THE SECOND COMING
Prophecy Studies - No. 10
The Second Coming of Christ is clearly taught in Scripture. And in our study of prophecy we have come to that great subject. Even though we sometimes speak of either or both the rapture and the second coming in similar terms--as the return of Christ— the two are distinct and different. 1) The rapture occurs at the beginning of the Tribulation, the second coming takes place seven years later, at the end of the Tribulation. 2) Jesus predicts certain signs that will be evident before His second coming, but there are no necessary signs to take place before the rapture. 3) We look forward to the rapture happening at any moment, while the second coming won’t occur until the events of Revelation 6-18 take place, and the Antichrist has had his day. 4) At the rapture, Christ will be unseen by the unbelieving world. At His second coming, “every eye shall see Him.” 5) The rapture is Christ’s catching away of His church unto Himself. At the second coming, He descends in glory with His church. 6) At the rapture, Christ comes as a Bridegroom to claim His bride (the church). At His second coming He returns as King of kings to claim His throne and His earthly kingdom.
Irenaeus wrote of the second coming as follows, back before 200 AD: “When this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who followed him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom...and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance.”
The second coming will fulfil the promise of Acts 1:11, that “this same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” And it will fulfil a prayer that has been uttered countless times that “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). It’s an event Daniel witnessed in a vision of which he wrote, “Behold, One like the Son of Man, coming in the clouds of heaven!...Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away” (Dan. 7:13-14).
It’s what Job longed for when he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth....In my flesh [that is, in a resurrection body] I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26). And it’s what godly Enoch foresaw, long before the time of Job, when he said, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all” (Jude 14-15). That is the event we shall study in this lesson.
1) What will appear at the time of Christ’s coming in glory? And what result will it have (Matt. 24:30)?
INSIGHT: What this sign will be is not known, but its meaning will be unmistakable. Perhaps it will be the shekinah, the glory light that shone above the ark of the covenant, revealing the presence of God (Ps. 80:1), but this time shining over all the earth. There will be a huge processional, as Christ descends with the armies of heaven, and the resurrected church in attendance. Some think perhaps it will take many hours to descend through the sky, and as the earth revolves beneath, all will see the glory of His coming, as we now see the sun when the earth rotates on its axis. Whatever the exact details, the armies gathered at Armageddon will divert their attention from one another in a futile attempt to prevent Christ from claiming His earthly throne.
(Please read Psalm 2:1-6, with this scene in mind.)
2) What is the Father’s response to man’s attempt to keep His Son from reigning? And why (Ps. 2:4)?
INSIGHT: In verse 7 of the psalm the Father says, “You are My Son, today I have begotten You [brought You forth].” There is a sense in which Christ was the Son of God from all eternity. But this expression is used in Scripture in a number of ways. At His first coming, He was brought forth from the womb of Mary. After His crucifixion, Christ was “begotten” (brought forth) from the tomb (Acts 13:33). In the context here, Christ is brought forth on earth as the rightful King (vs. 8).
3) What will the Son do to those who oppose His rule (Ps. 2:9)?
(Next, please read Revelation 19:11-21, to see how the Apostle John describes this scene.)
4) What two names are given to the One who descends from heaven at this time (Rev. 19:11, 13)?
INSIGHT: The fact that He is wearing a blood-stained garment may seem to be a reminder of His death, when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” the first time (Jn. 1:14). But it is more likely as the result of the trampling down of His enemies (cf. Rev. 14:19-20).
5) What are two other names given to this Person (Rev. 19:12, 16)?
6) What two tasks does Christ undertake at His return (Rev. 19:11)?
INSIGHT: Christ came the first time “full of grace” (Jn. 1:14). But this is quite a different picture.
7) According to Rev. 19:15, what does Christ come to dispense at this time?
INSIGHT: The “sharp sword” coming from the mouth of the Lord in John’s vision likely depicts His word of judgment. He will not grapple and struggle with the enemy. He need only speak and they will be destroyed. The One who once spoke and worlds came into being (Heb. 12:1-2) will now utter the word that brings about the destruction of His enemies.
8) Who attempts to make war against Christ (Rev. 19:19)?
9) What gruesome invitation is given to “the supper of the great God” (Rev. 19:17-18, not to be confused with the marriage supper of the Lamb)?
10) What will happen to the Beast (the Antichrist) and his false prophet (Rev. 19:20)?
11) And what happens to the armies gathered at Armageddon (Rev. 19:21)?
