Thinking Out Loud

December 24, 2016

Is the Second Coming Like Nothing We’ve Ever Seen?

Filed under: Christianity, prophecy — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:29 am


So yesterday I rather shook things up with the idea that the second coming might be be more gradual than the “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” event that many picture. In my defense, I’d like to point out that this particular phrase in I Corinthians 15:55 is, strictly speaking is referring to the resurrection of the dead.

Offline, one of my friends suggested that what I was proposing was “a stealth return followed by a big reveal.” Why would anyone suggest such a thing?

Well, the premise of the article was simply that if the second coming was to in any way resemble the first coming — this is Advent season after all — it’s interesting that Jesus breaks on the scene gradually: a birth heralded by angels and shepherds; a presentation in the temple; a glimpse into him confounding the teachers in the temple with his questions; then a long silence followed by a baptism in the Jordan River; and a first miracle at a Cana wedding.

The scriptures are filled with parallelisms, symmetries, and something called chiasms, which we’ve looked at before here.

Exodus as a reversal of Genesis
But alas, I am no expert on such things. Instead I’m reminded of Bill Hybels who once pointed out to his congregation that after 20 years (or maybe it was 25) he had never done a series on prophecy or the book of Revelation and reportedly said that we wasn’t sure he should as he really didn’t understand “the nuances of it.”

So quickly, before the heretic label starts to stick, here is something closer to what you’re more likely to hear from my mouth if we were to engage in conversation on this…

…I’m always afraid of people who say, “Well, Jesus is coming again for sure, but there are still several things which have to happen before that takes place.”

I think such an attitude contrasts with the imperative of the gospel. The notion of redeeming the time, because the time is short. The notion of choosing this day who we will serve. The notion that now is the appropriate time, today is the day for salvation. There ought to be an urgency to our proclaimed message and our personal response.

But here’s the thing, and this is closer to what I honestly feel: I believe that the prophetic markers are stacked like dominoes and that when things start to happen they will happen very quickly. One could potentially trigger another. It could all go down very fast.

So we shouldn’t presume, like those who say, “So what happened to the promised second coming of Jesus? For everything keeps going just the way it has since our ancestors fell asleep in death; since the beginning of creation, nothing’s changed.” II Peter 3:4 (The Voice).

Furthermore, to deny the imperative of the eschatologically-weighted gospel is to deny that while Jesus may not be coming back tomorrow, he could, figuratively speaking, come for me. In other words I could get hit by the proverbial bus and die, and then my pontifications as to the end of the present dispensation if you will would be totally pointless. (Pointless pontifications. You read it here first. And over 2,000 other places on Google.)

…So do we find cause to believe that the return of Christ mirrors the first coming that we consider today; a birth in a remote province of the Roman empire to a couple of dubious marital status in a less than ideal setting created by the lack of available lodging?

Yes and no. Sometimes the Bible indicates that the second coming mirrors the first coming only in terms of the contrasts. The first time we see Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem; the second time he appears on a white horse. 

ascension-of-jesusAs one reader pointed out “we’re told a bit at his ascension that he will come again in like manner as they have seen him go.” But what do we know about that? How long were the disciples staring as he rose into the sky? Was there a low cloud ceiling that day? The Bible’s tendency to brevity and concision makes me think that perhaps God didn’t just beam Jesus up, but his ascension may have have been more prolonged; a vertical processional to heaven.

So does Jesus just re-enter the atmosphere quietly and then creep onto the scene in a dramatic climax? We don’t know. We see in part and we prophesy in part. We see as through reading glasses that have been smeared with Vaseline™ (my paraphrase of through a glass darkly.) What we do know is that the second coming of Christ no doubt exceeds the parameters of our understanding. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Cor. 2:9 NLT)

In the meantime, we have before us today the full details of his first coming; about which much is written and many songs are sung. This is incarnation. Christ the Savior is born.





1 Comment »

  1. It looks like you’ve been studying Bauer and Traina’s IBS! Do you like their most recent IBS book?

    Comment by clkministries — December 27, 2016 @ 2:48 am

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