Christ at the Center (Pt.4d)

Christ at the Center: The Fulcrum of Biblical Covenantalism –

Introduction: Part 1a, 1b, 1c, Jesus and the New Covenant: Part 2a, 2b, 2c,

The Covenant God Incarnate: Part 3a, 3b, The Role of Jesus, the Word, as the Ground of Meaning and Significance: Part 4a, 4b, 4c

The Hermeneutics of Jesus (Part Two)

The Lord Jesus constantly assumed His hearers could grasp His meaning and, where necessary, do it (e.g. Lk. 9:44; 10:26-28; 11:28; 18:17).  John ends his Gospel with a grand hermeneutical lesson which usually has remained unheeded:

Peter therefore seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”

The lesson is simple: Jesus means what He says!

d. Jesus’ Kingdom Teachings

Anyone writing about Jesus’ interpretation of Scripture has to mention the subject of the kingdom.  The kingdom was important to Him:

Before the Cross: From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10)

Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mk. 14:25)

“So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. (Lk. 21:31)

After the Cross: to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3)

The question before us is how Jesus Himself interpreted the subject of the kingdom.  I have already shown in the foregoing installment, that the prospect of the kingdom in the first years of Jesus’ life and ministry did not deviate from OT expectation.  I want to show how this expectation is only intensified as Jesus ministry continued.

First. in Luke 19:12-27 Jesus tells a parable about a nobleman who goes into a far country “to receive a kingdom.” (19:12. cf. Dan. 7:13-14).  While he is away, some of the people say they will not have him to reign over them (19:14).  Eventually the nobleman returns – though now as a king (19:15), and judges his people, including meting out recompense on those who had refused to acknowledge his rule (19:27).  The parable was told shortly before Christ was crucified.  The interesting thing about this parable is the reason it was given:

Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. (Lk. 19:11. cf. 21:9).

Clearly, the kingdom would not appear immediately, but awaits the return of the nobleman!  Therefore, anyone who teaches that this kingdom came after the Cross is gravely mistaken.

“The Days of Vengeance”: Concentrating again mostly on Luke’s account we come to Jesus’ clipped quotation from Isa. 61:1-2a in Lk. 4.  In verse 21 the Lord announces, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  If He had continued with the quote past the point where He left off He would not have been able to say that. The reason being, the details contained in the scroll reading truly were fulfilled by Him at His first coming.  But the reference to the “days of vengeance” which directly follows in the Isaiah passage bore no resemblance to anything in the Lord’s earthly ministry.  They refer, as anyone can see, to the second coming.  But Jesus uses this phrase, “the days of vengeance,” again in Lk. 21:22, and there He refers to phenomena strongly reminiscent of OT prophetic passages speaking of His second advent.  The passage reads (I have supplied some cross references):

19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives. 20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. [see Zech. 14:1-4] “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 “Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, [Israel] 24 and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot [Zech. 12:18-20] by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. [Isa. 63:1-3; Rev. 19:11f.] 27 “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory [Dan. 7:13-14, cf. 7:24-27]. 28 “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption [Isa. 61:2b-3; 62:11-12; Jer. 31:31-36; 33:14-16] is drawing near. – Luke 21:19-28. 

No Jewish hearer of Christ would have had any trouble at all in understanding precisely what He was referring to – and it wouldn’t be the idea of the church!

Some Old Testament Background: The “day” or “days of vengeance” is a phrase found in several crucial eschatological contexts.  Isaiah 34:8 speaks of “the day of the LORD’s vengeance,” linking it to “the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.”  The same chapter mentions heavenly disturbances and phenomena reminiscent of second coming passages (see 34:4, after a great battle in v.3).  The reference to “Edom” and “Bozrah” in vv.5 and 6, together with the bloody sword (v.6) connect it to the second coming passage in Isa. 63:1-4; a passage that once more speaks of “the day of vengeance…in my heart.” (Isa. 63:4).  Then one finds a referral to “the book of the LORD,” which can be checked to ascertain whether God’s Word has come to pass (34:16).  Then there is the partitioning of the land to those who “shall possess it forever” (34:17), reminding one of Ezekiel 48, after the battle of Ezek. 38-39.

