The Coming of the Son of Man (Mark 13:24-26)

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The Coming of the Son of Man
Sunday, April 21st, 2024
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 13:24-31

24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. 28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. 31 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.

Prayer

O God and Father of Lights, from whom all Goodness and Light proceed, grant us now to behold in the lamp of Your Word, He Who Is the Light of the Whole World. Make now to shine upon us, the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the very image of God. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Introduction

Well, this morning we come to the climax of Mark 13, wherein Jesus describes in very cosmic terms his coming to destroy Jerusalem and the old creation. And because this is a passage of Scripture that is so often misinterpreted as referring to Christ’s final coming at the end of history, we will only cover the first three verses of our text this morning, verses 24-26, and then next week we will review and cover verses 27-31.

  • Now the reason I wanted to read verses 24 through 31, is because verse 24 and verse 30 give us the time frame for when this coming of the Son of Man shall be.
    • According to Jesus words in verse 24, it will take place “in those days after the tribulation.” Which tribulation? The one he just got done describing in verse 19 when he said, “For in those days shall be tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.”
    • And then in verse 30, Jesus gives them the broader timeframe for when one stone shall not be left upon another in the temple (vs. 2), when he says, “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.”
  • So according to Jesus, the great tribulation, the gospel going forth to all nations in the Empire, the abomination of desolation, and the coming of the Son of Man, are not future events to us, they are all future events to the twelve disciples and will be fulfilled within one generation of him speaking, that is within roughly 40 years.
    • And as later books in the New Testament itself testifies, and as both secular and church history testifies, Jesus was not lying. All of these things took place just like Jesus said they would. And they took place between 30 AD when Christ ascended into heaven, and 70 AD, when Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed.
    • So whatever the coming of the Son of Man is, Jesus guaranteed in the strongest terms possible, “Verily I say unto you, that this generation [then living] shall not pass [die], till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”
  • And yet despite this very clear timeframe, the Christian church has often struggled to interpret this section of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, plus Revelation). They read of stars falling from heaven, and the sun and moon being put out, and then they look outside and see there is the sun, at night is the moon, and no stars seem to have fallen. Moreover, they hear, “the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory,” and they automatically assume that this must refer to Christ’s bodily return at the end of history.
    • So you can see why some Christians have struggled with this portion of Scripture. Well, my hope this morning is to help you interpret these words the way Christ intended and the way the apostles themselves interpreted them. And in order to do that, we are going to have to go back and study their Bible, the Old Testament, because almost every single word that Jesus speaks here in verse 24-27 is a quotation or allusion to an Old Testament passage.
    • Where so many pastors and Bible commentators go wrong is that they forget the first rule of biblical interpretation, which is, “Scripture interprets Scripture.” God is his own and best interpreter. And therefore, if we want to become better readers of God’s Word, we need to get all of Scripture inside of us. So it is to that task we shall now give ourselves.

Outline of the Text

There are six events that Jesus foretells/prophesies in verses 24-27, and you will notice they are all spoken of in heavenly terms. This morning we’ll cover events 1-5.

  • In verses 24-25 we have the first four events which are:
    • 1. “the sun shall be darkened,”
    • 2. “the moon shall not give her light,”
    • 3. “the stars of heaven shall fall,” and then I take the 4th event as summarizing the first three:
    • 4. “and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.”
  • In verse 26 we have the fifth event:
    • 5. “then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”
  • In verse 27 is the sixth event:
    • 6. “And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”
  • So let’s begin by considering events 1-4 together since they are often found in this same order in the Old Testament.

Verses 24-25 – Q1. What does it mean for the sun and moon to be darkened, the stars of heaven to fall, and the powers of heaven to be shaken?