INSIGHT: This scene of bloody and terrible destruction is also prophesied in Ezekiel 39:17-20. There we learn that not only the birds, but also “the beasts of the field” (undomesticated animals) will partake in God’s “supper.” Recall that during the Tribulation death will come by “the beasts of the earth” (Rev. 6:8). Here they are given a grisly opportunity to satisfy their thirst for blood. Take a few moments to read about what follows--Ezekiel 39:21-29.
12) What does the Lord do at this time? And with whom (Ezek. 39:27, 29)?
INSIGHT: When God first called Abraham and made a covenant with him, He said, “I will bless those who bless you [including the nation of Israel to come from Abraham], and I will curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:3). In sovereign grace, God has made Israel a specially chosen nation (I Chron. 16:13), calling her “Israel My glory” (Isa. 46:13). She is “the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8). Since the beginning, God has showered special favour upon the Jews, above all other peoples (the Gentile nations). In the eyes of men, this may not seem “fair,” but the Lord owes us no explanation (Rom. 9:9-15). And returning to His program of Israel in this future day, God will hold other peoples accountable for how they have treated the Jews--especially during the Great Tribulation.
13) What will the Lord do, at this time (Joel 3:1-2)?
14) What are two things that the Lord says belong to Him (Joel 3:2)?
INSIGHT: God’s declaration “They have also divided up My land” is a startling condemnation of the current struggle in the Holy Land. Arabs, Palestinians and Jews argue over the territory, and divide it between them. But the Lord says that is “My land,” and I have given it into the permanent custody of the nation of Israel (Gen. 13:14-15).
INSIGHT: The event described in Joel is known in prophecy as the Judgment of the Nations. This is an earthly judgment to determine who has a right to enter into the Kingdom Age. All peoples of the earth will be brought together to face this earthly judgment, following the destruction of the rebel armies at Armageddon. Israel as a nation will be judged (Ezek. 20:36-38). And for the rest, the chief question will be, “How have you treated My Chosen People?” The same event is described in a little different way in Matthew 25.
15) To what is the Lord’s division of earth’s peoples compared (Matt. 25:31-32)?
INSIGHT: In Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, this judgment is pictured as separating wheat and tares. In Matthew 25, two groups are formed, one gathered on the Lord’s right hand, and the other on His left hand.
16) What will happen to those on His right (Matt. 25:34)?
INSIGHT: Keep in mind that these are not resurrected saints. They are those who have survived the seven-year Tribulation (Matt. 24:13, 22). They are still in their mortal bodies, and are about to enter into the Millennial Kingdom.
17) What will happen to those on His left (Matt. 25:41)?
18) What issue is the determining factor in this judgment (Matt. 25:40)?
19) What things have been done for “My brethren” (Matt. 25:35-36)?
INSIGHT: This verse is often used today in a general way--to say that any act of kindness we do in Jesus’ name will be blessed. This is true (cf. Mk. 9:41). But the passage in Matthew is prophetic, and has a primary application to a future event. “My brethren,” in the context, refers to Christ’s own earthly people, the Jews. And as we have seen elsewhere, how the other peoples of earth have treated Israel will be the basis for this judgment. It is not that there is no issue of faith in Christ involved. There is. But in the Tribulation, a time when any who profess allegiance to Christ will face persecution, imprisonment and death, the chief way of demonstrating that faith in Christ will be to assist others who are loyal to Him, especially the Jews.
INSIGHT: This same event is prophesied in Zephaniah Chapter 3, where the prophet says Jehovah will “gather the nations to My assembly of kingdoms” (vs. 8). After He pours out on the wicked His “fierce anger,” the righteous will be prepared to enter into the Kingdom Age. God says, “Then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord” (vs. 9). Some suggest this simply means a new holiness in worship. However, there seems a possibility that it refers to a restoration of one unified language for all the peoples of the earth--a return to the way things were before the judgment at the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). This could be a key factor in uniting the nations during Christ’s earthly reign.
20) What reassurance does the Lord give to Israel at this time (Zeph. 3:15)?
21) And what is Israel encouraged to do, by the Lord (Zeph. 3:14)?
INSIGHT: There are many other references to this (Isa. 51:11; Jer. 31:12, etc.). If you were to attend a service in an orthodox Jewish synagogue today, you would hear lots of singing, but no instruments are ever used. You would be told this is based on Psalm 137, which speaks of the time when the Jews were in captivity. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it” (Ps. 137:1-2). In other words, they put away their instruments, because they didn’t feel like making music. And the orthodox rabbi would tell you, “We don’t use instruments now, but when Messiah comes we will sing like we’ve never sung before, and we’ll play like we’ve never played before!”
22) What beautiful picture is given to us of the Lord consoling His people after all they have come through (Zeph. 3:17)?