Coming of the Son of Man
A Word From Phillip Mauro
“It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillment in the future. The harmful results are twofold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillment of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.”
The Jews Require A Sign - God Obliged
One of the hallmark requirements that the Jews demanded of Christ to validate who He was, is a sign. They were not looking for Him to perform a miracle. Of those there had been hundreds, even thousands (Jn. 21:25). No, the type of sign they required was a sign of divine vindication.
Here's an example of the type of validating sign they desired. Remember back in Numbers 16, when God opened the earth, swallowing up Korah and his house, and fire devoured his co-conspirators? What had they done to deserve such a fate? They challenged the authority of God’s appointed and anointed leaders, Moses and Aaron.
The ring leaders of this rebellion were Korah, a son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, of Reuben. They gathered a group of 250 princes of Israel, “famous in the congregation, men of renown,” to stand with them against God. Korah had a rightful standing before God as a levitical priest, for service in the tabernacle, but that was it. However, he felt that was not enough. He wanted more power and authority than his position allowed.
Coming with his gang, he said to Moses,
Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? (Num. 16:3)
He was insinuating that Moses and Aaron took the position of the leaders of Israel upon themselves, not accepting that they had been appointed and anointed by God for the service of leading the people.
Moses fell upon his face and responded, “Tomorrow the Lord will show you who is holy and who has been chosen to come near to him.” Moses instructed the mutineers to show up the next day with censers. These were small plates or bowls used to hold incense as offerings to idols. These possessed by Korah and his gang were likely given to them by the Egyptians when they left Egypt. These censers of Korah & Co. had probably been used to offering incense offerings to the idols of Egypt, and now they were going to bring them before the Lord.
The next day the rebels brought their censers with burning incense and laid them before the door of the Tabernacle. The whole camp had gathered to see the showdown between Moses, Aaron, and these wanna-be usurpers.
The end of the matter is God validated Moses and Aaron as His true appointed and anointed leaders of His people. How did He validate them? What sign did He give to the whole camp?
The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan and Abiram, along with all that belonged to them. The Bible says, “They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them.” Korah was also swallowed alive by the earth (Num. 26:10). The 250 princes who stood with the rebels were consumed by fire.
Then the Bible says something very interesting. In Numbers 26:10, after reporting the judgment upon the whole camp of rebels, it says, “and they became a sign.” The rebels who stood against the Lord and His anointed, Aaron, had become the sign of validation for Moses and Aaron. They assumed that Moses and Aaron had taken the role of leaders upon themselves by their own will. They did not recognize the authority resting upon them as coming from God.
God validated Moses and Aaron in the eyes of all Israel by the destruction of the rebels. The rebels became the sign they sought.
So also those of Jesus’ day, sought a sign of divine vindication that Jesus was who He said He was. They became the sign they sought. Their destruction in AD 70, of their city, their temple, and their entire social existence, became the sign to all Israel that the Son of man, Jesus the Messiah was ruling in Heaven. The language used of cosmic upheaval is symbolic of the destruction of a nation, a city or a people(Matt. 24:29-30). Their own destruction was the sign they sought.
It never ends well for those who demand a sign from God, instead of believing His Word. It didn’t end well for Korah and company, and it didn’t end well for the unbelieving Jews of Jesus’ day. The reason for this comes back to what Jesus said several times. He said it is, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Luke 11:29) Peter also on the day of Pentecost, exhorted those present to, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” [untoward means crooked or perverse. It is the Greek word, skolios, from which we get the medical term, scoliosis.] Josephus also testified concerning that last generation,
“For it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.” [Wars, 5.13.6]
In the same paragraph, he states that those Jews of that last generation were far worse than those that were destroyed in the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The real problem with seeking a sign from God, when He has already spoken and revealed His will, is that in seeking that sign, you find yourself striving against God. All the while the Jews were requiring a sign from Jesus to validate who He was, they were striving against the Almighty. As happened to the company who strove against Moses and Aaron, so became the destiny of that generation of unbelieving Pharisaic Jews. The earth opened up and swallowed some of them, going into exile. The fiery furnace devoured many others of them. They became the very sign they sought after.
