When Jesus was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities, His accusers had no valid legal complaints to bring against Him. But the religious leaders desperately wanted to kill Him to put a stop to His ministry – they felt that He was a serious threat to the status quo and to their positions of power.
59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’” Matthew 26:59-61 NKJV
Jesus actually did say this to His disciples, but He was referring to the death and resurrection of His own body, the temple of God, rather than the Temple of God building in Jerusalem. He was making a dual prophecy – first, He would lay down His life and then rise from the dead three days later, and second, shortly thereafter, God would physically reside through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of women and men around the globe rather than in a single physical temple building in Jerusalem. (In fact, that temple would be destroyed by the Romans forty years later.)
Like a lamb before his shearers is silent, Jesus did not reply to their accusations.
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:62-64 NKJV
Here Jesus was quoting from the prophet Daniel, who foresaw the second coming of the Messiah as He approached the Father, the Ancient of Days, to be given glory and an eternal kingdom. He will reign over all the peoples on the earth from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14 NKJV
The religious leaders became even more furious at Jesus’ quote and demanded that the Romans put Him to death at once. With the strong encouragement of the crowd, the Roman governor sentenced Jesus to death. Jesus went to the cross as the Scriptures foretold, but not without first putting an emphasis on His second coming and the yet unfulfilled prophecies regarding the end times when He returns to earth in glory, power, and authority.
Many have scoffed at the idea of Jesus’ return, citing the many centuries that have passed since He walked the earth. But the Old Testament prophecies give us some guidance and comfort here. Many prophecies about the Messiah were given almost a thousand years before Jesus came, and those given by Moses were much earlier than that. Abraham’s foreshadowing of Christ’s death with Isaac on Mount Moriah came over 1,500 years before Jesus. It would seem that when God sets a timetable, long periods of time before its fulfillment are in no way unusual. The long time that has passed since Christ ascended into heaven is in no way evidence against His return – it fits God’s pattern.
We do know one thing for sure about Christ’s return. As Jesus told His disciples:
44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 NKJV
There have been many world crises and conflicts that would have seemed an appropriate time for Christ to return. Yet, these were not the times chosen by the Father to bring in Christ’s kingdom. We will not know the day nor the hour of His return, but we do know that He is indeed coming. Be it this year, next, or five hundred years from now, it is a fact that Jesus Christ is coming back.
Lord, help us to be ready for Your return, whenever it may be. Teach us to live in uninterrupted fellowship with You, totally devoted to Jesus twenty-four hours each day. Help us to fall more and more in love with You, and to reflect Your holy character and purity to those around us, resisting all temptation of evil. We ask this in Jesus’ precious name, Amen.