SET-2 Season of Elijah-Cross-Moses
MOSES SECOND SUNDAY
YOUR SALVATION IS NEAR
When Jesus went to Jerusalem for his last Passover celebration, he foretold the destruction of the Temple and the tribulation prior to that. He advised his followers not to find shelter within the city walls during the war because the Jews had lost their protection from God. They rejected the salvation God offered through His Son. When the Jewish extremists like Zealots revolted against Roman rule, the Roman army destroyed the city and its Temple. Those who believe in Jesus must flee to the mountains to save themselves from the battle. Jesus predicted the massacre and captivity of the Jews. The Gentiles will trample the holy city underfoot “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Along with this, Jesus predicted the tribulations on the sky and earth before his second coming with power and glory. Like the fall of Jerusalem, the sinners will face eternal destruction and true believers will join the heavenly kingdom. If we are righteous, the second coming of Christ will be a time of hope and eternal reward.
BIBLE TEXT: LUKE 21:20-28
The Great Tribulation
(Lk 21:20) “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. (21) Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, (22) for these days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures are fulfilled. (23) Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. (24) They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The Coming of the Son of Man.
(Lk 21:25) “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. (26) People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (27) And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (28) But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
Jesus went to Jerusalem as usual to celebrate the Passover for the last time in his public ministry. He rode on a colt from the Mount of Olives to the Temple while the pilgrims in Jerusalem greeted him acclaiming, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Lk 19:38). When he reached close to the city, he lamented over Jerusalem (Lk 19:42-44). Jesus then cleansed the Temple by forcefully expelling merchants and their merchandise from the sacred area. That made the Jewish authorities furious and they sought to kill him (Lk 19:47-48). They tried to trap Jesus with disputable issues. He continued teaching in the Temple area to the pilgrims with parables and examples. Jesus then foretold the destruction of the Temple and the signs of tribulation before it and the signs of the end times like wars, natural calamities, and persecution (Lk 21:5-19). Then he presented further details of the great tribulation prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.
The Great Tribulation
(Lk 21:20)“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand” .
When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies
Jerusalem is on a high mountain plateau approximately 2,500 feet above sea level between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Abraham met Melchizedek, the king of Salem here (Gen 14:1424). God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on that mountain called Moriah (Gen 22:2). Though Joshua had assigned that high region to the tribe of Benjamin, they did not capture it (Josh 18:28). King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites and established it as the capital of his kingdom. King Solomon built the Temple here.
When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies
The enemies had surrounded Jerusalem previously and destroyed it twice. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed the first Temple that Solomon built. Its commissioning was in the 10th century BC, and its destruction happened in 587 BC. Jeremiah had warned the Israelites about its fall. Similarly, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple Herod rebuilt.
After the ascension of Jesus, the Jews revolted against Roman rule. Revolutionaries like the zealots led the uprising. As a reaction to the insurrection against Rome, the Roman army, under the leadership of Titus Vespasian, attacked Jerusalem in 70 AD. know that its desolation is at hand
Desolate means deprived of inhabitants. Jesus predicted the desolation of Jerusalem that would happen because the Jews rejected the salvation that God offered them through Jesus. Before the destruction of the first Temple Solomon built, Jeremiah had also given a similar warning to the Israelites because of their rejection of his message for repentance. Through Jeremiah, God warned, “I will turn Jerusalem into a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; The cities of Judah I will make a waste, where no one dwells” (Jer 9:10). Before the Persians invaded Babylon, Jeremiah predicted the desolation of Babylon. “A nation from the north advances against it, making the land desolate so that no one can live there; human beings and animals have fled” (Jer 50:3). So, desolation is a state of destitution that is scary for any nation.
Biblically, the destitution of a city is a punishment from God for the sins of its inhabitants. Examples are the expulsion of our First Parents from the Garden of Eden, the destruction of people at the time of Noah, the collapse of the Tower of Babel, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jeremiah and Jesus warned of similar destructions for Jerusalem and its Temple. However, the resolute people did not listen to them. So, their prophesies took place on time.
know that its desolation is at hand
As with the case of the hurricane forecast of the modern times, Jesus warned the Jews and his disciples of the imminent danger during their lifetime. However, God allowed 40 years for repentance and conversion. After that, the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem happened in 70 AD.
