The Gospel of theKingdom
The Coming of the Kingdom with Power
Three of the Gospels record a prophecy of Christ concerning His Kingdom, which , by His express word, was to be fulfilled in the lifetime of some who heard it. This is Mark's record of it:
"Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." (Mark 9:1)
Matthew records the same prediction, but with a slight variation of language, the time of the predicted event being stated thus: "Till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom." (Matt. 16:28) In Luke it reads: "Till they see the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:27)
Have we then the authentic record of any event happening within that generation that answers to this prediction? There were two happening that claim attention as we seek an answer to this question. Both those happenings were of great importance in the accomplishment of God's revealed purposes concerning His Kingdom, and both occurred within the time so emphatically limited by our Lord's words.
Those two events were, first the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; and second, the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Jewish nation by the Romans in A.D. 70. Each of these events may be regarded, and without straining at all the meaning of the words, as a coming of the Kingdom of God. And each, moreover, may be regarded, in the light of Scripture, as a coming of that Kingdom with attendant circumstances that answer to the phrase "with power"; circumstances such as were absent during Christ's earthly ministry.
For the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was unquestionably a coming of that Kingdom which the apostle Paul afterwards defined as 'Righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." (Rom. 14:17) We recall, moreover, in regard to the phrase "With power," that our Lord, in speaking to His disciples concerning the then approaching advent of the Holy Ghost, has said, "Ye shall receive power." (Acts 1:8) Power was needed and was promised for the effective preaching of that gospel whereby those who believe it are translated into the Kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col. 1:12, 13); that gospel which is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." (Rom 1:16)
The appalling destruction of the Jewish nation, their beautiful city and their magnificent temple - which unprecedented catastrophe was described anticipatively by Christ Himself (Matt. XXIV, Mark XIII, Luke XXI) - was likewise a most evident and impressive coming of the Son of man "in power." It was a coming in final judgment upon that nation; and its awful details prefigure the final judgment of the world.
Unhappily the significance of that world-shaking event is greatly minimized in the teaching of our day. And my conviction is that, unless one sees the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans and the events attending and consequent upon it in their true relation to the whole scheme of God's dealing with the human race in its two divisions of Jews and Gentiles, he will not be able to understand the general purport of Bible prophecy.
Of the two events referred to above as possible fulfillments of our Lord's prophecy, one occurred within a year of the time the prophecy was uttered, whereas the other lay much farther in the future - about forty years. Nevertheless, some who were standing there, notably the apostle John, lived to "see" that great work of divine "power" and judgment, which Moses had foretold (Deut. 28:49-64), and the like of which had not been "since the beginning of the world." (Matt. 24:21)
After much deliberation upon the matter, my conclusion is that, if choice must be made between those two events, it is the one later in date - that is, the annihilation of the Jewish nation, that being the manifest taking away from them of the Kingdom of God (according to the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 21:43) - that our Lord had in view when He uttered the prophecy we are considering. I will indicate, in what follows, my main reasons for so thinking.
I. The words, "There be some standing here that shall not taste of death" indicate that He had in contemplation an event that lay at a considerable distance in the future relatively to the ordinary duration of human life. His reference to the death of some then standing by would hardly be appropriate with respect to an event that was to happen within the space of a year.
II. But a stronger reason is found in our Lord's Olivet prophecy, which is recorded by each of the three Gospel-writers who record the prophecy spoken at Caesarea Philippi. For in Christ's Olivet prophecy, the desolation of Judea, the siege of Jerusalem, the demolition of the Temple, and the world-wide dispersion of the Jewish people, were foretold in detail. Specially is it to be observed that our Lord made use in that prophecy of expressions that are strikingly similar to those used in the earlier prophecy. Thus, referring in the Olivet prophecy to the approaching desolation of Judea and Jerusalem, he said, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass until all these things be fulfilled." (Matt. 24:34) Manifestly the words I have italicized are the exact equivalent of "There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till -" Moreover, in each case we have the emphatic introductory clause, 'Verily I say unto you." Furthermore, the preceding chapter records the judgment pronounced upon the leaders of the nations, whereof the closing words are, 'Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation." (Matt. 23:36) And then follows His sore lament for Jerusalem, in which occur the words, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." These correspondences afford good reason for the belief that our Lord's prophecies at Jerusalem were amplifications of the brief pre3ditino spoken at Caesarea Philippi.
