A Divine Jigsaw Puzzle



OCTOBER 7, 2012

Biblical prophecy experts such as Harold Camping and Hal Lindsey have persuaded millions of naive Christians to shell out millions of dollars to purchase their books over the years. They convinced these gullible people that they have the answers concerning biblical prophecy. I want to go on record as saying that I don’t, and probably won’t until I leave this world and go home. After seven or eight years of studying the issue I’m finding it to be somewhat like a jig saw puzzle. It’s often very hard to put the pieces together. On the other hand, Camping and Lindsay pound, twist, bend and whittle down the pieces down to make them fit.

Last week I purposely shared several rather graphic historical facts concerning the horrendous persecution the early Christians were enduring. I wanted to give you folks an idea of how terrible it was. From the looks on your faces that shocking revelation was a literal eye opener. I made a case for the fact that the horrors concerning the Great Tribulation Jesus predicted came to pass in A. D. 67-70 and that He returned and executed judgment on that particular generation of Jews. He also rescued His followers who were still alive when He returned exactly as He had promised them. In my concluding remarks I urged you to read the sermon on my blog and then judge everything I said by using the light of Scripture. I ended by saying,

“What I have shared with you folks this morning was obviously not a sermon, per se. I wanted to use Church History to give you a good idea of some of the awful horrors those first century Christians were suffering. Now I will leave you with a question to think about. WHAT IF JESUS DIDN’T RETURN? I’m not aware of anyone that answered that question. However, my granddaughter, Sarah posted these comments on my web page:

“My confusion is as such: how do you reconcile the fact Jesus said he would come out from the clouds? That the stars would fall from the sky? That distress would happen unequaled to anything that has or will happen, when the lives claimed in the holocaust sorely outnumbered that of the 70 ad war? You made a lot of good points, and have a lot of scripture to support your claim, but I am still having a hard time believing this. Furthermore, how will the world end?”

29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘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.’ 30 “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Matthew 24:29-31 (NIV)

24 “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 26 “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 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. Mark 13:24-27 (NIV)

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25-28 (NIV)

In, ‘Ortho Millennialism’, Gerald Haug reminds us of a very important fact: “Remember the Bible is written for us, not to us. It was written by the author to its initial listeners. Only after we understand its original message can we apply its principles to our own lives. When reading, take note of the beliefs, social customs, geography, and technology of the biblical world that may have influenced the author. Remember the Bible was not written in a vacuum—it was written over a period of about 1,500 years. Since that time, many cultural changes have taken place. To arrive at the correct meaning of a passage, then, you must consider when the statement was made, and the historical and cultural situation at the time the statement was made.”

“The writers and the audience of the biblical text were confronted daily with situations and circumstances that influenced their thoughts and conduct. The more we understand their culture, the more we will understand the writings of Scripture. If we fail to do this, we could become guilty of interpreting the Bible through the lenses of our 21st century world. When it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible, we must first leave our culture behind and transport ourselves into the culture of biblical times, before returning to make the application for our present day lives.” (p.15)

“Christ coming on the clouds symbolizes His coming in judgment (Matthew 24:30; 26: 63:64; Luke 21:27). Note that this verse is given in the present tense (‘he is returning with the clouds,) and not in the future tense (he will return with the clouds) which would be appropriate if the end times were in the far distant future.” “… the phrase ‘returning with the clouds’ is an expression used for the parousia, as well as throughout Scripture, to denote the coming of the Lord God in judgment upon a people or nation at a given time.”  

1 An oracle concerning Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them. Isaiah 19:1 (NIV)

7 The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. 8 Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it. 9 He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet. 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him– the dark rain clouds of the sky. 12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightning. 13 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded. 14 He shot his arrows and scattered [the enemies], great bolts of lightning and routed them. 15 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at your rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. Psalm 18:7-15 (NIV)

In his book, ‘Behind the Veil of Moses’, Brian L. Martin jogs our memory of this fact: “As someone once said, when we read the New Testament we are reading someone else’s mail. This is literally true of the letters to the churches and individuals. None of us are members of the church at Galatia, or Ephesus, or Thessalonica, etc., to which that “mail” was addressed. Although the Bible was written for us it was not written to us. From our perspective, the Bible is a history book—but it is not a dead history book:

12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

12 For whatever God says to us is full of living power: it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are. Hebrews 4:12 (TLB)

“This means we must separate the timeless truths and principles of the Bible from its time-and people-specific events and promises. Even the New Testament church had to do this, as they were encouraged to read each others letters. Both believers and non believers in the New Testament era were expected to study the Old Testament Scriptures, which were historical books to them (with many of the prophecies fulfilled!), and were admonished for not being diligent in this area. Like, we are to study the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are historical to us. Just as the Pharisees of Jesus day did not read (nor do we) Joshua 6 and interpret it that they (or are we) to march around Jericho for seven days, so we cannot take specific instructions and promises to the New Testament generation and apprehend for ourselves.” (p, 445)

In ‘Last Days Madness’, Garry DeMarr reminds us that, “Jesus’ description of His coming in that generation differs little from the way Micah describes the coming of Jehovah to judge Samaria and Jerusalem centuries before Jesus’ incarnation.”

