THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST
Edited by: Metropolitan Archbishop +Joseph Thaddeus, OSB, SSJt. Ph.D.
Present Day Predictions of Christ's Coming
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is near at hand, according to prophetic warnings of some contemporary evangelists today. They relate certain passages of the Old Testament concerning this Coming to the New Testament and some current events. There are many Old Testament and New Testament references to this subject of the Second Coming of Christ. But the interpretations modern evangelists give to some current happenings vary widely, especially over the time predicted for Christ's coming and His purpose and duration on earth. Wars, earthquakes, civil conflicts, floods and many other disasters occurring today are considered "signs" signaling Christ's Coming as mentioned in the Bible. These have encouraged some persons to predict the date of this Coming, even the Apostles themselves, who believed that Christ would return during their lifetime. Important to the interpretation of some of today's evangelists is the claim that Christ will come to reign on earth for 1,000 years, after which will come the final judgment. It is claimed that during that 1,000 years Christ will personally govern to bring order and peace on earth. These evangelists take literally what the book of Revelation allegorically states. They believe the 1,000 years really are 1,000 years, even though the Bible states elsewhere that 1,000 years is like one day (read: 2 Pe. 3:8; Psalms 90:4). The literal acceptance of the 1,000 years is incorrect because it is an allegory — something that veils true meaning, suggesting that which is to be deducted from the story it tells, as in the Book of Revelation (cf. Rev. 20:4, 7). The truth is that both the Bible and the Church believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, but neither have stated when this will take place. It will come as a thief in the night, without warning. Therefore, the Bible urges everyone to constantly be ready to accept the belief in the Second Coming of Christ by being always prepared. What is meant by the Second Coming of Christ is the General-final Judgment of the living and the dead, the end of the natural world and the resurrection of dead bodies to be united with their souls. All these acts will take place within a short period of time. These combined acts are called the "Consummation of the Ages". It is imperative for the Christian to know what will happen on that day, for all will be involved, whether alive or dead. We cannot conceive what this dramatic and spectacular consummation will be like. The heavens will open and Christ will appear all over the world at the same time, coming in great glory and brilliance to judge both the living and the dead. The finite mind of the human is not able to comprehend this.
The same Jesus Christ Who was the Creator and the Redeemer of the universe in the past will be the “Renewer” and the Judge at the time of its consummation. The Judgment will be personal for each one of us, personal and final to either everlasting life or everlasting punishment. Here the human mind faces the difficulty of accepting the possibility of punishment as everlasting, without hope. However, the human mind finds some satisfaction in the knowledge that punishment will be given to those who neither believe in God nor were punished on earth for their mistakes. The believer in Christ who confesses his sins and accepts His call to "Come to Me" will inherit the reward of everlasting life.
There will not be a literal reign of 1,000 years by Christ, to be followed by a Judgment as allegorically described in the Book of Revelation, and as believed by some people. The Second Coming of Christ will take place as is revealed in the Bible at a time that no one knows. The sources of this great Event are found in the Bible, especially in Matthew, chapter. 24 and 25; Mark chapter. 13; 2 Peter, chapter. 3 and Revelation, Chapters. 20-22. There are two characteristics of these accounts. One is that the Apostles believed that the consummation of the world would take place in their own lifetime. The other is that there will be "signs" appearing prior to this Event. These passages of the Bible are related by the writers with much enthusiasm and expectation, but without mention of a specific time for this Event to take place. The revelation originally moved people to prepare themselves to be ready for an awesome Event soon to take place. Over the course of 2,000 years, this great Event has been repeatedly and unsuccessfully predicted for specific times. Those who have predicted this over the centuries often have sold all their possessions, stopped working, asked forgiveness of others and clothed themselves in white robes to await the day they predicted Christ would Come. These many predictions have come and gone, and still there are those who await this.
In the course of history many "signs" have seemed similar to those predicted in the Bible that have occurred, such as wars, earthquakes, and many other natural disasters. Including the establishment of the State of Israel! However, there is no evidence that these are the "signs" of the Second Coming of Christ. No one knows when this great Event will take place, no matter what contemporary signs can be matched up to those in the Bible. Only God the Father Himself knows. Even Jesus Christ — He Who is to come — does not know (read: Mk. 13:32).
So how could anyone else know when this Event will take place! Every Christian should gain knowledge of this Event by reading the Bible (Matt. chapter. 24-25; Mk. chapter. 13; 2 Peter chapter. 3; Rev. chapter. 20-22, and others). Knowledge of this Event should be a serious personal one for every individual. The fact that 2,000 years have passed and nothing has happened might cause some to disbelieve. This is a mistake. It will happen, whether we believe or not.
