Understanding The Bible
Douglas B. MacCorkle "Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse"
CHAPTER FIVE - The Final Return of Messiah and Israel

Chapter Five
The Final Return of Messiah and

At Messiah's first advent there was an intensive proclamation of His presence and purposes. A primary purpose was the establishment of His rights to the Davidic throne (Matt. 1-2), with emphatic prominence given to His deity (Matt. 1:23; 3:13-17; 16:13-18), and to the non-remoteness of the earthly kingdom of Old Testament prophecy.

Israel's leadership had rejected His offer — "I would have gathered you . . . but, ye would not (Matt. 23:37-39)." They would not have this man to reign over them (Luke 19:14, 27).

As a result, Israel became involved in its final dispersion. Three dispersions of Israel had been predicted in Scripture. First, they were dispersed into Egypt (Gen. 15:13-16), from which they were regathered after four centuries, under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. Secondly, they were dispersed into Babylon (Jer. 25:11-12), from which they were regathered after seventy years (Dan. 9:1 ff) under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. Thirdly, they were dispersed into the entire world (Deut. 28:63- 68), from which they will be regathered in connection with return of Messiah to the earth for His earthly, millennial reign.

There will be two phases to this final regathering situation. A preliminary and partial return will be engineered by the Antichrist. This is learned by inference from Daniel 9:2, 4-27, since no covenant with Antichrist is possible unless Israel is in its land and unbelieving. It is also learned by explicit statement from Ezekiel 36:24-26, where the order is first a regathering and then (v. 25) regeneration. There will be, on the other hand, a final and full regathering in belief. This will occur immediately at the close of the tribulation period (Matt. 24:29-31). These two stages of repatriation (study also Eze. 37:21-28; Jer. 31:10; Zech. 8:7-13, 20-23), are connected with the seventieth week of Daniel and not with the course of the age now current.

In the final dispersion, Israel was to remain a race but not a functioning national entity (Numbers 23:9). It would not be assimilated into other nations with any finality. Before Israel is ready for all that its earthly millennial kingdom involves, it must be resurrected from the international graveyard. A striking picture of this action is found in Ezekiel 37. We select the following data for a briefing on the subject:

  1. The key verse for interpretation is verse 11 — the picture is of the whole house of Israel.

  2. Israel is likened to bones that have lost their vitality. They are very dry. They have structure but no life — no spiritual life!

  3. The great question is (37:3) "can these bones live again?"

  4. The great answer is (37:4) "hear the Word of the Lord — and live."

  5. The Spirit of God gets into them (37:5, 14) and they live.

  6. Israel will recognize the Lord officially as well as personally (37:6).

  7. First, they must come together structurally (37:7-8).

  8. Secondly, they must come alive spiritually (37:9-10).

  9. Israel is a confessedly hopeless nation until this occurs (37:11).

  10. Both houses of Israel (Judah and Israel) are included in this resurrection (37:16-20).

With this Scriptural background it is possible to understand the crystallized statements of Matthew 24:29-31 in a better way.

The mourning of nature.
There is a tendency with some Bible students to minimize or ignore the intensity of the tribulation period and consequently its purposes. We have already provided sufficient data to underline both severity and purpose. The reader needs to distinguish between general and specific tribulation.

Matthew 24:29 reveals specific tribulation and its aftermath. This is perhaps the clearest verse in the Bible concerning the fact that Messiah's return to earth is after a period of age-consummating tribulation. For Israel, the tribulation period is specific. It is a period of travail in which she awaits a sure rebirth as a nation — with understanding that the constituency will be individually saved by grace through faith. This travail will be shared by all creation (Rom. 8:19).

God acts with directness and speed when the special period of tribulation has accomplished its course and purposes.

Because of the great carnage caused by the destruction (v. 28) of all unbelievers, in the desolations determined and executed by the wrath of God (Rev. 6-19), nature is said to be adorned in keeping with the occasion. It reacted similarly at Calvary.

In the coming day, the sun shall be darkened and the moon will not shed her light. The stars will keep falling from the heavens. The powers (probably evil, cf. Eph. 6:10-12) will be shaken by a counter-force. Against this tremendous backdrop, Messiah will make his lightning-like return to earth (24:27).

The working out of the many tribulation details is not without great purpose. The words of the prophet Isaiah (66:8-9) point this out very clearly:

Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day? Shall a nation be brought forth at once? For as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? Saith Jehovah: shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? Saith thy God.

