The Lord had been teaching in the temple courts on the Tuesday of that last week. Perhaps it was toward sunset that He left the temple. (Matthew 24:1-3.) The disciples pointed out the great stones of the buildings, and of the wall that rose up from the hillside to support the temple courts. He told them that these would all be overthrown; and before forty years had passed, the Roman army came under Titus and the city was destroyed and the temple was burned. But we all know that fine buildings do not make a church, but truth and goodness in the lives of the people. When the Lord said that the temple would fall, He meant that there was almost nothing of truth and goodness left among the Jews.
So they crossed the Kidron, and as the Lord sat on the Mount of Olives, looking down with love and pity on the ungrateful city, He told to Peter and James and John and Andrew (Mark 13:3) other things about the destruction that was coming. There would be a natural destruction by the Roman armies, but the Lord was far more grieved because truth and goodness were coming to an end among His people.
And the Lord went on to tell the four disciples about things that would come to the Christian Church which He was beginning and leaving in their care. He told them in parables, which they did not understand very well at the time, and which could not be really understood until the
things that He foretold had taken place. He said that the sun and moon would be darkened. As we study the history of the Christian Church we do not find that the natural sun and moon were darkened, but that there came times of great darkness in men's minds, of great ignorance about the Lord and heavenly things. The Lord said that then He would come again in the clouds of heaven. He has not come again in the clouds of the natural sky, and He never will come so; but we find that Christian people are awaking to the fact that the Lord is still living with us and are finding new interest in studying the Bible.
And all this centers around the revelation of the deeper meaning of the Bible which was given by the Lord through Swedenborg. The letter of the Bible is the cloud; it had been dark, but from that time it has been brightening and opening and showing people that the Lord is near. This is the second coming of the Lord.
He said that His coming would be like the budding of the fig tree in the spring, when it begins to form its sweet fruit. It meant that people would begin to think more about good works of kindness. And this sign has come true at the present time. People now are thinking a great deal about caring for the sick and the poor, and teaching little children, and being kind to animals; and all this is new in the world. It is the budding of the fig tree, the sign that the Lord has come.
The Lord commands us to watch and be ready for His coming. Does it mean that we ought to stand looking up into the sky? He is not coming in that way. But He wants that we shall be interested in the new teaching from the Bible, and that we shall receive the new spirit of kindness and learn to feel that He is with us.
And there is another way in which the Lord comes to each one. He comes to call us to the other world. No one can know the day and hour when the Lord will come for him. Ought we to be afraid and anxious about it? Surely not; and yet we must watch. It means that we must try always to do as the Lord wants us to do, and then whether it is by night or day, whether we are children or young men or old men, we are watching and are ready when the Lord comes for us.
1. How did the apostles expect that the Lord would come again? How has He really come again?
2. What are the clouds in which He comes?
3. In what special way does the Lord come to each one of us? How can we watch for His coming?'
4. How are we stewards? What has the Lord left in our charge?
The Lord spoke the sad words about His church, sitting on the Mount of Olives. It means that He was speaking from the tenderest Divine love. Mountains represent states of heavenly affection, especially the Mount of Olives, for the precious oil and the olives are emblems of perfect love. Read Psalm 125:2. (A. 10261; R. 336)
It was predicted of the time of the Lord's first coming, that it would be dark. (Isaiah 60:1, 2; Joel 2:10; 3:15) But then as at the Lord's second coming, the darkness was not in the natural sky, but in the minds of men. The light of understanding of heavenly things had gone out. The fullest kind of understanding is represented by the fiery sun: it is the perception of a loving heart. A less degree is represented by the moon; it is a clear intelligence. The least degree is represented by the stars; they fall from heaven when even the little bits of knowledge about heavenly things are lost. (Revelation 6:12, 13; E. 401-403; R. 332-334; A. 1808)
The Lord said that He would come in the clouds. He revealed Himself to the children of Israel in a pillar of cloud and fire. A dark cloud veiled His presence on Mount Sinai, and a bright cloud on the mountain of transfiguration. The Psalms too speak of His making the clouds His chariot. The cloud must represent something which He uses as a means of veiling and yet revealing His Divinity to us. The clouds are made of water, and water is a symbol of truth which shows what is wrong and what is right to do. Where is there such truth which conceals and yet reveals the Lord? The letter of the Word. Angels attend His coming, and they, like prophets, represent in an impersonal sense the many messages of truth which come to us from the Lord. The sound of a trumpet, like the trumpet at Mount Sinai and the trumpets at Jericho, is a symbol of the great power of the Lord's truth. (A. 4060, 10574)
How do you suppose the disciples understood the words of the 34th verse? The words really meant that some little of the elements of heaven which the disciples represented, especially something of the love represented by John (John 21:22, 23), would endure through the dark times till brighter times should come. (E. 821; R. 17) For another interesting meaning of the words see A. 3470, 4231.
The Lord likened His coming to the days of Noah. For the story of Noah also describes a dark time in the church, when the Lord revealed Himself anew to men. Then as in the Christian Church, men were going their own ways heedlessly. Yet while all people seemed much alike to men, the Lord knew that some had a heavenly spirit in their lives, and some did not. This is meant by two being together; the one being taken and the other left. (A. 4332-4335)
The Lord says that we are stewards, and asks us to be faithful stewards. If we make good use of our little powers and opportunities in this world, what will happen when we come into the other world? If we make bad use of them here, what will happen there?