How Many Second Comings Are There?

Between the recent article concerning the pre-wrath rapture and the recent availability of the “History of the Future” book on Amazon, I’ve been spending a good deal of time dealing with eschatological matters.  In the process, I’ve bumped into an argument that is shared by advocates of pretty much every other position than premil/pretrib.  It goes like this —

The pretribulational position asserts that Jesus will return for His church before the seven year tribulation and then return years later to accomplish His wrath and establish His kingdom.  So, just how many "second comings" are there???

The assumption behind the argument is that Christ can and will only return to Earth once and do whatever needs doing at that time.  Otherwise, there’s more than one “second coming.”  There’s a “third coming,” or maybe even a fourth. Hence, no pretrib rapture.

I’d like to respond.

The phrase “second coming” isn’t in the Bible.  The closest we get to that phrase in Hebrews 9:28, which reads —

“So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

We think in terms of the first and second comings of Christ in order to differentiate His incarnation and ministry (including His death, burial,  resurrection, and ascension) from His promised return.

Now, in order to think biblically about Christ’s “second time” appearance, let’s consider what happened the first time around.  And let’s ask the question: How many “appearances” make up His “first coming”?

Let’s count the period from Christ’s birth to His resurrection as one comprehensive whole — His life, so to speak. Immediately after His resurrection, He would not let Mary touch Him, stating, “I have not yet ascended to the Father.”  (John 20:17)  But soon after, in a matter of days, when He appeared in the midst of His disciples, Jesus invited Thomas to touch Him (John 20:27).  We can safely assume that He had been to His Father.  He left the planet and returned.  

So, is that a “second coming” or is it part of the first? We all count it as part of His first coming. Christ’s “first coming” has multiple appearances. Like His later appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:31-35) And later, He stood in their midst as they recounted the story (Luke 24:36).

He appeared again to Peter and another six apostles by the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1-14).  Later, after His ascension back to Heaven, Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8).  In fact, Saul (whose name was changed to Paul) argued that his apostleship was based in the fact that he had actually seen the Lord (1Cor. 9:1) after multiple other appearances —

“… He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” (1Cor. 15:5-8)

Time passes.  Best history and tradition tell us that Paul died somewhere in the mid-to-late 60’s AD.  His fifth missionary journey ended around 67 AD, after which he was beheaded by Nero.  Meanwhile, the apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos under the reign of Domitian, sometime around 90-92 AD.  And who appeared to him?  Jesus again.  Somewhere in the range of sixty years after His ascension, Jesus appeared to John to impart the information we call the book of Revelation.

How many appearances is that now?

Here’s my point — if the “first coming” of Christ included multiple appearances to different people, in different situations, for different reasons, including calling John up to Heaven (Rev. 4:1), over a period of time that spanned 60 years, then I don’t see any inconsistency with the idea that Jesus could appear to (and for) His church and later return in judgment.  Both of those events would comfortably fit into what we call the “second coming.”

After all, He did it the first time.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “How Many Second Comings Are There?”

  1. Excellent points, Pastor Jim! It will help clarify the distinction between us meeting the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17) and His feet standing on Mount of Olives at the second coming (Zech. 14:4, 5).

    I have to say, as someone who is relatively new in the reformed faith, it is the amillenialist and post-millenialist perspectives that I do not understand. Just don’t see them in the word… or even how people get there.

    Praying for you and your ministry!

  2. Good feast here, Brother Jim. I praise the Lord for the Holy Spirit’s ministry in you and GCA.

    Another consideration to add to the ‘first appearance’ camp, could be all of those times in the Old Testament where we see a physical (unnamed) appearance of Christ like with Adam in the garden, or with Abraham overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah, to name a few.

    Or maybe we’d categorize these as a ‘pre-appearance’.

    Personally, I see all of these appearances, throughout Scripture, as a painting in the Word of the omnipresence of our God.

    Deut 31:6 (YLT) says, “be strong and courageous, fear not, nor be terrified because of them, *for Jehovah thy God is He who is going with thee;* He doth not fail thee nor forsake thee.”

  3. I am just going to throw in my 2 cents, but I think that maybe some get tripped up with this because they are trying to hold on to certain things while reading scripture. Can I just throw in a few verses here that I think might be the cause? Of course, you are the pastor so maybe you can clear this up. By the way, I do agree with you. I think Jesus between all His Christophanies in the OT and what you have cited from the NT prove that He cannot be placed in a box. Here are the verses:

    “[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… . He put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
    – Ephesians 1:20–23
    But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
    – Luke 22:69
    “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
    – Matt. 26:64
    You see I think that folks take this to mean Jesus is at the Right hand of the Father and doesn’t move….I think that this is more of a position of sovereignty and power. What do you think?

  4. I think part of the problem that is of concern about the second coming of the Lord is that we in the church have looked to assumptions and non scriptural evidence to judge the return of the Lord rather than what Jesus actually taught himself. In Matthew 24 Jesus gives a relatively clear picture of what his coming would be like.