Returning to the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4, we witness Jesus reading from Isa. 61:1-2a and claiming literal fulfillment in his ministry.  Are we to believe He cut off mid-sentence because “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2b) would not be fulfilled literally?  Notice again that after the pouring out of vengeance comes comfort and consolation “for all who mourn in Zion” (61:3).  This is the kingdom which follows the day of God’s vengeance: the second coming of Christ.  It ought to be unnecessary to prove that Isa. 63:1-6 refers to the second coming (cf. Rev. 14:14-20; 19:11-16), but some people will never be persuaded.  

Jesus Corroborates OT Expectations: What does Jesus say about the phrase we are studying?  I have already shown that in Lk. 21:19-28 He puts the fulfillment of “the days of vengeance” at the time of His second advent.  This corresponds with His interpretation of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares:

 Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He answered and said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 “Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matt. 13:36-43.

The parable comes to a crescendo with eschatological judgment in verses 40-42 and blessing upon the righteous in the kingdom in verse 43.  It is worthy of note that these predictions of vengeance are often accompanied by overtures of peace and salvation for God’s people.  This pattern of judgment and blessing can also be seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 as well as Revelation 19:11-20:6.

The Days of the Son of Man”: In Luke 17:22-25, 30 there is a most interesting passage in which the Lord refers to “the days of the Son of Man.”  What I find so fascinating about this text is that Christ makes it expressly clear that His “days” occur “AFTER” His rejection!  Jesus has His day, but it was not Calvary.  Neither, if the second coming language of the passage is to be believed, was it His resurrection, nor again the armies of Rome assaulting Jerusalem nearly forty years later.  Jesus’ “day” is yet to come! (cf. Lk. 9:26; 18:8).

Not only is this reference to His “day” noteworthy, but in several places the Lord makes it clear that this world will experience an “age to come” in contrast to “this age” (Lk. 18:29-30 with 20:34-35).   When those places are looked at carefully, it appears that “the age to come” is what we might call “the resurrection age.”  This is the future age when the Son of Man will sit upon “the throne of His glory” (Matt. 19:28).  There seems to be no sane way to relate this prediction to any other time than the return in glory (Lk. 9:26) of Jesus to this earth to conquer it and renew it (cf. Rom. 8:18f.).  It is “the regeneration”, or, as Peter calls it, “the times of refreshing” and “the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:19, 21): another second coming passage.  This was the “kingdom” which the disciples asked Jesus about in Acts 1:6 after being instructed by Him for many days on that very topic.

Readers should note how in the Acts passage, Peter points to the ignorance of the Jews (3:17), and then appears to re-offer Christ to them (3:18-19).  They ought to have known Christ when He was among them (see Lk. 17:20-21; 19:44).  If only the Jews had paid less attention to their Christ rejecting leaders, who, although they knew who Jesus really was, pointed people away from Him (Matt. 21:33-46; 26:63-64), and instead taken the prophets, and Christ Himself, at their word!

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4 comments

  1. Hello Dr. Henebury,

    I am really getting a lot out of this series. I am finally getting around to reading through them. I came to this one and a question came to mind when you were discussing the “days of vengeance” in Luke 21:22.

    I was wondering what you thought about the teaching that Luke 21 and Mat 24 were different messages given by Jesus. Mat 24:3 mentions them going out to the Mt. of Olives. Luke does not mention this and it is stated later in Luke 21:37 that Jesus was teaching in the temple during the day and on the Mount of Olives at night. The thesis is that the entire message of Luke 21 was given in the temple during the day. Much of this message had to do with the coming destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Jesus mentioned enough about the days prior to His 2nd coming, that they asked Him for more information on that in Mat 24:3. The end of the age is not mentioned in Luke 21:7.