  • Well, let us consider first why God created the sun, moon, and stars (these heavenly powers).
    • We read in Genesis 1:14-18 that on the fourth day, “God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day [the sun], and the lesser light to rule the night [the moon]: he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.”
    • So there are three basic purposes for the sun, moon, and stars:
      • 1. To literally give light and life to the earth.
      • 2. To mark days, nights, times, and seasons.
      • 3. To rule/govern those times.
    • So from the very beginning of the creation, even before man was formed, God placed sun, moon, and stars in the firmament to rule the world. Without the sun and the changing seasons, there would be no food or sustenance for man, and in this sense at the very least, man is subject to and dependent upon the powers of heaven for daily bread.
    • A few chapters later in Genesis 15, God tells Abram to number the stars, and promises “So shall thy seed be.” So God promises that Abraham’s children would be as stars in the heavens. Note it is here that stars are becoming symbolic for human beings.
    • And then the next time sun, moon, and stars all appear together is in Genesis 37, where Joseph (Abraham’s seed, great grandson) dreams that the sun, moon, and eleven stars are bowing down to him. And Jacob his father says to him, “What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?” (Gen. 37:10).
    • So just within the first 37 chapters of Genesis, we have a theme already developing about the sun, moon, and stars. They are heavenly rulers, they determine times and seasons, and God promises that one day, His people will be those rulers. Jacob is the sun, Rachel is the moon, Joseph’s eleven brothers are the stars.
    • Now by the time we get to the book of Exodus, instead of God’s people being in charge and governing the earth, we see they are enslaved to the Egyptians and to Pharaoh who regards himself as a kind of god. Ra was the sun-god of ancient Egypt, and therefore when God brings the 9th plague of thick darkness over all Egypt, he was doing so to demonstrate that He is the one who ordains times and seasons, who raises up rulers and casts them down. Pharaoh thought he was the sun, and so God darkens the sun to remind him that YHWH alone is God.
    • Remember the whole purpose for the Exodus and the ten plagues upon Egypt. God says in Exodus 7:5, “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” The purpose for all of God’s judgments is the glory and knowledge of His Name.
      • One of the main lessons of the Exodus is that God is the one who establishes and ordains all powers, both heavenly and earthly (Rom. 13:1).
      • Pharaoh and his governors apostatized when they “forgot Joseph” and became a false sun, moon, and stars (even worshipping them). They stopped governing the times justly. How so? They did not give God his worship or sabbath (seventh day) rest to His people. And therefore, when God’s appointed rulers fail in this duty, he eventually replaces them. This is what God promised to Abraham and it is what Exodus records.
      • The first part of Exodus is the destruction of the Egyptian cosmos, He darkens their sun. And then the rest of the book (along with Leviticus and Numbers) is God turning the twelve tribes he redeemed out of Egypt, into His heavenly host.
      • This is what the construction of the tabernacle was all about. The entire sacrificial system of the old covenant was a way of keeping times and seasons and doing “God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.”
        • Israel marked every new day with an evening and morning sacrifice.
        • Israel marked every seventh day with an extra lamb upon the altar to mark the Sabbath.
        • Every new moon there was special burnt offering, grain, offering, drink offering, and sin offering.
        • And then there were special festival times (seasons) like Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Booths. And these all revolved around the changing seasons of sowing and reaping, first fruits and fall harvest. And all of this further signified the pattern of death and resurrection, darkness to light.
        • So the sacrifices that God prescribed in the law were an earthly way of tracking heavenly time. And all of this is in view when Jesus says the sun, moon, and stars are going to be put out when the Son of Man comes.
        • At one level, Jesus is prophesying that the temple and its sacrificial offerings are going to be cut off. Just as when Pharaoh apostatized and then Egypt was destroyed by plagues, so also when the Jews become wandering stars (Jude 11) and idolaters, Jerusalem will be likewise destroyed. This is the pattern of how God judges and rules the world.
  • This is further proved in how the prophets foretold the destruction of other idolatrous nations.
    • We heard earlier in Isaiah 13 that the destruction of Babylon when it was conquered by the Medes and Persians is spoken of in these same cosmic terms, “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, Cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate: And he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: The sun shall be darkened in his going forth, And the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, And the wicked for their iniquity… Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth shall remove out of her place, In the wrath of the Lord of hosts, And in the day of his fierce anger.” (Is. 13:9-11, 13).
      • So notice, all of these cosmic/astral signs are symbolic for the real historical fall of Babylon in 539 BC.
    • Likewise, referring to the destruction of Egypt it says in Ezekiel 32:7-8, “And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light. All the bright lights of heaven will I make dark over thee, and set darkness upon thy land, saith the Lord God.”
    • And then in Joel 2:10, speaking of Jerusalem’s destruction it says, “The earth shall quake before them; The heavens shall tremble: The sun and the moon shall be dark, And the stars shall withdraw their shining:”
    • So notice that in all these instances (and there are many others), it is not a literal sun, moon, and stars that is in view, but rather sun, moon, and stars are symbolic for the spiritual-political rulers of a nation: the emperor, his wise men, and his princes, and sometimes even to the demonic forces behind those earthly powers.
  • So when Jesus says, “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken,” he is prophesying the fall of the entire old creation and its spiritual-political government.
    • This includes many demonic forces and principalities, and even Satan who Christ bound in Revelation 20.
    • This includes the Jewish priesthood and the sacrificial system that marked time in the old covenant.
    • This includes the Roman empire, and its status as the fourth beast and kingdom of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.
    • All of these different powers and authorities are symbolized by sun, moon, and stars if you know the Old Testament Scriptures.
  • Now if verses 24-25 foretell the end of the old world and its spiritual government, it is verses 26-27 that foretell who replaces those old rulers and powers in the heavens. And this is spoken of in Daniel 7 as “the coming of the Son of Man.”

