STUDIES ON THE SECOND COMING
THE ON-GOING CONFLICT BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
Unfortunately whenever people start to study the Second Coming of Christ, they immediately to go the Book of Revelation and plunge in without any preparation. The result has been disastrous for Christians for the past 2,000 years. This study does not mean to imply that it has all the answers. Rather it is trying to take into account the many different elements which go into the study of the second coming of Christ and not just one.
The main problem that I have with most of the systems on the second coming is that they are too small. Each and every one of them does tap into truth. For example, the academic circles I ran around with in seminary made fun of the major view of the vast majority of conservative Christians in the U.S. I do disagree with one of the major premises of these conservative Christians regarding the timing of the rapture; HOWEVER, I believe that they have added something major to the discussion of the second coming—the role of the Jew in the end times. In the same way the circles I ran around with believed that all of Revelation except for chapters 21-22 occurred during the days of the Roman Empire. I think there is some truth to that; however, it’s probably not the whole truth as we shall see later. We want to develop a system which covers ALL the verses and not just some select verses. If ALL the Bible is God’s Word, then we need to take ALL of it into account and not just the portions which suit us.
It is with deep humility that we should approach this subject. Greater minds than you and I have dealt with this issue and have come out with different conclusions than what we will probably come out with. HOWEVER, that has not kept us in the past from breaking with these great minds. If we don’t go on the basis of what we believe the Scripture is saying, then we might as well go and rejoin the Roman Church.
WHY STUDY THE SECOND COMING?
Well, if we are not going to be able to prove 100% our view, if this is a controversial subject, then why study it in the first place? Quite simply because of how important this subject is. Whatever else is true about Christianity, this much is true: it is an end-time religion. Christians who claim that we just need to concentrate on the here-and-now have robbed Christianity of its heartbeat. The future should affect us right now, especially the way we live.
For example, few people realize the element of the future in the Holy Spirit. We just believe that the Spirit came to live within us when Jesus came and that He gives gifts to us right now so that we can really grow as Christians. That is true up to a point. The end times to a great extent though is about what the Holy Spirit does. Karl Barth, the great 20th-century Swiss theologian, claimed that whenever you say the Holy Spirit, you’ve said the last thing. In the O.T. God pours out His Spirit upon mankind and the universe to bring in the new order, the new heavens and the new earth.
Another reason we should study the second coming is that this topic takes up no less than 20% of the NT. To refuse to study 20% of the NT seems dubious in the least. For these reasons we will study the second coming—with humility—but we should and will study it.
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL
The second coming of Christ needs to be set into its widest context. Too often the second coming is viewed as being little more than a 7-year conflict between the Jews and the Antichrist preceded by the rapture. It is far greater than that. Actually the conflict is not ultimately between the Antichrist and God’s people. It is the culmination of the conflict which has been going on since the serpent deceived Eve in the Garden and God placed hostility between her seed and the serpent.
John, reinforced by Paul, pictures it in terms of light and darkness. After Eve ushered in sin, the world was plunged into great spiritual darkness. Eventually the light of a candle was lit in the nation of Israel; however, for the most part the world was in darkness. With the coming of Jesus into the world, spiritual light entered into the world. Now you would think that once light entered, the darkness would be dispelled. Not so. In this case light and darkness are co-existing. That might seem strange; however, we see light and darkness co-existing every day, in fact twice each day: at dawn and at dusk. In this instance we are living at the dawn of time. Why not at the dusk? Because dusk means that it is about to go into utter darkness, whereas dawn means that the light is about to increase to the full strength of the noon-day sun. Until Christ returns, we will be living at the dawn of time. When He does return, we shall enter into the full light of noon.
Now there is one difference between physical light/darkness and spiritual light/darkness. Whereas physical light and darkness are neutral, that is, neither is evil nor good, spiritual light is good and spiritual darkness is evil. Moreover, both spiritual light and spiritual darkness are aggressive. Evil (darkness) is fighting against the light (good). We see this battle in Revelation 12. Unfortunately many of us have been influenced by Milton’s Paradise Lost and not by the Scriptures when it comes to this battle. After the creation of the universe Satan does lead in a revolt against God and the angelic hosts. Satan though is still given access to heaven (Job 1-2). Upon the birth of Christ Satan attempts to destroy the Christ-child (see Rev. 12:4). After God saves the Christ thru the resurrection, Satan launches a full-scale war against Christ in heaven (12:7). There he is defeated and once and for all is thrown out of heaven to the earth. At this point we hear not only great rejoicing in heaven but also great sadness:
“Rejoice, O Heavens, and you who dwell in them.
Woe to the earth and the sea,
Because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath,
Knowing that he has only a short time” (Rev. 12:12).
From this point on we see a rabid attack against the followers of Jesus: “And the dragon [Satan] was enraged and went off to make war with . . . [the] offspring who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17).
Because evil is aggressive and is on the march, Christianity is a fighting religion. It doesn’t just sit and wait for Satan to attack, Christians are to be on the offensive against this demonic force (see 2 Cor. 10:5). Ephesians which speaks about the demonic cosmic forces as much as any other book in the NT (other than Revelation) emphasizes what our response should be to this cosmic battle. We are to take up the full armor of God that we may resist in the evil day. We are to be cheerful crusaders for Christ who are taking the good fight to the forces of Satan. The second coming of Christ is basically bringing to a climax and concluding the great struggle which has been going on for millennia.
HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOU