In the last post we looked at Jesus’ intriguing prophecy recorded in Matthew 10.
There, we saw that Jesus plainly stated in Matt. 10:22-23 that:
- At least some of the apostles would live to see “the end.”
- Jesus would return before the apostles were finished going through the towns of Israel.
And we observed that these prophecies of Jesus about “the end” and His second coming, which Matthew recorded here in the context of the events of Matthew 10, are recorded elsewhere in Mark’s and Luke’s gospels—in the context of Jesus’ prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, just two days before His crucifixion.
I don't think we've paid enough attention to this interconnectedness, historically.
Now, with these things in mind, in this post, we’re going to study another of Jesus’ prophecies regarding His second coming from Matthew’s gospel.
Welcome to the 16th post in my series of rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.
Setting the Context
In Matt. 15:29 (and, in Mark's parallel account, Mark 7:31), Jesus returned to Galilee near the Decapolis.
Near the Sea of Galilee, a huge crowd came out to Jesus seeking healing.
Jesus healed them and stayed among them, probably teaching as well, for three days.
Seeing the crowd's hunger and having compassion on them, Jesus miraculously fed the 4,000+. Both the manner of this miraculous feeding and the apparent proximity in time to the feeding of the 5,000 recorded in John 6 are striking.
Having fed them, Jesus dismissed the crowd (Matt. 15:39; Mark 8:9) and traveled with the disciples by boat to the region of Dalmanutha.
It is here that Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders looking for a sign.
1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
28 “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. 16:1-28 NIV)
Observations from Matthew 16
It is difficult to find much plainer language than Jesus' is here.
Three quick observations from the text:
- Jesus was talking with His disciples. They were His primary audience.
- Jesus plainly said He was going to come again, in the Father’s glory, for the purpose of judging people based on their deeds.
- Jesus immediately followed the statement regarding His second coming in judgment by saying that some of those to whom He was speaking (i.e., His primary audience) would still be alive when He came.
So What? Key Takeaways
If we are intellectually and spiritually honest with ourselves, Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew 10 and Matthew 16 are clearly stated. (And we aren’t close to being finished examining what Jesus said about "the end" and His second coming.)
For many of us, these texts present a dilemma.
- On the one hand, they seem so clear and easy to understand.
- On the other hand, they seem inconsistent with other Scriptures and, for many, what we’ve always believed or been taught about the second coming and judgment.
Perhaps we are missing something.
Perhaps what Jesus appears to have plainly taught in Matt. 10 and Matt. 16 actually means something quite different.
Or, perhaps we have misplaced our confidence in our understanding of other passages—passages which are often less plainly worded—causing us to dismiss or assume these plainly-worded teachings of Jesus must mean something else.
This is what I had done all my life. I knew Jesus had said these things. I just figured I misunderstood what He meant.
(It does tend to be the clear Scriptures that trip us, doesn't it?)
I ask you to do three things:
- Continue to search for truth. Stay on the journey with me and examine the information for yourself. Pray for GOD to give us wisdom and insight into the proper meaning of His Word.
- Remain open to the possibility that what you’ve previously believed or have been taught might not be correct.
- Consider the entirety of the evidence together—the OT prophecies and their meaning, John the Baptist’s mission and teachings, Jesus’ prophecies, as well as what we’ll continue to study from the New Testament (NT) Scriptures, going forward.
Continue to the next post, where we will begin looking at Jesus’ prophecy from two days prior to His crucifixion. Don't miss this important message.
Got questions or comments? Drop them below.