Verse 26

26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

  • So let’s start with the question, “Who/what exactly is the Son of man?”
    • When most people hear the phrase “Son of Man” they automatically think it refers to Jesus who repeatedly calls himself the “Son of Man.” But “Son of Man” is actually a title that Jesus takes to Himself, and it is the title that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel, who is called “Son of Man” over 91 times in Ezekiel.
    • And so if you want to know who/what the Son of Man is, if you want to know why Jesus calls himself the Son of Man, you have to first understand who Ezekiel was. So who was Ezekiel?
    • Ezekiel was God’s high priest during the desolation of Jerusalem (593-573). He was ordained in the 30th year, and he lived before, during, and after the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple.
      • One of the important things we learn from the book of Ezekiel, is that the Son of Man is a prophet and priest who pronounces judgement on Israel (and the nations), and calls them to repent, and when they don’t repent, he destroys them with His words.
      • In Ezekiel 11 God says, “prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man…And it came to pass, when I prophesied, that Pelatiah the son of Benaiah died” (Ezek. 11:4, 13).
      • We read also in Ezekiel 43, that he beholds in a vision the glory of God and says, “And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw…when I came to destroy the city.”
      • So although the armies of Babylon literally burned the temple and destroyed Jerusalem, Ezekiel teaches us that it was actually him, the Son of Man, and God’s prophetic Word that destroyed the city.
      • So Scripture teaches us that there are multiple levels of causality for God’s judgments. There is God at the top, and he commands his angels and even demons to punish evildoers, and then he also includes the prophets and the saints in those judgments.
        • Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 16:19, as the power given to the apostles to bind and to loose. He says, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
        • Likewise, he tells his disciples in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions [demonic forces], and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
        • Paul also speaks of this spiritual power when he says in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.”
        • And again in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
    • So 600 years before Jesus and the Apostles, Ezekiel was God’s “Son of Man” who would set the pattern and example for when Jesus takes up this title in the gospels.
    • Jesus, like Ezekiel, is a true priest and true prophet.
    • Jesus, like Ezekiel, will preach repentance, be rejected and mocked, and then prophesy the end of that city while laying the blueprints for a new temple.
    • Jesus, like Ezekiel, will destroy Jerusalem, not by his literal bodily presence, but by the word of His mouth, using a foreign army (Rome) to burn it to the ground.
    • This is part of what it means for Jesus to be the Son of Man. He is a prophet and priest who comes to bring judgment with His words.
  • Now in addition to Ezekiel being the Son of Man (and Jesus being a new Ezekiel), there is an important vision in Daniel 7, which Jesus is quoting and interpreting here in verse 26. And this is the key to understanding what the coming of the Son of Man is.
  • In Daniel 7, Daniel has a vision of four beast empires (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome), and he sees the Ancient of Days sitting in judgment to destroy those beasts and give their dominion to “one like the Son of Man.”
    • It says in Daniel 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
    • And then a couple verses later Daniel is given the interpretation of this vision, and this is where we are told who/what the one like the Son of Man is.
    • Daniel 7:17-22 says, “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.”
    • So who is the Ancient of Days in this scene? It is God.
    • And who is the “one like the Son of Man?” It is the saints, the church, or as Paul describes it, the body of Christ.
