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.





December 23, 2016

Is the First Coming of Jesus a Pattern for the Second?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 am


I’ve been giving some thought today to two aspects of the advent of Christ:

  • The timing of His coming
  • The nature of His arrival

The timing of His coming

I’ve heard many sermons about the fact that before the time of Christ, we find what Christians call the “intertestamental period” wherein the prophets seem to be silent. It’s a kind of calm before the storm before Jesus breaks on the scene and teaches like no other rabbi or prophet ever.

Will there be a calm before the storm before Jesus returns a second time? The voices (prophets if you will) of our day are being silenced. In the east because of the rise of militant Islam or religious radicals in places like India. In the west because of the rise of militant atheism or political correctness. Could it be that the second coming of Christ will take place in a time where the voices of the prophets are not heard in the land?

The nature of His arrival

We tend to think of Jesus’ arrival on earth — in flesh; as one of us — at Bethlehem, but really Jesus arrived so to speak when He began His public ministry. (We speak of someone arriving on the scene; entering the public consciousness.) You can date this arrival by His submission to John’s baptism and identification by John as “the lamb of God;” or you can choose the wedding at Cana or the beginning of His teaching ministry.

We tend to think of Jesus’ second arrival as being signaled by the sound of trumpets and his appearance on a white horse.

I am not, in the following paragraphs, suggesting that it’s possible that Christ has already returned and is alive and on earth now; so please don’t write me off as a heretic.

What I’m wondering is, if it’s possible for Jesus to embed himself here on earth somehow for a short period of time, and then, suddenly, there is the sound of trumpets, there is the appearance of the conquering King on a white horse (as opposed to the submission symbolized by the donkey the first time around) and every eye sees and every ear hears. I say that only because that was the nature of His first coming. There was a beginning in Bethlehem that preceded — in this case by 30 years — the beginning of His taking up His spiritual office.

Before you jump all over this and find it full of flaws, remember, at the time of His birth, it is the belief of many commentators that nobody understood the “…then a virgin shall conceive…” passage as meaning exactly how we know today the story played out. Bruxy Cavey is a pastor and author who maintains the prophecy should be read ‘backwards’ to see how God was in control all along, not ‘forward’ to try to predict the future. On the other hand, author and pastor Rob Bell teaches that every Jewish girl envisioned herself as being “the one” who would give birth to the Savior. Nor does this possibility discount the aspect of “being caught up to meet Him in the air.”

I’m just saying it would be most consistent if, in addition to the timing of His second coming following the pattern of His first coming; that the nature of His arrival should also include something that has an element of process to it. That perhaps instead of looking up we should be looking to the left and to the right; scanning the horizon for the Lion of Judah who has massed his forces, or, more likely, will mass his forces, right here prior to that moment when every eye will see and every ear will hear.

Or perhaps it’s something closer to the more traditional view, but there is a physical presence — similar to the angels at Bethlehem singing ‘Glory to God in the highest’ — followed by the taking up of the spiritual office. A period, a moment filled with signs in the skies followed by a dawning of the great significance of what is happening. Only instead of it taking up to a year for the Magi to arrive on the scene bearing gifts, we have CNN carrying the event live.

People speak of the timing of his birth as offering the maximum potential for word of his life, his teachings, his miracles, his death and his resurrection to be carried to widest parts of the Roman Empire. Clearly, we have reached a point in terms of technology where the the timing of his second coming optimizes the message being carried instantly to the entire world. (Though a miraculous, non-technological approach to his return being visible to everyone is equally valid.)

Either way of course, it will also be a dramatic intervention into world history on a par equal to His first coming; but seen and known by everyone instantaneously.

The point is, ultimately we just don’t know. However, though we don’t know “the day nor the hour,” we can know “the times and seasons.” And we can be prepared. Are you?

My point is to ask, “What if…?” We read scriptures with many built-in assumptions, and I think we need to be challenged to think outside the box, without tossing out the basic elements necessary for the Grand Story to play out to completion. Is it heretical to ask, “What if…?”?

