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New Testamanet Eschatology -- Background Question

I have received some comments and emails regarding my understanding of the 'coming' of Jesus in Matthew 24. Since this, to me, is foundational to the rest of this series, I thought I would address it now before we move on.

Basically, the question is, 'I have always been taught (or believed) that the 'coming' Jesus talked about in Matthew 24 was his 'Second Coming' at the end of time. So, I'm not so sure if I agree with your view. Can you give me some passages to help support your view?'

That's a fair question. I have not always held this view and, like so many others, have always seen the 'coming' of Jesus as the 'Second Coming' at the end of history. But, once I started looking into eschatology, I realized that there were other views out there and some were better at addressing some of my concerns. To sharpen the point, I saw other 'comings' in the Bible. Please, consider the following.
Genesis 18.13-14. 'Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Did you notice that? YHWH promised Abraham and Sarah the YHWH would 'return' to them the following year. But, when we read the passage, YHWH is nowhere to be 'seen'.
Genesis 21.1-3. 'The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. And Abraham named their son Isaac.'

What is fascinating about this passage is manifold. First, in Genesis 18, YHWH appeared to be a man. YHWH came in the guise of a human being. Then YHWH told Abraham that YHWH would return to them. Now, we would expect this to be a 'physical' return, wouldn't we? That's what we think of in the New Testament. But that is not what the passage is telling us. YHWH's 'return' was the birth of Isaac. YHWH fulfilled the promise. So, the fulfilling of a promise can be seen as a 'coming' of YHWH.

Another passage that we don't often think of when we think of the 'coming' of YHWH is 1Samual 24. I'm sure we remember the story. King Saul has heard that David and his men are hiding in the wilderness near Engedi. So he gathers 3,000 of his best warriors and goes after David. At some point, Saul goes into a cave at Wild Goat Rock to relieve himself and David and his men are further back in that very cave! 'Now's your chance', they tell David. 'YHWH has delivered your enemy right into your hand.' David sneaks up on Saul. However, instead of killing him, David just cuts off part of Saul's robe and creeps away. Once Saul has left the cave and ventured a little ways away, David comes out and tells him what happened. Now, what is interesting about all of this is the song David wrote about this scene. He wrote:
Psalm 18.6-11. [In] my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger. Smoke poured from his nostrils; fierce flames leaped from his mouth. Glowing coals blazed forth from him. He opened the heavens and came down; dark storm clouds were beneath his feet. Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. He shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.

Now, did any of that take place in 1Samuel 24? Nope. But that doesn't mean it's not real. David saw his rescue from Saul as YHWH 'coming' to his aid and used poetic language to describe it. So, deliverance from an enemy can be seen as a 'coming' of YHWH.

There are a lot of other passage that contain similar poetic language but we will only give a couple of examples. In Isaiah 13 we read:
Isaiah 13.6-13. 'Scream in terror, for the day of the Lord has arrived—the time for the Almighty to destroy. Every arm is paralyzed with fear. Every heart melts, and people are terrified. Pangs of anguish grip them, like those of a woman in labor. They look helplessly at one another, their faces aflame with fear. For see, the day of the Lord is coming—the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it. The heavens will be black above them; the stars will give no light. The sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will provide no light. “I, the Lord, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty. I will make people scarcer than gold—more rare than the fine gold of Ophir. For I will shake the heavens. The earth will move from its place when the Lord of Heaven’s Armies displays his wrath in the day of his fierce anger.”

In this passage we have several things: the day of the Lord, desolate land, destruction of sinners, the heavens turned black, extinguished stars, darkened sun and moon. On this day the Lord will 'punish the world for its evil' and 'shake the heavens' and move the earth from its place. This was a message Isaiah received concerning the destruction of Babylon and it was fulfilled in roughly 539 BCE. One of the questions that comes in here is, if this type of thing literally took place, then where is the passage that talks about YHWH creating a new heavens and new earth? A literal reading of this passage would lead one to believe that the entire planet was destroyed. 'The earth will move from its place' would completely destroy all life here and perhaps even the planet itself. This is poetic language used to describe the judgment of YHWH on Babylon.

Another example is found in Micah 1. There we read:
Micah 1.1-5. The Lord gave this message to Micah of Moresheth during the years when Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah. The visions he saw concerned both Samaria and Jerusalem. Attention! Let all the people of the world listen! Let the earth and everything in it hear. The Sovereign Lord is making accusations against you; the Lord speaks from his holy Temple. Look! The Lord is coming! He leaves his throne in heaven and tramples the heights of the earth. The mountains melt beneath his feet and flow into the valleys like wax in a fire, like water pouring down a hill. And why is this happening? Because of the rebellion of Israel—yes, the sins of the whole nation. Who is to blame for Israel’s rebellion? Samaria, its capital city! Where is the center of idolatry in Judah? In Jerusalem, its capital!'

There are a couple of things here. There is the 'coming' of the Lord resulting in the trampling of the 'heights of earth' and 'melting' the mountains. This passage was fulfilled in roughly 722 BCE by the Assyrians. Again, none of this actually or literally happened. The poetic language is used to show that the fall of a nation is the work of YHWH. So, the destruction of a nation is seen as a 'coming' of YHWH.

In this post we have looked at different 'comings' of YHWH. YHWH 'came' at the fulfillment of a promise, the deliverance from an enemy, and the destruction of a nation. It is with the last one that the New Testament is most concerned. It is used throughout the entire New Testament. I believe it is the basis for Jesus' conversation with the disciples in Matthew 24 (parallel passages are Mark 13 and Luke 21) and their use of the 'coming of the Lord' throughout the rest of the New Testament. Next time we will start looking at some of the New Testament passages. Until then...

Peace be with you.

OD

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