MEN WILL SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS
Kv; 26-27 “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”
Last semester Kyle experienced a lot of anxiety and frustration over his finals; he prayed a lot, and m. Ruth also prayed for him. When he got straight A’s, he was very grateful to God. We were amazed and also gave thanks to God. At the end of each semester, all students get nervous and stressed over finals. However, if a student already knew the correct answers for the tests, then that student would feel at ease and confident while others studied anxiously. It is the ultimate wish and hope for all students to know the correct answers. Some students will even go as far as trying to cheat.
Similarly, if you know your future, whether good or bad, then you can prepare for it. Perhaps that is why some people visit palm readers and so-called psychics. One Christian leader even predicted the end of the world last year, but nothing happened.
Indeed, knowing the fate of humanity would be a critical piece of information for us. But unfortunately, it is impossible for anyone to know the end of the world or the end of our lives because it is only in God’s hands.
However, I encourage all of you to read the Bible carefully with your hearts. The Bible tells us about our life from the beginning to the end especially, about our future so that we may have knowledge and wisdom in God.
Today’s passage is a good example. In this passage Jesus clearly predicts signs of the end of the age as an answer for the ultimate final exam. Jesus declares that there is an end to the world, and that men will see his coming in clouds with great power and glory. What an exciting promise for all believers!
Let us carefully examine Jesus’ prediction about signs of the end of the age through this passage, so that we can be sure of our future and hold on to his promised word.
I. When will these things happens?(1-13)
Let’s read verses 1-4. “As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
When Jesus left the temple, the disciples were amazed to look at the beauty of the massive stones of the temple buildings. One disciple said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” Most of the disciples were country Galileans and these structures might have been quite breathtaking and awesome to them.
The temple was the center of Jewish religious life because God told them to worship him at the Temple in Jerusalem. The first Temple was built by King Solomon and the Temple was rebuilt by Zerubbbabel and the Babylonian exiles. (1 Kings 6-8, Ezra 3) This was the third Temple built by King Herod. King Herod wanted to appease the Jews by building this Temple. It was built over a 46-year period (Jn 2:20). It sat on the highest point in Jerusalem and occupied one-sixth of the city’s territory. It was built of huge marble stones, some of which were 37 feet long, 18 feet wide and 12 feet high. The eastern front of the building complex was covered with plates of gold so that it reflected the rays of the rising sun. When the sun shone on the temple, the dazzling reflection captured the mind’s eye of any observer. The temple certainly impressed the disciples. They were overwhelmed by the appearance of the building. They might have possibly believed that the Temple would stand forever. The buildings were indeed spectacular, magnificent, representing the culture and civilization of the day.
When I went up to the top of the World Trade Center in 1976, I was really overwhelmed by the size and height of the buildings, although I was dizzy and a little bit scare of the strong wind at the top of the building. I realized the amazing abilities men and was reminded of the Babel Tower. Now the city has begun construction on the ‘Freedom Tower’ which is set to be taller than the World Trade Center.
Although the twin towers are gone, the pride of New Yorkers is still strong. They want to build a magnificent tower with modern technology on the site of the WTC. The Freedom Tower is a symbol of Human pride. The massive and magnificent structures represent human glory and ambition. While the disciples marveled at the Temple buildings, they were revealing their true inner desires and human ambitions.
How does Jesus respond? He says, 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” The disciples’ awe and dreams were abruptly interrupted with the shocking doom of Jesus’ words. It was discouraging and dreadful to say the least. His words challenged them to be aware of shallow human ambitions. They needed to see how they were only concerned with the lowly corporeal matters of the world.
Jesus saw things very differently. His prediction of the Temple was literally fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the army of the Roman General Titus besieged Jerusalem and destroyed it. Titus desecrated the temple and demolished it completely until not one stone was left on another. He did this to remove the gold plating set between the stones. All of the buildings on the temple platform, including the temple itself to which the prophecy refers, were utterly destroyed. So completely were they destroyed that no trace of them remains today. The exact location of the temple mount is even in dispute to this day. Modern Jewish scholars have made a thorough investigation as to the exact temple location, but no one can say for sure. In addition to the destruction, more than one million people were killed. The rest were dragged away into captivity as slaves. It was the end of the Jewish nation politically for nearly 2,000 years.
