The Coming of the Son of Man (3)
Malcolm Horlock, Cardiff, Wales
The previous article outlined the background to the coming of the Son of man (‘The Scene‘) This third, and concluding, article suggests a possible order of events both for the coming itself (‘The Sequence‘) and for the period immediately following (‘The Sequel‘).
At the human level, the advent of the Lord will be totally unexpected, Luke 21. 26-30. The first indication of His approach will be signs and disturbances in the heavens, causing great darkness on earth and filling men with fear and foreboding, Joel 2. 30-31; 3. 15; Matt. 24. 29-30; Luke 21. 25-26.
In their extremity, the godly in Israel will cry to the Lord for deliverence - and He will come to save them! He will come from heaven itself, Rev. 19. 11- 16. Note this section of Scripture; it provides the last full length portrait of Christ in the Bible. Attention is drawn in particular to (i) His four names, (ii) His clothing (a blood-stained garment to alert His foes to their inevitable destruction), (iii) His head (adorned with ‘many‘ diadems, in contrast to the specified numbers of diadems worn by the dragon and the Beast, Rev. 12. 3; 13. 1), (iv) His eyes, and (v) His mouth. The lengthy description of the Royal Warrior stands in marked contrast to the brief description of the ensuing conflict, Rev. 19. 19-21.
He will come both on and with clouds, Matt. 24. 30; Matt. 26. 64 (cf. Dan. 7. 13); Rev. 1. 7; cf. ‘in a cloud‘, Luke 21. 27; Acts 1. 9-11. He will come in great power, Matt. 26. 64; Mark 13. 26, and great glory - both His Father’s and His own, Matt. 16. 27; 25. 31; Luke 21. 27. He will be accompanied by vast companies of saints and angels, Matt. 16. 27; 25. 31; 1 Thess. 3. 13; 4. 14; 2 Thess. 1. 7; Rev. 19. 14 (cf. v. 8); also Zech. 14. 5 and Jude 14-15, to be understood probably in the light of Deut. 33. 3 with Acts 7. 53. His coming will be highly visible, Rev. 1. 7; it will be as the lightning flash across the sky, Luke 17. 24, and in ‘flaming fire’, 2 Thess.1. 8; cf. Isa. 66. 15.
Initially, He will come to the Mount of Olives, Zech. 14. 4-5; cf. Acts 1. 10-12. The feet which were once pierced, a little outside of Jerusalem, Zech.12.10, shall then stand upon the mount to the east of the city. The mount will cleave, creating a vast escape valley for those trapped inside the city, fearful for their lives on account of (a) the proximity of the Beast, (b) the looming battle between the assembled world powers, and, no doubt, (c) the earthquake which will have split the mount. (The reference back to a previous flight before an earthquake in the days of Uzziah establishes that the passage is to be interpreted literally.)
The Lord’s approach will cause the tribes of the earth to wail in dismay, Matt. 24. 30; Rev. 1. 7. The various world powers assembled in Israel will drop all plans for conflict between themselves and will unite to wage war against the Lamb and His heavenly army, Ps. 2. 1-3; Rev. 17. 14; 19. 19. Doubtless, they will hurl at Him the most powerful weapons they possess - but these will avail nothing! ‘The Lord shall have them in derision‘, Ps. 2. 3, 9. He will ‘go forth, and fight against those nations‘, Zech. 14. 3. The Beast’s base camp at Jerusalem will be destroyed and replaced by the Lord’s own dwelling there, Joel 3. 17. Although there is no clear statement that the Lord’s heavenly armies will be involved in any conflict (indeed, the armies of Revelation 19. 14 hardly appear dressed for battle!), it seems that the men of Judah will be given the satisfaction of sharing in the Lord’s victory at Jerusalem itself, Zech. 14. 14; cf. Mal. 4. 3.
Israel’s great Deliverer will come from Zion to save them, Joel 3. 16; Rom. 11. 26; cf. Jer. 30. 7; Dan. 12. 1. He (and possibly His angelic ‘mighty ones‘) will do battle with the forces then assembled in ‘the Valley of Jehoshaphat‘, probably the region of the Kidron valley outside of Jerusalem, Joel 3. 9-16. (‘Jehoshaphat‘ carries the appropriate meaning, ‘the Lord judges‘.)
