Many contributors and readers at AATW know that I believe the return of Christ is near. I will not state a year or make any of the specific predictions that date-setters do. I do not believe He will return in the next year; all I can say is that, in my spirit, I feel the coming and believe it will be within my lifetime.
I have held this belief for some time. It is born from an intuition, deep within, and from reading Scripture. Jesus in His Olivet Discourse gave a sequence to help us understand when His return would be near: the Abomination of Desolation; the Great Tribulation; the darkening of the sky; the sign of the Son of Man and the return of Jesus on the clouds.
Without a proper understanding of this sequence, the Olivet Discourse becomes unintelligible. The intertextuality between the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Daniel, followed up by the Book of Revelation, allows the reader to form a more complete picture of the end of the age.
The Abomination of Desolation referred to by Christ has not happened yet. Those who assert it happened in AD 70 make an error in their typology and misread what Josephus, our most important source on the sack of Jerusalem, has to say on the matter. Josephus did not understand AD 70 as a mirror to Antiochus’ desolation of the Temple in 167 BC. Antiochus’ desolation happened in the Jewish month of Chislev. The sack of Jerusalem in AD 70 happened on Tisha b’Av, the same day as the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC. Josephus understood AD 70 as a mirror to the Babylonian Exile, not as a mirror to the Seleucid persecution.
Whichever generation witnesses the Abomination of Desolation will also see the return of Christ. When He returns, He will set up His millennial Kingdom. The good works of the saints will follow them into the Kingdom (AKA the “Messianic Age”, the “Millennium”, etc), but much that we associate with “how we do Church” will not survive.
The Millennium represents a challenge to our perspective and our way of doing things. Its approach forces us to consider our priorities and question our attachment to things that are not essential to the Kingdom.
Sometimes, a glimpse of the reality of the Kingdom is enough to clear our mental fog, helping us to focus on what is really important.
…and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come…
The first Christians saw these powers in the miraculous signs that accompanied the preaching of the Gospel. These signs testified to the reality of the risen Christ, including His promise to return, and showed them what heaven on earth would be like. Healing wonders revealed God’s love and compassion and the perfect state He planned for the world. Speaking in new tongues represented a reversal of the confusion caused at Babel: mankind would be one in Christ. Note that our national tongues were not abolished by this miracle: the catholicity of the early Church did not destroy the variation and distinctiveness that God spread among humans. The ability to strike enemies blind also emphasised the authority of Christ in heaven and on earth: nothing would be permitted to hinder the proclamation of His Gospel.
As we think about the approach of this Kingdom and see hints of its quality in the wonders of God, we must incorporate Kingdom thinking into our approach to today’s challenges.