Even dispensationalist Christians believe that the physical heavens and earth will remain when Christ returns and establishes His millennial Kingdom. So, dispensationalists must have a big problem with this verse, but non-dispensationalist Christians have no problem. In the Old Testament, sometimes, when God would make pronouncements to Israel, He would refer to Israel as "Earth" (Isaiah 1:2). The word "earth" in the passage of 2 Peter 3:10 symbolizes national Israel and Judaism and the word "elements," in the passage, represent the ceremonial beliefs and tenets of Judaism. The Apostle Paul uses the same word "elements" in the Greek to refer to religious beliefs and principles (Colossians 2:20). The "heavens" represent God's relationship to Judaism. All this will be permanently done away with upon Christ's return accompanying the destruction of the Jewish Temple and Jerusalem (which occurred in 70 A.D.)
Here is what Gary DeMar says: "Jesus does not change subjects when He assures the disciples that "heaven and earth will pass away." Rather, He merely affirms His prior predictions, which are recorded in Matthew 24:2931. Verse 36 is a summary and confirmation statement of these verses.(6) Keep in mind that the central focus of the Olivet Discourse is the desolation of the "house" and "world" of apostate Israel (23:36). The old world of Judaism, represented by the earthly temple, is taken apart stone by stone (24:2). James Jordan writes, "each time God brought judgment on His people during the Old Covenant, there was a sense in which an old heavens and earth was replaced with a new one: New rulers were set up, a new symbolic world model was built (Tabernacle, Temple), and so forth."(7) The New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant with new leaders, a new priesthood, new sacraments, a new sacrifice, a new tabernacle (John 1:14), and a new temple (John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21). In essence, a new heaven and earth.
C.H. Spurgeon puts it this way: ""Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the old heavens and earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under a new heavens and a new earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it." (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354).
What about the argument of double fulfillment of these prophecies? The doctrine of double fulfillment would not apply to what Christ says about His return and end times because the time frame given by Christ and by Scripture preculudes the possibility of a double fulfillment in these matters. Jesus said it would be in His generation and be witnessed by those to whom He was speaking.
Also, a double fulfillment would mean that believing Jews would inherit separate promises from believing Gentiles and the Scripture teaches in Galatians and elsewhere that Abraham's spiritual seed is one and indivisible and that both Jewish and Gentile believers inherit all of the same promises together.
What about Zechariah 14 where we read that Christ would split the earth in two upon His return? Matthew Henry in his famous commentary says that Zechariah 14 is to be interpreted symbolically and spiritually. Read what he says in his commentary.
The context of all of Scripture has to be considered before we say something is symbolic or literal. As was mentioned earlier, there are many Old Testament prophecies that have been fulfilled spiritually in the New Testament through the Christian Church (i.e. compare Amos 9:12 with Acts 15:13-19)
Since Christ Himself says in Revelation 1:1 to interpret Revelation symbolically then that's how we must interpret the Zechariah passage also.
In the very first verse of the very first chapter we read, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God (the Father) gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" (Revelation 1:1, KJV). The word "signified" in the passage comes from the original Greek New Testament word meaning "signs" or "symbols". Thus, Revelation was meant by Christ to be interpreted symbolically, not literally.
The "last days" are over. The Apostles said that they were living in the last days. That was two thousand years ago! What they meant is that they were living in the last days of Judaism that was still recognized by God.
This view that Christ's second coming occurred in 70 AD during the destruction of Jerusalem is known as Preterist (or fulfilled) eschatology. There is much, much more to be said on this subject. Please check out the various articles, views, and interpretations concerning preterism at: http://www.preteristarchive.com
Also, the reader is encouraged to read "The Bible Vs. The Traditional View of Hell" at: http://bgrnathan.blogspot.com/2010/01/bible-vs-traditional-view-of-hell.html. Some truths I share in that article will help the reader to understand better what has been said in this article.
The author is greatly indebted to the writings of the Rev. John L. Bray (Christian evangelist) for coming to know and understand this view of biblical prophecy. Evangelist Bray is now retired but his book "Matthew 24 Fulfilled" continues to be enjoyed by readers. The book may be ordered through American Vision.
The author, Babu G. Ranganathan, has his bachelor’s degree with concentrations in theology and biology and has been recognized for his writings on religion and science in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who in The East.” Many of the author’s writings may be accessed at www.religionscience.com .