The Advent of Christ & Acts 2
By Charles Geiser
Through the myriad of views concerning the second coming of Christ and that He came many times over a period of time in the past and is yet to come “a second time,” there is one concept that this writer believes is inconsistent with scripture on the subject of eschatology. This is the concept that Christ came again in some sense on the day of Pentecost in Acts two in fulfillment of certain passages, e.g., Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27. For example, Mark 9:1 has been used primarily by anti-premillennialists to show the time of the coming of the kingdom of God in Acts two, but our question in this study is whether the parallel passages of Matthew 16:28 and Luke 9:27 support an Acts two application in fulfillment.
We have traditionally been taught that Mark 9:1 was supposed to have been fulfilled in Acts 2:1ff. This interpretation no doubt has had its good times in arguments with Zionist doctrines. The King James translators have Jesus saying in Mark 9:1, “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” The verse alone claims an appearance of fulfillment in Acts two with conjured support from such as Colossians 1:13 and Revelation 1:5,9. Luke’s account of the same teaching does no harm to the Mark 9:1/Acts two precept. “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God” (9:27). There are some basic identities to the parallel verses: (1) those Jesus was addressing at that time would not “taste of death” (geusontai thanatou) until they saw (“they see,” idosin, 2nd aorist subjunctive of horao, see, observe, perceive; check Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich under term) the kingdom of God come with power (Matthew, Mark). Luke omits “power” but idosin (“see”) is in all the verses.
Thus, Jesus was speaking to persons in His presence who were going to be alive to see the promise He was making to them of which we in the twentieth century were not to “see” except by faith (we must see the derivatives of horao and blepo in Biblical eschatology as a recognition of fulfillment to Jesus’ disciples as promised in that first century, contextually, literally, and spiritually). We were not there then, not in the literal presence of Christ hearing His words then, as others were then.
(2) Not only would they “see” the kingdom of God come, but they would see it come with “power” (Mark 9:1). Matthew and Luke do not employ the term “power,” but Mark’s use of the word allows us to imply its use in the other two parallels. So, whatever at this point is included or excluded in “see,” “kingdom of God,” power,” or “taste of death,” “they” who were in Jesus’ purview then would perceive the phenomena.
(3) Jesus was telling them then the truth (see again Luke 9:27a). This was not the figment of Jesus’ imagination in some state of lunacy. It was not a falsehood to induce a following of some kind. Neither was it meant to be interpreted that someday in some generation’s time frame these things would transpire. The phrase by Jesus, “some of you standing here,” ought to have sufficient force even for the most vehement futurist on Bible prophecy to mean what it says.
The Son Of Man Is Included
Now we confront the dilemma, which, if scripturally and logically encountered, truly is a bull with two horns of inconsistency for those who hold Acts two to be a time of prophetic appearance for Christ. In Matthew’s account of the words of Jesus in our study (16:28), we have an inclusion of wording omitted by Mark and Luke that draws our attention to the seriousness of this study. Matthew’s rendering of Jesus’ words is; “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.” The nearness in Jesus’ time is seen in His language in all these verses, those addressed are recognized, things to happen before their demise, the kingdom of God is mentioned, and with power, but in with all these events promised by Christ, He includes Himself in this time of fulfillment in Matthew’s account. Thus, we look at some points on this reference.
(1) The Son of man is not mentioned in Mark’s and Luke’s wording. Do we then propose that Mark and Luke are the accurate passages on the subject and that Matthew 16:28 has an addition in the text that should not be? If we are honest about an inspired text of the Bible by the Holy Spirit (and there has been no traditional controversy over omission or emendation of these verses in question), then all three parallels are correct in their renderings.
(2) We have relied heavily on Mark 9:1 traditionally for the “kingdom came on Pentecost” view. In much reading in this area of study, this writer has seen Mark 9:1 repeatedly referred to in support of the Acts two view with virtually no mention of Matthew 16:28. We do not personally doubt that those who have written on this study have read Matthew 16:27,28 when considering their comments on Mark 8:38-9:1 and Luke 9:26,27, but we guess that it has so muddled their thinking on what they wished already to interpret on Mark 9:1 that it was ignored so as not to confuse a doctrine with Bible facts! How can we understand the Bible correctly, however, if we pass by a parallel passage that needs examination in a given study? We are to rightly divide God’s Word (II Timothy 2:15), but we cannot do it if we ignore or try to explain away verses which would enlighten an interpretation on other verses. Matthew 16:28 sheds great light on Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27, and that same light may expose an erroneous concept of time fulfillment; we need to allow that to happen if the texts say so. Now, if we continue to believe that Mark 9:1 was fulfilled in Acts two, then comparing Matthew 16:28 with this we are forced to admit that Christ came again in Acts two. We must do this to save face and be, for the moment, as consistent as we can be. Consistency in Bible study is a logical imperative or else it really does not matter much what goes on in looking into God’s eternal truths.