    The following is a quote from Michael Vlach’s blog entry on Luke 21:31:

    “With verse 12, Jesus then discusses events that will take place before the events of 8–11. He says, “But before all these things,” and then discusses persecution (12–19) and the destruction of Jerusalem (20–23). (I think the destruction here is a reference to A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.) Thus, what Jesus discusses in 12–23 will occur before the events mentioned in verses 8–11. I believe the “times of the Gentiles’ mentioned in verse 24 covers the time period between the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and the Gentile domination of Jerusalem that will continue until Jesus comes again and Jerusalem is restored. So Luke 21:24 takes us through the present age up until the Tribulation that is again discussed in verses 25 and following.”

    http://www.theologicalstudies.org/blog/435-luke-2131-what-an-often-overlooked-verse-has-to-say-about-the-timing-of-the-kingdom

    It has been interesting to me for a long time how Jesus says “before all these things” in Luk 21:12 (in relation to the birth pang signs), but He says “then” in Mat 24:9. This has cleared up for me a lot of the confusion that arises from trying to make Luk 21 and Mat 24 be the same message from a different perspective. They seem too different to me. Then I come to this post, and it gets me thinking again :).

    Do you think the “days of vengeance” in Luk 21:22 could possibly be in relation to the wrath coming upon Israel in Luk 21:23? I have seen a connection here to Dan 9:26 and the judgment that came upon Israel for the rejection of the Messiah (Luk 19:41-44).

    I can see how a strong argument can be made to connect “days of vengeance” to how it is used elsewhere in scripture as you do above. I was wondering what you thought of the above thoughts.

    Blessings,
    Peter

    1. Hi Peter,

      The two speeches were probably given separately, and I believe vv. 12-19 do apply in some way to A.D. 70. But v. 22 supplies a key eschatological term which applies to “the end” (v.9) and is connected to v. 24 which does not fit A.D. 70 well. If we allow it to bear the meaning of Titus’s desolation then we in effect give it a technical definition which obscures its earlier usages, while creating a discontinuity in the Lukan narrative.

      For my part, I think WE see A.D. 70 keenly because it was a terrible event in Israel’s history. But I am not so sure that Scripture gives it more than a passing glance. The focus of Scripture (with other Scripture) is on the second advent and events surrounding it.

      That is my view. Perhaps the first two lectures on Jesus’ View of the Kingdom (which cover Luke) will help? – http://www.telosministries.com/series/jesus-kingdom/

      God bless you and yours,

      Paul H.

      1. Thanks!

        I will check out those lectures. It will give me a head start on the NT Theology course :).

        I am still torn on this one. I am not sure that it creates a discontinuity in the narrative to say that verses 10-23 apply to 70 AD. Verse 12 seems to bring us back to a period prior to the “birth pang signs”. Verse 24 can be viewed as bringing you from 70 AD time period back to the time before the 2nd coming.

        There are a lot of connections to the language of Dan 9:26 in the passages below. The armies surrounding Jerusalem could apply to the period of the abomination of desolation, but I have always connected them with the roman armies and with the people of the prince that shall come in Dan 9:26.

        All of the language surrounding Luk 21:22 in Luk 21:20-23 seems to be describing wrath coming upon Israel. The context of the Old Testament “days of vengeance” passages seems to be judgment on Israel’s enemies.

        I will listen to those lectures.

        Blessings,
        Peter

        Here are the scriptures I am thinking of:

        Dan 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

        Matt 23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

        Luke 19:43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
        Luke 19:44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

        Luke21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
        Luke21:21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter there into.
        Luke21:22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

      2. I’ve always viewed the Luke 21 passage as in some ways referring to 70AD and in some ways referring to what Matt 24 and Mark 13 refer to. The two audiences I think has a lot of merit. Jesus almost always seemed to give more illumination to His disciples, in private, than He did when teaching to the masses. This is consistent with the Mark 13/Matt 24 versus Luke 21.

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