The Second Coming of Christ
The second coming of Christ is a very important doctrine to Christians. It has been eagerly anticipated ever since Jesus promised his disciples, “I will come again.” In order to better understand Jesus’ second advent, it is essential to be aware of what the Scriptures teach about the manner of his coming so that we may know how to expect him. The nation of Israel failed to recognize Jesus’ first advent because they had false ideas of the manner of his coming. They expected him to come in the form of a mighty warrior, a great general who would release them from the Romans. They did not expect him to come in the form of a humble servant, so they did not recognize him when he was in their very presence.
No Longer Human Body
Jesus came at the first advent as a perfect human so that he could give himself a ransom for men. 1Timothy 2:5-6, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” At his resurrection, Jesus was changed from a human being to a highly exalted spiritual being with a spiritual body. We should not expect Jesus to return in a human body. His second coming is to be in a different manner and for a different purpose than was his first coming.
Appearances of Jesus in the Flesh
During the 40 days after Jesus’ resurrection, before he ascended to the Father, he appeared several times to his disciples in different bodies, eventually revealing himself to them. To Mary he appeared as a gardener. Then to the two on the road to Emmaus, he appeared as a stranger. Afterward, he appeared in a body like the one he had when he was crucified, having the marks of the spear and the nails. Jesus would appear and then vanish; he came and went as invisibly as the wind. And when he was not appearing to them, he was present, but invisible. If Jesus had appeared to his disciples in the full glory of his spirit nature after his resurrection, it would have been more than they could endure. Their alarm and fright would have made them unable to receive any instructions from him. So Jesus assumed human bodies in order to assure his disciples that he was alive and had arisen from the dead. His various appearances in different bodies made it evident to his followers that none of these assumed bodies was his glorious spiritual body. And when the body of flesh and bones which he assumed had served its purpose, he caused it to disappear, dissolved into the same elements from which it had been created. And we know Jesus would not use a human body in heaven because the Apostle Paul specifically tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Now this I say brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
“Sign of thy Coming”
When his disciples asked Jesus, “…what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3), he did not leave them clueless, but proceeded to list many evidences which would be indications of his second coming. The word “coming” in Matthew 24:3 is a misleading translation of the Greek word “parousia” — para, meaning beside or along side of, and ousia, a form of the verb “to be.” The thought is to be beside another or in their presence. When the roll is called in the schools of Greece, the proper response to one’s name being called is to reply “Parousia,” that is, “Present.” Therefore, the Scripture would be more properly translated: “…what shall be the sign of thy presence…?”
The second part of the disciples’ question was, “What shall be the sign…of the end of the world?” The Greek word for world is “aion” and means age. Therefore, Jesus’ answer would indicate the conclusion of the time period in which he would return. Proper translations are critical because mistranslations lead to false expectations. For example, many Christians have the impression that the literal end of the world is coming at Christ’s return. This contradicts the thought that “the earth abideth forever.” (Eccl. 1:4) How comforting to know that Jesus was not referring to the end of the world, but the end of the Gospel age.
Thief in the Night
To many Christians, the thought of the second coming of Christ is an earth-shattering event. However, the Apostle Paul wrote, “…the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night…But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thess. 5:2-4) The comparison is to Jesus’ arrival and a thief’s arrival. A thief usually comes in the night, quietly, unknown to those who he intends to rob. And this is how we should expect Jesus to return. He will come secretly and unknown to the world. Again, the second presence of Christ is not a cataclysmic event, but a period of time during which he accomplishes the preparation of the world for his Messianic Kingdom. Paul also indicates that the true Christian would be alert and searching for evidence of Christ’s return. Those believers who are studying prophecy will not be unaware of Christ’s invisible presence.
The second advent, like the first, covers a period of time. It is not an event that happens in a moment. The first advent lasted 33 ½ years. The second advent will also be a period of Jesus’ presence, but it lasts much longer than the first advent did. The first work of Jesus’ second advent is to gather his church, both those that are asleep in death and those that are alive and remain. This will take place during the forepart of his 1000-year reign.
“In Like Manner as ye Have Seen Him Go”
Acts 1:11 states, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” It does not say you shall see him coming in like manner. It simply says the manner of his coming will be like the manner of his going. When we look at the manner in which Jesus left, he did not go with the sounding of a trumpet or outward demonstration, and certainly “every eye” did not see him. There were only a handful of his disciples who witnessed His ascent to heaven. That great event was unknown to the rest of the world. So when the angels told his disciples that he would come in like manner, they were saying that this will be the same way at Jesus’ second advent. When he comes, it will be invisible to the world. And this is exactly what Jesus said in John 14:19, “Yet a little while and the world seeth me no more.”
“Every Eye Shall See Him”
Revelation 1:7 tells us that “every eye” shall see him; and Matthew 24:30 states: “they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds.” These Scriptures seem to pose a real disharmony with the thought that he would return as a thief, quietly, in the night while the world sleeps, and also with John’s thought, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.” What is the harmony between these two seemingly conflicting Scriptures?
Revelation 1:7 is referring to the results of Christ’s coming. These results will become evident to all through the establishment of his kingdom. It is not talking about literal sight, but that all will mentally discern the fact of the Lord’s presence when their eyes of understanding will be opened at that time. When we look into this word “see” that is used in the phrase “every eye shall see him,” we find that it is the Greek word “horao.” This word “horao” is defined as discerning physically or mentally. It is the same as when we use the expression “I see” after having something explained to us. We see the point; we discern what they want us to understand. And it will be the same for the world; Christ’s invisible presence and his righteous authority will be recognized by all mankind in both the corrections and the blessings.
Glorious Purpose of Christ’s Return
Acts 3:20-21 says, “He [God] shall send Jesus Christ …whom the heaven must receive (or retain) until the times of restitution of all things.” The purpose of Jesus’ return is to restore all that was lost in Adam. This implies life from the dead for every man, woman, and child who was ever born. They will all be given an opportunity to life everlasting, as 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (Revised Version)
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