    It seems that there are several notable aspects to his coming that are stated. First, the sun will be darkened and the moon not give its light (Matthew 24:29. Second, the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven
    (Matthew 24:30a). Finally, the Lord will appear on the clouds of heaven in power and great glory (Matthew 24:29b). The above seems to be the expectation for the Lord’s coming or second coming. He speaks in several places of the coming of the Son of Man with the use of a definite article as if there is one and only one coming of the Son of Man.

    It seems that in the passages of scripture where the coming of the Son of Man is mentioned the same Greek word parousia (Strong’s 3952) is used.

    The word parousia carries a definition of an arrival with a presence. The same Greek word seems to be used 16 times in the scriptures when referring to Jesus’ return. One of the more interesting places where parosia appears is in I Thessalonians 4:15. Essentially, those who are alive and remain in verse 15 are the same ones who are caught up in verse 17. Since the definite article the is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 in referring to the coming of the Lord the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 are a part of the parousia or coming of the Son of Man that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24. They are part of the Second Coming of the Lord.

    For many in the church our gaze of faith has simply and subtlety shifted to expect Revelation 19:11-16 to define the coming of the Lord instead of Matthew 24. If one does a carful comparison of the passages of Matthew 24 and Revelation 19:11-16 it might become apparent the the verses of scripture are not describing the same event. Whereas the sun and moon are darkened in the Matthew passage, they are not even mentioned in the Revelation passage. In addition, in the Matthew passage Jesus speaks of coming in the clouds whereas the Revelation passage does not even mention clouds.

    One final distinctive is found in the Revelation passage that is not mentioned in Matthew. That is the blood on Jesus robe. Revelation 19:12 speaks of Jesus’ robe dipped in blood. It seems that Isaiah 63:1-6 may have an answer. It appears the Isaiah is referring to the time when Jesus descends the Mount of Olives into the Kidron Valley. If that is the case, then when heaven opens and we see “by faith” the blood on Jesus robe it indicates that he had already been on the earth previously and returned to heaven to gather the saints.

    Zechariah 14:12 speaks of those who come against Jerusalem that “their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet. Revelation 14:18-20 speaks of the wine press of the wrath of God, “and blood came out of the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles,” Revelation 14:20, so there would be plenty of opportunity for Jesus’ to get blood on his robe in defending his covenant people at Jerusalem. The Isaiah passage says that “I have trodden the winepress alone.” Implying that Jesus will be alone at the point of being on the Mount of Olives when he treads out the grapes of the wrath of alrighty God.

    Even CI Scofield makes a note of Isaiah 63:1-6 to supposedly support the context of the blood on Jesus’ robe in Revelation 19:11-16. The reference is apparently in his 1909 and 1917 reference notes.

    There are some things regarding the coming of the Lord that the church is not yet in common agreement with. However, there is time for the church to review the scriptures as a whole and to talk this matter over and to agree with the scriptures and prepare for an uncommon walk of faith at the end of the age.

  5. My apologies to Pastor Jim if some of what was included in my earlier post was deemed not appropriate in content although it was presented in the context of the scriptures.
    I would like to try a different approach to the matter of the return of the Lord than I shared earlier on this thread.

    There seems to be several Greek words that help us understand various parts of the end time narrative including the return or coming of the Lord. Here they are: 1) Parousia- arrival with a presence (Strong’s 3952) 2) orgs-wrath with a nuance of punishment by a magistrate (Strong’s 3709) 3) Thymos-wrath (Strong’s 2372)
    4) apantisis-meet (Strong’s 0529) 5) charagma-a mark that is stamped branded or a graven image (Strong’s 5480). There are more words than this that are helpful to know about but the above are some that I have spent a little time with. I am not a Greek scholar but, have come to realize that if I rely on an understanding of the meaning of the words in the English context alone I will get one understanding, of a passage or theme but if I also examine a dictionary like Strong’s a slightly different or enhanced definition will emerge.

    For the word parousia, a noun there appears to be about 16 references with respect to the return of the Lord and one additional one using parousia with the Lord’s first coming. Starting with Matthew 24 moving through I Thessalonians 4:15 and II Thessalonians 2:1 I have discovered that the parousia of Matthew is the same as in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and
    Thessalonians 2:1. Because of the definite article (in English) with in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and in Matthew 24 referring to “the coming” of the Son of Man and “the coming” of the Lord, this links the catching up in I Thessalonians 4:17 to the coming of the Lord in Matthew 24. The catching up is an event of the parousia.

    1. Joseph — Sorry, I wasn’t purposefully avoiding approving your first note. I usually receive an email when new comments arrive. But, something’s amiss. So, your comment, along with several others, languished in the queue without my knowledge. Anyway, thanks for your feedback.

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