THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
JESUS' TEACHINGS ON THE SECOND COMING
Introduction to Jesus' Teachings on the Second Coming
Why study Jesus' teachings on the second coming? Like Dr. Cunningham said, "More Christians claim to be authorities on the books of Genesis and Revelation than over any other books in the Bible; yet these are the 2 books we know the least about." Moreover, this topic tends to be controversial among Christians. Should we stay away from such controversial topics? Also, isn't this just a waste of time? What benefits come out of this kind of study? Finally, can't this be a scary topic?
I have several responses to these concerns:
First, the NT devotes approximately one seventh of its space to discussing the second coming of Christ. Only the doctrine of Christ receives more attention in the NT. In fact with the exception of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), it is the longest sermon of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. If the NT feels that this topic is so important, as seen in the amount of space it devotes to this subject, shouldn't we give it appropriate attention?
Second, so what if the topic is controverisal? Do we stay away from other topics which are controversial, such as, is baptism necessary for salvation, are the bread and juice in the Lord's Supper literally the body and blood of Christ, etc.? Why single out this topic when we do deal with other controversial topics?
Third, simply because we may not agree on this subject, we don't have to be combative. In fact you will discover that there is a lot of common ground among the different conservative views on Jesus' second coming. Let's acknowledge that there are some areas in which we will disagree and yet also realize that we agree more than we disagree.
Fourth, is it a waste of time? No, because this topic should affect our daily lives. Many Christians are barely hanging on--life is just that tough. This topic should encourage them to persevere (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11). In fact, whatever else the Book of Revelation is about, it is encouraging Christians to hang in there no matter how hard it gets.
Finally, if the view I believe is true about Jesus' return, then the events preceding it ARE going to be scary for Christians. Yet the truth is that as scary as the events are which precede Jesus' return, what follows Jesus' return is going to make the scary events worth it. Something marvelous is coming down the pike after Jesus returns. Anything which precedes it is going to be worth it.
JESUS' RETURN CONSUMMATES GOD'S PLAN IN HISTORY
The main purpose Jesus returns is to FINISH what God has begun. Below are some areas in God's plan which Jesus has come to consummate:
The Rule of Christ: According to Matthew 28:18 what happened to Jesus after He was crucified and rose from the dead?
Yet do we right now see all things subjected beneath the lordship of Jesus?
According to Philippians 2:9-11 what will happen after Jesus comes back?
How extensive will be the rule of Christ? John writes: "And He shall rule them with a rod of iron as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces" (Rev. 19:15).
The Blessing and the End of the Curse: According to Matt. 5:3 Jesus came to bl_ _ _ us. What is done away with once and for all after Jesus returns (Rev. 22:3)?
Conformity to the Image of Christ: When God saves us, what is God's will for us according to Rom. 8:29?
What will happen to us when Jesus returns (Philippians 3:21)?
Again John writes: Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that when He appears we shall be like Him because we shall see Him just as He is" (1 John 3:2).
Heaven and Earth: What was God's first act in creation (Gen. 1:1)?
For example, God is not finished with the universe. According to the Second Law of Thermodynamics the universe is constantly breaking down. It day it will run out of steam. This shows that the universe is not completed according to God's standards.
What will God do to the heavens and the earth upon the return of Christ (Rev. 21:1, 5)?
The Greek word translated "new" in Rev. 21:1 does not mean an entirely new heaven and entirely new earth. It refers to newness in kind, not newness in time. For example, a baby is new in time; however, when you step out of the shower after a hard day's work, you feel "new" in the sense of newness in kind. These are the same heaven and earth; however, they have been so radically transformed that they are for all practical purposes new (in kind). (Look closely at Rom. 8:18-25 for a fuller development of this thought.)
Satan and His Hosts: What did Jesus do on the cross to the demonic forces (Col. 2:15)?
When He returns, what will Christ do to the demonic forces (Rev. 20:10)?
Think of the cross as D-Day and the return of Christ as the conquest of Berlin. In order to defeat Nazi Germany, the Allied forces needed to get a foothold on the Continent. Once they got that foothold, it was only a matter of time before the Allies conquered Germany. D-Day was not the end of Nazi Germany; however, it spelled the end of Hitler's regime. In the same way the cross did not finish off Satan; however, it spelled the end of Satan's reign here on earth. Now it is just a matter of time before Jesus returns and conducts a mop-up operation on Satan and his forces.
IMPORTANT TERMS TO KNOW REGARDING JESUS' RETURN
Below are listed some key terms used when speaking about Jesus' second coming. Beside each of the terms write down what you think these terms refer to?
Abomination of Desolation
The Great Tribulation
ISSUES WHICH MUST BE ADDRESSED IN FORMING A VIEW REGARDING JESUS' RETURN
Unfortunately many times Christians throw caution to the wind and rush in as they study the return of Christ. That is one of the reasons there are so many different interpretations to the second coming. As we look at Jesus' teachings on this subject, we need to address certain issues Jesus raises regarding the second coming. Any view which does not take these issues into account needs to be seriously questioned.
According to Matt. 24:32-33 will you know if Jesus is about to return? If so, why will you know it? If not, why not?
What will not happen to the generation of Jesus' day (Matt. 24:34)?
This verse really troubles many Christians. They fear that Jesus here may be mistaken because it seems like the events of Matt. 24 have not yet occurred, and yet Jesus said that His generation would see them occur. Well, that generation passed away and did not experience these events.
Assuming that Jesus' generation did not experience these events is where these people go wrong. The truth is that Jesus' generation did experience these events, as Luke 21 points out. Jesus did come in vengeance upon the Jewish nation for rejecting Him; the city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
Moreover, this is not the only coming of Christ in history--to bring about judgment and to save His people. Do we think we won WW2 because we were smarter than the Germans? I don't think so. Were we just lucky because Hitler fell prey to our ruse and refused to send his panzer tank divisions against the landing in Normandy on D-Day? Was Europe just better fighters than the Muslims in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and even 15th and 16th centuries, thereby preventing Islam from destroying Christian Europe?
The Christian view of history sees the struggle going on constantly between Satan and Christ. Several antichrists have arisen throughout history--Judas Iscariot (John 17:12 where Judas is called "the son of perdition"); the antichrists of 1 John 2:18; Domitian the Roman emperor of Revelation (see Rev. 1:9 where John says that he is going through the tribulation); the Islamic caliphs who tried to destroy Christianity; Hitler; and Stalin. Paul says this very thing when he writes that whereas the Antichrist will emerge at the last day before Jesus returns, the spirit of antichrist is already at work (2 Thess. 2:7; 1 John 2:18).
Does this mean that Jesus is not coming back again? No, the struggle between Christ and Satan is going to climax with the final emergence of Antichrist whose work will lead to the final, physical return of Christ. But do not discount these other returns. They are God's way of assuring us that Jesus is going to return in one final, dramatic fashion.
Both of these are critical issues which each view needs to address.
Finally, according to Jesus what will no man know (Matt. 24:36)?