Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures
by H.P. MANSFIELD
(18) The Purpose of Christ's Second Coming
Misconceptions of His Coming.
It is unfortunately true, that though frequent reference is made to the second coming of Christ in the Bible, it is misunderstood even by some who believe and teach it.
On the other hand there is much scepticism shown in regard to it, fulfilling the prophecy of 2 Peter 3:3-4:
"Know this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming . . ."
Obviously, if the souls of the faithful ascend to heaven at death, there is little need for Christ to return to the earth, but we have seen, in earlier studies, that the current teaching of the immortality of the soul, and heaven going at death is completely false.
Some who proclaim the second coming of Christ teach that he will never be seen because he possesses an invisible body. Others again affirm that he will not actually return to the earth, but will come half-way, and will withdraw from the earth those accounted worthy to rule, and that ultimately the heaven and earth will be destroyed!
They do not reveal why God should thus destroy his own creation, and particularly the heavens, nor where everybody will dwell whilst both heavens and earth are destroyed. Again, as we have suggested earlier, this doctrine is based upon a wrong interpretation of figurative expressions of Scripture.
We propose, in this study, to set out a summary of Bible teaching relating to Christ's return, and his work on earth.
1. Christ will return personally and visibly to the earth.
"We shall see him" (1 John 3:2).
"Every eye shall see him" (Rev. 1:7).
"This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come IN LIKE MANNER as ye have SEEN HIM GO into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
"He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:20-21).
The literal and visible return of the Lord to earth is distinctly implied by the prophecy of Zechariah 12:10. Referring to the ultimate conversion of the Jews, the prophet declared: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced" (Zech. 12:10), and they shall "say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands?" (Zech. 13:6).
The wounds referred to are those that convinced Thomas that his Lord had risen from the dead (John 20:24-29), and they will also convince the Jewish people at his return.
The disciples "handled" the risen Christ (1 John 1:1), they saw a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39 -- though not of blood for it was energised by God's spirit -- 1 Cor. 15:45, 50), they saw him ascend bodily into heaven (Acts 1:9), and they were told he would return in like manner (v. 11).
2. Christ will return to raise the responsible dead and reward the worthy with eternal life.
The responsible are those who know the will of God, whether they obey it or not, and such will be raised to judgment (John 12:48). Both just and unjust will be brought before the judgment seat of Christ (Acts 24:15), The faithful will receive life eternal (Daniel 12:2-3; 1 Cor. 15:49-53; Rom. 2:7,16; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10-11), whilst the unworthy will be consigned to the "second death" (Rev. 2:11). Thus the alternative is to receive eternal life, or to perish for ever (John 3:15).
From 1 Peter 4:17 we conclude that the judgment of the household of faith will precede that which Christ will then proceed to pour out upon the world of the ungodly (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
3. He will manifest his power at Armageddon.
Having judged the household of faith, Christ will move against the world at large in company with some of the glorified redeemed (Psalm 149:4-9; Zechariah 14:1-5). The nations will be gathered together against Jerusalem for war (Zechariah 14:1-2), but they shall be scattered before the glory of Christ, and turning their weapons one upon another, will wreak mutual destruction (Ezekiel 38:21-23).
4. Christ will set up his power in Jerusalem.
Christ will enter Jerusalem as King, to make it the metropolis of his earthly rule (Joel 3:16; Isaiah 24:23; Jer. 3:17; Matt. 5:35). He will bring the Jewish people in the land under his control (Zech. 12:7); and will then restore all those still remaining in the countries of their dispersion (Ezek. 39:25-29; ch. 37). They will accept him as king, and embracing his means of salvation, will be incorporated as the first dominion in the empire Christ will set up (Ezek. 37:21-23; 36:24-38; Jer. 31:31-34; Micah 4:6-7; 7:18-20). Israel will then be reorganised into its twelve tribes once again (Ezekiel 45).
"I would not that ye should be ignorant of this mystery . . . that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all (i.e. all the tribes) of Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes" (Rom. 11:25-28).
