By Larry Ray Hafley
Among believers in the integrity, veracity and authenticity of the Scriptures, no point is more generally received and commonly believed than that of the second corning of Christ. Of course, what men believe or do not believe does not establish the truth; therefore, by the Sacred Oracles we shall note the fact, the time, the “how,” the purposes, and the affect of Christ’s second coming.
The Fact Of His Second Coming
“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). Paul said, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven” (1 Thess. 4:16). Further, he said, “For our conversation (citizenship-ASV) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). The careful student can readily recall many texts, especially in Paul’s writings, which confidently assume the second coming. Indeed, with the notable exception of 2 Peter 3, holy men of God did not attempt to prove the certainty of our Lord’s second coming. Rather, they spake the doctrine of the Lord with the underlying assurance that all accepted the fact of his second appearance (Cf. 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:2; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:13; 1 Jn. 3:2,3). In Acts 1:9-11, the disciples were told, “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.” Perhaps the emphasis and italics should be on the expression, “this same Jesus,” or as Paul said, “the Lord himself.” The one crucified, the one raised, the one who ascended, that one “shall so come” “the second time.”
Infidelity Against the Fact of the Second Coming: (1) Infidelity has said, “Yes, the zealous disciples believed in a second advent, but Jesus never so taught. They merely deified their great teacher and were carried away by similar narrative relative to the gods of antiquity.” So, the argument is that “second advent theology” is the invention of deluded disciples. Enlightened minds should not believe it, especially since Jesus never taught it. If Jesus taught that He would come again, the objection is exploded.
First, this argument assumes that the epistles of the apostles and prophets are merely human productions. Without pausing to argue the case, be it known that the New Testament is the Spirit’s record of what the Lord taught the disciples. “But the … Holy Ghost . . . shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (Jn. 14:26). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (Jn. 16:13). Those who penned the New Testament taught what Jesus communicated to them. They said Jesus would come again. Therefore, Jesus instructed them that He would come again.
Second, the teaching of Jesus speaks to the fact that He will come again. How one can read Matthew 24:42 through 25:46 and avoid a second coming is baffling. Read those verses. It would be as easy to deny the fact of the judgment from that section as it would be to dispute the second corning.
(2) Scoffers argue against the second coming, “saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:3,4). Peter answers this argument thusly: First, the flood proves that things do not continue as they were from the creation. It was an interruption of things and an exercise of divine judgment as the second coming shall be (2 Pet. 3:5-8). Second, God is not bound by time as men are. “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). The infidel’s argument is based on ignorance of the nature and character of God. Time does not negate His promises nor nullify His purposes. Third, “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise (the promise of his coming – vs. 4) as some men count slackness” (2 Pet. 3:9). The infidel interjects, “So, why does God delay?” Peter answers that it is because He “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Fourth, “the day of the Lord will come” (2 Pet. 3:10).
The Time Of His Second Coming
If I may say so modestly, let me assure you that I know as much about when the Lord will come again as any man who has ever lived. Yes, it is true! No man has ever known more than I do about the time of the second coming of Christ-and I know absolutely nothing about when the Lord will return! Various men and sects have embarrassed themselves, their following, and Christians with their projections of when the Lord is coming. The greatest harm is that unbelievers judge all religion by the folly of date-setters like Wm. Miller of the Adventists and Russell and Rutherford of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jesus said, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mk. 13:32). The fact that the Lord will come “as a thief in the night” shows that it will be sudden and unexpected. “No man” knows the day or the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Despite these plain Scriptures, men still profess to know that which the Lord said even He did not know. James Tolle quotes a Seventh Day Adventist publication, Present Truth, January 1, 1942, as saying, “Christ has made it plain that his return is to take place in the present generation. It will occur in ‘our time.” Such utterances are not indications of reverence for the word of the Lord. “No man” knows the day or the hour.
The “How” Of His Second Coming
We are not left to surmise and devise theories as to the manner of the Lord’s return. He “shall some in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
(1) Visibly: Jesus ascended visibly and thus shall He come again. “Every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7). “We shall see him” (1 Jn. 3:2).
(2) Audibly: “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice” (Jn. 5:28). “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). “The shout (keleusma) is a word of command, and is used of the shout of the charioteer to his horses or the hunter to his hounds. It is the cry to the rowers uttered by the ship’s master, or to soldiers by their commander. Always there is the ring of authority and the note of urgency” (Leon Morris, The Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians 87).
(3) With Clouds: “While they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight,” and He “shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). Therefore, “Behold, he cometh with clouds” (Rev. 1:7).
The Purposes Of His Second Coming.
First, Christ is not coming again in order to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin (Heb. 9:26-28; 10:10-12, 25, 26; Rom. 6:10). His first coming was not to judge but to save the world (Jn. 3:17; 12:47). However, His second coming shall be to judge, not to save.
Second, Jesus is not coming to offer the wicked another chance. This logically follows the premise above. The fate of every man will be sealed when Christ comes again (2 Cor. 5:10; In. 5:28,29).
Why, then, is He coming again? Simply and succinctly, He is coming again: (1) to raise the dead (Jn. 5:28,29; 6:39,44,54; 12:48; Rom. 2:1-11); (2) to judge the world (Acts 17:30,31); and (3) to destroy this present universe and all things therein (2 Pet. 3:9-11). These facts represent the end of time and life as we know it. Both the negative aspects and the positive purposes of His second coming show that it marks (if we may say so paradoxically) the beginning of the end-the end of all things temporal, the end of God’s divine purpose in the scheme of redemption through Christ.
The Affect Of His Second Coming
What influence does the second coming of Christ have over your life? It may prove humiliating to answer that question. It may be that Christians have deserted apostolic attitudes regarding that great, climatic event. In the New Testament, those who turned to God were “eagerly” anticipating and anxiously awaiting the revelation of God’s Son from heaven. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:30-NASB). “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9,10). Is that the kind of thinking that is stressed and impressed on the hearts of saints today? It was obviously theirs, and if they were New Testament Christians, why is our mind not similarly set? Plainly, it is a matter of obeying the exhortation of Colossians 3:14. “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”
One may be full of Bible knowledge about every segment of the Lord’s coming. He may be able to quote every text relative to it, but if the fact of it does not affect or influence his life, the knowledge is dead, being alone. After Peter made his arguments against the scoffers which showed the fact of the Lord’s return, he drove home the force of that fact. “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Pet. 3:11,14).
Because the Lord will come again, there is a manner of life that must be lived. “Therefore gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13). Does the fact that Christ is coming have, that kind of affect in and over your life and that of your family?
Truth Magazine, XX:22, p. 9-10
May 27, 1976