The attack of Romans against Jerusalem happened because of the repeated agitations of the Jewish radicals against the Roman government. Hence, the Romans ceased the agitation by fully destroying the Jews. Jesus foresaw this through his divine intuition and circumstantial assessment.
(21) Then those in Judaea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city.
Then those in Judaea must flee to the mountains
During the past, the cities had fortifications. At the start of a war, the citizens will take refuge inside the fortified city while the army counter attacks the invaders. Jesus was sure of the fall of Jerusalem. Hence, it was unsafe for people to take shelter within the city walls. Those who believe in the words of Jesus must flee to the nearby mountain for rescue because the mighty Romans were concentrating their attack on the city.
A comparable situation happened to Lot and his family. The angels asked them to “flee to the hills at once, or you will be swept away” (Gen 19:17). At Lot’s request, the angels allowed them to take refuge in a small town called Zoar (Gen 19:18-22). The Lord then destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by showering sulfur and fire from heaven (Gen 19:24).
Let those within the city escape from it
Jesus had warned those staying in the city to flee from there to save their lives. God had saved the lives of the righteous during the punishment of sinners with natural calamities. He protected Noah’s family during the deluge and Lot’s family during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Neither strong city walls nor an army can save our lives unless God is our refuge and fortress (Ps 91:2). God protects the lives of his faithful. “The punishment of the wicked you will see. Because you have the LORD for your refuge and have made the Most High your stronghold, No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent. For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps 91:8-12).
Jeremiah had given a similar warning to the Benjaminite people to flee from Jerusalem before the Babylonian attack on the city. “Seek refuge, Benjaminites, from the midst of Jerusalem! Blow the trumpet in Tekoa, raise a signal over Beth-haccherem; for disaster threatens from the north, and mighty destruction” (Jer 6:1).
let those in the countryside not enter the city
The countryside means any area outside the fortress of Jerusalem. If the people in the field or in the neighbourhood take refuge in the fortress, the Roman army would destroy them. Fleeing away from the city would be a safe option for them.
Jesus advised people who were in three diverse locations to take refuge away from the city of Jerusalem. They were those in Judaea around Jerusalem, the people already in the city, and those who were in the city’s neighbourhood. They should realize that God had determined to destroy the city because of the sins of the Jews there.
The prophecy of the destruction of the unrepentant happened within 40 years. The Christians who believed in Jesus escaped from the attack of Romans. They had fled from Jerusalem because of persecution from Jews and because they believed in the words of Jesus about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem. “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews” (Acts 11:19). The remaining Christians fled when they saw signs of a Roman attack. According to the early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius, the Christians in Jerusalem escaped to Pella when they noticed the signs of war in Jerusalem. It was a Decapolis city in the northern part of Perea, among the Transjordan hills.
(22) for these days are the time of punishment when all the scriptures are fulfilled.
If the people do not repent and turn to the true God after enough warning, they will face punishment from God by withdrawing His protection on the chosen people. Then the enemy nations can successfully invade the people. God sent prophets on time to the world to correct the chosen people. However, they rejected and persecuted them. Finally, God sent His Son Jesus, whom they mercilessly crucified. God gave another 40 years for their conversion. And finally, God let Rome invade them and destroy the city and the Temple. Jesus illustrated this through the Parable of the Tenants (Mt 21:33-46; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19). Jesus concluded the parable, saying, “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit. The one who falls on this stone will be dashed to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls” (Mt 21:43-44).
when all the scriptures are fulfilled
According to Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem is the fulfilment of the divine prophecies in the Holy Scriptures. Moses warned the Israelites before their entry into the Promised Land, “If you do not obey the voice of the LORD, your God, carefully observing all his commandments and statutes which I give you today, all these curses shall come upon you and overwhelm you” (Deut 28:15). He continued, “The LORD will raise up against you a nation from afar, from the ends of the earth, that swoops down like an eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a nation of fierce appearance, that shows neither respect for the aged nor mercy for the young. They will consume the offspring of your livestock and the produce of your soil, until you are destroyed; they will leave you no grain or wine or oil, no issue of herd, no young of flock, until they have brought about your ruin. They will besiege you in each of your communities, until the great, fortified walls, in which you trust, come tumbling down all over your land” (Deut 28:49-52).