If there is an actual conflict at Har- Magedon, it will likely take place immediately after and as an extension of that in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. It should be noted that Scripture does not actually speak of a ‘battle of‘ (or ‘at‘) Har-Magedon; indeed, the word translated ‘battle‘, Rev. 16. 14, means ‘war‘ rather than a single battle. It is possible that Har-Magedon will serve only as a rallying point and camping ground for the assembled forces, which will move from there to the area around Jerusalem before the final conflict, but the impression given is that there will be an actual confrontation at Har-Magedon, Rev. 16. 14, 16. Also, at some point, the Lord will personally execute vengeance upon Edom, south-east not only of Jerusalem but of the land of Israel itself, Isa. 63. 1-6
It is no doubt significant that the lake of blood which flows from the ‘great winepress of the wrath of God‘ is seen to extend for 183 British miles (200 Roman miles), Rev. 14. 18-20; cf. Isa. 63. 3,6; Joel 3. 13. The distance from Dan to Beersheba is some 145 miles. Clearly, therefore, the destruction of the assembled armies will involve an area roughly the size of Palestine. ‘The slain of the Lord shall be many‘, Isa. 66. 15-16. (How fitting that the winepress will be trodden ‘outside the city‘, Rev. 14. 20, for it was outside that very city that the Lord was crucified, John 19. 17, 20. Once it was His ‘own blood‘ which was shed there, Heb. 13. 12; now it will be the blood of His foes.)
The Lord’s main destructive weapon will be the word which comes out of His mouth, Ps. 2. 5; Isa. 11. 4; 30. 21; Joel 3. 16; 2 Thess. 2. 8; Rev. 19. 15, 21. This will be His only ‘sword‘. Note that He has a name written where a sword would normally hang - it is ‘King of kings‘, Rev. 19. 16. He has only to speak and it is done! No doubt it is His word which will give rise to the greatest earthquake ever known, to hailstones, each weighing about a hundredweight, and to a plague which will consume the eyes and tongues of those who presume to war against His city, Zech. 14. 12; Rev. 16. 18-21. Also, as so often in the past, the Lord will cause confusion and division among His foes, Zech. 14. 13. The devastation will be terrific, leaving millions of corpses and necessitating the cleansing of the land by vast numbers of carrion-fed birds, Rev. 19. 17-18, 21.
The Beast and his empire will be destroyed, Dan. 7. 11. The Beast himself will have his dominion taken away, v. 26. When ‘that determined shall be poured upon the Desolator‘, Dan. 9. 27 lit, he ‘shall come to his end’, 11. 45. He will be destroyed by the breath of the Lord’s mouth, 2 Thess. 2. 8. Together with his viceregent, the False Prophet, the Beast will have the dubious distinction of being cast alive into the lake of fire, Rev. 19. 20. As two good and godly men have in the past been carried direct to heaven without dying, 2 Kgs. 2. 11; Heb.11. 5, so these two bad and ungodly men will in the future be consigned direct to eternal fire. Described as ‘the son of perdition‘, 2 Thess. 2. 3, to ‘perdition‘ the Beast will assuredly go, Rev. 17. 8, 11.
This will bring a sudden and violent end to the long period of Gentile rule, Dan. 2. 34-35, 44-45. The times of the Gentiles now fulfilled, Jerusalem will never again be trodden down of the Gentiles, Luke 21. 24. Nor will it ever again be thrown down, Jer. 31. 38-40.
‘Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord‘, will be the people’s glad acknowledgement, Matt. 23. 39. But their shout of triumph will suddenly turn to wailing and lamentation as their blind eyes are opened, and they recognize the glorious Lord as none other than the One they have for so long despised and rejected, Zech. 12. 10-14; Rev. 1. 7. The whole nation will then make the same discovery once made by Saul of Tarsus, Acts 9. 3-5. Following their ‘Damascus Road‘ awakening, there will be universal, but individual, mourning. Then, through their tears, they will be able to say Isaiah 53. 3-6!