THE PARTIAL AND FINAL JUDGMENTS
The truth of the matter is that those who have died during these 2,000 years have already received the reward of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who will be living at the time of Christ's Second Coming will be judged by Him at that time, and both the living and the dead will receive the Final Judgment as the Consummation of the world takes place. What a glorious Event this will be for every faithful Christian! Only in this way can we evaluate our own personal existence and purpose in this Universe: to be prepared according to the Gospel and Christ to meet and know the Creator of all things, Almighty God Himself. What a glorious gift! The serious interest of the true Christian is when will he meet the Lord Jesus Christ? At death, or, in the Final Judgment? If it takes place before his death, there is no way to minimize the importance of one's Partial Judgment at the time of death. The death of a Christian is the culmination of his life and places him at the threshold of Eternal Life. Therefore, the effort of some people to prove or disprove the events of history (famine, wars, earthquakes, etc.) as signs of the Second Coming should not discourage the Christian from practicing what Christ commands.
How does one prepare himself for this Judgment? What are the commandments that Christ has set forth to be lived and practiced daily in our lives? The answer is simple — Love! Christ left His disciples the command to "love one another". Love is the basic teaching. Christ summarizes the whole teaching of the Bible in His two great commandments of love — love of God and love of neighbor (read: Matt. 22:37-39). It is love of neighbor, the love of "the least", that Christ teaches in Matthew 25:31-46, which is called the "Gospel of the Judgment". It is practical and easy for every sincere Christian to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome strangers, give shelter to those without, visit prisoners and the like. If you refuse to help one of the "least" of your brethren, you refuse to help Christ. Those who refuse to practice this will be sent to "eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (v. 46). Faith in Christ is indispensable. Today philanthropy is organized for helping those who need it: food for those who do not have enough, help for the elderly and children, social security, united funds, Medicare, Red Cross, health research groups, educational scholarships, church charities and many others. All are working to help the "least" in our society. Many mistakenly believe that these organizations and agencies should be supported by the wealthy only. Each should give a substantial amount of money according to his income, as the Bible relates, giving it freely and cheerfully. There are some who also give of their time, effort and knowledge to help the poor and needy. The efforts of organized agencies do not preclude our personal efforts toward the "least". We personally must be committed and involved in helping the needy. Our duty is to visit the elderly or prisoners who have no families and the sick, to take food to the poor. The individual cannot exclude himself from his personal duty by leaving it up to organized agencies. The true Christian should always be mindful of this service expected of him.
Scriptural Evidence of Second Coming of Jesus Christ
The Second Coming of Christ, as recorded in Scripture, is to judge both the living and the dead according to God's Plan for mankind. This judgment of Christ can be justified according to human understanding. Human knowledge demands punishment of those who break the law. Therefore, it is natural that divine Judgment take place as a higher authority. There are many prophecies of the Judgment in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament states: "For behold, the Lord comes in fire", Isaiah 66:15, and, "For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble," Malichi 4:1 (read: Joel 2:29f; 3:2f). More specifically, this Coming of Christ is revealed in the New Testament Mt. 24-25; Mk. 13; 2 Peter Chapter 3. "They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," Mt. 24:30 (read: Mt. 24:3; 3-23; 1 Cor. 15:23; 2 Thess, 2:1-8; 2 Peter. 1-16).
The Apostles proclaimed this Coming of Christ by preaching to the people to be prepared both in faith and morals. Peter declared that Christ "commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead", Acts 10:42 (read: Ac. 17:31; Rom. 2:5; 2 Thess. 1:5; Col. 3:4, James. 5:8; 1 Peter. 5:4; 1 Jn. 2:18; Jude. 1:14; Rev. 1:7; 22:20). This revealed truth of Christ's Coming is also included in the Nicene Creed, the confession of faith: "and He (Christ) shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead," Article 7. Also the last two Articles, 11 and 12, are linked with the resurrection of the dead (bodies), and "…the life of the ages to come". These Events will take place simultaneously at the time Almighty God has designated in His great Design.
NAMES OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Many names have been used to identify the Second Coming of Christ. They are: Paraousia, which means the "appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Tim. 6:14; "by his appearing and his kingdom", 2 Tim. 4:1; "the appearing of the glory," Tit. 2:13 (cf. Col. 3:4); "his appearing and his coming," 2 Thess. 2:8; "is revealed from heaven", 2 Thess. 1:7; "his glory is revealed". 1 Peter 4:13; "the Son of man be in his day," Lk. 17:24; "coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," Mt. 24:30. Whatever name is used to refer to this Event, the significance is one and the same — that Christ will judge the living and the dead "when the Son of man shall come in his glory," Mt. 25:31.
TIME OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
"Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age," Matthew 24:3.