Before the fall of Samaria to the Assyrians in 722/721 BC, Hosea said, “They have come, the days of punishment! They have come, the days of recompense! Let Israel know it! ‘The prophet is a fool, the man of the spirit is mad!’ Because your iniquity is great, great, too, is your hostility” (Hos 9:7). Isaiah spoke of the fall of Jerusalem: “For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of requital for the cause of Zion” (Isa 34:8). The Psalmist laments the fall of Jerusalem, “O God, the nations have invaded your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have left the corpses of your servants as food for the birds of the sky, the flesh of those devoted to you for the beasts of the earth. They have poured out their blood like water all around Jerusalem, and no one is left to do the burying. We have become the reproach of our neighbours, the scorn and derision of those around us” (Ps 79:1-4). The history of the fall of the first Temple was repeated of the Temple Herod rebuilt.
The destruction of the Temple was in tune with God’s plan. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Titus said, “We have certainly had God for our assistant in this war, and it was no other than the God who ejected the Jews out of these fortifications; for what could the hands of men, or any machines, do towards overthrowing these towers!” (Josephus B.J. §411). So, relying on the Temple guards or rebellious Jews would be dangerous. Rome will succeed and those who do not flee would face extreme consequences like death, deportation as slaves, or dispersal to foreign countries for forced labour.
(23) Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgement upon this people.
Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days
God planned pregnancy followed by child rearing, which are joys of life. However, that will cause agony for the sinful people during the war. They will find it difficult to escape or to witness the killing of their next generation at the hands of cruel enemies.
While Jesus was carrying the cross to Calvary, he told the women who came to him mourning and lamenting, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed’” (Lk 23:28-29). Jesus here referred to the future attack of the Romans and the attitude of the people towards the helpless women with children.
for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth
Jesus predicted the tribulation that would happen in Jerusalem, ending the lives of people, injuring them, or taking them as prisoners, slaves, or forced labourers.
and a wrathful judgement upon this people
The people of Jerusalem welcomed the wrath by their rejection of salvation that God offered through the Messiah and their agitation against Roman rule. The judgement came from God and from the Roman emperor. The Christians escaped the wrath because they did not act against God and the Roman government.
(24) They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
They will fall by the edge of the sword
The Jews from all over the world had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of the unleavened bread (Josephus B.J. §421). So, there was an enormous number of Jews in Jerusalem when the assault started. According to Josephus, the attack of the Romans on Jerusalem was brutal. “But when they went in numbers into the lanes of the city, with their swords drawn, they slew those whom they overtook, without mercy, and set fire to the houses whither the Jews had fled, and burnt every soul in them, and laid waste a great many of the rest; and when they were come to the houses to plunder them, they found in them entire families of dead men, and the upper rooms full of dead corpses, that is of such as died by the famine; they then stood in horror at this sight, and went out without touching anything” (Josephus B.J. §404-405).
The Roman soldiers were tired of killing the Jews and an enormous multitude was still alive. Hence, Caesar ordered not to kill them except those with arms or who oppose the army (Josephus B.J. §414). “But, together with those whom they had orders to slay, they slew the aged and the infirm” (Josephus B.J. §415). Caesar assigned Fronto to decide everyone’s fate. “So this Fronto slew all those that had been seditious and robbers, who were impeached one by another” (Josephus B.J. §417). “Now during the days wherein Fronto was distinguishing these men, there perished, for want of food, eleven thousand; some of whom did not taste any food, through the hatred their guards bore to them; and others would not take in any when it was given them” (Josephus B.J. §419).
and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles
Moses had warned the Israelites before their entry into the Promised Land: “Just as the LORD once took delight in making you prosper and grow, so will the LORD now take delight in ruining and destroying you, and you will be plucked out of the land you are now entering to possess. The LORD will scatter you among all the peoples from one end of the earth to the other, and there you will serve other gods, of wood and stone, which you and your ancestors have not known. Among these nations you will find no rest, not even a resting place for the sole of your foot, for there the LORD will give you an anguished heart and wearied eyes and a trembling spirit. Your life will hang in suspense and you will stand in dread both day and night, never sure of your life” (Deut 28:63-66).
