The second coming of Christ has been the crowning expectation, the daystar, of the people of God since the promise of His coming was communicated to them. It has cheered, strengthened, and encouraged them in the darkest hours. Christ and the apostles implanted in the hearts of early believers the fact of Christ’s coming and its immanency as a motive for godly living and faithful service.
We should let neither the perversions of fanatics, nor the denials of critics, nor the controversy over the details of the second coming of Christ drive us from a careful study of God’s revelation concerning it, nor from a proper appreciation of it.
I. THE FACT OF CHRIST’S COMING
The Second Coming Of Christ is—
1. FORETOLD BY THE PROPHETS.
Isaiah 11:1-11; Zechariah 14:3-5; Jude 14. Many Old Testament prophecies, as is the case with Isaiah 11:1-11, refer to both His first and His second advent to the earth.
2. ALLUDED TO BY JOHN THE BAPTIST.
Luke 3:3-6. The language of this passage is not fully applicable to the first advent of Christ. Like much prophecy it has a double application. See Malachi 3:1 for a similar prophecy.
3. PROMISED BY CHRIST HIMSELF.
4. DECLARED BY ANGELS.
5. TAUGHT BY THE APOSTLES.
(1) Matthew. Matthew 24:37, 42, 44.
(2) Mark. Mark 13:26.
(3) Luke. Luke 21:27.
(4) John. 1 John 3:1-3.
(5) James. James 5:7.
(6) Peter. 1 Peter 1:7,13.
(7) Paul. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
(8) The Writer to the Hebrews. 9:28.
(9) Jude. Jude 14.
II. THE NATURE OF CHRIST’S COMING
Having ascertained the fact of Christ’s coming, it is important to know the nature of it; for, without a knowledge of the nature of His coming, a knowledge of the fact of it is practically valueless. It is needful, in studying the nature of Christ’s coming, to consider negatively and then positively.
1. NEGATIVELY CONSIDERED.
Christ’s coming is not to be—
(1) Successive, as in Death.
The idea that one’s death is the second coming of Christ for him is the sheerest nonsense in the light of God’s Word. There is not that accompanying death that answers to that which the Bible reveals as accompanying the second coming of Christ.
(2) Continuous, as in the Spread of Christianity.
Modernism would have it that Christ will never return bodily to the earth, but that He is "coming as fast as He can get into this world," in the spread of Christianity. Modernists hold that Jesus pictured His return in the terms of the conceptions of the people, but that He did not intend that His words be understood literally. Of course, such a notion as this can be held only by those who deny the inspiration of the Bible. For that reason, we who believe in the inspiration of the Bible need not note it seriously.
(3) Spiritual, as in—
A. The Coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was in no sense the coming of Christ. Christ said He would send the Spirit.
B. The Destruction of Jerusalem.
In the destruction of Jerusalem, A. D. 70, we had a typical fulfillment of what is said in the Bible about the second coming of Christ, inasmuch as His coming will be accompanied by another siege of Jerusalem. See Revelation 16:12-21; 19:17-21; Zechariah 13:8-14:3. The destruction of Jerusalem was a type of this latter siege. Then, in the destruction of Jerusalem, we had a spiritual fulfillment of the promise of Christ’s coming, in that this destruction struck the final death-blow to Judaism, and marked the coming of the kingdom of God with power. Up until the destruction of Jerusalem Christianity seemed too many as a mere adjunct to Judaism. With the destruction of Jerusalem Christianity came into its own.
We believe it is in the light of these facts that we are to understand Jesus when He said: "There be some standing here which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). See also Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27. The same is true, we believe, of the following words also: "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). See also Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32.
But there was not in the destruction of Jerusalem an actual coming of Christ. And the fact that after the destruction of Jerusalem we have additional references to His coming as future makes this indisputable.
2. POSITIVELY CONSIDERED.
The coming of Christ is to be—
Acts 1:11. His ascension was bodily, and the angel promised that His return should be in the same manner. Other passages that show that Christ’s coming is to be bodily are: Zechariah 14:4,5; Matthew 25:31; John 14:3; Philippians 3:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:1; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 19: 11-21.
Matthew 24:27. All the passages above imply the visibility of His coming. But the passage just given under this latter head shows that His coming (in one of its phases) will be strikingly visible to the whole world.
(3) As A Thief.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4. This passage describes His coming as it will be to the wicked, but specifies that it is not to be such to the righteous.
(4) In Indescribable Glory and Splendor.
Matthew 16:27; 24:29, 30; Mark 8:38; Titus 2:13; Revelation 19: 11-16.
The coming of Christ will consist of two phases. Let us note them:
A. The First Phase.
This phase will be—
(a) In the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. There is no hint here that He will come on the earth at that time.
(b) For His people. John 14:3.
(c) As a bridegroom. Matthew 25:1-10. The marriage and the marriage supper (Rev. 19:9) are typical of the consummated blessings of salvation. Saved people make up the bride (Rev. 21:2-27).
B. The Second Phase.
This phase will be—
(a) To the earth. Zechariah 14:4; Matthew 25:31.
(b) With His people. Zechariah 14:5; Jude 14; Revelation 19:14.
(c) As a destroyer. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 2:8.
(d) As a judge. Matthew 21:31-46.
