The Nature of the Second Coming

In our last article, we learned from the word that there are
several instances in the Old Testament where the phrase “Day of the Lord” was
used to describe God’s judgement on a particular nation (such as Babylon in
Isaiah 13-14). We then saw how God used the same type of language to describe what
is often called the Second Coming of Christ. Some will object to our
conclusions and say that the Day of the Lord in the New Testament is of a
different “nature.” They will concede that the Old Testament Days of the Lord
were often described using figurative language, but they will not agree that we
should bring those same principles to the New Testament. Some of the verses often
used to answer our conclusions are below.

“Now when He had spoken these
things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of
their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up,
behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee,
why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from
you into heaven, will so come in like
manner as you saw Him go into heaven
” (Acts 1:9-11, emp. added).
“Behold, He is coming with clouds,
and every eye will see Him, even
they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of
Him. Even so, amen” (Revelation 1:7, emp. added).

     While citing
these passages, the questions that are usually asked alongside are, “Did EVERY
eye see Him? Did He come in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY that He went?” In this
article, we will examine what the New Testament writers had to say regarding the
“Second Coming” of Christ, and, specifically, the nature of the Coming.

     First, we will
examine the nature and the timing of the kingdom of God. I propose that the
kingdom of God came in progression. That means that it all did not show up at
one time. Just as a child is conceived, born, grows, learns what it takes to
survive own its own, and, eventually, becomes an adult, the kingdom of God grew
into what it would eternally be by the overthrow of Judaism in AD70. That is to
say, what I’m about to say does not take away from the kingdom being already in
existence before AD70.
     The Old Testament
speaks of the coming of the kingdom in several places, and we will take the
space to note a few. The first is Isaiah 9. “For unto us a Child is born, Unto
us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name
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, Upon
the throne of David and over His kingdom, To
order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward,
even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7,
emp. added). With what would the kingdom be ordered and established? Isaiah
said “with judgement and justice.” This indicates that the kingdom would not
come into its fullness until a time of judgement. As we will eventually see,
this same idea is foreseen in the New Testament.
     The second
passage we will see is in Daniel 7. “I was watching; and the same horn was
making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of
Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and
the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:21-22). ‘But the
court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and
destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the
kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of
the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall
serve and obey Him’” (Daniel 7:26-27). Once more, we see that the saints would
receive full possession of the kingdom at a time of judgement. For those more familiar
with the text in Daniel 7, this would take place in the time of the fourth
beast (Rome).
     We see then that
the full coming of the kingdom and the time when the saints would be given possession
is directly related to a time of judgement. Do the New Testament writers
indicate the same thing? Let’s see!
     “Then the seventh
angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the
kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ
, and He shall reign forever and
ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell
on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God
Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken
Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they
should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the
saints
, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy
those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:15-18, emp. added).  John saw the time of the coming of the
kingdom to be inseparable with the time of reward
and judgement.
     Now, hear the
words of Jesus, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with
His angels, and then He will reward each
according to his works
. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing
here who shall not taste death till they
see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom
” (Matthew 16:27-28, emp. added).
Just like in the Old Testament and in Revelation, Jesus connected the time of
the kingdom to the time of the judgement. Why then should we separate the two?
Allow me to show just two more passages on this subject of the kingdom and
judgement.
     “And there
will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth
distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s
hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are
coming on the earth, for the powers of
the heavens will be shaken
[this is judgement language as seen in the lastarticle – DR]. Then they will see the
Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory
. Now when these
things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption
draws near.” Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree,
and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for
yourselves that summer is now near. So
you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is
near
. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away
till all things take place” (Luke 21:25-32).
     Again, we have
the coming of the kingdom connected with a time of judgement, but did you see
something interesting about that passage and the one before? Jesus said in
Matthew 16:27-28 that some of those listening to His speech would not die until
they saw those things (judgement and the kingdom) come to pass. In like manner,
in Luke, Jesus said that the generation to which He was speaking would not pass
away until all of those things be fulfilled! What things? The coming of Jesus
in His kingdom and judgement. That being said, notice this next passage from
Paul’s writings to Timothy: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord
Jesus Christ, who will judge the living
and the dead
at His appearing and His
kingdom
…” (2 Timothy 4:1). Paul connects the appearing of Christ with the
kingdom and judgement! The time indicators attached to the other two passages that
talk about the same things apply to this passage as well.
     If the kingdom
was to come within the generation that the apostles were living, in what nature
would it come? Fortunately, Jesus does not leave us in the dark concerning
these matters. “Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God
would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come
with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed,
the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Wait a minute! Jesus said a
few chapters earlier, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who
shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27). So, would
they see it or would they not? Obviously, they would, but not in the manner
that we typically think of seeing – that is, not with observation! If the kingdom of God could come in the
first century without being seen with physical eyes and still fulfill what
Jesus said about those that would “see” the kingdom of God, then Jesus could
return in the first century without observation and the verses that say that “every
eye” would see Him are not any less true!

