When the New Testament refers to Jesus’ “coming,” it is a clear reference to the imminent judgment that was to come upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and not the end of the world. It is rather the end of an age that the Bible speaks about. The days of vengeance was declared on a nation that crucified it’s creator. Jesus said in Luke 21:21,22
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
“23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” – Matthew 10:23
Once we understand that, we can shine light upon the passages, which are used to teach the “any-moment return” of Christ.
“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” Matthew 24:42
“Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Mark 13:33
“but let us be alert and sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:6b
The first century Christians had to be prepared and watchful of the impending judgment. There are historical records to prove that not one Christian died in the destruction of Jerusalem. Almost all the books written by Peter and Paul and John was to keep them in a state of preparedness. To put that in context, 1.1 million Jews were killed in the slaughter, but every Christian of the first century understood that the prophecy of Matthew 24 was about their generation and they literally kept watch and ran for the mountains of Pella to escape the destruction.
[In Matthew 24:15-18] …Jesus was giving very practical advice to His followers about how to stay alive during the AD 70 destruction. We can tell from this passage that Jesus was speaking of a local destruction (flee Judea) and a historical setting (not on a Sabbath). The natural tendency for a Jew, upon seeing an approaching Roman army, would have been to flee into Jerusalem for safety. Jesus told them to leave their fortress and flee the city.
Because of Jesus’ command to flee, His disciples were protected. This is confirmed by other well-known commentaries. For example:
“It is said that there is reason to believe that not one Christian perished in the destruction of that city, God having in various ways secured their escape, so that they fled to Pella, where they dwelt when the city was destroyed.” —Albert Barnes
“…it is remarked by several interpreters, and which Josephus takes notice of with surprise, that Cestius Gallus having advanced with his army to Jerusalem, and besieged it, on a sudden without any cause, raised the siege, and withdrew his army, when the city might have been easily taken; by which means a signal was made, and an opportunity given to the Christians, to make their escape: which they accordingly did, and went over to Jordan, as Eusebius says, to a place called Pella; so that when Titus came a few months after, there was not a Christian in the city…” —John Gill
It was important for the first generation church to Be Alert and Watchful, so that they wouldn’t die in the A.D. 70 Destruction. These verses applied to them, but not to us. That is why they really couldn’t live a normal life. They kept selling their real estate as we saw in the book of Acts because they knew that one day the land would be worth nothing since they expected the city to be burnt down.
‘For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
‘Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.’ – Matthew 16:27-28
As we have seen from the above scripture that the coming here spoken of is the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. We also have to understand that this same Jesus was speaking to a group of disciples who found it difficult to even accept the idea that he would die in Jerusalem. He couldn’t have been telling them that in 2,000 years to come that he would come back and that some of them would be alive to welcome him. It wouldn’t make any sense to say that.
The scripture also note that the manner of His coming was to be glorious -‘ in his own glory; ‘in the glory of his Father; ” with the holy angels.’ This is a prophetic language of destruction upon a city in the bible. The same phrase was used for Edom, Egypt and even Babylon.
It also spells out that the object of His coming was to judge that ‘wicked and adulterous generation ‘ (Matthew 12: 38), and ‘ to reward every’ man according to his works.’ Jesus also described the generation that he was living in as the worst generation and that they would be judged for all the killings of the prophets from Abel till Zechariah in Matthew 23.
Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16—
14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus. For you also suffered the same things from your own countrymen, just as they did from the Judeans, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men,16 forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.
Paul said it was Jerusalem had killed the prophets. She had killed Jesus. She was killing Jesus’ apostles and prophets. In doing so, she was filling the measure of her sin. Judgment was about to fall on her in that generation. His coming fulfilled in 70Ad when God used to Roman army to destroy the city of Jerusalem just like he used the Babylonians in the Old testament to destroy the city.
We are not called to live on the edge of our seats believing that Jesus could come “any-moment!” Many have suspended their lives. Preachers can’t enjoy meaningful relationships with their families because they believe Jesus is coming soon. The airtime is filled with every kind of end-time doctrines that are not scritpural. Many are deceived and thrown into fear expecting Jesus to return soon and that’s because someone is reading their bible for them. We are called to pray that it would be “on earth as it is in heaven.” We are to occupy until He comes, not be preoccupied with His coming!