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COMING ON THE CLOUDS

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  March 13, 2012 — 12 Comments

Jesus claims the great tribulation was to occur in the first century (Matt 24:34) and that it was associated with the collapse of the temple then-standing (Matt 24:2-3). He was somewhat hampered in his prophetic announcements by not having access to the New York Times or Newsweek magazine. Furthermore, he did not have in his library The Late Great Planet Earth. He even operated without the Larkin charts.

Nevertheless, postmillennialists believe he knew what he was talking about. And conversely, we also believe that neither Hal Lindsey nor the New York Times know what they are talking about.

But still, when applying the Olivet Discourse to AD 70, we run upon some apparent difficulties. One of these is the question that necessarily arises: Did Christ come on the clouds in A.D. 70? In Matthew 24:30 (KJV) we read a statement that sounds very much like the second coming of Christ: “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

This is the type of language that can speak of the Second Advent. We must understand, however, that A.D. 70 is a distant reflection of that future coming event; therefore the same dramatic language can apply to it, as well.

According to Jesus’ prophecy there will be a “sign of the Son of Man in heaven.” This sign is (apparently) the smoke of the temple being destroyed. This will be the sign to the Jews that the Son of Man is not in the tomb but at the right hand of God moving against them in judgment, just as he warns them (Matt 26:64). Jesus is speaking of some sort of sign that he is at the right hand of God — that he is high and exalted, the one causing their judgment and anguish.

We know this must occur in the first century because he specifically declares just four verses later: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34).

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

12 responses to COMING ON THE CLOUDS

  1. Postmillennialism makes so much since.

  2. “We must understand, however, that A.D. 70 is a distant reflection of that future coming event; therefore the same dramatic language can apply to it, as well.”

    Please provide scriptural support for this “distant reflection” principle.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 19, 2012 at 6:30

      That AD 70 is a distant anticipation of the Second Coming is derived from several considerations:

      First, AD 70 is a “Day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20; cp. Mal 4:5). The Day of the Lord is an eschatological judgment that is anticipated by a number of OT Day of the Lord experiences: Isa 13:6, 9; Eze 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 31; etc. The Second Coming punctuates the end of history and is the ultimate Day of the Lord to which all others point (2 Pet 3:10).

      Second, Matthew 24 is so structured as to link AD 70 and the Second Advent, making AD 70 a microcosm of the Second Advent. In Matt 24:3 the disciples ask two questions: (1) When shall these things be (the destruction of the Temple, Matt 24:2) and what shall be the sign of your coming. They assumed the temple would be destroyed at Jesus’ Second Coming. Jesus however distinguishes the events (though thematically linking them in the prophecy). Matt 24:4-34 answers the first question; Matt 24:36ff answers the second question.

      Third, the biblical system of types suggests that the forerunner judgments of God in history (such as AD 70) anticipate the final judgment of God at the end of history.

      • In Peter J. Leithart’s book The Promise of His Appearing an exposition of second Peter,” he offers a preterist reading of the epistle,arguing that it describes first-century events rather than the end of history.”I think this a must read! He also is a partial preterist.

      • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 20, 2012 at 6:30

        He presents a view of 2 Peter 3 that goes back at least to the Puritan John Owen. I don’t follow his exposition there, for various reasons that I explain in my book He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology.

      • Thanks. That makes sense. Many preterists take the Second Coming out of the Olivet Prophecy altogether. Some of their explanations seem more like forced interpretations. What you have explained here makes a lot more sense.

  3. Picture of “Jesus” caught me off guard. I thought He looked, uh, a little less like John Lennon and a little more like, well, i really didnt have an image in my mind, or on my wall, or on the dashboard of my car.

  4. I agree that Matthew 24 up to verse 35 speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and verses 36 and onwards speaks of the second coming. And it is true that the former is a distant reflection of the latter. But I was wondering how we should answer someone like David Engelsma who, in his book “Christ’s Spiritual Kingdom,” essentially explained away the preterist view by saying that the destruction of Jerusalem was but a historical type of the second coming, and thus we should expect great persecution and great apostasy to take place in our future; and that in turn is supposed to be destructive of the Postmillennial view?

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. April 9, 2012 at 6:30

      Most postmillennialists hold that just before the very end, just before Christ returns, Satan will be loosed (Rev 20:7ff) for a “short time” (20:3). During this short time-frame (which occurs after, perhaps, 1000s of years of Christian dominance) those who have lived under a Christianized society will finally throw off all pretensions to faith, and will be led by Satan to revolt against the universal Christian rule. During this brief period we can expect a troublesome period for Christians that AD 70 reflects in advance. And just like in AD 70, Christ is the ultimate Victor.

  5. Hi I was wondering how you interpret the first word in v.29 ” immediately” referring to after the tribulation as well as the rest of 29. Thanks.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 4, 2012 at 6:30

      Thanks for your question. I will be short because I will post an article on this topic soon. “Immediately” means . . . “immediately,” “very soon.” But what shall be immediately after the tribulation? The tribulation occurred in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple (cp. Matt 24:1-3, 16, 34). In the OT the darkening sun, moon, and stars is a metaphor for the collapse of a government. We see this in the collapse of Babylon (Isa 13:1, 10, 17-20) and Edom (Isa 34:4-5). Therefore, in Matt 24 this speaks of the collapse of Israel’s government when Rome destroys Jerusalem.

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