III. But there is yet another reason in support of the view stated above; and this reason I regard as conclusive. In foretelling those coming "days of vengeance," in which "all things that were written" were to "be fulfilled" (Luke 21:22), Christ gave His disciples a sign whereby they should know that the predicted days of vengeance were come, so that they might save themselves by flight; the sign being the encircling of Jerusalem with armies (v. 20). And then, in order to impress the lesson upon their minds, He spake a parable concerning the figtree and all the trees, and said: "So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the Kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass till all be fulfilled." (vv. 31, 32) Thus we have Christ's own statement to the effect that the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the nation was a coming of the Kingdom of God. And this He again coupled with the affirmation that this prediction would be fulfilled before the passing of that generation. In Studying the three accounts of our Lord's Olivet prophecy, the student should observe that the period designated in Luke's account "the days of vengeance," wherein there should be "great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people," is the same period that Mark designated "the days of affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation...unto this time" (Mark 13:19) and that is designated by Matthew the "great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time." (Matt. 24:21) The context of the several passages make it certain that one and the same period of unprecedented calamity is referred to in the three passages.
Comparison should be made also with Daniel's prophecy. "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." (Dan. 12:1) The close similarity between the language of this prophecy and that of our Lord's Olivet prophecy gives assurance that both refer to teh same event. The words of teh angel to Daniel refer expressly to the Jewish nation ("the children of thy people"). Those who were to be delivered in that time of unparalleled distress - those "found written in the book" - were, of course, the disciples of Chirst, who took warning by their Lord's utterance, and fled for their lives when they saw His predicted sign. Happy for them they did not have some of our modern expounders of prophecy to instruct them as to the meaning of this prediction.
And particularly it should be observed, as fully confirming what is said above touching both the place, and also the time of that season of distress and tribulation, wherein all the prophecies of "wrath upon this people" were to be fulfilled, that the locality is expressly limited to JUDEA (Matt. 24:16), and that the time is expressly limited to THE GENERATION THEN LIVING. (Id. 34)
THE IMMENSE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM
By pondering the Scriptures cited above the reader will be enabled to perceive the truly immense significance of the execution of God's long deferre3d, though oft threatened judgments and the pouring out of His wrath upon that nation which He had chosen for Himself, and with which He had dealt for a millennium and a half as He had never dealt with any other. For this was the nation He had so marvellously delivered out of Egypt; the nation to which He had given His holy law amidst the terrors of Sinai; the nation He had brought into the land of promise, driving out before them nations greater and mightier than thy; to which He had sent His prophets with warning and with promises; and to which, last of all, He sent His only Son. And if one but calls to mind the many prophecies, beginning with Deuteronomy 28:49-68, that pointed to and were fulfilled in that stupendous event, (the destruction of Jerusalem) he will surely realize something of its unique place and importance in the scheme of God's dealings with mankind.
Finally, we have our Lord's own word for it that those were to be the days of vengeance wherein all things that were written should be fulfilled (Lk. 21:22); and He was then speaking of a period that was to come within that generation; a period of great distress in the land (of Judea) and of great wrath upon that people. Hence the words "All things that are written" can mean nothing less than the many predictions of the prophets of Israel concerning the judgments that would be executed upon them if they persisted in their disobedience and apostasy.
To this also the Apostle Paul manifestly had reference when, writing ot the Thessalonians, twenty-five to thirty years later, he said of the Jews that they "both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men", because of all which, "the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost." (I Thess. 2:16)
THE DISCIPLES TWO QUESTIONS
In view of all the foregoing, it seems clear that the first question asked by the disciples of their Master ("When shall these be?" (Matt. 24:3) had reference to the demolition of the temple, whereof He had just spoken (v. 2); and that the other question ("And what the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the age?") had reference (a) to His "coming" for the destruction of the temple, and (b) to "the end of" the then elapsing Jewish age. For that coming judgment would be "the day of the Lord" for that people. It was an event such as the prophets of Israel might well have described in the very strongest terms, and portrayed by means of the most impressive prophetic symbology.
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