There were many divinely validating signs that Jesus was who He said He was and that His word through His apostles were His words. The signs were known but not heeded.
One Validating Sign Given At Jesus’ Death
The one sign given by Scripture concerning the validity of Jesus’ work and the future demise of the temple, occurred at His death.
Matt. 27:50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
When Jesus yielded up His last breath, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. This veil separated the Holy Place, containing the table of showbread, the altar of incense and the seven branched lampstand, from the Holies of Holy, wherein was to be the Ark of the Covenant. It is this Holy of Holies, wherein the high priest went,
alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: (Heb. 9:7)
By the act of splitting the veil in two, God rendered the function of the earthly high priest obsolete. The death of Christ on the cross rendered the ministry of the Levitical high priest and its whole priesthood obsolete. For the Scripture says,
Heb. 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building [creation]; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once [for all] into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
In the once for all time offering of Christ on the cross, He obtained eternal redemption for us, thus making the purpose of the Levitical Offerings of no effect and obsolete. If the offerings were made useless and obsolete by the blood of Jesus, then the temple no longer served any purpose either. It stood as a symbol of an outdated and ineffective mode of worship. The shadow was no longer needed, for the substance had come.
So the tearing of the veil of the temple was a divine sign that the temple was no longer serviceable and useful. It belonged to an outdated system whose time had come to an end. This tearing of the veil was one of many such signs to that generation of the coming judgment upon the whole outdated and rebellious Jewish religious and civil polity.
Other Signs Reported In Ancient Jewish Sources
There were other signs reported that began to occur the same year that Christ was crucified and the veil was torn. According to rabbinic tradition,
"Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open.”(Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157) This information is taken from the rabbis' Talmud, Yoma 39b.
Four things began to occur forty years before the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in AD 70. This would place the starting point for these four events in AD 30, which happened to be the year of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah Prince. Each of these occurrences were signs of the temple’s demise.
These four events as given, are as follows:
1. The western lamp in the temple went out and would not stay lit.
The seven-branched lampstand in the holy place of the temple had seven bowls, each able to hold oil for lighting the interior of the Holy Place. The Western Lamp was always to remain lit, much like what we call an eternal flame. Every day the other lamps were lit from the flame of this Western Lamp. However, beginning in AD 30, regardless of the efforts of the priests, they could not keep the Western Lamp lit.
Some say that the lamp represented the presence of God among His people, Israel. Others that the lamp represented Israel as the light among the nations. Either way you go, it is not good and represents the lights going out on natural, unbelieving Jews. The temple had become Ichabod.
2. The lot cast for the Lord always came up in the left hand of the high priest.
On the Day of Atonement(Yom Kippur), the high priest would cast lots in choosing between the two goats used for offering of the scapegoat. Each lot was a different color, a black stone and a white stone. The white stone was inscribed with the name of the Lord and the black stone the name Azazel.
The goat chosen for the Lord was sacrificed, the other goat for Azazel was sent into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people. Azazel is thought to be another name for Satan.
Beginning in AD 30 and every year thereafter, the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand of the high priest, which was considered a bad omen. The chance of this happening every year for 40 years is astronomical.
Some have calculated the odds of this happening of being about one in 5.5 billion. You are more likely to win your state lottery than this happening.
3. The crimson thread hung on the door of the temple did not turn white.
In conjunction with this miracle of the lot, the high priest would also tie a piece of scarlet cloth to the horn of the scapegoat, before it was sent into the wilderness.
It was believed, that if the Lord had forgiven the nation of its sins, the scarlet cloth would turn white, according to Isaiah 1:18. A piece of the scarlet cloth from the horn of the goat, was torn off and attached to the door of the temple. This way all could see if the scarlet cloth turned white, signifying the offering had been accepted and their sins forgiven.
However, beginning with the Yom Kippur service in AD 30, and for the next 40 years, the scarlet cloth never turned white, signifying the sacrifices offered on Yom Kippur were not acceptable to God.
4. The temple doors would open every night of their own accord.
This particular miracle has more to do with the coming destruction of the temple than the ceasing of the sacrifices. However, it still speaks to the sacrifices being no longer needed.
Beginning in AD 30, every night the temple doors would swing wide open. These were extremely huge, gold-plaited doors, which required 20 strong men to open and close them. Some of the common folks thought this was a good omen, but the more informed rabbis knew that it was an omen of the temple’s coming destruction.
"Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkai to the Temple, 'O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that you will end up destroyed. For it has been said, 'Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars’" (Zechariah 11:1) (Sota 6:3).
Josephus also gives testimony to this event of the doors opening of their own accord.
“Moreover, the eastern gate of the inner [court of the] temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a basis armed with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of its own accord about the sixth hour of the night.” [Wars, 6.5.3]
These signs were public and made evident that the temple and its services and sacrifices were no longer acceptable by God. Hence the temple had ceased to serve its purpose and had become obsolete. The whole temple service was made useless and obsolete by the offering of the blood of Jesus upon the cross.
Signs Given Before and During the War of the Jews AD 62-70
Apart from the signs given above, which began the year of Jesus’ death in AD 30, there were several other signs given of the coming destruction of the city and temple. God was so gracious to the rebellious Jews, giving them exactly what they craved, a sign from heaven. The real tragedy is that no matter how many signs the Lord gave them, there seems to be no evidence that they had any substantial effect. All of the reported signs are found in Josephus’ book The Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3.
Some of these signs may teeter on the edge as being the product of a vivid imagination. However, Josephus makes it clear that although he himself initially may have held such an opinion, because of the number of witnesses who reported the same events, as a historian, he felt he would be remiss to not include them and allow the reader to accept or reject them.
This terminal generation who saw these signs did just that. They failed to give heed to them. A Josephus testifies,
“They did not attend nor give credit to the signs that were so evident, and did so plainly foretell their future desolation, but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them.”
1. Jesus, the son of Ananus
In AD 62, four years before the start of the Jews’ war with Rome, a time when the city and country was still in a state of relative peace, a farmer, named Jesus son of Ananus, came to the Feast of Tabernacles, and began to cry aloud,
“A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!"
He walked through the city streets during the whole feast repeating these words of woe and warning. Some of the leaders of the people took offense at this outcry against the holy city, its temple and people. So they had the man arrested and,
gave him a great number of severe stripes; yet did not he either say any thing for himself, or any thing peculiar to those that chastised him, but still went on with the same words which he cried before.
They perceived the man was possessed of a “divine fury,” and so he was. Because he would give no answer or defense for his behavior, they took him to the Roman procurator Albinus, and had him whipped until his bones were laid bare.
Yet he did not make any supplication for himself, nor shed any tears, but turning his voice to the most lamentable tone possible, at every stroke of the whip his answer was, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”
Because there was given no reason for the speech of this man, Albinus took him for a madman and let him go.
This Jesus continued his public lament against the city, the temple and its people, for a total of seven years and five months. Josephus says that he was the loudest during the feasts.
Now, during all the time that passed before the war began, this man did not go near any of the citizens, nor was seen by them while he said so; but he every day uttered these lamentable words, as if it were his premeditated vow, "Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” Nor did he give ill words to any of those that beat him every day, nor good words to those that gave him food; but this was his reply to all men, and indeed no other than a melancholy presage of what was to come.
His voice never gave out, nor did he grow weary of his ministry. During the final days of the war,
As he was going round upon the wall, he cried out with his utmost force, "Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house!" And just as he added at the last, "Woe, woe to myself also!” there came a stone out of one of the engines, and smote him, and killed him immediately; and as he was uttering the very same presages he gave up the ghost.
This Jesus, son of Ananus, while under the heavy prophetic unction of the Spirit of God, brought to the forefront the same message that Jesus, the Son of man, brought to His generation. That message is due to their refusal to obey the voice of God, and believe what was written in the prophets, rejecting and crucifying their Messiah, the Judgment of God was about to fall. As Jesus said forty years earlier,
Luke 11:50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
God warned that generation through the voice of another Jesus, that it would be required of them for the shed blood of all the righteous. Instead of heeding the warning of the woes of this last Jesus, they did to him what they did to the original, they beat him and ignored his warnings.
One year before the Roman General Vespasian came to put down the rebellion of the Jews (AD 66), a star in the shape of a sword hung over the temple at Jerusalem for an entire year. It is as though God gave Jerusalem warning of the coming sword of vengeance. However, as stated earlier, they did not heed the warning.
Also before the war began, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a great light shone around the altar and the entire holy house of the temple. This occurred at evening time, but the light shined so brightly that it appeared to be the brightest of day time. Some sources report this lasting only on one day for about half an hour (approximately 90 of our minutes), while others report the light appeared every day of the seven day the feast.
“All the sages of Jerusalem knew that it was a malevolent sign, but the rest of the ignorant people said that it was a benevolent sign.”
[(A Medieval History of Ancient Israel, “Burning of the Temple,” chapter 87)]
If the scribes knew it was an unfavorable sign, why did they not inform the people, and encourage them to amend their ways by repentance? Even though one may know a sign is not favorable, that doesn’t mean you have the wisdom to react to it righteously.
Miraculous birth of the lamb
Josephus states that at the same festival, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a heifer was led to the priests to be sacrificed. However, before they could do so, the sacrificial heifer gave birth to a lamb.
I know, you are thinking, that’s impossible! Indeed, in the natural course of God’s creation, every animal is to produce after its own kind (Gen. 1:24). However, God is known and well able to take control of the natural order of His creation to achieve His own ends. Did He not make the sun to stand still for the Israelites, to assist them in acquiring victory? (Joshua 10:12)
What would be the significance of a sacrificial animal giving birth to another sacrificial animal, of a different species? This is the significance and the message I believe. There had to be men still alive, who can remember the words of John the Baptist, declaring, “Behold, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” [Jn. 1:29, 36]
The fact that it was what would be considered a miraculous birth is something that should have gotten their attention. Did not the lamb of God have a miraculous birth? Even though they would likely not make that connection, at the time this happened, there would still be believers in Christ to give witness to its meaning.
Temple doors opened of their own accord
The doors of the Eastern Gate of the inner temple would open by themselves every night. These doors were normally closed every evening. It took twenty men to close it. This opening of the doors to the inner temple, meaning the holy house itself, not just the whole temple complex, would signify the house being left unprotected and open to destruction. This was mentioned earlier as beginning to happen in the year AD 30.
Heavenly armies seen in the clouds
This is probably one of the most fantastic and unbelievable sign that Josephus records. He states that were it not for the fact that it was seen by so many people, it would be thought to be a fable. However, because it was so widely reported, he was compelled to report it.
Before the sunset, chariots and troops of soldiers with armor were seen running among the clouds. The Church historian Eusebius, reports it in this way,
“not many days after the feast [of unleavened bread], on the twenty-first of the month Artemisium, a certain marvelous vision was seen which passes belief. The prodigy might seem fabulous were it not related by those who saw it, and were not the calamities which followed deserving of such signs. For before the setting of the sun chariots and armed troops were seen throughout the whole region in mid-air, wheeling through the clouds and encircling the cities.”
Sepher Yosippon records this,
“Moreover, in those days were seen chariots of fire and horsemen, a great force flying across the sky near to the ground coming against Jerusalem and all the land of Judah, all of them horses of fire and riders of fire.”
This signal event of heavenly armies, was seen not just around Jerusalem, but throughout the land of Judea. These “chariots of fire” and “riders of fire” would be a portent, which easily could make a mens’ heart fail from fear.
Voices saying, “Let us leave this house.”
During the feast of Pentecost, in the same year as the previous signs occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, just fifty days before, the priests were performing their usual services in the temple when they heard a sound.
“They said that at first they perceived a movement and a noise, and afterward a voice as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us go hence.’” [Eusebius]
The priests testified that they heard a sound and movement, then the voice of a great multitude, saying, Let us leave this place. This sounds strangely familiar, does it not. It sounds very similar to what transpired on the day of Pentecost, in AD 30. On that day,
Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
On that day of Pentecost in AD 30, there was the sound of a mighty rushing wind, “and it filled all the house.” Some thirty-six years later, there was the sound of a mass exodus. On Pentecost, AD 30, the Spirit of God came and filled all the house were they were sitting, meaning the temple. On Pentecost, AD 66, the sound and motion of an exodus was heard.
According to Jewish tradition, this exodus was the glory of God leaving the temple. The glory departed the temple, leaving it as a building deserted, Ichabod, and came to rest opposite the temple on the Mount of Olives. There it stay until just before the temple was completely destroyed in AD 70.
However one reads this, it is obvious that it is the abandoning of the temple by the Spirit of God and any attending holy angels there may have been. This building was no longer of divine use. As Jesus said when He departed the temple for the last time, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matt. 23:38)
We have surveyed the vast topic of the coming of the Son of man. There is more we have yet to touch on, however, what we have seen is enough for us to have a useful understanding of it.
As stated before, it is erroneous to equate the coming of the Son of man with His second physical appearance (Heb. 9:28). This coming is one which occurred at the end of the Age of the Law. It was a coming in judgment upon the unbelieving nation, its city and temple. The world that the Jew lived in before AD 70, was destroyed. Its sun was gone out, its moon no longer shined. All of its luminaries became darkened. The only two things of that nation survived AD 70. One was the synagogue of Satan, or the assembly of the Adversary. It survives still today. Secondly was the Community of Faith, the Israel of God, the Body of Christ. It not only survives today, but "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
It is beyond argument that the timing of the coming of the Son of man was to occur before that original generation of disciples had passed. This is extremely important to understand. If you fail to believe this, then you are left with the conclusion that Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about, and deceived His disciples in the process. This is exactly the conclusion that many have come to, even some prominent Christians.
It is the confounding of these two ideas, the coming of the Son of man with the clouds of heaven and the idea of the second physical return of Christ at the end of the material world, that has caused the greatest confusion in the Church for centuries. If we are able to see these as the separate events that they are, the confusion will disappear.
C.S. Lewis, in his writing entitled, "The World’s Last Night", wrote concerning the tension between the idea that Jesus predicted His second coming to be before the end of that generation, and yet it seems that this prediction had failed.
He calls Matthew 24:34, “The most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” What verse is he so embarrassed about?
Matt. 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Why was he embarrassed with it? Because he interpreted sayings like, “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” as being descriptive of what he would call the Second Coming. Apart from such Christians as Lewis, who conflate the two concepts, you have avowed atheists who use this assumed failure of Jesus’ prophecy as an excuse to not believe.
Bertrand Russell argues this failure of Jesus, whom he doubts even existed, caused Him to be, “not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.” He therefore judges Him as not being worthy of his faith. Russell had many more reasons to not find God worthy of his faith. Now that he has died, I wonder if his opinion has changed?
The point here is that due to our failure to properly understand the meaning of the coming of the Son of man, we have confused a multitude of believers, who now cannot reconcile the sayings of Jesus concerning His coming in judgment upon Judea, and bringing that obsolete Mosaic Age to an end. They cannot tell the difference between that judgment coming and His Second Appearance to bring salvation to His own.
This point cannot be over emphasized. If you do not make the distinction between the two events, one past and one to come, your Bible will forever be a puzzle that doesn’t fit. You will find yourself biting off the edges of puzzle pieces to make them fit, and in the process, destroy the entire picture beyond recognition. You will have a mutilated Bible.
If you are able to see the difference between the two, do you know what you will have? You will hold in your hands a brand new Bible. Verses and passages that didn’t seem to fit or make sense, all of the sudden, when seen in their proper light and circumstance, come alive and fit perfectly. No chewing of the edges required.