The Second Coming of Christ
No subject in the entire Bible has gendered more interest, study, speculation, and theological debate than the return of Christ. It has been interwoven into practically every theory, creed, or doctrine taught by man. Among those who believe in the return of the Lord, most simply take it for granted that His return could take place at any moment. But is that true? Is it possible that you might step out the front door of your home tonight, see a bright light flashing across the sky, and suddenly realize that Jesus IS RETURNING, and He is returning NOW?
Many times, Jesus did promise to return. He said in John 14:2,
" 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
He said in Matt. 24:27,
"For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be"
So we see that Jesus did promise to go away and to return to planet earth. As we have seen, He said, "I will come again." On island of Patmos He told John in Rev. 22:12,
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me"
At least Twenty-one times, Jesus speaks of His coming again, and most of these references are made on the eve of His departure. It was in the shadow of the cross that He foretold His advent in glory. He declared, "The Son of man shall come." "They shall see the Son of man coming." "Your Lord does come." "When the Son of man shall come." "When He comes in the glory of His Father." "You shall say, Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord," etc., etc.
Our Lord did clearly not once or twice, but repeatedly, and at definitely marked crises in His ministry - declare that He would come again. Yet, just as plain as Jesus had made the promise of His coming again to His disciples, at the time of His ascension, they still did not seem to grasp its significance. A faithful group of His followers stood looking upward on that historic occasion and as the Lord ascended, He perceived their concern and sent messengers to assure them who said in Acts 1:10-11,
"You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this
same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come
in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven"
While no subject has been more misunderstood or misconstrued than this great truth; it is still the hope of the ages. The focus of the entire scriptures is upon this great event. Most of the differences in scriptural interpretation among Christians are the result of an incomplete knowledge of the plan and purpose of God. Much of what is taught and believed in Christian circles today is derived from the wrong source the human, natural, carnal mind!
Men try to decipher the deep and wondrous and spiritual mysteries of the Word of God with the human intellect instead of allowing the One whom God sent to be their teacher, the Holy Spirit of Truth. He is the only one who can unveil to pure minds and transformed hearts the hidden mysteries of the Kingdom of God and His great plan and purpose. If we all have the right teacher we will all be taught the same thing and what we learn of Him will be the truth. When we think we know it all we shut ourselves off from further revelation and make it impossible for the Spirit of Truth to guide us into all truth.
To properly understand what Jesus meant when He said he would return again will take intense spiritual effort and much prayer and holy brokenness before God to lay aside all we have heard and lay down all preconceived notions and ideas in order to find out just what the Holy Spirit teaches. The one question ultimately must be, "What does the Word of God actually teach?" and not, "What have men taught?"
It might surprise you to know that the Bible nowhere speaks of the "second coming" of Christ. Yet, we all talk about it. This term - "the second coming of Christ" - is not scriptural and cannot be found anywhere in the Bible; yet it has influenced the thinking and teaching of most Christians to accept and believe concepts that simply are not true.
We have been so confused in our thinking that everything in the scriptures pertaining to the coming of the Lord, His appearing and His manifestation have to fit into His coming as a man two millenniums ago, or to His so-called "second coming" when every eye shall see Him. This is wrong. Very wrong! While many texts speak of the coming of Christ, the coming of the Son of man, the coming of the Lord or similar phrases, the word "second" never occurs with a word that can be translated "coming." For example Jesus said in Matt. 24:7,
"For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
Paul said in 1 Thes. 4:15,
"According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep."
Paul also said in 2 Thes. 2:8,
"And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming."
James said in James 5:7,
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain."
He also said in James 5:8,
"Be also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws nigh."
These texts, and many others, all include the English word "coming." But the preachers, when preaching from these texts, always ADD the word "second" to each one and proceed to preach on "the second coming of Christ!" They invariably add the word "second" to every "coming" in the New Testament and then add the "second coming of Christ" to nearly every chapter in the Bible - even in the Old Testament. Adding the word "second" to the word "coming" does violence to the meaning of the scripture every time.
Jesus did not say, "the second coming of the Son of man." James did not say, "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the second coming of the Lord." Peter did not ask, "Where is the promise of His second coming?" Paul did not say, "Then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall ... destroy with the brightness of His second coming."
You might say, "But what about Hebrews 9:28 which says,
"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
This verse can be rightly divided only when taken within the context of the verses preceding it, which says,
"For Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Some have tried to find three "appearings" in these verses, but there are only two. Most people understand the statement, "appear the second time," or "second appearing" as though it is the equivalent of or a synonym for the "second coming." The two "appearings" in this passage do not even refer to the so-called "first coming" of the Christ in Bethlehem's manger or His "second coming" from heaven at the end of this age.
