Tuesday, December 02, 2014
"The Son of Man is Coming" Sermon: Mark 13:24-37
“The Son of Man is Coming”
November 30, 2014 Second Reformed Church
We begin the Advent season by remembering that there are two advents: the First Advent in which God came to earth in the person of Jesus – which occurred about two thousand years ago, and the Second Advent – which we look forward to – in which Jesus will return in power and glory to judge the nations and bring the elect into His Eternal Kingdom.
We are looking at the answers to two questions the disciples asked Jesus, so it is good that we know what the context – and the questions – were:
Jesus and the disciples had just come out of the Temple – this was the final Temple in Israel – the one built by the exiles who returned from Babylon about five hundred years earlier and which was having additions built by King Herod.
The disciples drew Jesus’ attention to how beautiful the Temple looked and Jesus told them that the Temple was going to be destroyed – not one stone would be left upon the other.
At this point, the disciples asked Jesus two questions: When will the Temple be destroyed? And, what will the signs of the Second Advent be – what will the signs of the end pf the age be – what will the signs of Jesus’ return be?
So, the text we are looking at is Jesus’ answer to when the Temple will be destroyed and what the signs will be for His return.
We need to remember as we look at these texts that this is prophecy – and when we read prophecy in the Bible, we need to remember that a prophecy may have multiple fulfillments and a prophecy may have parts that are fulfilled in near history and parts that are fulfilled in latter history. We must be careful in looking at prophecy that we handle it carefully.
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”
Jesus is telling them about what will happen after “that tribulation” – after that period of suffering. In the preceding verses, Jesus tells the disciples that false teachers will come, the relative peace of the Roman Empire will fall apart, and the Creation will react by becoming more erratic. At that time, “the abomination of desolation” will stand where it doesn’t belong.
Matthew tells us that this will fulfill the prophecy of Daniel: “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Daniel 9:27, ESV).
Daniel is talking about the total destruction of Jerusalem, including the Temple. And looking back from our age, we can see when this was fulfilled in history: in 70 A.D., Caesar Titus led his army against the uprisings in Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the Temple – Romans were in the Temple – the abomination of desolation.
After this destruction, we have the poetic description of cosmic upheaval – historically, we see the collapse of the Roman Empire and the end of biblical Judaism.
So, Jesus tells the disciples, in prophetic language, that the Romans would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. and it would mark cosmic upheaval – including the end of the Roman Empire and biblical Judaism.
The Jesus turns to the second question – about His coming at the end of the age:
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
“Then” – sometime after the destruction of the Temple – over two thousand years so far – Jesus – the Son of Man – will return “in the clouds with power and glory.” This is what the angels told the disciples on the day of Jesus’ Ascension:
Forty days after Jesus physically rose from the dead, we read: “So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-11, ESV).
Jesus ascended physically and visibly up through the clouds into Heaven, and when He returns, He will descend physically and visibly through the clouds to earth as the Judge of Heaven and earth, and He will gather all of the elect – all those who ever believe – to Him. This will be the end of the age and the restoration of the Creation. It is a day of great hope for all we who believe.
And let us notice that He is called “the Son of Man” – that was the name Jesus called Himself the most frequently. Why? Because it was a name that had a specific meaning that would have been plainly understood by the people of that day.
Listen to what Daniel writes: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14, ESV).
Jesus repeatedly stated that He is the Son of Man that Daniel talked about. Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God Who is Sovereign over all. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’” (Matthew 28:18, ESV). Jesus plainly claimed to be God in the flesh.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Jesus then turns back to the first question – giving some parameters on when the destruction of the Temple will occur: just as you look at a tree beginning to bear leaves and know the summer is coming, when the suffering under Rome and the beginning of the collapse of the Empire occurs, then Rome will destroy Jerusalem, slaughter her inhabitants, and destroy the Temple, then the cosmic upheaval will occur – Rome will fall, Judaism would become a false religion, and troubles will continue until Jesus returns.
And Jesus assures them – that this present age with its sinful corruption will pass away – the beginning being the destruction of the Roman Empire, Jerusalem, the Temple, and Judaism as a biblical religion. However, Jesus assures them, as well, that even as all things fall apart, His Word will stand. Nothing will ever contradict or cause Jesus’ Word – God’s Word – to fail. Jesus is the Son of God – God in the flesh. Surely, His Word will not pass away – it is truth forevermore.
Again, Jesus turns to the second question:
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Jesus tells them He will not and cannot give them specifics as to the time of the end of the age – His Second Coming – that is known only to the Father. And it is important for us to understand that – although Jesus is God – He was not lying – Jesus is both fully God and fully human – and in His humanity, He did not know when His Return would be. God kept that hidden from Him. His Divinity did not allow His humanity to know when it would be.
