The Lord’s second coming Parousia in AD 66-70 began suddenly, like a THIEF IN THE NIGHT. Josephus, a Jewish priest and historian (not a Christian), described many signs of Christ’s coming in the clouds (Josephus: Wars 6.5.3). He said that the Jewish priests and those in Jerusalem saw “chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor running about among the clouds, and surrounding cities.” This occurred just before sunset on May 21, AD 66.
This was the beginning of “day of the Lord,” which referred to His days of judgment at His Parousia. It included the three and one-half years of His judgment upon unbelieving Israel, ending in AD 70. During this time, He resurrected the just and the unjust (Rom. 24:15); carried out His judgments of all the dead (Rev. 20:15; 21:27; 22:11-12; 22:20); destroyed the Old Covenant Jewish system, including the city of Jerusalem and the temple; and then reunited and fully established His one New Covenant eternal spiritual Kingdom (consisting of the unseen heavenly realm and His earthly seen realm in the church) going forward in human history (Eph. 1:10).
“1But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, YOU have no need that I should write to YOU, 2For YOU (first century saints) YOURSELVES know perfectly that the DAY OF THE LORD so comes as a THIEF IN THE NIGHT. 3For when they say,”Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4But YOU, brethren, are not in darkness, so that THIS DA Y should overtake YOU as a THIEF.” (1 Thess. 5:1-4).
The Day of the Lord’s coming in judgment was to be like a THIEF IN THE NIGHT. It was to occur during the generation of those first century saints to whom the warnings were given. They were to be especially watchful and be holy in their conduct. Peter told them, not us 2000 years later, to look for the coming of the day of the Lord and be prepared for it.
“10But the DAY OF THE LORD will come as a THIEF IN THE NIGHT, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought YOU (first century saints) to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12LOOKING FOR and hastening the COMING OF THE DAY OF GOD, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (2 Pet. 3:10-12).
Matthew 24 and Revelation (in relation to the Thief in the Night):
The chart below will illustrate the parallel nature of the two prophecies and show that the thief coming in both books was to be a first century event.
|Prophecy against Jerusalem (23:29-39; 24:2f)||Prophecy against the city “where the Lord was crucified” (11:8)|
|Message of judgment proclaimed into all the world (24:14)||Message of judgment proclaimed into all the world (14:6f)|
|Judgment was for persecuting the saints and prophets (23:29-34)||Judgment was for persecuting the saints and prophets (16:5-7; 18:20-24)|
|Saints to flee (24:15-22)||Saints to flee (18:4)|
|Coming as a thief (24:43)||Coming as a thief (16:14-15)|
|Signs of the coming (24:4-33)||Signs of the coming (16:1-11)|
|Judgment was imminent (24:34)||Judgment was imminent (22:12)|
These are precise parallels. Thus, in Matthew and Revelation, Jesus’ coming as a thief is inextricably linked with signs, imminence, fleeing and the Lord’s coming in judgment against Jerusalem at the end of Israel’s Old Covenant Age.
Jesus positively identified the time, and locus for the avenging of the blood of the martyrs. Standing in the Temple at Jerusalem, He recounted Israel’s bloody history of killing the prophets, and predicted that she would kill the prophets that He was about to send to her. He then said that all the blood of all the righteous martyrs, “from righteous Abel, to Zacharias,” indeed “all the righteous blood shed on the earth” would be avenged in His generation, “Verily I say unto you, all of these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36). This unambiguous, emphatic statement must guide our understanding of Revelation, and the promise of the vindication of the martyrs at the Great Day of the Lord.
The Great City is “where the Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8) – none other than first century Jerusalem. And, in perfect harmony with this identification, Jesus specifically identified Old Covenant Jerusalem as the city guilty of persecuting the saints and the object of His coming in vengeance in that generation (Matthew 23:31-39). He even said, “It is not possible that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13:31-33) (Correlate this with Rev. 16:6, 18:20, 24)
Here then is our argument:
- The Lord’s coming as a thief would be the Great Day of God‘s Wrath against the city guilty of crucifying the Lord (Revelation 11:8; 16:16).
- But the city guilty of crucifying the Lord was Old Covenant Jerusalem.
- Therefore the Lord’s coming as a thief would be the Great Day of God’s Wrath against Jerusalem.
Here is a similar argument:
- The Lord’s coming as a thief would be the Great Day of God‘s Wrath against the city guilty of shedding the blood of the martyrs (Revelation 16-18).
- But, the city guilty of shedding the blood of the martyrs was Old Covenant Jerusalem (Matthew 23:29-39).
- Therefore, the Lord’s coming as a thief would be the Great Day of God’s Wrath against Old Covenant Jerusalem.
A corollary argument would be:
- The Lord’s coming against Jerusalem for shedding innocent blood would be in the first century generation (Matthew 23:34-36; 24:29-34).
- But the Lord’s coming against Jerusalem – for shedding innocent blood – would be His coming as a thief (Revelation 11:8; 16:16).
- Therefore, the Lord’s coming against Jerusalem would be as a thief in His generation.
Revelation 16 is emphatic and irrefutable. Four facts emerge from this single text: 1.) Christ’s thief coming was to be against Jerusalem. 2.) That thief coming was imminent. 3.) The thief coming was Christ’s coming in vindication of the blood of the martyrs. 4.) There were to be signs of the thief coming.
[Also see: “Day of the Lord”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 10 Study on 2 Peter 3 vs. 1-13”]