The exact time of Christ's Second Coming in glory to j the living and the dead has not been revealed. Christ declared many times that His coming again will be sudden, for "the master of that servant will come on a day when he (the servant) does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know," Mt. 24:50. This is evident by the fact that the Apostles and first Christians expected the Second Coming to take place during their lifetime. They prepared themselves and acted accordingly. The Apostles referred to this sudden Coming, saying: "The end of all things is at hand; therefore keep sane and sober for your prayers," 1 Peter 4:7; and "you also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand," James 5:8; and "Children, it is the last hour," 1 Jn. 2:18. These verses reveal that the Apostles expected the Coming of Christ to take place during their lifetime. The Apostles in various other times and circumstances, however, placed the ‘Second Coming’ at a future time, saying: "concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ .... brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word . . . to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way," 2 Thess. 2:1, 2, 3 (read: 2 Tim. 4:6; Jn. 5:28-29). There is no way of knowing exactly when this glorious Event will take place, as Christ Himself says: "of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only," Mt. 24:36 (read: Mt. 24:42f; Lk. 12:40; 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15).
SIGNS WHEN SECOND COMIING WILL TAKE PLACE
"Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory," Matthew 24:30.
The Second Coming of Christ is indicated in the Bible, through not too clearly; "and then the end will come," Mt. 24:14 (read: Lk. 21:6f). Some of the signs mentioned that will lead to this end are when the "gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony of all nations," Mt. 24:14 (read: Mk. 13:10); when "the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God," Hosea 3:5, when "the full number of the Gentiles come in," Rom. 11:25; "so now many antichrists have come; therefore, we know that it is the last hour," 1 Jn. 2:18; "for false Christs and false prophets will arise . ... so as to lead astray (v. 24) ... after the tribulation of those the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light (v. 29) ... then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven" v. 30, Mt. 24:24f. These verses signify that signs of Christ's Coming are either related to His Appearance or are general signs of visible phenomena. These signs reveal only vaguely when He will come.
THE MEANING AND SUBSTANCE OF FINAL JUDGMENT
"He (God) will judge the world in righteousness by man (God Man, Christ) whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead," Acts 17:31.
The meaning of the Final Judgment — the Second Coming of Christ — embodies many events which will take place simultaneously, but which are separated to permit understanding by the limited human mind. These various events together comprise the meaning and the substance of the Final Judgment of Christ: the resurrection of the dead (bodies), transformation of the living, consummation of the world and separation of the just (to Heaven) and unjust (to Hades). However, the complete meaning and content of the Judgment, as a whole, are not known. In the Old Testament the Final Judgment is referred to as: "From the heavens thou didst utter judgment; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to establish judgment to save all the oppressed of the earth", Psalm 76:8-9. The Old Testament also says: "many of those who sleep (bodies) in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt," Dan 12:2 (read: Job 19:25; Eze. 37:lf; Isa. 26:19; 2 Mac. 7:9, 14f). In the New Testament, reference to the resurrection of the dead is explicitly revealed as the foundation of the Christian faith: "for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have been good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment," Jn. 5:28-29 (read: Jn. 5:25f, Ac. 4:2; 17:18, 32; 1 Cor. 15:3-15; Rom. 8:11; 1 Thess. 4:14). The resurrection of the dead bodies with the soul is a creative act of God. As God created the universe from nothingness, He will raise the bodies of the dead in such a manner as to be similar in substance to the original person. This will apply to all, both the just and unjust. The just will go to Paradise, the unjust to damnation. The bodies of both in substance will be of the same imperishable spiritual nature, "for this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality," 1 Cor. 15:53.
THE FORM AND STANDARD OF FINAL JUDGMENT
"When the Son of man comes in his glory (v. 3) ... he will separate them one from another (v. 32) ... and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left (v. 33) ... And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteousness into eternal life (v. 4), Matthew 25:31f.
It must be understood that the Bible passages concerning the judgment of man by Christ should not be interpreted literally in detail, for the human mind cannot comprehend it and its grandeur. Nevertheless, the actual event and the form of the judgment, in its meaning and value, will take place according to the general concept of the Bible. The standard that Christ will use at the Final Judgment is the works wrought by every person as a witness to their faith, for it is a "faith working through love", Gal. 5:6. The form and standard of this judgment mean good works and activities will be judged on the basis of a belief in Christ, in Whose name these acts are done, for "he who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God", Jn. 3:18. The Judgment of Christ will measure the belief and works of every individual, for "he will render to every man according to his works," Rom. 2:6 (read: Jn. 24:1; 1 Cor. 3:13).
THE CONSUMMATION OF THE WORLD
"But each in his own order; Christ and the first fruits; then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom of God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power," 1 Corinthians 15:23-24.
