Glory Gone. Glory Returned.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 23:39 (Holman) For I tell you, you will never see Me again until
you say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
With these words, Jesus left the temple, never to return again. This was not the first time God had forsaken the temple. The prophet Ezekiel was exiled a few years before the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.
Just prior to the razing of the temple, Ezekiel was transported back to Jerusalem in a vision. In the temple, he saw God’s glory, the radiant splendor engulfed in light, with angel-cherubim nearby. In awed wonder, Ezekiel watched as God, due to Israel’s idolatry and sin, began to leave the temple.
The cherubim carried God’s glory from the sanctuary to the threshold of the temple (10:4). As the glory moved, brightness filled the temple complex. Ezekiel watched as the glory moved to the eastern gate (10:19).
The scene was overwhelmingly beautiful but sad. Rather than quickly depart, the glory moved slowly, incrementally, to show how grudgingly God was leaving the temple. God seemed to indicate if someone had repented and pleaded for Him to return, He would have gladly stayed. But no one cared.
As the glory slowly leaves our USA churches, and as sin is let loose in our land, does anyone care? Are we pleading for Him to stay? If we are not praying for our USA churches, then what in the world are we praying for?
Ezekiel saw God give one last gesture of longing to return; the glory paused at the top of the Mount of Olives (11:23). Then it left Jerusalem.
God’s exit from the temple in Ezekiel’s day had been an ultimate tragedy, yet Israel let it happen again in Jesus’ day. The crowds later saw Jesus on the cross, but did not witness His resurrected, Messianic glory.
Both of these departures were sad, but each ended happily. In Ezekiel’s day, God did not forsake His people forever. Years later the glory came over the Mount of Olives (43:2), re-entered the Eastern Gate (43:4), and filled the temple (43:5). Even so, Jesus said He too would come back.
When Jesus returns, people will shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (PS 118:26). At the Triumphal Entry, the crowd had yelled the same words (MT 21:9). On that day, they said the right words, but did not know their full meaning. What they then said shallowly shall someday be spoken sincerely when Jesus returns as Earth’s ruling Messiah.
When He comes back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” will be on every person’s lips.
Those who believed in Christ before they died will say these words with gladness. Those who did not believe in Jesus before dying will say them with sadness. The latter will be remorseful, but will have to make this confession nonetheless. They will be forced to admit it is true. On that day every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess Jesus is Lord (PH 2:10-11).
Our text records Jesus’ last public words to Israel. Appropriately, the final message to the crowd at large in His first coming was to mention His second coming, which He will discuss at length in the next two chapters.
As we enter a long time of studying the Second Coming, an overview of the topic might help. Beginning with what we know for sure about His coming will help us because speculative Bible interpretations have often made the Second Coming, which is supposed to encourage us, into a source of dread. About Jesus’ second coming, here are vital facts the Bible teaches for sure.
As we await Jesus, the world will continue to have wars and rumors of wars (MT 24:6), apostasy, promotion of false gods (2 TH 2:3-4), and persecution of believers. This world we live in is not going to get better.
The ill-fated notion that the world would be totally Christianized, and keep getting better and better, until it was good enough for Christ to return to was called postmillennialism. This error was the driving force of missions in the Nineteenth Century, known as the golden century of Christian history.
We sent out thousands of missionaries, believing we were making the world good enough for Jesus to return to. WW1 killed postmillennialism.
One misinterpretation of Scripture that helped fuel this error was based on Matthew 24:14, where our Master said, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” The verse does not say everyone in all nations will be saved. It instead tells us the message will penetrate to every corner of the globe. Until Jesus comes, His work will go on, as will Satan’s. Forces of good and evil shall remain engaged against each other to the very end.
How long will we have to wait for Jesus to return? No one knows (MT 24:36). It will happen when we don’t expect it (MT 24:44), like a thief in the night (1 TH 5:1-11), like lightning flashing across the sky (MT 24:37), and like it was in the days of Noah; people will be marrying, eating, and drinking. In other words, daily life will be going on as usual (LK 17:22-37).
Once it starts, events will happen fast. Without prior warning, Jesus will come with a retinue of angels, Heaven’s warriors (MT 16:27).
He will return the same way He left, in clouds (AC 1:11). Clouds will be the chariots (MT 26:64) He will ride on in power and glory (MT 24:30).
While these things unfold our direction, there will be movement their direction too. The dead will rise first (1 C 15; 1 TH 4:17); earthly bodies will be swallowed up in heavenly ones. We who are alive will be caught up in the clouds (1 TH 4:14-18); we will see Jesus, and become like Him (1 J 3:2).
The heavens will loudly catch fire and pass away, elements will burn and dissolve, bringing a new heavens and new earth (2 P 3:10-13). All shall stand before God’s tribunal (2 C 5:10) as He judges the world (AC 17:31).
What about the Rapture, Tribulation, and Millennium? We know postmillennialism is no longer a viable option, but other than this certainty, we’re not sure about these issues (For five Second Coming views espoused by Southern Baptists: http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/2014/06/sla10).
The chief interpretations of these matters among Bible believers fall under two broad headings: Amillennialism and Premillennialism. My mom is amillennial; Dad is premillennial; I grew up confused on the issues.
Amillennialists, believing Revelation is symbolic, see the Millennium as Christ’s ministry on earth through His church from His crucifixion to His return. They see no rapture to escape a “Great Tribulation”. No one receives a free pass on persecution. Revelation seems to indicate Amillennialism.
Revelation is not chronological but repeats same info from different perspectives (e.g. seals, trumpets, bowls of wrath). At Christ’s resurrection, Satan was bound (20:1-3). God’s saints have all they need to reign (20:4-6). The first resurrection is a believer’s physical death. The second resurrection is our glorified bodily resurrection when Jesus comes. RV 20:7-10 is not in sequential order; it pictures the same struggles presented in Revelation previously. Amillennialism has been the dominant position of the majority of believers through the ages.
Premillennialists see the Millennium as a time when Christ will reign on earth with His church prior to God’s final judgment. They see a rapture of the church followed by the Great Tribulation, when a Satanic false religion will persecute believers worldwide, followed by a literal 1000 year reign by Christ. Most of the earliest church fathers affirmed premillennialism.
Pre’s are divided over whether the Rapture is pre-, mid-, or post- Tribulation. Pre-Tribs include Dispensationalists, who believe God’s promises to Israel have not yet been fulfilled in believers as a new Israel. They believe Israel was not merely a type or symbol; the Church does not replace Israel.
One problem with this position is; it causes some believers to say the political nation of Israel is free to do whatever it wants as a nation. We for sure support Israel—“They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (RM 11:28)—but we must not let any political structure have carte blanche to do anything it desires.
Of the Second Coming, this I know. We win, and not just barely, but by a landslide. Jesus and Satan will not have a wrestling match with Jesus barely winning at the last second. Good grief no. “One little word shall fell him” (Luther).