(e) As a king to conquer and to reign. Zechariah 14:9; Revelation 19:11, 16; 20:1-5.
III. THE TIME OF CHRIST’S COMING
We do not refer here to the date of His coming. The business of date-setting is the work of religious charlatans. We have reference only to the relation of His coming to time.
The time of Christ’s coming is represented in the Scripture as—
1. Unknown to all except the Father.
Mark 13:32; Matthew 25:13. Now the Son, equal once again with the Father, may know the hour; but in His flesh, when He regarded absolute equality with God not as a thing to be grasped (Phil. 2:6-R. V.), He did not know it.
2. Uncertain to Men.
Matthew 25:13. No signs have been given that are explicit enough for any man to be assured that He will come at any particular time.
By the coming of Christ being imminent we mean that it is "threatening to occur at any moment." Saved people are to be ever watching and looking for it (Matt. 25:13; Titus 2:13). It is represented in the Scripture as being the next dispensational event. We will discuss this further in a later chapter.
4. When not Expected.
Matthew 24:44,50; Luke 12:40,46.
5. A Time of Spiritual Coldness, Sensuality, and Wickedness.
Luke 18:8; 17:26-30; Matthew 24:12; 2 Timothy 3:1-5. When Christ comes He will not find a converted world where righteousness rules.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S COMING
The purpose of Christ’s coming will be twofold because it will have to do with two classes. We note that purpose as it affects—
1. THE RIGHTEOUS.
As the coming of Christ affects the righteous, it is for the purpose of—
(1) Raising the Dead.
1 Thessalonians 4:16. There is no hint whatsoever that this resurrection will not include all the dead in Christ. We have no patience with the notion that only the most faithful will share in this resurrection. Every passage that speaks of it implies a total resurrection of the righteous dead. See 1 Corinthians 15:23; Revelation 20:5,6. Paul’s words in Philippians 3:11 are similar to other utterances of his, and express his concern to prove that he was truly in Christ. See 2 Peter 1:10.
(2) The Translation of the Living.
1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:17. We believe also that this win include all believers on earth at the appearance of Christ in the air. We have no patience with the "partial rapture" theory. Those who believe in such are apt to reply that we who do not believe in a partial rapture and partial resurrection of the saved destroy the ground of Christ’s accountability. We do not destroy the scriptural ground of this; but, be that as it may, we are more concerned in knowing what God has revealed than we are in making our own theories and exploiting them. And those who teach a partial rapture and partial resurrection of believers, lower the standard of Christian living far below the scriptural level. God’s Word teaches that all regenerated people overcome (1 John 5:4), and the choicest blessings are promised to all overcomers.
We believe the glorified bodies of the saints will be like the ascension body of our Lord (Phil. 3:21; 1 John 3:2). Jesus evidently ascended in a visible body, and the angels said He would come back as He went. And when He comes back we are going to be like Him. The glorified body then will be a body visible to physical eyes, just as Christ was visible after His resurrection. But that body will be without sin and corruption.
(3) The Rapture of All Believers.
1 Thessalonians 4:17. The translated living and the resurrected dead will all be caught up to meet Christ in the air.
(4) The Judgment of Believer’s Works.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Timothy 4:8. The believer’s sins have been judged already in Christ John 5:24; Romans 8:1, 33. Hence no mention of his sins are to be made in the judgment. They are no longer charged to him (Rom. 4:8), and are remembered no more (Heb. 8:12). The idea of some that believers will be required in the judgment to tell why they did this or that and why they did not do this or that dishonors the death of Christ and denies the Word of God. We shall give an account to God, but this shall be done in our own hearts, without one accusation or word of rebuke from Christ. There is nothing penal about the judgment for the Christian. 2 Cor. 5:10 means no more than that we shall receive reward for our faithfulness and suffer loss for our unfaithfulness. Grace and penalty are mutually exclusive.
(5) The Marriage of Christ to the Church.
Matthew 25:1-10; Revelation 19:7-9. At present the church is only espoused to Christ as a chaste virgin (2 Cor. 11:2). The marriage will not take place until Christ returns.
2. THE WICKED.
As the coming of Christ affects the wicked, it is for the purpose of—
(1) Slaying the Living and Casting them into Hell.
Revelation 19:19-21; Zechariah 14:3-12; Jeremiah 25:15-33; Isaiah 24:17-21; 26:20, 21; 34:1, 2.
(2) Judging them Because of the Way They Treat Israel.
Matthew 25:41-46; Joel 3:2. Their attitude toward Israel will manifest their attitude toward Christ through unbelief.
The salvation of those living on earth at the revelation of Christ to reign on the earth (the second stage of His coming) will have been manifested by their treatment of the Jewish heralds of the cross during the great tribulation period. Of these things we shall see more presently. These will not be saved by treating these brethren of Christ kindly, but they will thus betoken their attitude toward Christ and hence their salvation.
(3) Finally raising the dead and casting them into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:12-15. This is to take place, not immediately after the coming of Christ, but at the end of the little season during which Satan will be loosed after the millennium.
The wicked will have a resurrection body (Matt. 10:28), but of its nature we have little upon which to base our opinion. It will be capable of suffering, but will be indestructible. And it will not be righteous, as will the body of saved.