20 Studies in Bible Prophecy
Study 2 - The Second Advent Explained
We have seen that prophecy occupies a large place in the Scripture. To neglect its study, avers Dr. Rene Pache, is to deprive ourselves of "an essential vitamin" in our spiritual nourishment.
Of all the subjects taught in the Bible, this is the greatest, and when the secular world speculates about tomorrow's world, we should be proclaiming the crowning article of our Christian creed, the Return of Jesus Christ, first to receive to Himself His Church, and then to appear on earth to reign for a millennium of years.
These are two separate events and must never be confused. In our next study we will differentiate between the Rapture and the Revelation.
The Bible that contains the promise of the Second Advent, also explains what is meant by the doctrine. Let us examine some of the fallacious ideas quite commonly held.
Some would interpret Christ's Second Coming in a spiritual sense only. It is argued that what is meant is nothing more than a mere spiritual presence. But the New Testament assures the humblest believers of that spiritual presence here and now; therefore what we anticipate is the personal bodily appearing of Jesus Christ. As one writer states succinctly: "There is a real spiritual presence, but there is a real physical absence."
At the Communion Service we become aware of the spiritual presence of Jesus, as we should do at any service convened in His Name, and yet we take the emblems of bread and wine in memory of His physical absence, and until He returns in physical form as Sovereign. Therefore, we refute a statement from the pen of one cleric who blandly contends: "you won't meet Him literally in the High Street - or in the clouds." A literal confrontation on the High Street, that we do not claim, but a literal meeting in the air, yes!
Others argue that Jesus came in the Person of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, thus fulfilling Christ's promise to return. This view confuses the second and third Persons of the Trinity. A detailed examination of the events taking place at the coming of Jesus will show that these did not occur at Pentecost.
Another view put forward by some well-meaning folk is that the advent promise is fulfilled every time a believer dies - a theory which has no foundation in the Word of God. Nowhere in the Old Testament did the Jews confuse the promise of His first coming with the death of the saints, and Jesus in (John 21:19-22) made a clear distinction between the second coming and death.
Yet another view expounded by liberal minded scholars, is what is termed "realised eschatology", the view propounded by the late C. H. Dodd in "The Parables of the Kingdom". This theologian maintained the point of view that the first advent of Jesus actually fulfilled all eschatology. He contended, on the basis of this thesis, that all prophecy has already found its fulfilment and that, as a consequence, nothing in Scripture is concerned with anything beyond the apostolic age. He thus robbed all the prophecies of Jesus of their historical perspective, and the Christian of his blessed hope (Titus 2 :13)
We turn from such inadequate views to examine what the New Testament really means by the term the Second Advent", though nowhere in this volume is such a term ever used.
The concept, however, is unmistakable, and there are three Greek terms used in relation to it, which shed light on what we mean by the coming again of Jesus Christ. Let us examine them:-
This word occurs some twenty four times in the New Testament, and really means 'arrival' or 'presence', or 'a coming to be present'. One writer avers that "somewhat of an analogy would be our English word 'visit'," thus the word stresses the personal character of the advent. The word is used of both the coming of Christ for His Church and His return to earth subsequently to set up His earthly kingdom. So argues Dr. Pentecost: "Its contribution to the doctrine is to emphasise the bodily presence of Christ." Look at the usage of the word in the following verses. Paul uses it seven times: 1 Cor. 15 : 23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13;4:15; 5 :23; and 2 Thess. 2:1,8. Peter coins it three times: 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12, while James uses it twice, 5:7,8 and John once: 1 John 2:28. The same word occurs four times in Matthew's reporting of the Olivet Discourse: 24:3,27,37,39.
This word signifies an "appearing" and, states Prof. Walvoord: "The word is a general not a technical word, and its contextual usage must determine its meaning relative to the rapture." For instance, the word is used in connection with the Incarnation: Luke 1:79; 2 Tim. 1:10. Therefore, since both advents are closely connected doctrinally, it is not surprising to find that the word is used in connection with the Rapture, 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:8 and Titus 2:13; and of His return to earth to deal with Satan and establish His millennial kingdom, 2 Thess. 2:8. The Antichrist will be destroyed, "made of none effect" by the "brightness" (Epiphaneia), "manifestation" of His coming.
This word describes the closing book of the Bible, referred to as the Apocalypse, or "unveiling" of Jesus Christ. Of this final book Dr. Tatford states with conviction, "there is no other book in the Bible which so unveils His glory, and for no other reason, it should, therefore, have attracted the attention and study of every believer."
This word in its New Testament usage is descriptive of both stages of the Second Coming. In connection with the coming of Christ for His Church see 1 Cor. 1:7; where the word "coming" is Apokalupsis. Again in 1 Pet. 1 : 7 the appearing of Jesus Christ is His Apokalupsis, while in 1 Pet. 4:13 the word is rendered by the English "revealed". The word is further used by the return of Christ to the earth following the Tribulation (Luke 17:30 and 2 Thess. 1:7).
So concludes the Rev. G. T. Manley in "Great Doctrines of the Bible", "Taking these variant expressions together we get a clear picture of Advent, seen through the eyes of the early Church. It would mean His presence after His absence, the shining of His glory after His humiliation, and the unveiling of His majesty and power." This is indeed a theology of hope. Such a doctrine observes Dr. Skevington Wood, ". . . is vital to our faith because it makes sense of history".