Pastor David B. Curtis


Matthew & the Second Coming - Part 2

Matthew 10:23, 16:27-28

Delivered 07/20/2003

We are looking at what Matthew has to tell us about the timing of the second coming of Christ. We saw in our last study that John the baptizer came on the seen as a prophet of God after 400 years of silence. John's message to first century Israel was one of judgment:

Matthew 3:7 (NKJV) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John's message was to first century Israel; he was warning them of a soon to come judgement. This judgement was, in fact, the second coming of Christ.

The next verse that we come to that gives us a time indicator is found in Matthew 10. Here Christ says that He was to come in the life time of His disciples:

Matthew 10:23 (NKJV) "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

To understand this verse, the first thing that we have to know is who is Jesus talking to? Who is the "you"? To find out, let's back up to verse 1 and notice the personal pronoun, "you" in this text:

Matthew 10:1-18 (NKJV) And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. 2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. 5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: "Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. 6 "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'

Now, is there any doubt as to who Jesus is talking to so far? He calls the twelve to him and gives them power. He "commanded them, saying":

Matthew 10:8-18 (NKJV) "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 "Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 "nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. 11 "Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 "And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 "If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 "Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! 16 "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Who is Jesus sending out as sheep in the midst of wolves? It is the twelve!

Matthew 10:17-18 (NKJV) "But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. 18 "You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.

These events actually happened as trials took place and scourging occurred in the synagogues. Jesus warned the twelve that they would be brought before government officials, because of their testimony for Jesus Christ:

Matthew 10:19-23 (NKJV) "But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 "for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. 23 "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Speaking of verse 23, one commentator writes, "This verse does not have to do with believers today. It refers to the apostolic ministry as it will be carried on during the Great Tribulation when the nation Israel will be undergoing intense persecution and suffering. These verses have nothing to do with today. They are related to believers fleeing from place to place under intense persecution, being captured and brought before kings."

He is right when he says, "This verse does not have to do with believers today." The problem is he does not see it as applying to the first century believers, but to a yet future generation.

When did Jesus switch from talking to the twelve to talking to some yet future to us generation? Throughout this discourse, Jesus has His present audience in mind. Jesus uses the second person plural throughout the discourse to make this point more than clear. There is nothing in the passage that gives any indication that Jesus has any other audience in view other than His immediate audience.

Before we became Preterists, "You" didn't mean "the twelve" in the first century; "You" meant "US" in OUR century. But now that we understand the hermanutical principle of audience relevance, we know that "You" means the twelve that Jesus was speaking to in the first century.

Matthew 10:23 makes it clear that Jesus is talking about His Second Coming as the Son of Man: "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. The phrase, "Son of Man," comes from Daniel 7:13 and refers to the Son of Man being presented before the Ancient of Days. Jesus is saying to his twelve disciples that they will not have fled through all the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. They will keep running through the cities, fleeing from their persecutors. When He says that they will not have time to have fled through all the cities, it indicates that they will not have fled to all the cities until the Son of Man comes, a promised deliverance for them - the twelve!

This seems so clear and simple to me, so why do so many Christians miss this? I think that you are all aware that our paradigms can blind us from seeing certain truths. If, in your eschatological paradigm, you see the second coming of Christ as the end of the physical world, a cataclysmic, earth burning, total destruction of life as we now know it, you will certainly miss what Jesus is saying here. Because life goes on, you can't believe that Jesus returned as He said He would. It just won't fit your paradigm. Let's look at a verse that shatters the paradigm that views the second coming as the end of the world:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NKJV) Now, brethren, concerning the coming [parousia] of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.

Now, if the Thessalonians believed that the nature of the second coming was an earth burning, total destruction of planet earth, how could they be deceived about its arrival? If the Second coming was as many view it today, Paul could have written them and said, "Look out the window, the earth is still here so the Lord has obviously not come." They thought it had already happened, so they must have viewed the nature of the second coming differently than most folks today view it.

The first century Thessalonians were looking for the second coming of Christ, and they were concerned that they might have missed it. But when Jesus talked to the twelve about the coming of the Son of Man, they did not understood this to mean a future return of Christ, because they did not understand that He was leaving. They believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Look at the question posed in:

John 4:29 (NKJV) "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"

"Could this be the Christ (Messiah)." In the Synoptic Gospels, the way Jesus acted and spoke led naturally to the dialogue at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked His disciples:

Mark 8:29 (NKJV) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ (Messiah)."