As we shall see later, the Lord has had MANY APPEARINGS on this earth. And here TWO of those many appearings are contrasted, the one with the other, so that one is "first," and the other "second." Here we have His "first" appearing: For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:"
In the types of the Old Testament the atonement for sin was not accomplished with the killing of the animal and the sprinkling of the blood on the altar. This was just a type of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. It was not accomplished nor completed with the shedding of His blood and His death on the cross. Before there could be any approval of His sacrifice He had to PRESENT HIMSELF IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD by His own blood to make atonement for our sins. This is what this verse is speaking about; Christ entered the Holiest, not of the earthly tabernacle, but into heaven itself, presenting Himself in the presence of God in the eternal realm of spirit as the bearer of our redemption.
This verse says that He APPEARED in the presence of God for us. This is the first of the two appearings here contrasted, but certainly NOT His first appearing unto men! Verse twenty-eight speaks of another APPEARING, even a second appearing in connection with our salvation. It begins with these words, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many (referring to verses 24 and 26 where it says He entered the Most Holy Place in heaven and appeared in the presence of God for us)".
Now He appears again the second time: "And unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation." Most Christians believe this verse in referring to what is called the "second coming" of the Lord as a visible appearing at the end of this age. This is not alluding to such a coming at all. The word 'appearing' is the same word used with reference to His manifestation to His disciples after His resurrection. It occurs four times in I Cor. 15:5-8 where it is translated "was seen". The Lord appeared to many following His resurrection. He appeared to the apostle Paul entirely apart from His two appearings set forth in Hebrews chapter nine. The Lord told Paul in Acts 26:16,
"Rise, and stand upon your feet: for I have APPEARED unto you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of these things which you have seen, and of those things in the which I WILL APPEAR unto you."
And further, the definite article must be omitted: "So Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, SHALL APPEAR A SECOND TIME, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation." This is how the Greek text reads. The statement is not prophetic, but doctrinal; and the doctrine in question is not the so-called "second coming," but the PRIESTHOOD! It is not the prediction of an event to be realized by those who shall be alive on earth at the time of the end, but the declaration of a truth and a fact to be realized by every elect member of the body of Christ no matter in what dispensation his life upon earth may fall.
Our Lord Jesus Christ appears a second time to those who LOOK FOR HIM, who diligently seek for Him and follow after Him; not any more as a sin offering appearing in heaven for us, but in the mighty manifestation of His power toward us, UNTO SALVATION. And this salvation is the work of our great and wonderful High Priest. This same wonderful truth is set forth in Heb. 7:25 in these words, "Wherefore He is able also to SAVE THEM TO THE UTTERMOST that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them."
"The uttermost" is the strongest and extremist word in all the world. There cannot be anything beyond the uttermost. The uttermost is situated on the very extremist rim, on the very outmost edge, and on the very highest pinnacle of all existing things. It is the limit, the boundary, the completeness, the perfection, the fullness, the summit, the apex and the ultimate of all realities. The "uttermost" salvation cannot be understood apart from our High Priest who has secured it and who now ministers it to us from that higher realm of incorruptibility.
Jesus pointed to this day on the night of His judgment, before crucifixion, when He announced to the startled High Priest, Caiaphas, this amazing proclamation in Matt. 26:64,
"You have said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, ( or authority) and coming in the clouds of heaven"
To paraphrase what Jesus said,
"Even though for now you see me in this low and abject state, nevertheless the day is coming when I shall appear otherwise. Though you watch me die upon a Roman cross as a sin-offering, you will shortly see me sitting upon the throne of my Father and coming in the clouds of heaven."
We have a tendency to view these as two events, separated by a vast span of time. Our conception is of Jesus sitting upon the right hand of God for a couple thousand years, at the end of which time He leaves His throne to "come in the clouds of heaven. However, the Greek phrase translated here signifies unequivocally "from now on" - or literally, HENCEFORTH. But it is safe to say that the average reader, reading from the Authorized version, generally understands it to mean something very different - not "HENCEFORTH shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven," but the average reader will understand this as "in the hereafter," or some point in the indefinite future," you will see the Son of man "sitting" and then "coming." The correct thought is, "HENCEFORTH - from NOW ON you will see the Son of man sitting... and coming."
These two events, the sitting and the coming, are simultaneous. They transpire at the same time. And they both happen "from now on." He sits AND He comes. He sits upon the throne of heavenly power, or authority, and He comes in the clouds of heaven! He sits as our great High Priest and He comes as our transforming Saviour. He doesn't sit and then come He comes while He sits. It is not two separate, independent actions, but a two-fold, interdependent action. Isn't it true that He has come to you and given you a new birth into the family of God? Isn't it true that He has come to you and baptized you in His Holy Spirit? And isn't it true that He dwells in you and me at the same time? And isn't it true that He is also sitting at the right hand of the Father at the same time?