The Consummation of the World will take place at the Final Judgment of Almighty God. It will be the restoration and change of this world, for "according to his promise we wait for new heavens, a new earth in which righteousness dwells," 2 Pe. 3:13 (read: 2 Pe. 3:10; 1 Cor. 7:31). This truth is strongly believed by the Church, which decrees: "If anyone shall say the future judgment signifies the destruction of the body and that the end of the story will be non-material, but only physics (nature) and that thereafter there will no longer be any matter, but only spirit (nous), let him be anathema" (Fifth Ecumenical Synod, 553; Article II, Anathema Against the Teaching of Origen). Revoked in the final judgment will be evil and death, which were the penalties of the sin of arrogance and disobedience committed by Adam and Eve, causing their "fall" from God's Kingdom. Christ's mission when He came to earth was to free mankind from the penalties of the "jail" of his ancestors from Paradise and to restore what was lost at the beginning of man's existence.
THE REDEMPTIVE MISSION OF CHRIST
"Because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God," Romans. Christ's mission was to save man from the corruption of evil thoughts and doings and set him free from the bondage of sin. God's promise is man's constant hope, "for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope", Rom. 9:19-20. Christ's redemptive work purchased the sins of mankind by transferring man from corruption and death to the state of incorruptibility and everlasting life. This is the renewal of man to his original state of incorruptibility, everlasting life, purity and restoration to the Kingdom of God, man's original goal in Paradise. This state of man will be accomplished in "the day of the Lord . . . and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up", 2 Pe. 3:10 (read: Mt. 13:40, 49). This will be the day of the Second Coming of Christ and His Kingdom, when "he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven," Mk. 13:27.
EVERLASTING LIFE AND EVERLASTING HELL
"And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life", Matthew 25:46.
The Final Judgment of Christ will culminate in the separation of the just in everlasting life from the unjust in everlasting punishment. The just will inherit the Kingdom of God, the unjust the state of Hades. This separation will be final; there will be no possibility of those in Hades being restored. Man's limited mind cannot adequately distinguish between the love of God and the everlasting punishment of His "fallen sons". The joy of the just and the punishment of the unjust will vary according to their faith and good works, for "he (Christ) will repay every man for what he has done", Mt. 16:27, and "each shall receive his wages according to his labor," 1 Cor. 3:8 (read 2 Cor. 9:6; 1 Cor. 15:41-43; Mt. 10:15). Punishment will also vary, for "he who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating," Lk. 12:47-48.
WHEREABOUTS AND CONDITION OF JOY AND PUNISHMENT
"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you," John 14:2.
The whereabouts and condition of joy and punishment cannot be understood by man's finite mind. Therefore, the real condition, place or state of the future life is not known to man. The Bible reveals this in a vague manner, that "for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood," 1 Cor. 13:12. The Bible verses that figuratively refer to this state of joy and punishment are: "unfading crown of glory," 1 Pe. 5:4; "glorious throne," Mt. 25:31; "furnace of fire," Mt. 13:42; "hell of fire," Mt. 5:22; "eternal fire," Mt. 25:4; In the Final Judgment, Christ will come "with power and great glory," to fulfill and complete the final destination of creation. Christ will be manifest in His kingly and glorious judgment, remaining eternally, "of his kingdom there will be no end," Lk. 1:33. Christ's kingly power and sovereignty invested in Him to conquer the enemies of God will come to an end: "then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom of God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet . . . when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to everyone," 1 Cor. 15:24-26, 28. After the Final Judgment, when the opposition to evil powers ceases to be, the kingly energy and power of Christ will come to an end so that Almighty God, the Creator of the Universe, will reign over His whole Kingdom for eternity.
MAN'S PREPARATION FOR ETERNAL LIFE
"Watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man," Luke 21:36.
The faithful Christian's burning question, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mk. 10:17), is constant. We all feel the need of redemption and know that it comes from God alone, knowing it cannot be procured any other way. The only answer to this question is to sacrifice oneself, to deny oneself through obedience to the commandments of Christ. This sacrifice of love is an indication of accepting the redemption given freely by God. It is necessary for one to cultivate the desire for eternal life as Christ Himself exhorts the believer to "watch and pray," Mt. 26:41. It is imperative for each one of us to be prepared in faith to the True God, in love of neighbor, especially the "least," in self control and pious and devoted good works. This humbleness and obedience to the Will of God are our preparation for the partial judgment right after death and the judgment at the Second Coming of Christ, for "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all things shall be yours as well," Mt. 6:33.
The Consummation of the World, the Second Coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead, is a truth of the Bible and must be seriously considered and understood by every Christian. Christ said: "The word I have spoken will be his judge on the last day," Jn. 12:48. The Christian considers the day of his death the great day of Judgment, according to the Gospel and the word of Jesus Christ. It is imperative, then, for the Christian to learn what Christ is asking us to do. If you believe in Him, you will obey Him; if you do not believe in Him, everything is in vain. But the Consummation of the World is a truth, no matter what one believes. However, if someone does not believe in the immortality of the soul, he is not a Christian and everything in and around the Church has no significance. The immortality of the soul is imperative for a Christian. If he accepts this, all things that follow are easily believed.
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