The Son – His Second Coming - Part 8
Steve Sherwin, Derby, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The Apostle Paul, when writing in 1 Corinthians chapter 16 verse 22, says, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha’. This is a word of warning against such that love not the Lord – ‘Anathema’ meaning ‘accursed’ – and he reminds his readers that the Lord is coming - Maranatha, ‘our Lord cometh’. This is not a new truth which is being revealed in the scriptures. Jude records the words of Enoch who prophesied, ‘Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all’, Jude 14, 15, and the Old Testament is full of references to the kingdom of God under His Christ, e.g., Pss. 2, 45.
The New Testament has much to say about the coming of the Lord. This is a subject which should thrill the heart of every believer. However, to correctly understand this truth, the Bible student will need to carefully compare scripture with scripture. The aim of this article is to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus has made a personal promise to the church regarding His coming as well as the revelation that He will return to this world to take up His kingdom.
First, it is important to note that there is a distinction between Israel and the church. Failure to do so will lead to great confusion and cause much of the Bible to be spiritualized when seeking to understand it. Whilst this subject would take up an article by itself, we should note that the church did not exist in Old Testament times. It was while the Lord Jesus was here that He said, ‘I will build my church’, Matt. 16. 18 – a future event which would commence on the day of Pentecost following His ascension back to heaven. There are those who teach that following Israel’s rejection of Messiah, Israel have been permanently set aside and the church has taken its place. This leads blessing promised to Israel being applied to the church, while firmly applying the curses as a result of disobedience to Israel only. It is evident that the complete fulfilment of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the seventy weeks as detailed in Daniel chapter 9 – remains future. This prophecy is addressed specifically to Israel – ‘Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city’, v. 24. Romans chapter 11 teaches that whilst Israel has been set aside, they have not been cast away, but there is coming a day when they will be reconciled to God.
Second, the word ‘coming’, parousia, in the New Testament needs to be examined as to its usage. Vine states that the word, ‘denotes both an “arrival” and a consequent “presence with”’. 1 This can be seen in 2 Corinthians chapter 7 verse 6 in the ‘coming [parousia] of Titus’. It was not just that Titus had arrived but that being present he was able to comfort the apostle. Where the word is used in respect of the Lord Jesus, we can see that it refers to both His personal return for the church, 1 Thess. 4. 15, and also when He returns to the earth, 2 Thess. 2. 8. Therefore, while the New Testament refers to only one future coming, it has two phases.
First phase – the rapture of the Church
The word ‘rapture’ does not appear in the New Testament. It is taken from the Latin word, rapto, which includes in its definition the idea of ‘seize’, ‘snatch away’. The Greek word harpazo carries a similar meaning and is used in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 17 – ‘caught up’. The word harpazo occurs 17 times in the New Testament and is used of both Philip when he was taken away from the Ethiopian eunuch, Acts 8. 39, and also ‘a man in Christ’ who was ‘caught up into paradise’, 2 Cor. 12. 2, 4.
It becomes apparent when reading the Epistles that the Lord’s return is imminent, that is, He could come at any time. No prophecies await fulfilment prior to His coming. Examples that can be cited include: ‘For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’, Phil. 3. 20 NKJV; and ‘ye turned to God from idols to serve . . . and to wait for his Son from heaven’, 1 Thess. 1. 9, 10. Rather than passing through the Great Tribulation, which will affect the whole world, this verse informs us that the believer in the Lord Jesus is delivered (away) from coming wrath. Furthermore, the message of the risen Lord to the church at Philadelphia was that He would keep them ‘from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth’, Rev. 3. 10. No wonder the hymn writer S. T. Francis has said, ‘I can almost hear His footfall on the threshold of the door’.
The promise of His return
Whilst there are a number of references to the coming of the Lord for His church, there are three key passages which deal with the subject.
The Lord Jesus, in His Upper Room Ministry, John chapters 13-17, introduced several truths which are then further developed in the Epistles. Dear to the heart of every believer are the words, ‘I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’, John 14. 3. These are the words of one who cannot lie, and we wait longingly for their fulfilment! The promise was made against the backdrop of the Lord returning to heaven via the cross. The fact that this is a personal return is echoed in, ‘For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout’,
1 Thess. 4. 16. The promise not only involves His return for us but that from then onwards we will be wherever He is – ‘so shall we ever be with the Lord’, v. 17.
The sequence of events will be as follows:
- The Lord returns personally to the air bringing those which ‘sleep in Jesus’, 1 Thess. 4. 14.
- At His summons, the dead will rise first and the believers who are alive upon the earth will be caught up and together we will meet the Lord in the air, v. 17.
- 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 51 to 57 detail the transformation that will take place. Bodies which are currently suited for the earthly sphere will be fitted for the heavenly sphere. Bodies that are subject to death and decay will be ‘fashioned like unto his glorious body’, Phil. 3. 21.
Second Phase – the manifestation in power and glory
When Paul writes to the Thessalonians in the second Epistle, he does so to correct the error that ‘the day of Christ is at hand’. It is only after certain events have taken place that the man of sin will be destroyed, ‘whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming [parousia]’, 2 Thess. 2. 8. It is this occasion where the Lord will be ‘revealed’, 2 Thess. 1. 7, from heaven to an unbelieving world. The word ‘revealed’ is the Greek word apokalypsis which is translated, ‘revelation’, ‘manifestation’ and involves an unveiling of the person and glories of Christ.
The timing of the rapture is unknown. We are called upon to wait expectantly and serve whilst we wait. Currently, the timing of the manifestation is also unknown. But the Lord gave a special word of warning and encouragement to those who will pass through the days of the Great Tribulation as to the time of His return. We mentioned above that the final week of Daniel’s prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. This equates to a period of seven years. The Lord said in Matthew chapter 24 verses 15 and 16, ‘When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains’. Daniel referred to this as taking place ‘in the midst of the week’, Dan. 9. 27. From that point, those who are able to read and understand will know that there will be a period of three-and-a-half years before the Lord returns. The Lord warns them to flee for safety to preserve their lives so great is the peril that they should not by any means delay.
The place of His return
As the disciples stood and gazed up into heaven having watched the Lord Jesus ascend until a cloud covered Him from their sight, two men in white apparel appeared to them and said, ‘this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven’, Acts 1. 11. The place of His departure from earth was the Mount of Olives and, according to Zechariah chapter 14 verse 4, ‘his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives’.
The manner of His return
The utter folly of man is seen when the Beast, and the kings of the earth and their armies gather together, united in their opposition to Christ. The Psalmist says, ‘He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision’, Ps. 2. 4. When the Lord was arrested, Pilate and Herod were made friends because of Him. Their verdict was overturned when God raised the Saviour from the dead. In Revelation chapter 19, we see the opposition of men reduced to nothing when the Lord returns with the armies of heaven. The place of His rejection becomes the scene of His victory.
The triumphant entry into Jerusalem
Following His return to the Mount of Olives and with His immediate enemies destroyed by the sword which ‘proceeded out of his mouth’, Rev. 19. 21, the Lord wends His way in triumph to the city of Jerusalem – the seat of His government. The Psalmist describes Jerusalem as ‘the city of our God . . . the city of the great King’, Ps. 48. 1, 2.
The Lord made this journey before. He entered into Jerusalem fulfilling the words, ‘behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass’, Zech. 9. 9. As He approaches this second time, we hear the words of Psalm 24 verses 9 and 10 ringing out, ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory’. No wonder the Psalmist ends his meditation with the word ‘Selah’!
Whether we contemplate the upward call of the Saviour or His return in power and glory, surely the response to His words, ‘Surely I come quickly’ is ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’, Rev. 22. 20!