     In fact, consider
the questions below.
     If Jesus’ kingdom
would come without observation….
1.      
Why would the King coming in His kingdom be with
observation? (Matthew 16:27-28; II Timothy 4:1)
2.      
Why would the throne be with observation? (Matthew
25:31; Revelation 20:11)
3.      
Why would the saints entering the kingdom be
with observation? (Acts 14:22; II Peter 1:11)
4.      
Why would the judgement accompanying the coming
of the kingdom be with observation? (Daniel 7:9-10l; Revelation 20:12)
     Now, let’s turn our attention to the
second appearing of Christ. We will focus in on the two verses presented at the
beginning of the lesson and do our best to properly interpret them. First, we
will notice Acts 1:10-11.
“Therefore, when they had come together,
they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom
to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or
seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me
in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a
cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward
heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also
said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same
Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as
you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-11).
     The disciples had a question: “Is it time
for the kingdom?”. It was a perfectly logical question considering that Jesus
had spoken to them things concerning the kingdom and had even opened their
minds to the scriptures (Luke 24:45; Acts 1:3). Jesus said that it was not for
the disciples to know the times or seasons, but then He uses an interesting word:
“but.” But what? “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come
upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Why is this significant? Because
Jesus already told them when the kingdom would fully come! If you remember back
to Luke 21, Jesus said. “So you also, when you see these things happening, know
that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will
by no means pass away till all things take place” (Luke 21:31-32). Do you
remember what would be one of the number one signs to indicate that the end had
drawn near? “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world
as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
     So, what Jesus is saying to them is this: “I’m
not going to tell you the exact time or even the season that the kingdom will
fully arrive, but I will send the Holy Spirit and He will be a sign for you as
you preach the gospel to the whole world – then comes the end!” Why would Jesus
say that it was not for them to know the times or seasons? Read these three
verses.

“It shall be one day Which is known to the
LORD Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be
light” (Zechariah 14:7).
“And pray that your flight may not be in
winter or on the Sabbath” (Matthew 24:20).
“But of that day and hour no one
knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

     Paul also said, “But concerning the times
and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you
yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the
night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction
comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not
escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should
overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). Though the disciples would
not know the specific day, hour, or even the season, they would know that it
would come within their generation., and they knew that when they completed
their preaching to the whole world, that the kingdom had drawn near.
     After Jesus ascends, the angles say, “Men
of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was
taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go
into heaven” (Acts 1:11). As a side note, I used the phrase “in like manner”
earlier in this essay to demonstrate the similarity of Jesus’s comments in
Matthew 16:27-28 and Luke 21:32. Now, did Jesus make the exact same word for
word statement, or was the general idea of the thought the same? Most likely,
you probably did not think that I was lying when I used the phrase “in like
manner” to compare Jesus’s comments. Here are some other times in scripture
where the phrase “in like manner” is used in a similar way to how I did. We
will be approaching this from the Greek, so feel free to use a concordance or
Bible program to check our work!

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who
kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to
gather your children together, as [same
word in the Greek – DR] a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were
not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).
“But we believe that through the grace of
the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in
the same manner as
they” (Acts 15:11).
“Now as
Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of
corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith” (2 Timothy 3:8).

     Think about this: was Jesus literally
spreading forth a set of wings to gather together the children of Israel? Were
the circumstances of Cornelius’s conversion exactly the same as that of Peter’s
or one of the other Christians? Were the false teachers of Paul’s day resisting
the preachers of the word in the exact same manner that Jannes and Jambres
resisted Moses? Or were the general ideas of all these things the same? What
did the angels mean? Jesus went to Heaven on the clouds and He was coming back
on the clouds. We have already seen how the Olivet Discourse contains the same
subject matter that was being discussed in Acts 1 (Holy Spirit – Luke 21:15;
Preaching to all nations – Matthew 24:14; Kingdom – Luke 21:31). Did Jesus in
the Olivet Discourse also predict the time when He would return in the clouds? “Then
the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of
the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of
heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). When would these things
take place? “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass
away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). Therefore, Jesus’
coming in the clouds in like manner of Acts 1:7 was the same coming that He
discussed in Matthew 24 and would take place in that first century generation.
     Finally, we will examine Revelation 1:7
where John said, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him,
even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because
of Him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7). Right off the bat we should notice
again the theme of Jesus coming with the clouds. Already, this should bring our
minds back to passages such as Matthew 24:30 and Acts 1:10-11. So, the issue
isn’t “Did this take place in the first century?” because we have already
established that! The question is, “how?” Remember, Jesus promised that the
kingdom would come within His generation and the people would see it, but He
then went on to say that the kingdom wouldn’t come with observation. Was He
contradicting Himself? Of course, not. Why then should we force a woodenly literal
interpretation on this passage? Notice the timing of when this would take
place.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God
gave Him to show His servants – things which must shortly take place. And He
sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear
the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for
the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).
“And he said to me, “Do not seal the
words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Revelation 22:10).
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed
is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7, 12,
20).

     The time constraints of this passage are
the same of the other second coming passages we have mentioned. Of course, even
if the text didn’t say what it so plainly does, the text would still inherit
the timing of the passages that speak of similar subject matter. We will now
turn our attention to the prophetic background of this text – or, at least part
of it! Where does the idea of “they who pierced Him” come from? Well, we know
that John used that same quotation in John 19:37. The prophetic source of that
message, however, is from Zechariah 12:10-12. Notice what the Bible says, “And
I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then
they will look on Me whom they
pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and
grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. In that day there shall be a
great mourning in Jerusalem
, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain
of Megiddo. And the land shall mourn,
every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their
wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their
wives by themselves” (Zechariah 12:10-12, emp. added). John, in Revelation 1:7,
is referencing this text that speaks of the judgement of Jerusalem! Now we can
clearly see what the subject of Revelation 1:7 is discussing: the same as the
Olivet Discourse – that is, the fall of Jerusalem in AD70!

     In conclusion, we have seen that the kingdom
would not come with observation, but it would come at a time of judgement and
it would still be seen! Jesus, likewise, would return in His unobservable
kingdom just like He said: on the clouds! “But Jesus kept silent. And the high
priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God:
Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus said to him,
“It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the
Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of
heaven” (Matthew 26:63-64). 

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