Bible Prophecy and the Return of Jesus
The Mystery of the Two Comings!

By I Gordon
 

I decided recently to start a series in the church I attend, on Bible Prophecy. I must admit that for a while I struggled to know where to start. I have always had a great love of Bible prophecy [1] … especially in regards to the return of Jesus. But I knew that some people find the whole subject quite confusing. This study then, is simply an introduction to Bible prophecy and the return of Jesus.

The Promise of the Messiah

The Old Testament is packed with references to a coming Messiah [2] . If you asked any Jew familiar with the Old Testament what would characterise the coming of the Messiah, they would probably reply that the Messiah would rule from Jerusalem, bringing peace and security to Israel. Jesus, they would say, clearly didn’t bring this peace to Israel so therefore He cannot be the Messiah. The religious Jews are, to this day, still waiting for their Messiah to come.

So are they right? Well, concerning what characterises the coming of the Messiah they are of course… half right! The Bible presents two pictures of what the coming of the Messiah would be like. One, a conquering King; the other, a suffering servant. Jewish rabbis of old even recognised this and said that the Messiah would come in the character of two prominent Old Testament characters – David and Joseph. They are known as Ha Moshiach Ben David (Messiah the Son of David) and Ha Moshiach Ben Yoseph (Messiah the Son of Joseph) [3] . Some Rabbis even said that there would be two Messiahs, which they saw as necessary to fulfil the contradictory pictures presented in the two character mentioned. Let’s look at a couple of verses which show the character of Messiah in these two roles.

An Example of Messiah, Son of David

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Here is an example of a Messianic passage which shows that the Messiah would reign on David’s throne, and that justice and righteousness would characterise His reign. An interesting thing to note with this passage is that the Messiah would be born, and that He would be a son… in other words, the Messiah would be human. No surprises there then! But look also at the name given to this child. ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Everlasting Father’… in other words the Messiah would also be God! The Messiah would be both human and God. A perplexing prophecy wouldn’t you say, explained only by the virgin birth of Jesus the Messiah!

Isaiah 11:1-10 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him… They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.

Please read the entire passage in Isaiah 11 for I have only quoted a portion of it above. But here we have another passage about the Messiah and it shows us that not only would the Messiah rule from the throne of David, but He would be a descendant in the line of David. That is what is meant by ‘a shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse…’ Jesse is King David’s father – the Messiah would come through this line. Also this passage shows that the Messiah will rule over the entire earth. This then is the main understanding that religious Jews have. They see the Messiah as a conquering ruling King from the line of David. There is of course another picture given in the Old Testament of the Messiah.

An Example of Messiah, Son of Joseph.

Isaiah 53 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed…

Isaiah 53 is a very well known prophetic passage about the Messiah. Even Jewish Rabbis before the time of Jesus said that this passage was Messianic. [4] And what does it teach concerning the Messiah? Like Joseph [5] , it shows that the Messiah would actually be rejected and suffer! But not for Himself… the punishment that servant Messiah would take upon Himself would bring us peace and healing. Concerning the apparent paradoxes [6] in this passage, D L Moody wrote ‘Despised, yet accepted and adored. Poor, yet rich. To die, yet to live. The Rabbis said there must be a double Messiah to fulfil this chapter.’

Looking briefly at the life of Joseph we find the following pictures of Jesus in his life.

Which Messiah were the disciples expecting?

Matthew 16:21-23 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Ok, no prizes for this one! It is pretty obvious that Peter (who always had a habit of speaking out what the others were thinking!) didn’t know very much about the Messiah having to die. Peter wanted Messiah Ben David! Peter wanted a conquering King… not a rejected servant. (Of course Peter understood things better by the time of his first sermon in the book of Acts 2:14-36). John the Baptist was the same. After recognising Jesus and rightly calling Him the ‘lamb [7] that takes away the sin of the world’ (in other words, John recognised that Jesus would be a sacrifice for sins), later on his life, as John sat in a lonely prison wondering what Jesus was going to do, we read of the doubts that came into John’s mind. Finally he sends his disciples to ask Jesus ‘are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else? (Matthew 11:2) Jesus just wasn’t acting like John thought the Messiah would act! Even in the book of acts, after Jesus has spoken to the disciples for 40 days concerning the kingdom of God and the coming baptism of the Spirit, their only question to Jesus is ‘Lord, is it at this time you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?’ (Acts 1:3-6). In other words, ‘when is the Davidic Kingdom? When will you rule and reign like the prophecies foretold???’ Note also Jesus’ answer in verse 8. Jesus says that it will happen but it is not for them to know what time His Father has fixed for such things. [8]

A Reason for the Confusion

Now, apart from the two different pictures of what the Messiah would be like, there was another reason for the confusion that surrounded the coming of the Messiah. The Hebrew prophets didn’t see or prophesy the church age! [9] They prophesied the two comings of Jesus as one event. Let’s look at some examples.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given... Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

We have already looked briefly at this passage but look at how it combines a child being born (the first coming) and the Davidic kingdom bringing peace and righteousness from then and forever more (the second coming). Isaiah combines the two events as though they were one. Zechariah was no different.

Zech 9:9 (This verse was fulfilled by Jesus at His first coming – Matt 21:1-11) Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zech (The very next verse describes conditions when He reigns from Jerusalem after the second coming.) I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Jesus knew the difference!

Probably one of the clearer examples of this is Isaiah 61. You remember the passage don’t you? Jesus quoted it in the synagogue early on in His ministry. (And nearly got stoned for it but that’s another matter!) Let’s look at it.

Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God…’

Do you remember reading in the gospels that Jesus quoted this verse concerning Himself? But He didn’t quote the entire verse did He? You see, even if man was confused about the character and role of the Messiah, the son of man wasn’t! Jesus knew exactly what part of the verse related to His first coming, and what part related to His second. And so we read in Luke 4:18-20 that He read from the scroll, but stopped mid sentence after saying that He was proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour and then He ‘rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The ‘year of the Lord’s favour’ related to Jesus’ first coming. Jesus didn’t read the last part of this same verse in Isaiah 61 because the ‘day of vengeance of our God’ relates to His second coming.

Conclusion

The time of the Lord’s second coming is rapidly approaching us. Just as accurately as Jesus fulfilled the prophecies at His first coming, so will the prophecies of His second coming be fulfilled. History records that the Messiah has come as Ha Moshiach Ben Yoseph (Messiah the Son of Joseph). He died and suffered at the hands of His own brothers so that we may go free. Soon the world will see Ha Moshiach Ben David (Messiah the Son of David). The judgement of God will come upon this world, and Jesus will take this world by force! His kingdom will be established and His reign shall be glorious! Are you ready? Are you watching? Do you definitely know what side you are on? I pray you do for He is coming soon!



[1]  That love was there right from day one really. I got saved by reading the Bible. I didn’t know anything about the Bible at that stage. I started in the book of Matthew and read all the gospels. They amazed me! I carried on and got to about half way through the book of 1st Corinthians and was getting pretty seriously bogged down… and a tad bored! So I decided to jump to the end of the book to find out how it all ends. So I skipped to a book called Revelation and starting reading what happens in the end. Let’s just say that I was quite blown away! Most of the books I read in my early Christian years where on Bible Prophecy… and it only gets better as we see that day coming all the nearer.

[2]  Apparently there are 1,800 references in the Old Testament to the coming of the Messiah. Can you name them? :o)

[3]  Taken from Jacob Prasch’s book ‘The final words of Jesus and Satan’s lies today.’ Pg 10.

[4]  Although, surprise, surprise, once Christians starting pointing out that Jesus fulfilled this passage EXACTLY, the Rabbis later changed their tune and declared that this passage was about Israel and her sufferings. I have even been debating with a Jew recently about this and he maintains that this passage is about Israel. I tried to point out the obvious – 1) That Israel in the Old Testament is said to be the wife of Jehovah and is therefore never referred to as a ‘he’ or ‘him’ like Isaiah 53 does. 2) The servant in the passage suffers even though He is innocent (vs 9), and that while the Jews have been persecuted terribly in all the nations they have been scattered, this scattering and persecution is a result of their disobedience to God’s law (Deut 28:58-68) – Israel is definitely not innocent and guiltless like the servant of Isaiah 53 is! 3) It is for the transgression of ‘my people’ that the servant dies. The nation of Israel is God’s people in the Old Testament. The servant cannot also be Israel then! 4) The death of the servant brings justification for the many (vs11). It would be utter nonsense to say that the sufferings of a disobedient Israel would bring justification to the gentile nations. That is rubbish!

Anyway, so I pointed these things out plus a few more. No luck. What else did Isaiah have to say to the nation of Israel? ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive.” (Isaiah 6:9, Matt )

[5]  For the types of Jesus in the life of Joseph, see the study on the Jesus Plus Nothing website:

http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/jcjoseph.htm

[6]  Look at a couple of the things it says – ‘Who can speak of His descendants? He was cut off from the land of the living.’ (vs 8) So the Messiah would die and not have any descendants. But then look at what it says ‘If He would offer Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days.’ (vs 10) So this verse says that if He willingly offers Himself then He will have offspring and His days will be prolonged. A contradiction? Not at all! While Jesus did die and had no physical descendants, he was raised from the dead; His days prolonged, and gave all of us the chance to truly have life… His spiritual offspring!

[7]  Just to emphasise the two roles of the Messiah a little more let’s look at how Jesus is pictured. Jesus was said by John the Baptist to be the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. This is Messiah Ben Joseph – the suffering Messiah – 1st Coming. He is also called the ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah.’ This is Messiah Ben David – the Kingly Messiah – 2nd Coming. Also, Jesus’ name means ‘Jehovah is salvation’ – this emphasises Jesus role in His 1st coming to save sinners. He shall also be called Immanuel which means ‘God with us’ and this emphasises the fact that He will dwell permanently with us at His second coming.

[8]  Despite the widespread confusion amongst Jesus’ disciples, there was a man who knew more of what Jesus’ role would be. His name was Simeon. Read his great words in Luke 2:25-35. He knew that Jesus would be a light unto the gentiles as well as Israel. He also knew that Jesus would be spoken against, and that He would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel. He also spoke of the sorrow that would pierce Mary’s heart!

[9]  Many have used the analogy of the two mountains to help explain this. Let’s say you were looking at a mountain from some distance away. Behind the first peak is a second mountain. Looking from a distance you may describe the first and second peaks as if they were very close… maybe even part of the same mountain. It is not until you travel close to the mountain range that you find a great valley separates the two mountains and they are not close at all. The first and second comings of Jesus are like this. The prophets saw both comings but not the great length of time between them. They didn’t see the church age. In the New Testament, the Church age is called a mystery – something hidden in the Old Testament. It was not truly revealed until the Apostle Paul was given these revelations. See Eph 3:1-9 where he speaks of this mystery, kept hidden from ages past, but now finally revealed.