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Eschatology 101: The Olivet Discourse, or Why Preterism? (Part 3)

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Take a deep breath....

One of the most principal things we need to do to allow Scripture to speak is to shut up. In a very practical sense this does mean reading our Bibles in quiet places with little to no distractions. The second practical sense is to remove other people's teaching of the Bible from our minds. Don't miss my point. We eventually will test what we think Scripture says by both the entirety of Scripture and the words of faithful Christians but when we are reading the text and asking the Holy Spirit to let the text speak, we need to have only the text speaking. The third practical sense is that we ourselves need to cease speaking when we're reading the Scriptures.

Now all of this is very hard to communicate faithfully. Essentially what I am about to do is make the claim that our minds have been cluttered by previous teaching and our own voices to actually hear the Scriptures. But then I am going to present a new way of hearing the Scriptures that incorporates listening to other teachers. Immediately legalism will jump and say "see you're guilty of the same thing!" and in fact I would be if I would encourage you to blindly accept the teaching of other men.

But the truth is that often before we can hear we must be told to shut up. And take this as a polite way of saying that. The following is a portion of Marcellus Kik's book An Eschatology of Victory. Having purchased and read the book I can gladly recommend it will acknowledging that there are many things I believe are incorrect. In this book, Kik attempts to present a fresh look at Matthew 24 and Revelation 20. Since only Matthew 24 is pertinent to the Olivet Discourse, I'm going to allow Kik to quietly hush us with some words concerning Christ "coming on the clouds".

Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt. 24:29-31)

Coming in the Clouds

The third and final clause of verse 30 says, "and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." This clause has been thought to relate definitely to the second, visible, and personal coming of the Lord. But in the light of well-defined biblical language, the reference is rather to a coming in terms of the events of his providence in judgment against his enemies and in deliverance of his people.

It should be noted carefully that neither this verse nor this particular clause indicates a coming upon earth. Some have read into this clause that Jesus was actually descending to the earth for the purpose of taking up a reign in the city of Jerusalem. Nothing like that is indicated. As a matter of fact, there is not a single verse in the New Testament to indicate that Christ will reign upon a material throne in the material city of Jerusalem. This thought has been imported by a carnal interpretation of Old Testament passages. Christ is actually seated now upon his Messianic throne.

Many commentators have taken it for granted that the expression "coming in the clouds" refers to a visible coming of Christ. A careful study of the Scriptures, however, reveals that that is not a necessary interpretation. A similar expression occurs in Isaiah 19:1, "Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it." Although this passage speaks of the Lord riding upon a cloud and of his presence, nevertheless we know that the Egyptians did not see the Lord in a personal, visible way. The Lord riding upon a swift cloud indicated a coming in judgment against the Egyptians.

A similar type of expression concerning judgment is found in Psalm 97:2,3: "Clouds and darkness are round him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about." In speaking of the mighty power of God the Psalmist uses this expression: "Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters; who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind" (Ps. 104:3). The expression "who maketh the clouds his chariot," is no different from "coming in the clouds of heaven." In the Psalms there is no thought of a personal, visible coming of the Lord, but rather references to his judgment and power.

Following the well-defined biblical sense of such expression the last clause of verse 30 may well be interpreted then to indicate a coming in judgment and power: judgment against his enemies and power to the establishment of his kingdom.

This interpretation is borne out by the words of Christ in other passages when he indicated that he was coming before the contemporary generation would pass away. He said: "Verily I say unto you, there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). Christ was saying that some of the people actually standing before him and listening to him would not die until they saw the Son of man coming in his kingdom. This could hardly refer to a personal and visible coming in that generation.

The same thought in conveyed in Christ's words to the High Priest: "Thou hast said: Nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:64). This High Priest was to see Christ sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. Can this possibly refer to Christ's second coming when the description "sitting on the right hand of power" precludes such interpretation. It means rather that after the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus would ascend into heaven and take his place on the right hand of God, the Father, as described in Daniel 7:13,14: "I saw in the night vision, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." When Christ ascended into heaven he was seated upon his Messianic throne. This is in full accord with the declaration of Christ as he was about to ascend into heaven: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." One of the first manifestation of the power and glory of Messiah was the destruction of the city that refused to accept him as King and Saviour. This act of judgment gave evidence that all power had indeed been given unto him. He did come in the clouds of heaven and rained destruction upon those who had rejected and crucified him. This caused the tribes of the earth to mourn. The sign of the reigning Christ was seen in the destruction of Jerusalem. The contemporary generation, indicated in verse 34, witnessed fulfillment of these things as Christ had prophesied.

Now that we have consumed that, it is up to us to ask the tough questions. Have we been quieting Scripture? Have there been voices distracting us from the text that we were not aware of? It is with this mindset that we can enter back into Matthew 24 and begin to analyze the Scriptures with a clear and quiet mind. We must put aside Kik and other teachers and truly wrestle with the Scriptures.

Obviously my final conclusion was in agreement with Kik. The plain facts seem to indicate that Jesus is speaking in common Biblical language and not in some stretched literal interpretation. But every time I read Matthew 24, I'm called to do it quietly such that the Scriptures can speak.

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