WHO Was Promised To Come In Acts Two?
Someone was promised to come in fulfillment at Acts two. But it is suggested that the One who promised that another would come did not mean Himself! If a study of John chapters 14 through 16 is done, particular passages show that Jesus promised His disciples (1) that the Father would give them another Comforter (implying that Jesus had been their Comforter until that time), the Spirit of truth (John 14:16,17). If it be thought that John 14:18 refers to a coming again of Christ in Acts 2, then it should be accepted that both Christ and the Holy Spirit were promised in fulfillment at Acts two. However, and we ask the reader to note this comprehension; if the latter be possible, then we would have to do drastic things hermeneutically with such verses as John 15:26 (“But when the Comforter is come, WHOM I WILL SEND UNTO YOU FROM THE FATHER…”) and John 16:7 (“It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you”). These latter passages then would have to be harmonized with John 14:18 and we suggest that John 15:26 and 16:7 are to be understood personally (compare Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4) as compared with John 14:18 being understood representatively in fulfillment.
(2) Can a person send and be the one sent at the same time? The Spirit of truth by power (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8a) would testify of Christ (John 15:26). If Christ came on the day of Pentecost, it would have to be His second coming as per John 14:1-3 because Jesus, after His first coming by the virgin Mary, only ever promised prophetically, “I will come again” (Matthew 10:23; 24:27,30; 25; 26:64, etc..) If Christ came again in fulfillment of Matthew 16:28 on the day of Pentecost (and we say this because the traditional interpretation of Mark 9:1 as a parallel passage forces that view on Matthew 16:28), then why could not Jesus have testified in behalf of Himself without the Spirit of truth? And again we say, if Christ came literally in power in the kingdom in fulfillment on Pentecost, then John 15:26 and 16:7 are impossible to explain sensibly.
(3) If the Son of man did not promise that He would come again in Acts two, but promised that another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would come, we must look again at Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; and Luke 9:27. We again have applied Mark 9:1 to Pentecost with the kingdom and power, but we have the Son of man’s coming in His kingdom in the Matthew passage. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would remind, teach, and prophesy through the disciples in Acts two (John 15:26), yet He also said He was coming in His kingdom before some of them died (Matthew 16:28.) If the kingdom “came” in Acts two as some believe, using Mark 9:1, then one must believe that Jesus Christ “came” also in fulfillment of Matthew 16:27,28! Then do we say that this fulfillment (?) answers John 14:1-3? If John 14:3 and Matthew 16:28 are referring to the same “coming” of Christ, does Acts two satisfy both passages? Matthew 16:28 could except the Son of man is included. This writer believes John 14:3 and Matthew 16:27,28 “go together” in fulfillment, but Acts two will not work. MATTHEW 16:28 AND JOHN 14:3 CAN BE FULFILLED IN THE FIRST CENTURY (AND THIS WOULD INCLUDE MARK 9:1 AND LUKE 9:27), BUT NOT ACTS TWO–IT HAD TO BE IN THEIR LIFETIME (Matthew 16:28), AND THE SON OF MAN HAD TO BE INCLUDED (Ibid.), AND JUDGMENT ALSO (“He shall reward every man according to his works” Matthew 16:27; and if we separate verse 27 from 28 by 1900 years or more, what kind of exegesis might we call that? Or if we put verse 27 in our future sometime and “back up” like crazy and put verse 28 at Acts two, this is footwork in theology like none has ever seen!) But we had no reward for every man in Acts two, did we? We had no Son of man’s coming eschatologically in Acts two, did we? Did the kingdom of Christ “come” in Acts two? If it did, then there were two kingdoms promised in Bible prophecy to come because the kingdom was still future to Paul and others AFTER Acts two (Acts 14:22; II Peter 1:11; I Timothy 4:1; Revelation 11:15).
Can We Honor These Texts In Question?
What are included in our three verses; no death for some standing there; Son of man’s coming; kingdom of God’s coming with power; Son of man’s coming in His kingdom. Now, Acts two will not fulfill these requirements. The power of the Holy Spirit was to come as promised in Acts two (1-4; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). We could say that the “power” promised in Luke 24:49, e.g., was the same “power” in fulfillment as promised by Jesus, Mark 9:1, et al.. But would we be correct?
(1) We believe it would be an assumption in interpretation to accept that Luke 24:49 and Mark 9:1 were to be fulfilled at the very same time; same generation of time, yes, but not the same day, e.g., Acts two. One word, the same word, used in two different passages may at first indicate total, identical consummation in time, but one must consider whatever other factors in two given verses are also involved before an interpretation of whole agreement can be accepted. Thus, one can comment that “power from on high” as in Luke 24:49 does not necessarily mean the same in every way that “kingdom of God come with power” means as in Mark 9:1. We have usually brought Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 together to interpret the disciples/apostles receiving power after the Holy Spirit was to come upon them in beginning gospel preaching, Acts 2:1ff. But we do not believe that receiving power after the Holy Spirit was come upon them means the same as the “kingdom of God come in power.” We do not think it is difficult to understand that Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 (see again John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12,13) do not fit the same time in fulfillment as the parallels of Matthew 16:27,28; Mark 8:38, 9:1; and Luke 9:26,27, even though “power” is a term used in respective passages.