God will not bring through travail to the birth and fail to bring forth a national rebirth in Israel. From Israel's side, she can be sure that once the birth-pains start (24:8), they must continue until delivery time. As soon as Israel travails (i.e. in the seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27), she will bring forth her children.

The manifestation of Messiah.
The term appear (24:30) connotes visibility and openness. Because of this significance, certain features are given insistently in Matthew 24:30-31. First, this manifestation, visible and open as it is, is to be read as a sign. It appears that this is a completion of the prediction of Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Matthew (1:23) employs this passage without the term sign. This was in connection with Messiah's birth. He says "they shall call his name Immanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us." There is no record of the use of this title at His first advent, although Nicodemus broke through to it (John 3:2b). Matthew admits the title needs, not translation, but interpretation. Messiah will return only when Israel is ready to say nationally, "blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Matt. 23:39)." When they recognize Him as God with them, the sign of Isaiah 7:14 will complete its service to the nation Israel.

We understand further that the titles King of the Jews (Matt. 2:2), Messiah (Matt. 2:4), and Son of Man (16:13, 16), are employed with synonymous meanings in Scripture. The sign of the Son of Man in the heavens, then, is to be understood as the coming for His earthly reign (Dan. 7:13; 2). The coming will be on the clouds of heaven. It will be in power and great glory—in contrast to the manner of His first advent. The significance of the exercise of this power and the display of this glory will be treated in connection with Matthew 25:31 ff.

This manifestation is not to be confused with the unseen coming (1 Cor. 15:52) at the private rapture of His Bride, the genuine, Spirit-formed Church. The rapture will be with great speed and will mean the departure of believers from the earth to meet the Lord in the skies (John 14:1-3; 1Thess. 4:13-5:9). The rapture is a New Testament mystery (1 Cor. 15:51) not an Old Testament prophecy. The manifestation of Messiah in the clouds to Israel is not private, nor a mystery, but a clear prophecy of the Old Testament.

When He returns to earth as Israel's Messiah, Immanuel, and Lord, He will sit for a period in the clouds and plead for His people Israel. Antichrist and His team of kings will oppose the Messiah and His operation (Psalm 2; Rev. 19:19-21). Every eye shall see Him as long as they desire to look and listen (Zech. 12:10; Rev. 1:7), even those who pierced Him — Israel. Thus the elements in His coming for the Church and His coming to the nation Israel are quite distinct in Scripture.

The movement of Israel.
In discussing the regatherings of Israel, two phases were ascribed to their final return from dispersion. The latter phase (24:31) takes place under the direct decree of God. He will send His angels (compare the parables of the Tares and the Dragnet in Matthew 13) to gather together the elect from every point, from one tip of the heavens to another.

Needless argument has been waged over the elect. There are more than Israel elected during this period. The fact is, how- ever, that the context is dealing only with the house of Israel (cf. 23:37-39; 24:1-3) until we arrive at the judgment of the living Gentile nations (25:31 ff). The proof-text method leads to a generalizing of the term elect. The contextual method leads only to Israel.

These elect are not raptured, but gathered together by angels. There is no mention of the dead being raised simultaneously for this is not the point of the text.

Most conclusive of all is the fact that the questions of Matthew 24:3 are before the mind of the Lord as he expounds their answers. The disciples knew that the consummation of the age was simultaneous with the second advent of Messiah. They knew that the consummation of the age meant that the house of Israel would recognize Him as Lord and Messiah at His second advent (Matt. 23:37-39). These very points are to be viewed again in ensuing verses.

In the manifestation of Messiah there is to be demonstrated His power — in regathering and resurrecting the desolated nation Israel; and His great glory — in establishing Israel in the center of the world (Matt. 25:31ff) with all the regal specifications appertaining thereto. Truly Israel will be moved by Messiah as nature mourns the tragedy and international implications of His advent as King of Kings.

  [1] The Writings of Douglas B. MacCorkle (also see brief Biography)

Prophetic Peaks, Exposition of the Olivet Discourse. Copyright 1968 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. Third Printing 1972. Printed by Careers With Christ Press, Philadelphia College of Bible, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.

God's Own VIPS, Copyright 1987 by Douglas B. MacCorkle. MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc., Printed in the United States of America. Published by the not for profit MacCorkle Bible Ministries, Inc. Books. P.O. 320909, Cocoa Beach, Fl 32932-0909. Used by permission through the generosity of Judith and Ray Naugle.

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