This title carried overtones of political power, especially in one strand of Jewish hope represented by the Psalms of Solomon, which gave one of the clearest expressions of the Jews continuing hope. The Psalms of Solomon was part of the intertestamental literature (PSEUDEPIGRAPHA) not accepted into the Christian or Jewish canon of Scripture. It was written around 70-40 B.C. The Psalms of Solomon was a Jewish writing of the Messiah as the son of David. Their Messiah was a warrior-prince who would expel the hated Romans from Israel and bring in a kingdom in which the Jews would be promoted to world dominion. Jesus, therefore, accepted Peter's confession and immediately spoke of the sufferings of Messiah to correct the disciple's idea that the Messiah cannot suffer:

Mark 9:31-32 (NKJV) For He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day." 32 But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.

For Peter, Messiah was a title of a glorious personage, both nationalistic and victorious in battle. They believed that Messiah would come and rule; they had no idea of Him coming, then leaving, then coming again. Peter reacts strongly when Christ talks about his death:

Mark 9:31-33 (NKJV) For He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day." 32 But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him. 33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?"

His death would be the end of their hopes and dreams; they couldn't understand Him being put to death. The Jewish understanding of Messiah is clearly expressed in:

John 12:34 (NKJV) The people answered Him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ (Messiah) remains forever; and how can You say, 'The Son of Man must be lifted up'? Who is this Son of Man?"

They didn't conceive of Messiah leaving once He had arrived. They thought He would come and set up his rule:

Micah 5:2 (NKJV) "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."

The word "ruler" is the Hebrew word mashal, which means: "dominion, governor, have power". They viewed Messiah as a Ruler:

Psalms 8:6 (NKJV) You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
Zechariah 6:12-13 (NKJV) "Then speak to him, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both."'

The crowning of Joshua foreshadowed the crowning of Messiah. So you can easily understand that they were not looking for Jesus to leave, but to set up his kingdom.

Jesus talked to them about his death and going to the Father, but they did not understand it at all:

John 13:33-36 (NKJV) "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you. 34 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." 36 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."
John 16:16-17 (NKJV) "A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." 17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, "What is this that He says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?"

This account in John takes place after he had given them the Olivet Discourse, and they still didn't understand that He was leaving them. After the crucifixion, they still didn't understand that Jesus was going to rise from the dead:

John 20:8-9 (NKJV) Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

Well, if they didn't understand that Jesus was leaving, what did they understand when he told them, " will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes"? Good question. The answer is in understanding the Jewish concept of the parousia. The word meant: "arrival or presence", and not return. It didn't refer to any future return of Christ. To the disciples, the "parousia" of the son of man signified the full manifestation of His Messiahship; His glorious appearing in power. William Barclay says of parousia, "It is the regular word for the arrival of a governor into his province or for the coming of a king to his subjects. It regularly describes a coming in authority and in power."

They didn't know he was leaving, but they looked for a time when He would appear in full glory and power bringing in the Kingdom and judging God's enemies. And from Matthew 10:23, it is clear that this was to happen in their life time! This is a very strong and very clear time reference as to when the second coming was to occur. The question you need to answer is, "Do you believe Jesus?" He told the twelve that His second coming would happen before they had time to flee to all the cites of Israel. If you believe Jesus, you must believe that He kept his word and returned in the first century.

The next verses that we come to that tell us when the second coming would occur are found in:

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

Who is Jesus talking to here?

Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Jesus' audience, in verses 27 and 28, is His disciples. Notice the time reference: "...there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." What is the time reference? It is within the lifetime of those to whom Christ is speaking.

John MacArthur writes, "That verse could lead you to believe that somewhere in this world are some very old men! What does Christ mean? I believe what Christ was saying can be translated, 'Some of you standing here will see the Son of Man coming in His royal majesty before you die.'"

Is that what Christ said? NO! What he said was:

Matthew 16:27 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

He said He was coming in the glory of His Father with His angels to reward each according to his works - bring judgement.

John MacArthur sees this as a reference to the transfiguration. He writes, "Unfortunately a chapter break was made by the translators at a point where it is important to follow the flow of the text. This same promise in Matthew 16:28 also appears in Mark and Luke. In all three cases it is immediately followed by the same incident, but in Mark (9:1-13) and Luke (9:27- 36), it is not followed by a chapter break. What the Lord was referring to in Matthew 16:28 is interpreted by the event that follows. Three of the disciples were about to have a private showing of Christ's glory."

The NIV Study Bible favors this idea: "It is a prediction of the transfiguration, which happened a week later (17:1), and which demonstrated that Jesus will return in His Father's glory (16:27). The context seems to favor [this] view."

The transfiguration did take place about a week after Christ uttered these words. But Christ did not say that ALL of His audience would still be living, or that even the majority of them would be. To use such language in speaking of an event barely a week away would be overkill, to say the least. The entire reason for using such a phrase as "some of you standing here shall not taste death" would be to indicate that the event in question would happen before they all died. To say that some of them would be alive in a week is a little ridiculous. There would be no reason to say such a thing at all. And the fact that the word for "some" was used indicates the idea that some, even many, of those present would, in fact, not be included in the group that didn't taste death, meaning simply that many of them would in fact die before that event takes place. By its very nature, the language employed by Christ invalidates this possibility.