So, what are we to do?
One question has been answered: when will the Temple be destroyed and the cosmos begin to unfurl? The answer: 70 A.D. The Temple has been destroyed – and not one stone is upon another. The Roman Empire collapsed. Judaism – today – is a false religion.
The second question of when Jesus will return is not answered: Jesus said that He will return in Sovereign Victory in the same way that He left – through the clouds with the angels. As to the exact day and hour and year – we are not allowed to know. Despite fanciful interpretations – there is no secret code to find out the day and the hour and the year that Jesus will return. He will return when it is time.
So, what are we to do? What did Jesus tell the disciples to do?
“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
Stay awake! Be alert!
Jesus says that when we leave our house and property in someone else’s hands while we are away, we expect that they will be alert and care for our house and property and be ready to turn it back to us in the same condition when we return.
If we go on vacation and ask someone to take care of our home, and we come home to find the doors open, and our stuff stolen, and our TV smashed in – God forbid! – we would demand an account – an explanation – as to what happened. And if the person we set in charge said, “Oh, I just didn’t bother with caring for the house and your stuff, I figured it would be ok,” we would be angry, right?
So Jesus told the disciples and us to be alert – to be awake – to notice what’s going on – to watch out for people who will try to mislead us and steal from us and lead us astray. We are to be ready for whenever Jesus returns – we are to be expectantly waiting for Him – looking forward to His return – believing it with a sure hope and great joy.
Now, Jesus didn’t mean for the disciples – or us – to never go to sleep. Caring for our bodies is a right thing to do. What He meant was we are to be spiritually alert and awake and aware.
For the disciples – they were to recognize what it meant when the abomination of desolation came – when the Romans entered the Temple and profaned it and then destroyed it. They were to watch out and be on guard against false teachers and those who would cause dissention in the church. They were to look forward to the Return of Christ with great expectation and hopeful joy.
We, also, are to be alert and awake – we are also to be looking forward to the Return of Christ with great expectation and hopefully joy.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, ESV).
Jesus – the Son of Man – God Incarnate – is the Sovereign God Who rules over all of Creation. We are to go proclaim the Gospel, and when people believe and repent, we are to teach them – to make them disciples. We are to baptize in the Name of the Trinity. We are to be faithfully obedient to all God has said. And we are to live with assurance and hope in Christ’s Return.
What would it look like to be alert and awake for the Return of Messiah the King – the Son of Man – our Lord and Savior, Jesus:
Let us be centered on the Word of God. Let what God has said be our meat and drink. Let us desire to be in worship with our fellow Christians, hearing the Word of God read and preached. Let us read the Word of God on our own – every day – in our private devotions. Let us read the Word of God and learn from it with other Christians during the week. Let us not be satisfied with a day that we do not come before God in His Word to hear from Him and to learn from Him and follow after Him in faithful obedience.
Let us join together in the regular reception of the Sacraments. Let us all be baptized once and receive the Lord’s Supper with our fellow Christians as often as we can to see a visual display of the Gospel and to receive God’s Grace through it that we might be strengthened as His people.
Let us join together in prayer – for each other – for ourselves – for the world – for the Will of God – asking God the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf when we don’t know how to pray. Let us pray in church, privately, and with others. God wants us to pray – giving thanks, repenting of our sin, and asking for our needs – and God will hear us and give us everything we pray for that is according to His Will.
Let us evangelize – let us tell others the Gospel – not worrying about “getting a convert,” but telling others about the Good News of the historical life and work of Jesus which is the only salvation – trusting that God will save all those He has called as His elect to salvation.
And let us gather for fellowship and hospitality. Let us join together with fellow Christians to enjoy each other’s company and share what God has blessed us with. Let us join together with non-Christians in sharing our blessings with them in thanks to Jesus and as a witness to Him. And let us not neglect to talk about God our Savior and what He has said when we gather together.
The Temple was profaned and destroyed. All of Creation is unravelling. But the Son of Man is coming. Jesus is returning in power and glory. And as we remember and give thanks for the First Advent and Jesus’ birth on earth, let us also look forward in great hope during this Second Advent, as we wait for His Coming again.
May we watch the world. Listen to the Word of God – and obey in all faithfulness – staying awake and alert in the spirit that we would be ready for His Return.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we rejoice that You chose to come into the world to save a people for Yourself, and we rejoice and look forward to Your Second Coming, when You will gather all Your elect together from throughout history, restore the Creation, and bring us into the fullness of Your Kingdom. Help us to be faithful in all things now, growing in faith and obedience, to Your Glory and for our joy. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.