The second coming of Christ Jesus.

by K.W. Leslie, 15 February

After the tribes of Israel were dragged off into exile by the Assyrians and Babylonians, they really started digging into and holding onto the prophecies of a coming messiah. Messiah is what they called their kings; it means “anointed person,” ’cause at his coronation they poured a hornful of oil over him to represent the Holy Spirit coming to empower their king. (Presuming the Holy Spirit did empower their king. Some of those kings, not so much.) Anyway, they figured God would restore the kingdom of Israel and give ’em a really good messiah. The best messiah. Better than King David ben Jesse; he’d rule them righteously and victoriously, and defeat all their enemies easily. Maybe even conquer the whole world, just like the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians were kinda trying to do.

Jesus the Nazarene did not meet their expectations. But to be fair, the ancient Israelis overlaid a whole lot of their prejudices atop all the messianic prophecies: They wanted him to destroy their enemies with death and carnage. He wants to destroy his enemies by getting them to repent and become his friends. God is love; we humans most definitely aren’t.

The first step in Jesus’s conquest of the world was defeating sin and death, which he achieved in the year 33. The second step is what he’s currently doing now: His followers, us Christians, are meant to apply that salvation, be the light of the world, love our neighbors, and win ’em to Jesus’s side.

And the next step is when Jesus comes back to earth, personally, to continue that work in person.

Yes of course he’s coming back. He made that clear in the beginning of Acts:

Acts 1.1-11 NRSVue
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Based on this and other scriptures, we Christians expect—once God decides the time is right—Jesus will return to earth. In person. As the head of an invading army of angels and at least 2 billion newly-resurrected Christians. To personally supervise God’s kingdom on earth, which he will rule himself as king.

We call this the second coming, or second advent, or in theologian-speak, parousia (Greek παρουσία/parusía, “coming”) of Christ. His first coming was when he was born, of course, and shared the good news of the kingdom with first-century Israel. We don’t count any of the many other times he visits people on earth, like he did with Paul, Ac 9.3-5 as formal “comings”—formal as they might feel to those people whose lives are significantly changed by seeing him.

Jesus’s second coming is an orthodox Christian doctrine: It’s something all true Christians are expected to believe. Various Christians insist it’s really not, but it’s in the creeds—so if you claim he’s not returning, you’ve gone heretic. Doesn’t mean Jesus can’t and won’t save you regardless; it only means you’ve rejected something the scriptures plainly teach, ’cause your doubts won you over. There’s nothing wrong with doubting, but there’s everything wrong with not trusting Jesus. He said he’s coming back for us, and he is.

John 14.1-3 NRSVue
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
 
Revelation 22.12-13 NRSVue
12 “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

What’s it look like?

Whenever the scriptures describe the second coming, it’s kinda vague. We’re given very limited details. That’s on purpose. God doesn’t want us to know precisely when it’s gonna happen, lest we put off everything we’re meant to do till the second coming, as you know we would. Lk 12.45 Likewise there are gonna be Christians who try to trigger the second coming, by “fulfilling” all the things they think need to happen right before it—including various evil things. Which they apparently have no qualms about committing; ends justify the means and all that.

So we don’t know when it’ll happen. Jesus didn’t know either. Mk 13.32-33 It’ll happen once the Father is good and ready, and we’re actually instructed to not worry about it. Ac 1.7 In his second letter, Simon Peter said Jesus is taking his time because he’s patient: He wants everyone who can, to come to him first. 2Pe 3.9 Meanwhile, be ready!—and wait.

We know when Jesus returns, we Christians will join him in the air as part of his invading army.

1 Thessalonians 4.15-18 NRSVue
15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

No they won’t be zombies. They, and all the Christians who are still alive, are getting resurrected. Like Jesus. Our bodies will be new and eternal, like his. I don’t know what their new capabilities will be; honestly neither did the apostles. They just knew they were gonna be “spiritual,” which does not mean they’re made of a spiritual substance or energy, or that they’re ghostly. They’re spiritual in the sense of Spirit-empowered: They’ll be fully empowered by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 15.50-56 NRSVue
50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Look, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Is 25.8
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” Ho 13.14
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

These two billion Christians will join Jesus’s army as he takes possession of his world, and under his direct supervision will run it for “a millennium”—whether that’s a literal 10 centuries or not is debatable.