(2) Further, another passage with “power” in it is Matthew 24:30. We have never seen Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8, and Matthew 24:30 used as parallels for the same time in fulfillment. The context differs and the promises have variances that cannot be harmonized if all are brought to Acts two in fulfillment. But let us try our study verses with Matthew 24:30, or, rather to make it a bit easier, go to the parallel chapters of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and study. The chapter context is the fall of Jerusalem for both chapters. Notice how the “some standing here shall not taste of death” of Matthew 16:28 matches “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” of Matthew 24:34 which gives the Matthew 24:30 context a time factor. And Matthew 16:27,28 parallels Mark 8:38-9:1 with the term “power” employed which harmonizes with Matthew 24:30/Luke 21:26 in every constituent part. But the capstone to all this part for this writer is the following: if one studies Matthew 16:27,28; Mark 8:38-9:1; Luke 9:26,27 along with Luke 21:25-33 (and anyone can study all these chapters–we do not mean we have isolated passages to teach a particular thing in this context) and Matthew 24:27-34, he will find amazing agreement and complementation. For example, the kingdom of God at hand in Luke 21:30 (context–fall of Jerusalem, A.D.70) and the kingdom of God’s coming in power, Mark 9:1. Same thing in fulfillment as to time. The Son of man’s coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28) fits perfectly with the Son of man’s coming in a cloud with power and great glory in His kingdom (Luke 21:27,31; Matthew 24:27,30). The reward of Matthew 16:27 fits the near-to-come redemption and kingdom of Luke 21:28,31 in that generation (Luke 21:32; Matthew 24:34).
Behind Mark 9:1
Something that may have been forgotten at Mark 9:1 is its context, namely Mark 8:38. “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” What sinful and adulterous generation did Jesus mean? If we can accept that Mark 8:38 and Matthew 16:27 are parallels, it makes for an interesting study. Are we today living in THAT generation Jesus was speaking about? Jesus had that first-century generation of people in His day in mind, did He not? Did not Jesus call certain ones in His day a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 23:33)? Could the same Jesus be talking about the same set of persons in the phrase, “adulterous and sinful generation” as He was in the phrase, “generation of vipers”? We believe so. And can we not say that included in all this “adulterous and sinful generation of vipers” of the first century was a generation that would not pass till all these things were done (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21)?
Mark did not write in chapters and verses. Jesus probably said in one breath what you and I read in Mark 8:38-9:1. And if anyone can place 1900+ years between two verses like this, it may be something our Lord never meant for us to understand that way. Mark 9:1 will not fit Pentecost. “To hold the Pentecost view of Mark 9:1 is to divorce it from the previous sentence which speaks of judgment on that generation (Mark 8:38). This charge may be countered by holding 8:38 to refer to Pentecost also, but in doing so it relinquishes any objection to 8:38 referring to 70 A.D., for if Pentecost will meet 8:38 as a judgment, 70 A.D. will certainly do no less (Jim McGuiggan, The Book of Daniel, p.43). Is it possible at all to consider such language in Mark 8:38 (“when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”) to apply to Acts two? Any serious student of Bible prophecy will not give it a second look–Mark 8:38-9:1 constitutes end-time wording, not Acts two. And, again, we reiterate that separating Mark 8:38 from 9:1 by large amounts of time is not to extract truth from God’s revelation but to please concepts already held that are not correct.
In closing this study for whatever help it might have been, we suggest that it was not Acts two that was a pivotal or transitional time in Bible history, but such chapters as Matthew 24, 25, and Luke 17, 21. “For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22, 32.) These chapters have the second coming of Christ predicted in them for that generation (Matthew 24:27, 30, et al.; Luke 21:27). Redemption was near at the time of the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:28). The kingdom of God was near in coming at the fall of Jerusalem (Luke 21:31,32). The times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled in that generation (Luke 21:24,32). Jerusalem would become desolate in that generation (Luke 21:20,32). The heavens and earth of old (Judaism) would pass away in that generation (Luke 21:24, 32,33; Matthew 24:29ff).
The establishment of the eternal kingdom is equated with the time of Christ’s coming in His kingdom with power, which is commonly assigned to Pentecost Day. But this is an assumption lacking scriptural proof. The first proof offered is Mark 9:1 and Acts 1:8, which is a coalition of two scriptures separated in time. “The only thing common in these two verses is the word `power’ which falls short of proof that they are synchronous in time and event” (Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy, p. 138). We need to cease using Mark 9:1 in connection with Christ’s kingdom wrongly, and begin applying it to A.D.70 as it should be.
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