130. Jesus’ Second Coming
3As he sat on the Mount of Olives the apostles came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?”a
27He answered them, saying, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory.”
36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 28From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.b 29So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.”
(Mt. 24:3; Lk. 21:27; Mt. 24:36; Mk. 13:28–29)
a “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?”—In their own minds the apostles connected the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem with the “end of the world” and Jesus' second coming. Thus two questions are being asked and answered in this discussion on the Mount of Olives: (1) When will Jerusalem be destroyed? and (2) When will Jesus return to consummate the kingdom? The first question (Jerusalem's destruction) was addressed in Chapter 129, and the second question (Jesus' second coming) is discussed here. It should be noted that although the apostles connected Jesus' second coming with the “end of the world,” Jesus did not teach this doctrine. In fact he specifically taught only three things concerning his return: (1) that he definitely would one day return, (2) that when he returned it would be in power and glory, and (3) that no one in heaven or on earth knows when this return will take place except the Father.
b “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.”—In the winter the fig tree is dormant and barren; in the spring it puts forth its first tender shoots; while in the summertime it comes to full fruit. Here Jesus seems to associate his return with the summertime. Summertime of what?
The kingdom of heaven taught by Jesus is an inner spiritual dominion—the rule of God in the hearts and minds of his earth children. Since the time of Jesus the world has known little of this spiritual kingdom, but much of materialism. From the standpoint of the kingdom this materialistic age is a spiritual wintertime, a time when Jesus' inner kingdom is alive yet dormant.
He tells us to look for the springtime when the “branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves.” Perhaps he means that when we see the rebirth of his spiritual kingdom in the world, we can then look to the summertime of his next visitation.
Mt. 24:3 the apostles came (Ch. 22, fn. a) / the disciples came (RSV) • the end of the world?” (KJV) / the close of the age?” (RSV)
Lk. 21:27 He answered them, saying, “Then / “And then (RSV) • coming with / coming in a cloud with (RSV) (176:1–2/1913–5)