23 August: “The Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven”

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
23 August 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

Welcome

Testimony

(Thanks Ruby)

I thank God for everyone, I pray for everyone and such times make us realise how good it is when we can fellowship with each other face to face. It is so good to receive phone calls and Stella has been such a blessing to me as she prays for me so much and calls me regularly. So good to hear and speak to each other. I would like to bless you with one of my favourite verses: “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1).

Amen and thanks Ruby.

Worship

(Thanks Margaret)

Word

Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory

Matthew 24:30

It must have been around 1980 and I attended one of those annual lectures at the Nazarene College in Didsbury. Afterwards, in the question and answer part, I just had to make an observation. I told the guest speaker that I enjoyed his lecture and learnt things I had not known before, but it left me with a desire to get on a plane and go and live in Israel so I could understand the Christian faith in a deeper more knowledgeable way, and thereby to become a better Christian. I thought he might be a bit annoyed at this comment but he seemed quite pleased by it, as if to say, ‘you got it then.’ (he didn’t say that by the way). Afterwards, when we were having refreshments he sought me out and asked my name –‘Oh, Oh, would I be getting a visit from the CDB?‘ (Correct Doctrine Bureau).

Seriously, though, there is this about our faith, it is rooted in the Old Testament and was birthed out of the Jewish faith. Maybe this is one of the reasons the Lord chose Saul of Tarsus. Yes, his Jewish beliefs, and unbelief, (and hard heart!) had led him to the wrong conclusion about Messiah, but once Messiah, the Christ, Jesus, revealed Himself to Saul, Wow! what a combination. Check out how much of the Old Testament he uses in the longest most detailed exposition of the Gospel, the book of Romans! To save you a bit of time here just whizz through the book looking at the footnotes and the references to the Old Testament, especially in Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11!

Why am I mentioning this? Well this is the approach R. T. France takes in expounding and helping us to understand these difficult verses in Matthew 24:29-31:

“The point at which this interpretation most obviously conflicts with that of many readers … is with regard to Matthew 24:29-31, which are traditionally understood to relate to the end of the world and the ‘parousia’ (even though that word is conspicuously absent from them). I shall argue [he means reason!] in the commentary … that this “natural” understanding of the terms used is in fact natural only to those who have been conditioned to it by a long tradition of Christian exegesis, and that in the context of first-century Jewish thought it is far from obvious”

(R.T. France – The Gospel of Matthew NICNT – p. 891).

So what are we to make of these verses? Again, we need to look in Daniel to see their origination:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

Daniel 7:13-14

These words occur several times in the Synoptics but especially in Matthew, and we need to look at some of them to get a better understanding of the meaning:

“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Matt. 10:23

Daniel’s vision is of a son of man who is brought before God’s throne in heaven and there given an everlasting kingdom, authority and rule over all peoples:

There is nothing in the imagery of Daniel to suggest a coming to earth, as Christian interpretation has traditionally found in these passages; He comes in the clouds of heaven to God. The verb used both in Daniel  and in the NT allusions is the very ordinary verb “come,” which is not related to the more technical term for Jesus’ eschatological return, ‘parousia’ … This means that, despite centuries of later Christian interpretive tradition, when the gospels speak of “the Son of Man coming,” the presumption must be that they are speaking, not of an eschatological ‘parousia’, but of a heavenly enthronement, the vindication and empowering of the Son of Man after His earthly rejection and suffering, when God will turn the tables on those who thought they had Him in their power … “The coming of the Son of Man” is thus not a description of a particular historical event but evocative language to depict his … vindication and sovereign authority.

France

These are enthronement texts along with e.g. Matthew 26:63-64 where,  Caiphas, the High Priest (along with the teachers of the law and the elders), has taken charge of this inquisition:

The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.’ [Jesus replies:] ‘You have said so,’ … ‘But I say to all of you: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’.