Actually Jesus’ prophecy was more than about the temple. His prophesy was also about the destiny of the world. All things of this world are temporal. Nothing of this world is permanent. When we look at recent strides in scientific and technological fields, we cannot but marvel at the scope and speed of human achievements. Advances in science and technology have made our lives more comfortable than ever before. We ourselves exclaim, “Look! Those LED displays are so cool!”
However, we must remember what happened on 9/11. The whole world watched as hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, and as the Twin Towers collapsed via live television broadcasts. Nobody imagined that the tall magnificent Twin Towers would fall so quickly. It was shocking to the whole world. When I saw the towers crumble into debris, I thought the end of the world began. At the same time I felt that the legacy of humans were empty and meaningless. As Jesus said, indeed, nothing is permanent in this world. Last year five notorious dictators were gone, and one world famous idol died. We can see the rise and fall of the human civilization throughout world history.
When Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives with his disciples opposite the temple, they looked over the magnificent temple again. The buildings reminded them of Jesus’ words. Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled? They wanted to make sure of his word. When will these things happen? What will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?
Perhaps, the disciples believed the temple was God’s house that could never be destroyed; if it was destroyed, that was the end of the age. When they heard about Jesus’ prediction, they became very serious. “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
What was Jesus’ answer?
First, watch out that no one deceives you.(5-6) When we read verses 5-8, we can understand why Jesus gives us warnings. First of all, Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many.’” The first sign will be deceptions by false prophets. The surprising thing is that they come in Jesus’ name and deceive many people that way. So St. Paul said that this world is a place of deceiving and of being deceived (2Ti 3:13). The main characteristic of the false messiahs is that they claim that they are the messiah. Jehovah Witnesses claims that only their members will be saved. Obviously, such claims are not in the Bible. Jesus warns us not to be deceived by false messiahs.
Many false messiahs are harder to recognize. One powerful false messiahs in our time is the New Age Movement. They declare that purpose of man’s life should be man’s happiness. Their teaching is so attractive to many peoples. They teach their members about their identity as gods without the Creator God. This powerful humanism started in New York City by a Russian woman in 1875. This movement has had great influence everywhere, even on many Christian churches. They participate and act in every good movement such as protection of natural environment and unification of all religions. We must watch out for this kind of humanism because they are the false messiahs. They seek easygoing ways of life rather than the way of cross. Jesus says that we should not be deceived by these false messiahs.
Second, “do not be alarmed.”(7-8) Look at verses 7-8. “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom will rise against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”
Jesus’ second concern is wars, earthquakes and famines in various places as signs of the end of the age. He teaches us that when we hear of wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines, we don’t have to be alarmed. The reason is those signs are just like the beginning of birth pains. People living in a world full of dreadful things become fearful. But God’s people should not be gripped with fear. Instead, we must remember the word of Jesus, not to be alarmed and the beginning of birth pains. A mother’s birth pains start slowly at the beginning, but in the time goes, the pain comes faster and faster, becoming more intense. So in this way the end of the age come faster and stronger, but the end is still to come.
Third, “you must be on your guard.”(9-13). Jesus gives us a third warning; to be on our guard because of persecution to the believers. Look at verses 9,11. “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them.” “11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus clearly mentions that there will be persecutions because of him but also the help of the Holy Spirit. Persecution is not just a phenomenon of first-century Christians, but also today there is persecution of true believers. All seems well in this free country of religious tolerance. But sometimes we face rejection and persecution from our own family or friends when we truly follow the Lord Jesus as his committed disciples. It is painful, but we have to endure for the sake of the gospel of Jesus in his promised word. Jesus promises us about the help of the Holy Spirit and being saved when we stand firm to the end.(13) “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Jesus also confirms in verse 10, “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” He means that there is no end until the gospel is preached to all nations. This promise strengthens us to hold onto the word of Jesus for unbelievers. God is holding his Son and waiting for us patiently until we preach the gospel of Jesus to all nations. 2Pt.3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
II. Men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds.(14-34)
Jesus predicts two dramatic events before the end of the age comes after the beginning of birth pains.
