The Second Coming

There are few themes more central to the religion of Christianity than the doctrine of Christ’s second coming. It is the hope and comfort of all believers, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3) It is the driving force in the Christian’s service and holy life! From that awesome day when the disciples watched the Lord ascend into the heavens and disappear from their sight, when the angels appeared before the bewildered host and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) It has been the watchful, earnest expectation that any day, Christ could split the eastern sky and appear for the second time. For such a central and vital doctrine to the Christian faith, it would be safe to say that there is no other subject that the modern religious world is more divided on. Ideas and theories about the Second Coming of Christ have driven some to cultic extremism, some to infidelity and others to every imaginable idea in-between.

Two of the most prominent theories regarding the second coming are those of the A.D. 70 Theory, which places all matters dealing with the second coming and related themes in the past and Pre-millennialism, which places almost every prophetic utterance in the Bible in the future and directly relates it to the second coming of Christ. It is my belief that both of these theories and many ideas in-between them do not mesh with the teachings of scripture. We propose to offer a brief explanation of what the Bible teaches about the second coming of Christ. And why some of these commonly accepted theories cannot possibly be true.

This is an important question to ask and to answer because it might be established that since his “first coming” Jesus has “come” again at least twice already! In some sense it is certainly true the Jesus “came” at Pentecost when He established His kingdom. And many others believe that He “came” in the destruction of Jerusalem in another sense, but are these the events that are being referred to by the second coming? In Hebrews 9:27-28 the Bible says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” This statement, made many years after Pentecost, is teaching something very important about the “second coming.” Very few would deny that in a sense Christ came at Pentecost, but it was very different from his first coming, as it was neither personal nor visible, and it was obviously not the second coming because the Hebrew writer speaks of that as being a future event. Most would also agree that in some sense Jesus came at the Destruction of Jerusalem, but this was much more like the coming on Pentecost than his first coming. No, when the Hebrew writer says that He will “appear a second time” it must be referring to something like the first time! It is speaking of a personal, visible coming that is taught many, many times in the scripture.(2 Pet. 3:10; 1 Thess. 4:17; Matt. 25:31-32)

Christ’s statements about His coming in Matthew 24, and its parallels in Mark 13 and Luke 17, are among the most controversial of all statements regarding the matter. There are many statements which seem to have an unquestionable reference to the coming of Christ, the end of the World and the judgment of the Nations and yet Jesus says very forcefully, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30) How can this be? Some, like Albert Schweitzer and Bertram Russell, claimed that this proved that Christ was not the son of God because here were prophecies that didn’t come to pass. Others, like the A.D. 70 advocates claimed that it did come to pass in the Destruction of Jerusalem, and everybody has been interpreting the second coming totally wrong for the past 2000 years. Still others tried to make the whole discourse regard future events by claiming that the word “generation” means the Jewish race. And finally we find those who say that this verse divides the chapter into two parts, the first part dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem and the last part dealing with the Second Coming. There are problems with all of these theories. I believe that what Jesus said would happen, did happen, and what he said will happen is going to happen. I do not believe that the A.D. 70 theory is Scripturally plausible but neither do I believe that Premillennialism is Scripturally plausible.

And finally, while the last idea, of verses like Matthew 13:30 serving as a dividing mark sounds good on the surface, their great weakness is in the fact that they are preceded by verses like, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.” (Mark13:26-27)

I suggest another alternative. In Ezekiel 37 there is an interesting prophecy made about dry bones coming to life and being clothed again with flesh and blood. To the Jewish reader this would have brought to mind the great doctrine of the bodily resurrection, something that all Jews would have been familiar with and would have believed. (Job 19:26; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Sam. 12:22) But, a close examination of the text will show that the bodily resurrection was not the primary focus of Ezekiel’s message! The message was regarding the restoration of Israel from Babylonian Captivity to their homeland, but this was a difficult notion for the Jews to accept, so the prophet pictured it with something they had no trouble believing in. (Ezekiel 37:1-14) I believe that we see the same thing in Matthew 24 and its parallels. The disciples had already accepted Christ’s divinity and his promises for his returning and judgment on the world, but they had great difficulty is understanding that God was going to destroy Jerusalem and was finished with his specific work with the Jewish Nation, as is evident in Acts 1:6, “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