2 Hear, O peoples, all of you, listen, O earth and all who are in it, that the Sovereign LORD may witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. 3 Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. 4 The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope. Micah 1:2-4 (NIV)

4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.” Zechariah 14:4 (NIV)

The Lord is said to come “forth from His place” to “come down” and tread on the high places of the earth.” In what way did this take place? Was this a physical/bodily coming so the people actually saw Jehovah? Did the mountains really melt? Did the valleys split? This coming of Jehovah in judgment is directed against two seats of government in Israel, Samaria in the north and Jerusalem in the south, prior to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The New Testament uses nearly identical language to describe Jesus’ judgment-coming on Jerusalem in A. D. 70 (Matt. 24:29).”

“The cloud-language in Matthew 24:30 is similar to the imagery of the previous verses and their description of the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of stars. What is the association of clouds with God? First, God showed Himself by the physical presence of clouds, although no one ever saw Him e.g. Ex.13:21; 14:24; 19:9; 20:21; 33:9; 34:5; 1 Kings 8:12).

Second, God’s abode is described as a canopy of clouds.

2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Psalm 97:2 (NIV)

Third, God’s mode of transportation is figuratively described as a cloud chariot.

3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. Psalm 104:3 (NIV)

Fourth, when God speaks, “He causes the clouds to ascend to the earth.

13 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Jeremiah 10:13 (NIV)

Jeremiah repeats himself later in this prophecy.

16 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. Jeremiah 51:16 (NIV)

Fifth, the “day of the Lord”… will be a day of clouds (Ezek. 30:3; Joel 2:2).

3 For the day is near, the day of the LORD is near– a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations. Ezekiel 30:3 (NIV)

2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Joel 2:2 (NIV)

“Sixth, God’s judgment of the wicked is described as the upheaval of the created order: “In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust of His feet” (Nahum 1:3).

3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet. Nahum 1:3 (NIV)

“In each of the above examples, clouds are symbols of God’s presence. In addition, there are verses which describe God coming on the clouds”:

1 An oracle concerning Egypt: See, the LORD rides on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. The idols of Egypt tremble before him, and the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them. Isaiah 19:1 (NIV)

“This is no more “literal” than God riding a cloud chariot, abiding in a cloud canopy, or clouds moving when God speaks. The image of God riding on a swift cloud depicts His sovereignty over the nations.”

3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. 4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. Psalm 104:3-4 (NIV)

“God does not physically appear on clouds, using them as “chariots.” Neither does He literally walk on “wings of wind” or make “the winds His messengers.” The language describes judgment and retribution. Why should anyone think it unusual to find similar language in the New Testament being interpreted in the same way?” (p. 160-161).

Hague adds; “Since Jesus said He would return ‘on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,’ we have to ask ourselves if anyone in the first century saw the Lord’s return before the end of their generation? Since we know that the expression ‘coming in the clouds’ refers to judgment, and the concept of a cloud in the Old Testament signified God’s presence, and in the Old Testament these were not physical appearances of God, but the manifestations of His spiritual presence, then an actual sighting of Jesus might not be what we are seeking.”

“So what is the evidence of its spiritual nature? The writings of at least two ancient, non-Christian historians record a fascinating incident that give evidence, and testify to, the spiritual nature of the Lord’s coming. The Jewish historian Josephus upon whose works many theologians rely, wrote before the destruction of Jerusalem:

“A certain prodigious and incredible phenomena appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those who saw as being of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunset, chariots and troops of solders in their armour were seen running among the clouds, and surrounding the cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple], as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said, that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound of a multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence…” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3).

“Also, the famed Roman historian, Tacitus, relates a very similar event of the destruction of Jerusalem. “Early in this year [A. D. 70] Titus Caesar, who had been selected by his father [Vespasian] to complete the subjugation of Judaea…encamped near Jerusalem. As I [Tacitus] am about to relate the last days of a famous city…”There were seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine [temple] were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the gods were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of a departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire” (Tacitus, The History Book V). Those two quotes by Josephus and Tacitus portray a spiritual manifestation, only visible to those whose eyes were opened, of this unfolding spiritual warfare occurring at the end of the age.” (p.68-69)

I realize I didn’t answer all of Sarah’s questions this morning. I trust that the ones that I did answer were satisfactory.

Lord willing,…

Oh, by the way, since no one answered my question “what if Jesus didn’t return,” I will. In light of the horrendous suffering the early Christians were enduring in the Great Tribulation, if He didn’t keep His promise to return and execute judgment on that particular generation of Jews while some of His listeners were still alive and also rescue the early Christians who hadn’t been martyred, it would have been the death of the Christian Church. If it was mentioned at all, historians would have recorded that Christ was another one of those false prophets of the time. And you folks wouldn’t be here today sitting in those hard uncomfortable pews listening to an old guy like me.


Lord willing, next week…

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October 8, 2012 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with:

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