Matthew 26:64

Jesus, by using “Son of Man” distances Himself from the High Priest’s understanding of Messiah (with its nationalistic overtones and political ambition), and, rather than speak of earthly power, He speaks of heavenly glory and authority, alluding also to Psalm 110:1 as well as Daniel 7:13-14:

By bringing them together Jesus is making a remarkable claim. He, who appears now to be the helpless victim of a biased human court, is soon to be seen as the highest authority next to God Himself.

R. T. France

Interestingly, many now accept this exegesis of Matthew 26:64 as non-parousia (but won’t go as far to accept Matthew 24:30 likewise)

“G. R. Beasley-Murray while still favouring the older view, recognises a “considerable shift of opinion” toward an exaltation rather than ‘parousia’ interpretation … referring to the non-parousia interpretation now as “a major consensus” ”

France

One reason for this shift is because of the inclusion by Jesus of the words: “from now on you will see,” again in their time scale, not some distant ‘parousia’.

But we have the same time scale question linked also to Matthew 24:30 by Matthew 24:34:

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory”

Matt 24:30

[His enthronement not Second Coming] …

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened”

Matt 24:34

– furthermore the word for coming in Matt 24:30 is not the technical term ‘parousia’ and the mention of ‘parousia’ in Matt 24:27 was to make clear exactly what the ‘parousia’ will be like, very different from all the deceptive claims to Messiahship that were around and would be around at the time of the destruction (‘the end’) of the temple. We see also a time scale in:

‘Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom’

Matt. 16:28

And this granting of authority is confirmed in Jesus’ words to His disciples:

Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me …’

Matt. 28:18

“Then all the peoples on earth will mourn” –  Again, if we look in the NIV footnotes we can see that this phrase can be translated “all the tribes of the land.” If we look at Zechariah 12:10 to which these words allude:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

Zechariah 12:10

Later on in Zechariah it speaks of clan by clan (a tribe is a collection of clans) mourning. Again, this is a specifically Jewish mourning, cf. the people of Judea (Zech 12:16). Furthermore, the same word is translated “tribe” elsewhere in the NT (e.g. Matt. 19:28; Luke 2:36; Acts 13:21; Rom. 11:1; Heb. 7:13-14 etc) so why not here?  Do we see something of this mourning following Peter preaching on the Day of Pentecost to the people of Jerusalem:

‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’ When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’

Acts 2:36-37

The word for “cut to the heart” means “to prick violently”; “to pierce thoroughly”; “to agitate violently”. Cf. Jesus’ words to Saul of Tarsus “it’s hard for you to kick against the pricks” (Acts 26:14).

Our response to Jesus, risen, glorified, given all authority in heaven and on earth should be that of worship and imitation of Him who was obedient and greatly humbled Himself, and was therefore exalted to the highest place:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of  Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

Amen!

Quote of the Week:

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it”

Verse of the Week

Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.

Luke 3:5-6

Let’s Pray

Our gracious, loving, heavenly Father we praise and worship You for who You are, the Author and Giver of Life. We give You our heartfelt thanks for Your great gift to us, that of Your precious Son, Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on that cross.

Lord forgive us afresh for our shortcomings when we fail to live in the light of the glory of Your Son, when we grieve Your Holy Spirit. Forgive us, cleanse us, renew us and help us the more to live like Him.

Father, we now see Him risen, glorified, seated at Your right hand in Majesty. He has been given all authority, power and dominion, yet He still rules in love, grace, mercy and kindness. Lord Your kingdom come, You will be done.

We thank You for Your word, for all that has already been accomplished and for all that will be accomplished. We pray especially for the myriad upon myriads of people who don’t know You, who are still lost and living in darkness. Heavenly Father, let Your light shine brightly, that they might see and be brought out of the kingdom of darkness, into the Kingdom of Your dear Son. We especially pray for all those who are suffering as a result of one tragedy or another. Lord bring Your comfort to them. Heavenly Father, equip Your people, Your church the more to reach out to those who are far away from You.

Heavenly Father, we pray for Bethel Baptist Church, that it might grow and flourish and spread out to the North, South, East, and West. Lord as we are torn between two people, guide us as to who the right person is to be the Children and Families’ Worker for You at Bethel,

in Jesus Christ, Amen!