In this section we look at “the second coming” phenomenon itself. Just what did Jesus mean when he spoke of his return? Old Testament prophecy made no distinction between a “first” and “second” coming. The time of the Messiah – whatever details that time may have involved – was to bring about the change of the ages. Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man, indicating this arrival would happen to the generation of people then living, and that some of his audience would be alive to witness it. In the Epistles of the New Testament, we see a clear picture of imminent – almost immediate – expectation on the part of the early Christians. Placing this second coming properly within a first-century context can help us avoid many of the interpretive pitfalls that plague the study of eschatology.
No theological topic is more widely discussed – or more hotly debated – than the second coming of Christ. It is tempting, due do the apparent confusion and widespread disagreement, to give up the idea of any definitive knowledge of the subject and adopt a kind of eschatological agnosticism. We believe, however, that the second coming of Christ has a very vital and specific place in God’s scheme of redemption, and that Scripture’s teaching on the time, manner, and purpose of this occurrence is of such clarity as to raise it above doubt, confusion, and speculation.
We are determined in this study to be committed in forming our concept of Christ’s second coming to the Scriptures only, irrespective of any and all traditional views that might tend to influence a ‘forced’ or ‘unnatural’ interpretation of Scripture. We must be willing to let inspiration lead and interpretation follow.
Why Confusion and Distortion?
Why are there so many conflicting views? If the message of Christ’s return was intended to be clear, where does the distortion come from? Perhaps Paul furnishes an answer:
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them
(2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
The ‘principalities and powers’ opposed to this second coming of Christ go all the way back to the archetypal account of Eden, and a promise God made to fallen humanity with respect to their restoration:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Old Testament prophecy – and this prophecy is no exception – does not differentiate two “comings” of Christ. What we regard (somewhat erroneously) as two discrete events, the Old Testament, looking forward through time through centuries or even millennia, sees as one event.
At the cross, Christ announces the sentence of Satan that would be removed at his second coming:
Now is the judgment of this world: now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
The battle began at the cross, but the victory was realized at the end of the world as they knew it – the Old Covenant age. John envisions this battle in the Revelation message: Satan is first cast out of heaven into earth (Revelation 12:12), and then at the end is cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that Satan would hate and distort any doctrine or event that resulted in his defeat. He blinded the minds of many to the first coming of Christ, resulting in the Jewish nation as a whole rejecting Christ and his gospel.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
(2 John 7).
The Jewish people knew that Messiah was coming, and they expected him in that generation, but they had been led to look for something that was contrary to what actually came. In this manner many of them were blinded to the first coming of Christ.
In the same way many are blinded to the second coming of Christ. Both comings were to transpire within the same generation. But what is the reaction of people today when told that Christ came the second time at the end of the Old Covenant age? It is similar to the majority of the Jewish people’s reaction to his first coming: They didn’t believe it, even though they knew the signs for the coming of the Messiah. Christ was not in person, purpose, and work what many of the Jewish people thought he should be, so many today are still waiting for one to come who will fulfill their desires and concepts.
The church was originally taught to look for the second coming of Christ in that same generation of his first coming. Time-wise, we know his second coming was then at-hand (James 5:8). But many do not believe that he came then. Why? Because that second coming of Christ was not in manner, purpose, and result what they think it should be, therefore they are waiting for a second coming that will meet their demands and fulfill their expectations.
In both cases, temporal concepts are the blinding powers that keep people from seeing the truth. Our limited spiritual understanding has led to confusion. This confusion will remain as long as we fail to see the spiritual significance of material symbols such as earth, temple, and kingdom.
Join us each week as we explore fulfilled covenant eschatology by blogging through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, you can always read the full book inspiring inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.