Paul's statement that the Israel referred to are "enemies" of the gospel but "beloved for the fathers' sakes" reveals that the practise of identifying the Israel, to be restored as spiritual Israel, the followers of Christ, (as do such sects as the Jehovah's Witnesses) is completely fallacious.
5. Christ will extend his power from Jerusalem throughout the earth.
Having established his power in Jerusalem, Christ will issue a proclamation to all nations calling upon them to submit to his rule (Psalm 2:10-12; Isaiah 14:32; Rev. 14:7). Those nations that accept the summons will be incorporated in his growing empire (Isaiah 60:9); those nations that reject him will be compelled by conquest to submit (Isa. 60:12; Zech. 10:3-6; 9:13).
Thus, gradually, in ever widening circles the kingdom of God will spread throughout the earth. Its symbol, in the prophecy of Daniel, is that of a stone that grows into a mountain, and fills the whole earth (Daniel 2). Interpreting this, the prophet declared:
"The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44).
During this same period, Christ will supervise the building of a Temple in Jerusalem, to act as a House of Prayer for all nations. This will become the rallying point that will unite all people under God and His Son (Zech. 6:12-13; Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17; Zephaniah 3:8-9). Periodical pilgrimage will be made to Jerusalem by peoples of all nations, for the purpose of Divine worship (Zechariah 8:22-23; 14:16).
6. Christ's millenial reign will last for one thousand years.
Whilst there will be "no end" to the kingdom Christ will set up on earth (Luke 1:32-33), there will be changes of administration. The world will enjoy one thousand years of peace (Revelation 20:4), during which time, the righteous regime of Christ will bring material and spiritual blessings to all people.
Men will be united in worship and in peace (Isa. 2:2-4). Conditions in the earth will be drastically changed to provide for conditions in which mankind will be a mutual blessing instead of a mutual curse.
The rulers, during that period, will be immortal (Rev. 5:9-10; 2:26), though the ruled will be mortal (Isa. 65:17-22). The latter, however, will be able to work out their salvation unto eternal life, which will be granted them at the end of the thousand years reign of Christ.
7. A Second resurrection at the end of the Millenium.
During the Millenium, sin (personified as satan) will be greatly restrained (Rev. 20:2-3), and the life span greatly extended (Isa. 65:20). Sin will be restrained, both by the open revelation of God to guide the people, as well as by the enforcing of divine law by rulers who will have the ability to read the hearts of the people, and prevent disobedience before it occurs (see Isaiah 30:21). At the close of the millenium, however, this disciplinary action will be relaxed, enabling all to give expression to their personal desires, and demonstrate their continuing loyalty to God and to Christ, or otherwise.
Some will remain faithful, but human nature being what it is, others will oppose the rule of Christ (Rev. 20:9; Isa. 26:10). Judgment unto death will be poured out upon the latter (Rev. 20:9), leaving the faithful alone living. This will be followed by a general resurrection of all others who have died during the millenium, and they likewise will be judged (Rev. 20:12). Eternal life will be given the faithful, whilst the unfaithful will be consigned to the second death.
The completion of the judgment, therefore, will see death itself eliminated from the earth, which will, in consequence, reflect completely to the glory of its Creator (Num. 14:21).
At that time, a perfected world will be delivered unto God by Jesus Christ, that He might be "all in all."
Thus the story of the Bible which commences with the statement: "In the beginning, God . . ." is completed with the declaration: "God shall be all in all . . ." The long era of sin and death will have been brought to a close with a glorified creation upon a globe that will reflect praise to its Creator.
Three epochs of resurrection are set forth by Paul which reveal the developing stages (1 Corinthians 15:19-28):
Paul summarises the future work of Christ in the following terms:
"He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death . . . And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him (i.e. unto, God), that God may be all in all."
The above epitome should correct some false ideas that are current concerning the future work of Christ upon the earth.
QUESTIONS TO STUDY No. 18