    • And therefore, when Jesus calls Himself “the Son of Man,” He is explaining how this vision of Daniel 7 is going to be fulfilled. He is explaining how the saints inherit the kingdom of God:
      • The Ancient of Days, God Most High, shall come in the flesh. He shall become a Son of Adam, a Son of Man, and become the beginning of a new humanity succeeding in all the ways that Adam and every other Son of Adam failed.
      • And then as God and Man, he shall be glorified on the cross. As Jesus says in John 8:28, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he.” And also in John 5:26-27, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”
      • So Jesus Christ is both Ancient of Days and Son of man. And the way the saints ascend to heaven to take the kingdom, is through being united to Jesus and being made like the son of man, conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).
  • So now having Daniel 7 in our minds we can interpret Jesus words in verse 26, “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”
    • Well, there is nothing here or in Daniel 7 about the Son of Man descending to the earth. This is the Son of man coming up/ascending to the Ancient of Days. Therefore, this rules out the bodily return of Jesus Christ to the earth (Acts 1:11).
    • What the coming of the Son of man in power and glory refers to is threefold:
      • 1. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by Christ and his saints, just like Ezekiel destroyed it the first time.
      • 2. The end of the beast empires and their spiritual dominion, which God established with Babylon in the days of Nebuchadnezzar (603 BC), and ended with Vespasian in 70 AD.
      • 3. The giving over of that spiritual-political dominion to the saints in Christ, who together are the Son of Man (as the head is united to the body).
    • Both Daniel and Jesus agree that these events must take place in the days of the Roman Empire, and Jesus further specifies, they will all be fulfilled within one generation of his death and resurrection.
    • And so it is hard to overstate what happened in the 1st century in 70 AD. Truly the powers of heaven were shaken, and to Christ and the saints was given all authority in heaven and on earth. The implications of this transfer of power are immense, and merits a whole sermon in itself.
  • Nevertheless, let us conclude for today by answering a final question, “How did people see this coming of the Son of Man?”
    • Well, we can say they saw it literally with the destruction of the city and many other recorded signs in the heavens (we’ll look at this next week).
    • But more true to Jesus words, they saw it figuratively, that is they perceived and knew or saw the truth about who Jesus claimed to be, that Jesus was no false prophet and in fact He is the Son of God just like He said He was.
    • In the very next chapter, when Jesus is being interrogated by the high priest it says in Mark 14:61-62, “the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
    • It is that line that gets Jesus charged with blasphemy and sent to the cross. And yet he tells that individual high priest that he himself will see the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus was not lying. That high priest saw and knew afterward who Jesus was.
    • And after 70 AD, the whole world knew that Jesus’ prophecy came to pass, “not one stone shall be left upon another of this temple.”
  • So the coming of the Son of Man was the vindication of Jesus Christ and the vindication of all the saints who put their hope in him.Moreover, it confirms and testifies for the rest of human history, that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, He is Ancient of Days and Son of Man, and there is no other name under heaven by which you can be saved.
    • He promised to destroy that apostate city and he did. And now to Him and the saints belong all authority in heaven and on earth. That’s you and me, and that is the spiritual power we have in Jesus.So let us wield that authority as He has commanded, that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.
    • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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