Revelation 20.4-6 NRSVue
4 Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its brand on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years.

If the prospect of getting bossed around by a billion Christian jerks worries you, I totally get that; I don’t want that either! But trust me: Neither does Jesus. Those people won’t be in charge of anything but cleaning toilets, till Jesus determines they’re ready for greater responsibilities. Representatives of our King are expected to act like our King, and love people like he loves ’em.

This situation isn’t gonna last forever, but only until Jesus cleans up the almighty mess we’ve made of this world, conquers evil, and destroys every idol. It’s gonna take a millennium, because contrary to various dark Christian revenge fantasies, Jesus isn’t gonna have some psychotic personality shift where he’s suddenly a murderous autocrat. He doesn’t rule by destroying everybody who opposes him, but by winning people over. “Every knee shall bow” Pp 2.10-11 because every knee shall want to bow.

So once the millennium is done…

1 Corinthians 15.24-27 NRSVue
24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27A For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” Ps 8.6

then comes the destruction of Satan, final judgment, end of the world, and New Earth.

Filling in the blanks poorly.

I want Jesus to return. As do most Christians, for various reasons. Mostly because we look at this mess of a world, and the mess of our lives, and want him to fix it once and for all. And he will! But let’s not delude ourselves: It might take the whole millennium to do it.

Other Christians have more selfish motives. They wanna be lazy, and imagine the second coming means they won’t have to do any more work. They covet power, and imagine the second coming means they get to sit on thrones and boss everyone around. They’ve got a lot of hatred in them, and believe Jesus hates what they do, and it’s time for bloody vengeance.

You can tell which motives are at the forefront of their minds, by the way they claim the End Times are gonna unfold. Even though there’s a huge absence of details about this very thing. Revelation is not the wealth of information they claim it to be. It only looks like one because they’ve added a lot of details to the book—contrary to what the book itself warns ’em.

Revelation 22.18-19 NRSVue
18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; 19 if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

When they turn the second coming into something to dread and fear, especially for pagans, they’ve definitely added to the words. Because Jesus is returning to stop evil. Not destroy pagans. He wants to save pagans. He always has. Lk 19.10 Why would that change?

(No, not because it’ll be a new dispensation. Christ Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He 13.8 There are no other dispensations.)

Every generation, starting with Peter’s, has taught and believed Jesus’d return in their lifetimes. Every generation pointed to current events as proof he was coming now—“Things are worse than they’ve ever been!” or “Things are better than they’ve ever been!” or just “Look at all the signs!” Yet Jesus still hasn’t come back—and he personally warned us a lot of these “signs” aren’t really. Life’s usual disasters don’t automatically mean the End has come. Mk 13.4-8 There’ve always been wars, always been natural disasters, always been evil, always been antichrists.

Fearful people point to these and say, “Worry.” Gullible people point to these and say “Panic!” Evil opportunists try get the worried and panicking to buy drums of their freeze-dried food for their End Times bunkers. But we Christians are meant to trust in Jesus. Not our stockpiles of food, gold coins, and firearms.

Lookit what happens whenever Christians think we know the very second of Jesus’s return. From time to time, some fake prophet convinces a band of Christians the second coming takes place on a specific date—and these Christians stop working. Other than warning everyone around them that the End is near, they stop making plans for the future, stop being responsible with their resources, stop being generous with the needy, stop demonstrating love for their neighbors, stop doing anything but look at the sky like the first apostles did. Their self-centeredness kicked in. Too many people, when you put ’em in a crisis, do nothing.

It’s not at all consistent with Jesus’s instructions for how we’re supposed to watch for him. He puts it this way:

Mark 13.32-37 NRSVue
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but only the Father. 13 Beware, keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight or at cockcrow or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

As we’re waiting for Jesus, we’re to keep doing and living as he instructed. Keep loving one another, our neighbors, and our enemies. Keep encouraging one another. Teach as he taught. Preach good news. Cure the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. Be Jesus to other people in his absence.

It’s all practice for how he expects us to reign with him once he returns. So don’t just drop everything, do nothing, and stare at the sky in expectation. Take advantage of his delay. Practice the kingdom.