According to Josephus, “the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand, as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege eleven hundred thousand” (Josephus B.J. §402). They were sent as captives to different Gentile cities around the Mediterranean Sea that were part of the Roman Empire. They ended up serving the Romans, Saracens, Franks, and Turks. According to Josephus, “of the young men he (Fronto) chose out the tallest and most beautiful, and reserved them for the triumph; and as for the rest of the multitude that were above seventeen years old, he put them into bonds, and sent them to the Egyptian mines. Titus also sent a great number into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theatres, by the sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves” (Josephus B.J. §417-418). Thus, the surviving Jews ended up all over the empire for the benefit of the Gentiles.
Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles
The Temple and its sanctuary are sacred places. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies once a year, and only priests entered the holy place. The Gentiles had access only to the outer court. The Roman soldiers who were gentiles desecrated those sacred places and destroyed them thoroughly. This has resemblance to the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians. After that event, the Israeli community in exile lamented, “Why have the wicked invaded your holy place, why have our enemies trampled your sanctuary?” (Isa 63:18)
After slaying or expelling the Jews from Jerusalem, Vespasian sold the property to the Gentiles. Thus, the city came under the possession of Gentiles. Roman authorities did not allow the Jews to return there.
until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The Jews could restore the first Temple after seventy years of exile in Babylon. Jesus did not specify the years for the restoration of the last Temple, though he gave hope for it. Jesus said the Gentiles will desecrate the Holy City “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” There are various interpretations of this. It can be until the gospel reaches all the Gentiles. Or it can be until the Jews all over the Gentile nations return to their Holy Land. A new State of Israel came into existence at midnight on 14 May 1948. However, the Jews have not yet regained the Temple Mount and they could not reconstruct the Temple.
Paul offers hope on the restoration of Jerusalem: “A hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn away godlessness from Jacob; and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins’” (Rom 11:25-27).
The Coming of the Son of Man
(Lk 21:25)“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves”.
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars
The Bible records exceptional astronomical changes associated with important Biblical events:
1. When Israel attacked the Amorites, “Joshua prayed to the LORD, and said in the presence of Israel: Sun, stand still at Gibeon, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon! The sun stood still, the moon stayed, while the nation took vengeance on its foes. This is recorded in the Book of Jashar. The sun halted halfway across the heavens; not for an entire day did it press on” (Josh 10:12-13). Some interpret this as a metaphorical presentation, and not an actual event.
2. When Hezekiah was severely sick and about to die, he prayed to God for recovery. God extended his life by 15 years. As an assurance for God’s promise, He gave him a sign through Isaiah. “‘See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz go back the ten steps it has advanced.’ So the sun came back the ten steps it had advanced” (Isa 38:8).
3. At the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, magi from the east, who were astronomers, came to Jerusalem. They said to King Herod, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Mt 2:2). Some consider this guiding star as a comet. However, the astronomers considered this extraordinary celestial body as divine intervention at the birth of the Messiah.
4. Unusual signs happened when Jesus was on the cross. “It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle” (Lk 23:44-45). “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’” (Mt 27:51-54)
Jesus predicted the occurrence of extraordinary celestial signs at his second coming. That will be part of his glorious arrival from heaven. “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt 24:30).
Isaiah had a vision concerning Babylon: “Indeed, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and burning anger; to lay waste the land and destroy the sinners within it! The stars of the heavens and their constellations will send forth no light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not give its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their guilt. I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, the insolence of tyrants I will humble” (Isa 13:9-11). Hence, the frightening signs are a prelude to the destruction of sinners.
