Just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
–Matthew 24:27

In Matthew 24:27 Jesus said, “Just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

When Jesus spoke these words, it was on Wednesday of His final week on earth before He was crucified. On that day, Jesus took His disciples to the temple in Jerusalem so He could pronounce a judgment against the religious leaders. After He pronounced that judgment, look at what happened: “Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him” (Matthew 24:1). Herod’s temple was a magnificent place of worship. “He said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down’” (v. 2).

I thought about this passage while driving past the United States Capitol in Washington, DC. Imagine you were taking a group on a tour of the Capitol, and you pointed at the building and said, “One day terrorists are going to destroy this place and tear it down brick by brick.” The Secret Service would surround you so fast you wouldn’t know what happened! It was that way in Jesus’s day. The disciples were scared to talk about it in the temple area, so they went to the Mount of Olives. Sitting on the Mount of Olives and overlooking that spectacular temple, they asked, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (v. 3). The disciples were asking about three separate things. Yet notice that they treated all three of those things as simultaneous events: the destruction of the temple, the second coming, and the end of the age. They did not understand that while all these events were future, they would be separated by thousands of years. The temple was destroyed, just as Jesus predicted, in AD 70 by the Romans. But the subsequent events–the second coming and the end of the age–would be separated from the first event by thousands of years.

That brings up a principle we need to understand about Bible prophecy: the principle of near and distant fulfillment. Many of the prophecies in the Bible are placed together even though they are separated by hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Imagine you are looking at a mountain range from a distance, and you see two mountain peaks that look as if they are next to each other. But that is an optical illusion because as you move closer to the mountain range, you notice that those two mountain peaks are separated by a long valley. In reality, they are far apart. It’s the same way with many of the prophecies in the Bible. Although from a distance the events seem close together, they are actually many years apart. Also, many prophecies have two fulfillments: they are fulfilled in the near term but also have an ultimate fulfillment that can occur thousands of years later. That is true about the first and the second comings of Jesus.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Jesus on the End Times” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.