It is also highly questionable that the transfiguration was in any way Christ coming in the glory of His father, with His angels, in His kingdom ­ especially in light of Luke 21:31, which states that the Kingdom of God would not arrive until after the Great Tribulation:

Luke 21:31 (NKJV) "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.

This can't be referring to the transfiguration, because the verse says it would be a time when every man would be rewarded for their works. That cannot refer to the transfiguration or Pentecost, but it does refer to his second coming, as can be seen from:

Revelation 22:12 (NKJV) "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

Compare that with:

Matthew 16:27 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

The word "come" is the Greek word mello, which literally means: "Is about for the Son of Man to come", or in more common English, "For the Son of Man is about to come" The word is used primarily to indicate the nearness of an event, and means, "to be about to be". We see this exact same form of mello in:

Matthew 17:22 (NKJV) Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men,

Some have tried to water this word down to simply mean, "a certainty," but this is a mistake. The original Greek connotation was more than fact-related; it was a sense of time proximity.

Notice also that in the life time of the disciples to whom Jesus was speaking, He was going to "...reward each according to his works. When did this happen? At the second coming:

Matthew 25:31-34 (NKJV) "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 "And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Does this sound a lot like Matthew 16:27? The Kingdom itself was the crown jewel, and the New Jerusalem came in fullness with the passing of the old Jewish age. The transitional New Testament time between the resurrection of Christ, when the New was introduced, and the end of the Old age was consummated; and the Kingdom took hold in power once and for all, thanks to the redeeming work of Christ.

The righteous were rewarded, and the wicked were judged:

Matthew 25:41 (NKJV) "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

Throughout Matthews gospel, Jesus continually warned the Jews of their coming judgement, because of their apostasy. I believe that most, if not all, of Jesus' parables deal with the kingdom of God or the destruction of Jerusalem, because of their rejection of that Kingdom:

Matthew 21:43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
Matthew 22:7 "But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

Jesus continues to warn them of a coming judgement, because of their rejection of the Messiah. It is clear that the reference here is to Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70:

Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 "See! Your house is left to you desolate;

By "house," he was referring to Jerusalem, and certainly the temple was included. The word "desolate" is the Greek word eremos, it means: "waste, desert, desolate, solitary, or wilderness". The city and the temple were both destroyed in A.D. 70.

The disciples knew that His parousia would be in their life time, and they looked for, and expected it. Even after His resurrection, they questioned him about the restored kingdom:

Acts 1:6-7 (NKJV) Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

They didn't understand that Christ would sit upon His throne by means of His resurrection and ascension:

Acts 2:29-33 (NKJV) "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

Christ was now reigning on the Father's right hand, and the manifestation of that kingdom would come when Christ would come in judgement on Jerusalem:

Acts 2:34-35 (NKJV) "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, 35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

Now, you might ask, "Why would the disciples connect the destruction of the temple with Christ's parousia?" The disciples knew the Old Testament, and they knew that the destruction of Jerusalem would usher in Messiah's kingdom:

Zechariah 14:1-5 (NKJV) Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. 5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You.

In the day of the Lord, Jerusalem is destroyed and the Lord comes with His saints. Also, look at:

Daniel 9:26 (NKJV) "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

The disciples believed that the coming of Messiah would be simultaneous with the destruction of the city and the temple.

After pronouncing judgement upon the nation of Israel in the end of Matthew 23, Jesus and His disciples leave the temple. As they are leaving the temple, Jesus tells the disciples that the temple shall be completely destroyed;

Matthew 24:1-3 (NKJV) Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

In response to this, the disciples ask:

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

These are not separate questions that can be divided up into different time-events. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their minds and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple, they connected the coming of Messiah, and the end of the age:

Matthew 16:27-28 (NKJV) "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. 28 "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."

If you believe the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant Word of the Living God, then this passage gives a clear either/or, when determining its fulfillment. Either Christ has fulfilled this passage, and His Coming has occurred, or else some of that initial audience is still alive. There is no escaping this in the language used. Anybody familiar with logic knows that when an "if statement" is encountered, it indicates a split passageway, in which one and only one of the results can be followed. In this case ­ if Christ has not come, then some of the audience must still be alive physically. And conversely ­ if the entire audience has physically died, then Christ has to have fulfilled this verse and come in glory! If Christ was true to His word, there is no other alternative here! There can be no splitting of the pieces and parts of the fulfillment. It is all or nothing.

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