According to the Gospel of Matthew, the timing of Jesus’s return is being kept under deep cover so the “owner,” of the world will be caught off-guard. It is such a -huge- metaphor! So let us explore it.
The Strong Man
It had all started when some people had brought a demon-possessed man to Jesus. The man had been rendered both blind and mute by his condition, and must have been suffering terribly. Without a word and without delay, Jesus cured him, and the crowds were swept away in wonder.
Well, not everyone was breathless with amazement. Casting out demons was something the Pharisees prided themselves in doing, as a sign of their spiritual power and personal righteousness, recognized across the spiritual realm. They clicked their tongues and dismissed the whole thing, attributing it to a one-off performed through the dark power of Beelzebub, ruler of the demons.
Jesus—knowing what the Pharisees were telling each other—used the situation as a teachable moment (for the people). What he ended up saying was prophetic.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?
If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcistscast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
–> Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered.
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.Jesus, Matthew 12:25-30 (NRSV)
Jesus was the only one strong enough to tie up the strong man and rob the world of the people the strong man oppressed, and bring them into the kingdom of God where they would be free for all eternity.
Jesus made it clear the strong man was Satan. The ancient opposer and enemy of God, the one Jesus called a liar and a murderer from the beginning (in reference to the Garden of Eden). In Jesus’s parable, the strong man is the owner of the house, and Jesus comes like a thief to tie the owner up, because he is strong, in order to plunder the house of its treasure.
Thief in the Night
Necessarily, thieves do not announce their expected time of arrival, as that would be counterproductive. In the same way, Jesus’s return is certain and imminent, but kept under wraps.
And believers had become agitated about beloved family and friends who had died—before Jesus’s return. What would happen to them now? Were they permanently gone? Had the grave had its victory over them? Would they miss out on the New Heavens and the New Earth, and the glorious life to come?
Paul reassured the anxious believers in Thessalonica with the same metaphor.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to -surprise you- like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day.Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 (NRSV)
Jesus would come unexpectedly, but for believers it will be a delightful surprise, not a frightening one. Paul had earlier already explained the method by which the “thief” will “plunder” the “strong man’s” “house.”
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord:
* that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died.
* For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
* Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them
* to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 13-18 (NRSV)
Jesus’s Second Coming
The second coming of Christ is one of the most frequent themes written about in the scriptures—one in every twenty verses, many of them in the Christian Testament. Remembering how closely Peter and Paul taught the same theology, we can learn some basic aspects of Jesus’s expected return, found in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian believers, that are appropriate to include with Peter’s teaching as well.
- SURE, Jesus had given his word to his disciples, as Peter reminded his readers what he was giving them came from the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles.
- PHYSICAL, When the disciples saw Jesus going up into heaven, angels told them Jesus would come back in exactly the way they had seen him go, only this time—as Paul indicated—believers would themselves be caught up in the clouds together to meet the Lord in the air.
- SUDDEN, the day of the Lord will come like a thief, Jesus had said, and the apostles repeated. One moment the the strong man is in the house, the next moment, the thief is there, tying up the strong man.
- VISIBLE, What Paul described is a very public event. Jesus will come down from heaven with a loud command, there will be the voice of an archangel, a loud trumpet call—the same loud trumpet call that terrified the Hebrews at the foot of Mount Sinai in the desert. There is nothing in any of the prophesies and descriptions recorded in the whole of the Bible to indicate this will be a hidden, or metaphorical, or spiritualized event.
- UNEXPECTED, This was the point of Jesus’s parable. For those who belong to the darkness, even in spite of Jesus’s words, in spite of the expectation of all believers, in spite of the public proclamation of the Bible, there will be scoffers—as in the days of Noah, according to Jesus, and later Peter—who will be surprised, in the same way that a home owner would be surprised to see a thief in their house, or to be robbed. They never expected it to happen to them.
- It will be followed by the FINAL JUDGEMENT. The second half of 2 Peter 3:10 will describe what Peter saw in the vision God had given him about that event.
Just as Jesus’s first coming, or advent, was not a day, but was thirty-three years long, so also Jesus’s second advent is expected to take place over a period of time
[Jesus in Clouds by Sunset | Donatas Dabravolskas, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]