First, the abomination that causes desolation.(14-23) Look at verse 14. “When you see „the abomination that causes desolation‟ standing where it does not belong–let the reader understand–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” What does this verse mean? “ New King James Version says, “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’[d] spoken of by Daniel the prophet,[e] standing where it ought not” (let the reader understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” NKJV gives us clearer meaning. We can see the word “the abomination that causes desolation” is from the book of Daniel.
The prophet Daniel predicted the words three times in his book (9:27, 11:31, 12:11) ‘The abomination that causes desolation’ simply means ‘the disgusting thing that will cause destruction.’ This prediction of Daniel was fulfilled in 167 B.C. In 167 B.C., Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, the king of Aram, desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, offering the heads of pigs on the great altar, which was disgusting thing to the Jews, Antiochus inverted the creation order by placing an abominable thing where God should be. Another abominable event happened when the Roman army desecrated the temple. The Roman army invaded the Temple and defiled it. They placed the pig’s head in the place of worship. The immediate prediction was the destruction of the temple. It actually came to pass. This part refers to the historical event happened in 70 A.D.
Jesus predicts the same event of Daniel’s prediction will happen before the Second Coming of Jesus. The characteristic of the abomination is that it causes desolation. This abomination of desolation is the real sign of the end of the age. After the Temple of God is defiled by offering the disgusting thing on the altar, the destruction of the Temple starts and spreads to the whole world. That destruction will be much worse than the Tsunamis in Japan; it will be horrible and so immediate.
Let’s read verses 14-20. “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’[a] standing where it[b] does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the roof of his house go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. 20 If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them.”
How does Jesus reveal his mercy and wisdom for the event of destruction here? He teaches us to run away quickly from the destruction and to pray to God and for his mercy. Jesus gave us the promised answer for the days of distress. Thanks to Jesus his compassion for our lives.
Second, men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds (24-27)
Let’s read verses 24-26. “But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
When the destruction will spread the whole world, then the heavenly bodies will be shaken and everything in the sky disordered. Jesus says, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
Third, learn this lesson from the fig tree.(28-34) Jesus was so kind and generous even though we are not faithful and unworthy to him. He did not stop teaching us even after his amazing prediction. He opens our minds and eyes to see the tree for an important lesson. Let’s read verses 28-29. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Jesus was truly not a difficult teacher or instructor. His lessons are always so easy to understand and take into our minds. The comparison to the trees is not complex but very straightforward. However, how many believers actually follow the advice of this lesson and take heed of warning signs? Jesus wants us to see the leaves of the trees coming out carefully and then to remember what he said are the signs of the end of the age.
Let’s read verses 33,35. “33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.” As Jesus says, we do not know what is going to happen. But he gives us sure wisdom and answer through a lesson from the tree. Praise Jesus our Lord.
We can see there are clear signs of the end step by step, from the beginning to the end, until our Lord Jesus comes back in clouds with great power and glory. Let’s remember verse 23. “So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” What does it mean that ‘I have told you everything ahead of time.’? It means Jesus gave us all the correct answers before we take the final exam. When I meditated on this chapter, I was so thankful and peaceful in Jesus’ word. Through this chapter God opened my spiritual eyes to see the world’s situation according to the words of Jesus. He gave me his wisdom and direction on what to do daily.
Think about your life in Jesus through this passage. Think about our Lord Jesus who gave his life on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for our life and even gave us truthful predictions ahead of time, so that all of us may not lose life in his love.
I pray that all of you may hold on to the word, ‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.’ As he declares, Jesus will return in clouds with great power and glory before the very eyes of the whole world. This promise is our living hope and wisdom to overcome the emptiness of this world. Jesus says again, “1Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”(31)