So, Jesus, like Ezekiel of old, used something believed and accepted (His second coming and the Judgment of the World) to illustrate something that was not understood nor believed (the Destruction of Jerusalem and the End of the Jewish Age). Ezekiel’s comments are not a literal account of how the resurrection will occur, but they do teach us something about it in a secondary manner, the same goes for Jesus’ statements in Matthew 24. There are some things in Matthew 24 which might teach something about the second coming, but primarily, these comments serve as a picture of the destruction of Jerusalem. Above all things, it is important to remember this: 1) Although the resurrection was used to picture the restoration of Israel, the restoration of Israel is not the bodily resurrection and 2) although the Second Coming was used to picture the Destruction of Jerusalem, the Destruction of Jerusalem was not the Second Coming!

The fatal flaw of the theories of Premillennialism and A.D. 70 is in their teaching that the world will continue to exist and function after the second coming. If it could be established that this is an impossible notion, then these theories would fall. There are several things which serve us to this end. The ascension of the living and resurrection of the dead, the judgment of all the world and the destruction of the material universe, all of which are connected to the second coming, seem to me to be strong enough reasons to establish that the world will not continue after the second coming, even for a brief moment, the idea that the world and the affairs of men could go on for 2000 years is utterly preposterous! But there is more evidence to this end.

It is interesting to note that there is a time limit put on the ordnances of worship. Notice what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:26 regarding the Lord’s Supper, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” That the Lord’s Supper was the centerpiece of all first century worship services is evident by the wording of Acts 20:6, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” The conclusion? If the Lord’s Supper was “until He comes” then after He comes there will be no more precedent to assemble for worship. If so where is the scripture for it?

In the mid 1800’s James White and his wife Ellen began to travel across the United States preaching the Miller Prophecy Chart which predicted the Second Coming of Christ in October 22, 1844. When this did not occur the “Adventists adopted the view that probation for sinners and all the unconverted world ended in 1844.”[1] Mrs. White stated, “Christ’s work as man’s intercessor before God had ceased.”[2] Over time, of course, this idea was abandoned, but it brings to mind the very real biblical doctrine that one day the “door of mercy will be shut.” One day the opportunity for gospel obedience will end! Now, we read in Revelation 14:6 that the gospel is “everlasting.” But this statement is made to teach that as long as this world stands, the gospel will be available. Notice the words of Christ as he gave the Great Commission:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”

 

 


What does this mean? Are we to imagine a world where Jesus is no longer with his people? If we imagine that the world continues after the second coming (the end of the age) this is our predicament. After the Second Coming there is no mention of salvation, only judgment. In Romans 14:11 the Bible says, “For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” Now this is not to suggest universal salvation at the second coming, such would be in gross contradiction to countless other passages, rather this passage refers to the fact that at the second coming there will be a universal acknowledgment of Christ’s divinity.

A world with no salvation and no worship! Could there be anything more preposterous? And yet such would be the case if the theories of Premillennialism and A.D. 70 were true! Even if you were to “spiritualize” the resurrection, the judgment and the end of the world, you are still faced with the fact that the world could not possibly continue after the second coming. Jesus Christ is coming back my friends! And with him come the end of this world and this system and the beginning of the eternal system. When He comes the second time walking on the water will be child’s play, for He will come stepping on the clouds! May our daily prayer be, “Come quickly Lord Jesus!” Amen. – CED




[1] The Lord’s Day – D.M. Canright

[2] The Great Controversy; pp. 286 – Ellen G. White

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