The whole nation of Israel will be regathered to their own land ‘from the four corners of the earth‘, Isa. 11. 11-12; Jer. 23. 3; Ezek. 34. 11, 13; 36. 24; 37. 31; Matt. 24. 31; ‘none of them‘ will be left behind, Ezek. 39. 28-29. This gathering will be permanent, Amos 9. 14-15, as will be the reunion between the northern and southern kingdoms under one Davidic King, Ezek. 37.16-25; cf. Isa. 11. 10-13. As a result of their suffering during the Great Tribulation and their purging by the Lord at His coming, the nation will be purified and spiritually restored to Him, Ezek. 20. 33-38; Zech. 13. 9; Matt. 24. 39- 42, 49-50; Rom. 11. 26-27. They will be contrite, Zeph. 3. 11-13; chastened, Jer. 30. 14; corrected in measure, Jer. 30. 11 (cf. 46. 27-28) and cleansed from their filthiness and idolatry, Ezek. 36. 25, 29, 33; 37. 23; Zech. 13. 2. When the Lord comes to His temple, the house of Levi will be purged and purified, Mal. 3. 1-5.
The Messiah will have the glory, dominion and kingdom, Dan. 18. 25-27. His kingdom will be universal, Dan. 2. 35, and everlasting, v. 44 - unconditionally His as long as the heavens endure, Ps. 89. 3-4, 28-37; cf. Isa. 9. 6-7; Luke 1. 30-33. The Lord shall be King in that day, Ps. 2. 6; Jer. 23. 5; Zech. 14. 9, and the kingdoms of the earth will all be His, Zech. 9. 10; Rev. 11. 15. His past humiliation and present rejection will then be requited by glory and universal acclaim.
Israel will exist ‘as a nation‘ as long as the heavens continue, Jer. 31. 35-37, and at this point the kingdom will be restored to them, Acts 1. 6-7. (Note that, having spoken to the disciples of the kingdom for forty days, Acts 1. 3, the Lord did not correct their expectations for Israel as false or unwarranted. He simply pointed out that the Father had reserved the timing to Himself; it was a matter of ‘when‘ not ‘whether‘.)
At some time immediately following the second advent:
- Saints slain during the Great Tribulation will be raised, Rev 20. 4-6. So, probably, will be the saints of Old Testament times; see Isa. 26. 19; Ezek. 37. 12-13, and Dan. 12. 2-3.
- There will be a time of sifting and discrimination. The Lord will come with His fan in His hand to separate the wheat and the chaff, Matt. 3. 17. The bad shall then be taken away and the righteous ‘shall shine forth as the sun‘ in the kingdom, Matt. 13. 38-43; cf. vv. 47-50.
- All nations will be judged, Matt. 25. 31-46. Their destiny will be settled on the ground of whether they will have practically expressed faith in the Messiah by deeds of kindness and sympathy towards His ‘brethren‘. The ‘blessed‘ will inherit and enter the kingdom, v. 34, being required to make annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the feast of tabernacles, Zech. 14. 16-19.
- There will be dramatic topographical and physical changes:
- A vast plain will extend from 10 miles north of Jerusalem to 35 miles south-west, Zech. 14. 10. Jerusalem will then be exalted above all the surrounding terrain, Isa. 2. 2; Mic. 4. 1-2.
- Living waters will flow without intermission from Jerusalem, Zech. 14. 8. A fountain will flow out of the Lord’s house, Joel 3. 18; cf. Ezek. 47. 1-12. ‘There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God‘, Ps. 46. 4; cf. the context of vv. 6-10.
- The creation itself will be set free from its present bondage to corruption, Rom. 8. 19-22; cf. Isa. 11. 4-9.
It seems likely that these events, along no doubt with many others, will take place during the 2 months (75 days) immediately following the Lord‘s second advent; cf. Dan. 12. 12 with Dan. 7. 25; 12. 7; Rev. 11. 2; 12. 6, 13-14.
In this short series, we have suggested one possible outline of events surrounding our Lord‘s second advent. Such are the uncertainties in piecing together the details of events yet future, I make no pretence at having got it right. The one thing about which we can be certain is that some day the Son of Man will come – and, who knows, the scene, sequence and sequel may even be something like these articles have suggested.