I am convinced that if the scriptures tell us there will be the sounding of a trumpet, or there will be shout, then that means there will be a trumpet and a shout. I’m just having some fun with the idea that perhaps his return won’t be so much of a breaking in as it will be a breaking out; the idea of his return not being comparable to a sudden fanfare, but perhaps the product of an extended crescendo

That would after all more closely resemble his first coming.


September 11, 2012

Rapture, What Rapture?

Thank you, Skye Jethani.

I’ve finally found someone whose take on the whole pre-tribulation rapture so popular among North American Evangelicals resonates with what I am coming to understand on this topic; and is able to articulate it well.

It happens on Episode # 15 of the Phil Vischer podcast. They’re talking about the Up-There versus New-Earth views as to what constitutes heaven when Phil asks about the rapture. Even though it’s audio, you can almost see Skye rolling his eyes. He then explains to Phil and co-host Christian Taylor that people have forced the scripture to fit a pre-determined (and wished-for) theology.

The heaven thing is around the 26-minute mark, and they get into the rapture somewhere around the 31-minute mark. If anyone knows a cheap (i.e. free) way of running a transcript of this, I would be more than happy to reproduce it here.

…They say that when pastors are experiencing rapid growth and aren’t sure about adding more service times or commencing a building program, they simply preach some tough message to create more seats. There’s actually a Biblical precedent for this, if you think about it.

So I realize that coming out on this topic might cost me some readers, but I hope that anyone who is open to reconsider long-held peripheral doctrines — because this isn’t core doctrine — will listen to what Skye has to say.


UPDATE (September 13th) — We thought we were finally burned out on mentioning the Phil Vischer podcast here, but things continue to get more interesting. Here’s a piece at Christianity 201 about the episode that followed this one.

July 30, 2010

Jesus to Return on 5.21.11 — Colorado Bus Bench Ads

Filed under: evangelism — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:29 pm

Be sure to read the May 18th update below…

They’re nice looking ads.   Buying space on the bus benches in Colorado Springs probably doesn’t come cheap, either.  (Try $1,200 for the period from now through October.)   Especially for a 31-year old woman who is unemployed.   The theme is “Save the Date.”   (It’s a Saturday, if you’ve got plans…)

Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins is happy the discussion is happening, but calls it “folly” to choose a date, since Jesus himself knew “neither the day nor the hour.”   (Though we are instructed to know “the times and the seasons.”)

Watch the CNN video report here.   Or check the website,

What do you do with people who are willing to spend their own money for something they believe in so passionately?    The woman in the story compares herself to Noah, who was derided by his contemporaries when he began to build an ark.   What do you do when there probably will be some positive spin-offs in individual lives, as people contemplate the return of Christ or discuss it with friends?

But then, on the other hand, what do you do with the negative publicity in the [most probable] event that life continues as normal into the day the follows?

For all the lessons we’ve learned from date-setters — the book 88 Reasons Why Jesus is Returning in 1988 comes to mind — why do people keep doing this?

With files from the Colorado Springs Gazette.

May 18th update...

Okay, so over 100 people showed up here today. For this blog, that’s a lot of traffic.  So what if it’s true?  What if the world as we know it were to end on Saturday?

Better yet, what if you’re standing at the gate of heaven and God (or St. Peter!) is standing there saying, “Why should I let you in?”

If your answer is because you went to church, or lived a good life, or never stole or murdered, or gave money to the poor; then you’ve missed it.  That’s “religion,” where standing before God is measured by what you “do.”  But the only acceptable answer is that admittance to heaven is based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Only his blood can satisfy a holy God.  In other words it’s not based on “do,” but based on “done.”  It’s been done.  You simply have to tell God, through prayer, that you recognize the need for forgiveness for those areas where you missed the mark, or standard, of his holiness, and want to be included, or covered, in what Jesus has already done.

Then you can have the assurance that you don’t have to worry about whatever happens on May 21st…

Click here to learn more.

7:00 PM (EDT), Saturday May 21st:  Here’s my take on how the day went!

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