Should there be a sudden rending of the sky, a lightning-like flash, the sound of trumpets such as our ears have never heard—if Christ should suddenly appear in the sky with his holy angels—what would our reaction be?
And it will happen!
One of the most frequently mentioned truths of all Scripture is that Jesus Christ is coming again. In theological circles his return is spoken of as the doctrine of last things, or eschatology. Strange to say, it is probably the most abused and also the most neglected truth in all the Bible. While some simply ignore it entirely, others distort its teachings.
When Christ will come has been the subject of much foolish speculation. There are also some who become so interested in the details of events of that future time that they fall into wrangling among themselves. In so doing they have tended to becloud the transcendent fact that Christ is coming again.
Generally speaking, there are four schools of thought. There are some who flatly deny that Christ will return in person. We will not deal with this group here because many of them even question his uniqueness as the eternal Son of God and their position hardly comes within the purview of Christian consideration.
The chief differences of opinion, however, center around when he will come. There are the post-millennialists who believe in the gradual improvement of world conditions until the millennium comes, after which Christ will appear.
There is a second and larger group, the amillennialists, who believe in his return but also believe that the millennium described in Revelation 20 is figurative, not literal.
Finally, there are the premillennialists who believe in the imminent return of the Lord to set up his reign on the earth for a thousand years, after which Satan will be released for a short time finally to be destroyed by Christ and the armies of heaven.
Because of the strong convictions held by many on these matters, few will be pleased by this article, but we feel constrained to write because so many good people are beclouding a transcendent and glorious truth by arguing over details which are of secondary importance. The truth of paramount concern is the inescapable fact that Christ is coming back to this earth.
As he ascended up to heaven after his resurrection, and while his disciples were gazing upward in amazement and awe, two men clothed in white suddenly stood by their side and said: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go up into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
“This same Jesus … shall so come … in like manner … as ye have seen him go into heaven.” These words are as clear and specific as words can be.
If this were an isolated statement at variance with the general teaching of Scripture, we might be led to look for some other meaning. But it fits in perfectly with what our Lord said on a number of occasions and the writers of the epistles and of Revelation reiterated again and again.
What a stupendous thought! What a portentous event! In the twentieth century we think of Christ as living two millenniums ago and, while we accept the fact of his resurrection, it is easy to give him, so far as his bodily presence is concerned, a place in past history. But we fail to realize that our own physical eyes may see him at any moment!
It is here that the tragedy of controversy over the second coming becomes most poignant. It is at this point that the tragic silence of many becomes all the more distressing.
The doctrine of the second coming of Christ centers in the fact that he will return. On many occasions he affirmed this truth. Speaking to his confused and sorrowing disciples, he said: “Let not your heart be troubled.… I will come again.” Again: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Repeatedly, he spoke to his disciples along these lines.
The Holy Spirit, speaking through the apostles, affirmed the same truth. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 we read: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.…” In Revelation 1:7 we are told: “Behold he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.”
Christ speaks of it as being a sudden event: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.…” He compares his return to the sudden destruction that came on Noah’s generation; to the unexpected entrance of a thief at midnight.
The imminent return of the Lord has been the comfort and hope of saints since his ascension. That he has delayed so long only emphasizes the fact that with him a thousand years are but a day. He is not slack in keeping his promise but rather he is longsuffering to sinful men, anxious that they might repent while yet there is time.
In enthusiasm for the truth of the second coming some confuse time and space as we know them with the infinitudes of God and eternity. Einstein with his theory of relativity, the splitting of the atom and probably yet undiscovered facts of the universe can well open up to us new vistas having to do with what Christ will do and how he will do it. There is a tendency to think this world and the universe of which it is a part will continue to be governed by laws as we now know them. Paul may have given a hint in 1 Corinthians 1:27–29; the God of creation can so easily use “things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.”
But even more reprehensible than setting up the details and schedules of events having to do with the coming of the Lord are the strange phenomena of silence and indifference. European theologians, far less certain of a man-made Utopia than some of their American confreres, urged the World Council meeting at Evanston two years ago to face squarely the doctrine of last things and in the subsequent discussions were far more inclined to follow a biblical approach than some in this country.
Why the resounding silence in so many American pulpits today? Why ignore a truth which is as clearly taught as any doctrine to be found in Holy Writ? Why deny to men today the thrilling fact that Christ is coming back and that he is the hope of the world? The inescapable fact is that Christ is coming back to this earth and there is no truth more calculated to galvanize attention, to promote right living and to generate witnessing zeal.
The early Church found the hope of his coming a constant source of comfort and a spur to righteous living. It can do the same for the Church today.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.