We read so much into the Word of God that is not there! With our limited and faulty carnal reasoning we distort it all out of shape, making it say what it does not say, and not say what it does say. Why can't preachers teach their people to learn once and for all that our Lord Jesus Christ is fully able to sit at the right hand of the Father and to come at the same time! The answer is very simple, very few preachers really know and understand what God is all about. They are bound in their understanding by the traditions and doctrines of men.
It is time for all Israel to learn that Jesus is both High Priest and Saviour at the same instant. He sits and He comes. He has appeared once and for all before the Father in heaven as our sin-offering, and now He sits there continually as the High Priest of that mighty life. And to all who LOOK FOR HIM He will APPEAR A SECOND TIME UNTO SALVATION.
Let's take a look at the 'comings' of our Lord. We have been led to think in terms of the first coming and the second coming, however, the Bible speaks in terms of the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ. For example, in Micah 5:2,
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Notice, His "goings forth." The plural is used. The goings forth of the Lord speaks about the Lord Jesus Christ! The idea of "goings" has to do with the onward marching of God. The unfolding of the purpose of God is step by step. This is what history is all about, the progressive and ever-increasing unveiling of Himself to man. The term "second coming" is as unfortunate as it is unscriptural. It implies there has been only one coming of Christ thus far. This is not true. It may surprise you to learn that the scripture does not treat His coming at Bethlehem as an isolated event. Although it is important, it is not considered out of proportion to other and comparable events. His coming as a man was just a step in the development of God's plan for redemption of the world. Actually, Bethlehem is one in a series of appearances of Christ in the world. And by the same token, it is not His last coming to the earth.
In order to get the importance of His birth, let's consider His comings under the following divisions:
(1) Before Bethlehem
(2) Beginning at Bethlehem
(3) Because of Bethlehem.
An abundance of scripture supports the fact that Christ was before Bethlehem. He is just as real in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. The great difference, of course, is that HE BECAME FLESH. He said, "Before Abraham was, I AM.." Also He said in Jn. 5:17 (NIV), “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” He and the Father were working long before Bethlehem. John opened his tremendous Gospel with this majestic statement:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God"
The prophet Isaiah had made a very careful distinction about His birth at Bethlehem in Is. 9:4,
"Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given."
Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah, has said in Micah 5:2, as I have pointed out, that He would come forth from Bethlehem but that "His goings forth have been FROM OF OLD, FROM EVERLASTING." The pages of the Old Testament are literally sprinkled with the accounts of the Lord's comings, beginning in Eden's Garden and continuing through all generations of old. On the day that man sinned he "heard the voice of the Lord God WALKING IN THE GARDEN in the cool of the day" The casual way in which this is stated indicates that this was a normal event, perhaps a daily appointed time at which the Lord manifested His presence to communicate with the man He had placed on this planet. The Lord still walked among men even after Adam was banished from the Garden, for Cain, after he slew Abel, "went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod" (Gen. 4:16). In Gen. 17:1 we find that "The Lord appeared unto Abraham." In Gen. 17:22 it says, "God left off talking to Abraham, and WENT UP FROM HIM."
Interesting, isn't it, that the Mount of Olives was not the first time or place where the Lord ASCENDED! In Gen. 18:1 we read, "And the Lord appeared unto him." In Gen. 18:33, "The Lord went His way, as soon as He left communing with Abraham." In Gen. 26:24 we see that "the Lord appeared unto him (Isaac) the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham your father: fear not, for I am with you."
In Gen. 35:7 it says, "And he (Jacob) built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el: because there God appeared unto him." The Lord appeared unto Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:15-16). After Moses had led the children of Israel out of Egypt Christ walked among them in mighty manifestation of power and glory and provision, "for they drank of that spiritual Rock which followed them: and that Rock was Christ" (I Cor. 10:4).
Later, the Lord again came to Israel in another form as we read in Ex. 19:9, 18 and 20:
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I COME UNTO YOU in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak unto you ... and Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it ... and the Lord CAME DOWN UPON MOUNT SINAI, on the top of the Mount."
When the Tabernacle in the wilderness was erected "the Lord appeared in the Tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud (His coming in a cloud is nothing new, either!)" (Deut. 31:15). In the days of Samuel the prophet "the Lord appeared ... in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh" (I Sam. 3:21). In II Chron. 3:1 the "Lord appeared unto David... in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite." In I Kings 3:5 the Lord appeared to Solomon. And this star-studded record of the Lord's comings in the Old Testament times takes on special significance when Israel exclaims in Jer. 31:3,
"The Lord HAS APPEARED OF OLD UNTO ME, saying, Yea I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you".
