Bibliano and Amigo: Discussions on Eschatology (Lesson #6, Second Coming)

AMIGO: Oh, boy. I can hardly wait. Jesus is coming soon! This messed up planet needs Him here.

BIBLIANO: So, you think that the Second Coming passages in the Bible mean that Jesus will literally appear in the future as a “five foot five” Jewish man walking around the streets of Jerusalem?

AMIGO: Sure. Like it says in Revelation 1:7, “every eye will see Him.”

BIBLIANO: There may be some things you are missing here. First of all, does “every eye” include the Eskimos in Alaska and other remote people groups? Really? Second, Jesus said in numerous places that his “coming” was imminent in the first century. Take time to look up these passages: Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34; 26:64; Mark 8:38-9:1. He placed his “coming” while some of those living at the time were still alive and coincident with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Also check out Luke 21:20-24, 32.

AMIGO: Well, yes. I have run across those passages, but they cannot mean what they say.

BIBLIANO: Well, if these passages do not mean what they clearly say, why does every New Testament writer affirm their expectation of Jesus’ “return” in their lifetimes?

AMIGO: You’re kidding. Is that true?

BIBLIANO: Not kidding. It’s all right there if you read the Bible for all its worth. Do you realize that there are over 100 passages in the New Testament that affirm the last days’ events would culminate within the lifetimes of those living in the first century? Here are a few which you really ought to consider: 1 Corinthians 1:7-8; 7:29; 10:11; 15:51; Philippians 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10; 2:14-19; 4:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; 10:25; 10:37 (in a “very, very little while”) James 5:7-8; 1 Peter 4:7, 17; 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:17-18. Even the passage in Revelation that you cite is surrounded by imminence guarantees—“must shortly take place” and “the time is near.” The book of Revelation ends the same way with “I am coming soon.” There are many, many more. It is incontrovertible that the first century Christians expected Jesus’ return in their lifetimes.

AMIGO: I just don’t know how to deal with this.

BIBLIANO: It boils down to this: Either Jesus and the writers of the New Testament were false prophets, or Jesus did in fact return in the time and manner He predicted, but many Christians have misunderstood what He meant.

AMIGO: This is making my head spin. I cannot countenance that our Lord was wrong.

BIBLIANO: That’s the point. Jesus was not wrong. My friend, it is really not that difficult. We have touched on this in previous lessons. The language of New Testament biblical prophecy is filled with the same language as the Old Testament—such as “coming on clouds with angels and trumpets” accompanied by CONVULSIONS OF THE CREATED ORDER. This is standard biblical prophetic language when God comes to effect change— usually judgment upon people groups. These poetic references are often call “Hebraic apocalyptic language.” There are dozens of such passages in the Old Testament. Charles Meek’s book has an extensive list, but just consider such passages as Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 13; 19:1-4; Micah 1:3-13; Nahum 1:2-5; and Zephaniah 1:14-18. Scholars agree that, at least, most of these were fulfilled in the past. No one saw God, but saw what He did. This is exactly what Jesus was predicting about his “return.” He was promising judgment upon the first century Jews to usher out the visible fabric of the Old Covenant order with the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

AMIGO: But don’t some Christians think that Jesus came in one sense in AD 70, but will come again in a different sense at the end of time?

BIBLIANO: To reach that conclusion, one has to read something into the text that isn’t there. The Bible only speaks of one Second Coming.

AMIGO: OK, but doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus would return in a physical body?

BIBLIANO: Interestingly, the Bible never specifically says that Jesus would return in a “physical body.” Again, people are making assumptions that are not valid. We need to stick with biblical terminology.

AMIGO: I’m going to have to let the Bible itself speak to me, I guess, rather than the teachers of today who know less about this than even I do.

BIBLIANO: Here’s another very interesting thing. Whether we are to believe this or not, at least four ancient historians—Josephus, Tacitus, Eusebius, and the Jewish Talmud— recorded that chariots in the clouds were seen above Jerusalem in or around AD 66 when the Jewish-Roman War began. This is more evidence that the visibility requirement was satisfied.

AMIGO: What else am I missing?

BIBLIANO: Perhaps the most important thing is that the Greek word most associated the “Second Coming” is the noun PAROUSIA. This word literally means “presence” (as opposed to absence). This is good news, my friend. Those Christians who look for a future PAROUSIA have to conclude that Jesus is not now with us! The preterist view is that Jesus is present with us NOW as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His work is complete. Further, we can be confident of our salvation and do not wait for a future “Second Coming” to secure it (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 1:3-9).

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