The signs in the sun
The signs in the sun can be a total solar eclipse similar to the one that happened at the crucifixion of Jesus. It is a conventional sign of disaster to take place. John describes his vision at Patmos: “Then I watched while he (the Lamb) broke open the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun turned as black as dark sackcloth” (Rev 6:12).
The signs in the sun, the moon
John, in his vision at Patmos, saw, “the whole moon became like blood” (Rev 6:12). Joel also had a similar prophecy: “The sun will darken, the moon turn blood-red, before the day of the LORD arrives, that great and terrible day” (Joel 3:4). The moon can appear blood-red during a total lunar eclipse. That happens only when there is a full moon with the sun, earth, and moon aligning in a straight line. However, a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse will be an extraordinary event at the end-times.
The signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars
Ordinary people have considered asteroids as stars. Meteors or small pieces of asteroid enter the earth’s atmosphere and burn up. If several of them happen together, that can be frightening and would look like stars falling from the sky. According to the Book of Revelation, when the Lamb broke open the sixth seal, “The stars in the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs shaken loose from the tree in a strong wind” (Rev 6:13).
The unusual signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars are signals of the destruction of a corrupt world and the sinners in it. That will be a time of joy for the righteous, their separation from the evils, and a transition to a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1-3).
and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves
The sudden changes in the constellation will affect the earth, both land and sea. If several meteors hit the earth and the sea simultaneously (Rev 6:13), there will be earthquakes and tsunami. “When the second angel blew his trumpet, something like a large burning mountain was hurled into the sea. A third of the sea turned to blood, a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were wrecked” (Rev 8:8-9). The sea will roar with high waves and the land will swing with destruction. That will be a frightening experience.
Isaiah speaks of the judgement upon the world and the Lord’s enthronement on Mount Zion: “The earth will burst asunder, the earth will be shaken apart, the earth will be convulsed. The earth will reel like a drunkard, sway like a hut; Its rebellion will weigh it down; it will fall, never to rise again” (Isa 24:19). “Then the sky was divided like a torn scroll curling up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place” (Rev 6:14). Unlike an earthquake, it may affect the whole earth. Thus, the earth will become unstable and that will make the people terrified.
(26) People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
People will die of fright
The expression, “die of fright” does not mean actual death, but the terror feeling is so intense that people would faint and feel like they are dying. They experience panicking calamities that had never occurred before. It is how Paul and others on a ship with him felt during a shipwreck. “Neither the sun nor the stars were visible for many days, and no small storm raged. Finally, all hope of our surviving was taken away” (Acts 27:20).
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken
Because the sun will become dark, the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from the sky (Mk 13:24-25) and their consequences on the earth, people will become extremely scared, worrying about what would happen. According to Peter, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out” (2 Pet 3:10). This will terrify the sinners because it will be the time of their eternal destruction. However, the true believers will be happy seeing these signs because they know that is the time for them to meet the Lord and receive the eternal reward for their Christian witnessing.
(27) And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
The tribulation, including the terrifying change in the heavenly bodies and the earth, was in anticipation of the powerful and glorious arrival of the Son of Man as the judge of the world. That will happen at a divinely determined time. “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mt 24:36). they will see the Son of Man
Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:16-17). Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn 5:28-29). Hence, all who are dead and alive, including saints and sinners, will see the Son of Man at his second coming.
they will see the Son of Man
Jesus used ‘Son of Man’ for himself, giving emphasis to his human appearance. Others called him Son of God, giving prominence to his divinity. All will see Jesus on his return from heaven to judge them.
coming in a cloud
When the Israelites left from Succoth escaping from Egypt, God was visible to them in a cloudy pillar during the day and a fiery pillar by night (Ex 13:20-22). The Lord’s glory later filled the tabernacle. “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the LORD filled the Tabernacle” (Ex 40:34). This glorious presence of God continued in the Temple of Jerusalem (1 Kgs 8:10-11). The rabbis call this cloud Shekinah, which means “that which dwells.” Though the Bible does not use that term, the rabbis coined it to signify God’s presence on the earth. The Shekinah cloud of the divine presence disappeared before the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple Solomon had built.