We cannot lose sight of the fact that our Lord has already had many comings, many appearings. We have limited the comings of Jesus strictly to two because of our unscriptural terms "first coming" and "second coming," but the truth is that He came; He continued to come; He comes; He continues to come; He will come; and He will continue to come! There are numerous "comings" and "appearings" of the Lord in the New Testament. BUT THEY DO NOT ALL REFER TO THE SAME EVENT.
The word "coming" is very often used in the scriptures of a visitation or manifestation of the Lord to judge or bless or accomplish some aspect of His plan and purpose among His people and in the earth. You would think, listening to the preachers rant and rave about "THE second coming of Christ," that every time the Lord says, "I will come," He is speaking of one, specific, particular, singular event sometime out in the dim and misty future.
I do not hesitate to tell you that this is a great error.
Rev. 2:5 tells of a COMING of our Lord:
"Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I WILL COME unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place, except you repent."
Since Jesus had left, a COMING of Jesus would be a RETURN. He warns the church at Ephesus that if it does not repent, "I WILL COME ...QUICKLY!" "I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of his place." "Candlestick" means lampstand. A lampstand is for holding up a light. The purpose of an assembly is to be the light of the world. Christ tells these people that if they do not repent HE WILL COME TO THEM IN JUDGMENT and remove them from being an assembly of light-bearing children of God.
This COMING of Christ was dependant upon the reaction of the Word of warning that Jesus had sent to them. Jesus said, "I will COME if you don't repent." If the Ephesian saints repented Jesus wouldn't come to them in Judgement. The Ephesian church was an active and patient, and doctrinally sound church. But it had lost its first love for Christ, the pure, virginal love for Him and for Him alone and sadly never repented. So God allowed the light to go out and later on the darkness of Mohammedism swept over the land where this church had been located. There is no lampstand in Ephesus today because there is nothing there today but the ruins of a once great city.
Ephesus, of course, in keeping with the pattern of the book of Revelation, was merely a TYPICAL CHURCH, and the Lord's solemn warning signal flashes out to this day to be heeded by every man and movement that is of the Ephesian spirit and character: "Repent, or I WILL COME unto you quickly!" Is this, then, THE so-called "second coming" of Christ? Certainly not! But most all of God's children hold the childish notion that whenever Jesus says, "I will come," He always refers to one singular event called "the second coming."
The book of Revelation furnishes us with a sequential overview of the comings of the Lord. Its inspired title is found in the first verse, which says: "The Revelation of Jesus Christ." The Greek word for "revelation" is APOKALUPSIS meaning "unveiling, uncovering," and hence, revealing." This is expressed in Rev. 1:7 which says, "EVERY EYE shall SEE Him..." The error of the unspiritual and unenlightened mind is that it immediately assumes that every eye must see Him at the same time and in the same manner. But the multitudinous ways, in which the Lord comes and comes throughout the bible, indicates to me the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ.
The many-faceted and many-splendored appearing of the Lord from one degree of glory to another until, when all is finished, every creature in heaven, earth and hell shall have had a revelation of the Son of God (Rev. 5:13). John said in Rev. 1:12-13,
"And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man....."
We understand that Christ was standing in the midst of the seven churches. This is an earthly scene and the risen and glorified Christ was present in and among the churches mentioned here. Jesus had promised to come back, and according to chapters two and three of Revelation He HAD come back! In Revelation 20-22, Jesus said,
"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
It is indicated that He is now standing at door of the hearts of INDIVIDUAL MEN AND WOMEN, saying to them, "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if ANY MAN hear my voice and open the door, I WILL COME in to him, and will sup with HIM, and HE with ME" This passage can only refer to a spiritual presence coming to any INDIVIDUAL, to ANY MAN who will open his heart's door to the intimacy of fellowship and vital union with the Christ of God.
The church of the last days is the church of the INDIVIDUAL believer who has a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with Christ. This is for the man who will forsake ALL ELSE and sup with Christ. The promise of Christ is HIS COMING. "I WILL COME in to HIM, and will sup with him and he with me. Wow!!! Is this the so-called "second coming" of Christ? It's not the one men preach about or that Christians expect and wait for, but, beloved saints of God, it IS THE COMING OF CHRIST, nonetheless. He does not come once and in just one way. He comes and comes and comes in the progressive revelation of HIMSELF!
I could go on and on discussing the comings of Christ recorded in the New Testament but I have showed you that no where in the New Testament does the term, "Second coming of Christ appear."