For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his deeds.
I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King.
“The Second Coming of Christ.” Another important Christian concept. Here we have the first of the four references to it in Matthew.
For something that is so terribly unclear, many people think they know everything there is to know about the second coming. Including the actual date – which gets pushed back further and further as the dates come and go. In reality this scriptures and others like it are all prophetic language and no one can definitively say with authority that they can accurately separate the predictions from the metaphors. Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure. But this is the next scripture and I’m not skipping any of them so I’ll express what few thoughts I have about it.
The disciples have just found out that Jesus intends to go to Jerusalem, where he will be killed. Jesus wants them to man it up. In yesterday’s scripture Jesus said, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but lose your life? Of course not! There is nothing you can give to regain your life.” He calls on his disciples to keep going with the mission that God has given them all, carrying on the revolution of love and kindness.
In this first reference to a second coming, Jesus says that he will come again before all of those in his present company have passed. It seems like this second coming is probably a reference to his resurrection three days after the crucifixion. Jesus believed in the resurrection of the dead, not just for himself but for anyone. Then, after the ascension he says he will make sure that the disciples will be rewarded for all of their hardships suffered for his sake. And he will be in charge. Everyone will be following him. That’s the way I read this one. Oh, and notice that it doesn’t say he will punish them if they are bad. He will reward them for their faithfulness. He says they will be vindicated for having faith in him and his message.
There is a lot about the second coming in the Book of Revelation, but there are only three more references in the Book of Matthew where he talks about it in his own words. All of these references are more apocalyptic:
- Jesus said to them, “You can be sure that when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne in the New Age, then you twelve followers of mine will also sit on thrones, to rule the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28).
- Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky; and all the peoples of earth will weep as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. The great trumpet will sound, and he will send out his angels to the four corners of the earth, and they will gather his chosen people from one end of the world to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31).
- When the Son of Man comes as King and all the angels with him, he will sit on his royal throne, and the people of all the nations will be gathered before him. Then he will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the righteous people at his right and the others at his left. (Matthew 25:31-33).
Once again I can’t help but notice that he uses that term “Son of Man” in all of these references. (For more on the term “Son of Man” see Day 74). The term means an ordinary person, everyman, humanity in all its frailty – as opposed to the Son of God, a Messianic figure who is fully divine.
Like most Jews, Jesus’ disciples were waiting for a Messiah to come and rescue them. I think these scriptures affirm my presumption that Jesus of Nazareth doesn’t actually claim to be the Messiah that they were expecting (See Day 145). Conventional wisdom, then and now, is that when the Messiah comes, everything is magically transformed without any effort on the part of humanity. Jesus never says that he himself will do this for us. He doesn’t have any magical fairy dust to sprinkle on the world to make everything sweetness and light. He doesn’t have any cupid’s bow and arrow to shoot at people to make them love each other.
He implies, through his use of “Son of Man,” that the New Age, the Messianic Age, the Kingdom of Heaven, or whatever you want to call it must be built by ordinary men, humanity in all its frailty. I think he is managing their expectations. He seems to be saying through all these descriptions that the coming of the New Age is going to be a process.
I have often thought that the “Son of Man” coming as king or coming in glory refers to a time when a new generation of people assimilate and embody Jesus’ teachings with their lives. He would then “come again” through those enlightened people and they will triumph over the primitive forces of darkness in the world.
Somewhere in all of this prophetic imagery there is hope for a better time, a better world. Jesus is assuring his followers that although he is going to die, God’s plans for a glorious future are still intact. God has a way of making good things happen and there’s a happy ending for planet earth somewhere along the line. But as of today we’ve still got a long way to go. I think we need less waiting and more doing.
What does this scripture say to you?