“….. the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” <1 Peter 1:10-11 NIV >
Any study of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah reveals two contrasting and apparent contradictions. One predicts Him as coming in weakness, humiliation and sorrow: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” < Isa.53:1-3 NIV; cf Isa.53:3-12; Psa.22:1-8>.
The other prediction seen, reveals an impressive and powerful Sovereign who purges the earth with judgments, and reinstates dispersed Israel and the Throne of David in the land promised to Abraham; introducing a reign of peace and perfection in righteousness: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” < Isa. 9:6-7 NIV; see Isa.11:10-12; Jer.23:5-8; Dan.7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Lk.1:31-33>.
In the right and proper time as appointed by God the first part of the prophecy was literally fulfilled by the birth of Messiah – Christ – to a virgin named Mary: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” <Gal.4:4 NIV; cf Matt.1:20-23>; and His life then was a literal fulfillment of all prophecy concerning His first advent <see Matt.21:1-5 (Zech.9:9); Jn.19:15-16>. However, no assumption should be made that the purposes of God concerning Messiah were confounded by the wickedness of mankind in the crucifixion and death of His Son The Christ, or Messiah; for God’s purpose was to include a second advent in which His earthly “glory” will see the same literal fulfillment as was seen in the sufferings of His first advent <see Hos.3:4-5; Matt.24:29-30>.
In a comparable manner as the Jews were slow to believe, and were “blinded” to the predicted sufferings of Christ their Messiah; we today are also sluggish and “blinded” to believe all the predictions concerning His glory: “He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”” <Isa. 6:9-10 NIV; cf Rom.11:8>. His second advent is described in precisely the same terms as His departure; “This same Jesus….will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” <Acts 1:10-11; cf. 1 Thess.4:16-17>.
In anticipation of this blessed expectation, the scriptures teach us to “watch” <Matt.24:42; Mk.13:33>; “wait” <1 Thess.1:10>; “to be ready” <Matt.24:44>; and to echo the last prayer of the Bible <Rev.22:20>.
From the previous discussion it is abundantly clear that Christ’s second advent will be a personal and bodily appearance; and should not be considered as the death of a believer; the destruction of Jerusalem; the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; nor the gradual dispersion of Christianity. It is the “blessed hope” of the Church that has been promised to all believers <Titus 2:13; 1 Cor.15:51-52>.
In a further examination of the two advents let us look at the following contrasting scripture references:
THE FIRST ADVENT: Luke 2:7; 19:10; Heb. 9:26; John 3:17; 12:47
THE SECOND ADVENT: Matt. 24:30; Heb. 9:28; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; Acts 17:31
These are a few selected references and many more can be found to show that the promises made to both Israel and the Church require a personal return of Christ to the earth; and this visible appearance must be distinguished from those that refer to His divine attributes of Omniscience – in that He knows all things; and His Omnipresence – in that He is always present everywhere even to the end of the age <cf Matt.18:20; 28:20>. It should be a comfort to every believer that our Lord and Saviour is now personally and in bodily form as a man at the right hand of God in heaven, from where He is also present with every believer everywhere <see Acts 1:9-11; 7:55-56; Col.3:1>. So, by virtue of His divine attributes our Lord is present with the Church now and will be visibly upon the earth at His second advent.
Let us now consider some of the current theories of Christ’s second advent:
The Prophecies concerning Christ’s return were not fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Such an interpretation would make the Holy Spirit only a manifestation of Christ. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit as “another comforter” <see Jn.14:16>, and all the writers of the New Testament speak to Christ’s return as a future event – after Pentecost. None of the events predicted to accompany the second advent occurred at Pentecost such as: the resurrection of the “sleeping saints” and living believers being “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air <see 1 Cor.15:22-23, 51-53; 1 Thess.4:13-17; Phil.3:20-21>: nor the anguish of all the nations at His visible coming <see Matt.24:29-30; Rev.1:7>.
The conversion of a sinner is not the coming of the Lord. According to scriptures the conversion of a sinner is a sinner coming to Christ, not the coming of Christ to the sinner <see Matt.11:28; Jn.5:40; 6:37; 7:37>. None of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurs at the conversion of a sinner.
The death of a Christian is not the coming of Christ. “Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.” <John 21:22-24 NIV>. The writers of the scriptures always refer to a believer’s death as a “departure” from this earthly life <see 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23; 2 Tim.4:6>. Again, none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurs at the death of a Christian.
The Roman destruction of Jerusalem was not the second coming of Christ. Three events are predicted by the discussion between Christ and His disciples in respect to their question – “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”” <Matt 24:3, (4-34) NIV>; and the fulfillment of one event does not constitute a fulfillment of all three, since they are three distinct occurrences. The apostle John who wrote Revelation after the destruction of Jerusalem speaks to Christ’s coming as a future event <see Rev.1:4-7; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20>. Here again we see that none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem <see 1 Thess.4:15-17; Matt.24:29-30; 25:31-32>.
The dispersion of Christianity is not the second coming of Christ. The dispersion of Christianity is a gradual process, while the return of Christ will be a sudden and unexpected event <see Matt.24:27, 36-42; 2 Pet.3:10; Rev.3:3>; and it is obvious that the dispersion of Christianity brings salvation to the ungodly whereas the coming of Christ will be sudden destruction <see Matt.25:31-46; 1 Thess.5:2-3; 2 Thess.1:7-10>; and again, none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming are seen in the dispersion of Christianity.
“Although the above theories are wide-spread, none appear in the writings of reputable theologians of any school or denomination, nor are they maintained by any expositor or universally recognized leadership, who all maintain the bodily and visible second coming of Christ.” [quote; Emmaus Bible School-“Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth”]. However, it is said that Christ’s second coming cannot occur until the whole world has been converted by the preaching of the gospel message and submitting to a spiritual reign of Christ for one thousand years. This theory is also erroneous since scripture describes the condition of the earth at Christ’s second coming as one of appalling wickedness <cf Lk.17:26-31; (Gen.6:5-7; 13:13); Lk.18:8; 21:25-27>; and further, an evaluation of the present time-period excludes any possibility of a converted world <see Matt.13:36-43, 49-50; (25:1-10); 1 Tim.4:1-2; 2 Tim.3:1-5, 7; 4:3-4; 2 Pet.3:3-4; Jude 17-19>. God’s purpose in this time-period is not the conversion of the world but to gather out of the Jews and Gentiles a group of people to form His Church, and when the Church is completed He will return, and then we will see the conversion of the world <cf Acts15:14-17; Matt.24:14; Rom.1:5; 11:14; 1 Cor.9:22; Rev.5:9>.
In conclusion, Christ’s first advent was His coming into the world in human form to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind <see 1 Jn.2:1-2>; and His second advent will be His bodily return to reign over His earthly kingdom.