Many people do not understand that the Second Coming was manifested as a sign. The disciples asked Jesus for the sign of his coming, and Jesus talked about the ‘sign’ of the Son of Man in the heavens.
What is a sign?
There were many signs that Jesus performed during his ministry to Israel. The Jews asked him for a sign. His disciples asked him for signs. It is important for us to have the right understanding of what is a sign. According to the scripture, the miracles Jesus did, were called ‘signs.’
The Apostle John gave the purpose of these signs. “Jesus also did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.
But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God…” (John 20:30-31).
The purpose of these visible signs was to help the people realize Jesus’ true identity. He was the invisible Son of the Living God, but God dwells in the realm of the invisible. Signs were a way for God to inform Israel of heavenly things.
A sign in Hebrew thought was a visible event that indicated an invisible event of greater importance. In the context of the ‘second coming’, signs would be earthly manifestations of events that were occurring in Heaven.
Example of a Sign in the miracles of Jesus
Let us examine the healing that Jesus performed on the paralytic, recorded in Matthew 9:2-6. The paralysed man was brought to Jesus. Jesus said to him, “Take courage, son; your sins have been forgiven.” (Matt 9:2). The onlooking scribes were offended by Jesus’ pronouncement. He then challenged them, “which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’” Matt 9:5
Jesus presented two realms to the scribes, the Unseen Spiritual realm and the Visible Natural realm.
1. The removal of sins, occurred in the invisible realm.
2. The healing of the body, occurred in the visible realm.
The visible healing of the man of his paralysis was a sign of the unseen removal of his sins. Look at what Jesus told them, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Matt 9:6
Notice, Jesus said that by seeing a visible sign, they would know something was accomplished in that invisible realm which they could not see with their natural eyes. The visible healing would be a ‘sign’ that they might know [see with the understanding] that He had authority to remove sins.
What will be the Sign of your Coming?
When Jesus told his disciples of the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem’s temple, they asked him, “Tell us, when these things will be? And what is the sign of your coming, and the consummation of the age?” (Matt 24:3). Remember, a sign is a visible event, which denotes a more important but invisible event. Therefore, the disciples were asking for a visible indication of his invisible presence. In fact, the word ‘coming’ as used in Matthew 24:3, is the Greek word ‘parousia’ which literally means ‘presence.’
Jesus, having gone back into the realm of the invisible heaven, the natural eyes could no longer see him. Thus, there had to be a visible sign or signs, which would indicate his invisible presence.
The Sign of ‘the Son of Man in Heaven’
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Mankind in heaven, and then all the tribes of the land shall grieve, and they shall see the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory.” Matt 24:30
This verse is popularly used to promote a literal physical coming of Jesus, for it seems to be saying he would be seen by the natural eyesight. However, there are several aspects to this verse that are not immediately apparent to someone who is unfamiliar with the scriptures and Hebrew thought.
The first thing to consider is the appearance of – not the Son of Man – but the sign of the Son of Man in Heaven.
Remember what we learned about signs? We learned that signs are:
1. An event occurring in the visible realm that indicates a greater and more significant event in the invisible realm.
2. Earthly manifestations of events that had occurred in Heaven.
Next, where was the sign to occur? At first glance, it seems the sign is in heaven. However, we need to look a bit closer. The sign would actually manifest on the earth [the visible realm], and it would be an indication that the ‘Son of Man is in Heaven’ [in the invisible realm].
Israel mourned when they saw the Sign
Remember, at that time, there was doubt among the Israelites as to whether Jesus was the Son of the Living God. There needed to be a sign on the earth, that he was indeed in Heaven, seated at the right hand of God.
According to the scripture, when Israel saw this sign, “all the tribes of the land shall grieve, and they shall see the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory.” The sign of earth indicated that Jesus had come in the clouds of heaven. Now this doesn’t make much sense to us, but it made sense to Israel.
The phrase ‘coming in the clouds of heaven’ comes from Daniel 7, where the prophet Daniel saw in vision the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven; “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…” (Dan 7:13). At that time, Daniel saw “there was given him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14
The sign which Israel saw, would let them ‘see’ (perceive with their understanding), that Jesus was indeed the Son of Man who had received dominion, glory and a kingdom in which all people would serve him forever! This was a great blow to Israel, for they had hated Jesus and had condemned him to death. That is why they ‘grieved,’ because they realized their fatal mistake.
What was the Sign of His Presence?
The destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem was the Sign which gave evidence that the Son of Man truly was in the invisible Heavens at the right hand of the Father, a place of authority, power and divinity.
He manifested his presence to unbelieving Israel in the fiery destruction of their city and Temple. Christ manifested his presence to the believers as the glory of God in-filling them with his divine spirit. Remember Jesus had promised his disciples, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make a home with him.” (John 14:23)
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