In the New Testament, the cloud of divine presence appeared during the transfiguration of Jesus. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Mt 17:5). The ascension of Jesus was on a similar cloud. “As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). While the disciples were watching the ascension, two men dressed in white garments said to them: “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11). So, just as he went up on the cloud, he will also return with the Shekinah cloud. In Daniel’s vision, he “saw coming with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man” (Dan 7:13).
coming in a cloud with power and great glory
The Son of Man’s incarnation, life in the world, and end of his life were humble. Paul wrote: “Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:6-11). The first arrival of Jesus was to save sinners and his second coming will be to judge the people. So, his arrival will be in the power and glory of God. Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him” (Mt 25:31-32).
(28) “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
Though terrible signs would happen in the sky and on earth, the faithful do not have to worry about their destiny. Unlike guilty sinners who would be nervous about their destruction, the righteous can stand erect and raise their heads with confidence. Their redemption is coming from heaven through the victorious Jesus Christ. This is the time of their absolute deliverance from the evil influence. This is the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus: “The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct” (Mt 16:27). Isaiah had prophesied that God will destroy death forever. “The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. On that day it will be said: ‘Indeed, this is our God; we looked to him, and he saved us! This is the LORD to whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!’” (Isa 25:8-9)
The redemption of believers has distinct phases in history:
1. Initial redemption was through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “But he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Isa 53:5).
2. The second and temporal redemption of Christians was with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Until then, the Jews were persecuting the followers of Jesus. With the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans, the religious domain of the Jews ended, and Christians were free from their torture.
3. Though Christians escaped oppression from the Jews in 70 AD, the Romans continued persecuting Christians. That ended with the conversion of Constantine in 312 AD. The emperor and his successors promoted Christianity in the Roman empire.
4. The completion of redemption will happen at the second coming of Christ. John’s vision was: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away’” (Rev 21:1-4).
Twin judgements, destruction, and salvation
Jesus presented the destruction of Jerusalem and the last judgement simultaneously. Though the two do not happen concurrently, they have common themes: tribulation, separation of the wicked and innocent, and devastation of the sinners and salvation of the righteous. The temporal judgement in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem was a punishment for the Jews and a rescue of the Christians. It was the warning of a higher spiritual reward and punishment that will happen with the second coming of Christ. Just as Jesus saved Christians at the time of the destruction of the Temple, the Lord will save the righteous and reward them with eternal peace. However, that will be the time of eternal punishment for the sinful generation.
1. God protected Israel from enemy nations and gave them prosperity whenever they were faithful to Him. He suspended that care when they committed sin. Let us be faithful to Jesus by practising his teaching, so we get protection from the snares of Satan in this life.
2. The revolt of zealots against the Romans caused a frightening counterattack and destruction of the Holy City and its Temple by the Roman soldiers. Jesus told Peter, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt 26:52). Let us avoid revolts, vengeance, and weapons in handling conflicts.
3. The Christians saved themselves from the attack of the Romans when they invaded Jerusalem by obeying the direction of Jesus to flee to safe places when they see a sign of war. Keeping a safe distance from sinners and sinful situations will benefit our spiritual lives.
4. With the destruction of Jerusalem and dispersal of the Jews, the Christians got liberation from the persecution of Jews. God is the “refuge and fortress” (Ps 91:2) for his faithful. Let us rely on the providential protection of God, who is our Good Shepherd.
5. The destruction of Jerusalem, along with the mass murder and dispersal of the Jews, resulted from their rejection of the Messiah. It is a sign of the future destruction of sinners at the second coming of Christ. Let us obey God and practise the teachings of Jesus through the Church.
6. The second coming of Christ as the judge of the universe is a welcoming and joyful event for the faithful who keep the teachings of Jesus. It is the time for their eternal reward. Let us live with the goal of reaching the heavenly kingdom.