The Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ

 

Ryrie - Boettner - Erickson - Ladd - Boice - Campbell - Grier - Pieper

 


 

CHARLES C. RYRIEThe importance of eschatologylast thingsprophecy

For the believer, the knowledge of prophecy (a) provides joy in the midst of affliction (2Cor. 4:17), (b) cleanses and encourages holy living (1John 3:3), (c) is profitable, like all Scripture, for a number of important needs in the Christian's life (2Tim. 3:16-17), (d) gives facts about life after death (2Cor. 5:8), (e) gives truth about the end of history, (f) gives proof of the reliability of all Scripture, for the number of prophecies that have come to pass precisely as predicted cannot be accounted for by chance but only by God, (g) draws our hearts out in worship to the God who is in complete control and who will accomplish His will in history. To slight prophecy is to miss these benefits.[1]


LORAINE BOETTNERThere are three general systems.

Broadly speaking there are three general systems which profess to set forth the teaching of Scripture regarding the Second Coming of Christ and the future course of the Kingdom. They are: Postmillennialism, Amillennialism, and Premillennialism.

The essential presuppositions of each system are similar.

The essential presuppositions of the three systems are Similar. Each holds that the Scriptures are the word of God and authoritative. Each holds to the same general concept of the death of Christ as a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and as the only ground for the salvation of souls. Each holds that there will be a future, visible, personal Coming of Christ. Each holds that every individual is to receive a resurrection body, that all are to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that the righteous are to be rewarded in heaven, and that the wicked are to be punished in hell. Each of the systems is, therefore, consistently evangelical, and each has been held by many able and sincere men. The differences arise, not because of any conscious or intended disloyalty to Scripture, but primarily because of the distinctive method employed by each system in its interpretation of Scripture, and they relate primarily to the time and purpose of Christ's coming and to the kind of kingdom that is to be set up at His coming. [2]

It should be remembered, however, that while Post –, A –, and Premillennialists differ in regard to the manner and time of Christ's return, that is, in regard to the events that are to precede or follow His return, they agree in regard to the fact that He will return personally and visibly and in great glory. Each alike looks for "the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). Each acknowledges Paul's statement that, "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God" (I Thess. 4:16). Christ's return is taught so clearly and so repeatedly in Scripture that there can be no question in this regard for those who accept the Bible as the word of God. They also agree that at His coming He will raise the dead, execute judgment, and eventually institute the eternal state. No one of these views has an inherent liberalizing tendency. Hence the matters on which they agree are much more important than those on which they differ. This fact should enable them to cooperate as evangelicals and to present a united front against Modernists and Liberals who more or less consistently deny the supernatural throughout the whole range of Bible truth. [3]

 

MILLARD J. ERICKSONOne eschatological doctrine on which orthodox theologians most agree.

With the exception of the certainty of death, the one eschatological doctrine on which orthodox theologians most agree is the second coming of Christ. It is indispensable to eschatology [last things]. It is the basis of the Christian's hope, the one event which will mark the beginning of the completion of God's plan. [4]

 

GEORGE ELDON LADDTwo great invasions of God into history.

The point we are now making is that, contrary to outward appearances, the life of Jesus of Nazareth embodies an invasion into history by God, veiled though it was. In this veiled form the presence of God could be seen only by the eyes of faith...

This is why the Second Coming of Christ is necessary – to complete the work begun in his Incarnation. There are, in other words, two great events in God's conquest of the powers of evil, two invasions of God into history: the Incarnation and the Second Coming. [5]

 

JAMES MONTGOMERY BOICEGod acts in history.

God, who has acted in history in past events, is also to act in history to consummate this age. So when we ask "How will it all end?" we do not suddenly pass out of the realm of history into a never–never land of utopian speculation. We merely pass to that which has not yet occurred but which is nevertheless certain of occurring for the simple reason that God is behind it and is himself the one who tells us it will.

Much agreement on the majorsdisagreement on the minors.

When we speak of certainty we must acknowledge that Christians are not in full agreement about the details of these future events. They disagree about the millennium, a period of one thousand years during which Jesus is to reign upon earth; some see this as a specific future period, some as symbolic of the age of the church in which we are now living. Even among those who accept the millennium as a specific future period there are differences as to where it fits in with other events. How do the millennium and the return of Christ relate to the period of great tribulation spoken of in Daniel 9:27 and other texts, assuming that these do in fact speak of a specific tribulation period? What about the role of Israel in prophetic events? Armageddon? Antichrist? The diversity among evangelicals in handling these themes may be readily seen by comparing the final sections of most books of theology.

What tends to be lost in the awareness of such differences, however, is the large agreement that exists, plus the fact that the areas in which Christians are agreed (at least all evangelical Christians) are the most important. Regardless of the way the millennium, the great tribulation and other problems of prophecy are handled, most writers focus on the return of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgment as the essential and dominant elements of eschatology. Wherever the other events fit in (assuming there are other events), they at least have to fit in around those more important elements. [6]

 

RODERICK CAMPBELLThe actual event will disclose the full meaning.

The outstanding promise of the Old Testament – the great hope of Old Covenant Israel––was the coming (advent) of Messiah. Yet it was only the actual advent which disclosed the full meaning of that long–promised event. Even those closest to Jesus remained largely in ignorance of the purpose and effects of the advent until they saw the risen Christ, heard His teaching, and participated in the miracle of Pentecost. The establishment and expansion of the Christian church and the conversion of the Gentiles gradually removed the scales from their spiritual vision.

Similarly the event alone will reveal to us the full meaning of the second coming, its accompaniments, and its effects. In the case of the advent, there was abundance of descriptive detail, some of it in what seems to us the plainest possible terms; but its meaning was not understood even by the most enlightened and pious of the faithful Remnant of Jesus' day. Even so it will be also with our understanding of the second coming. The event itself is certain: but its time, its character, its accompaniments, and its detailed effects, are concealed in language which is designed to stir up our zeal and diligence in present duty, rather than to satisfy the curiosity of inquisitive minds. [7]

 

W. J. GRIERThe great event of the future is the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures plainly declare that this advent will be personal, visible, sudden and unexpected, glorious and triumphant.

Personal

The New Testament teaches that our Lord will come in person. while the Scriptures refer to great events in the history of the individual, like death, and great events in the history of the Church, like the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem, as comings of Christ, yet they also declare in no uncertain language that there is to be a final triumphant return of Christ towering far above these other partial and typical comings. 'The Lord himself shall descend from heaven' (1 Thess. 4:16).

Visible

It is clearly taught in the New Testament that the Lord will return visibly. His first coming was literal and visible, and we may be sure that His second coming, which is so often linked with it in Scripture statements, will be literal and visible too. '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 His second coming is to be as visible as His ascension. 'Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven : and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other' (Matt. 24:30,31).

The late Dr R. V. Bingham once held the common doctrine of a secret appearing of the Lord and a secret rapture of the saints, but, on being asked by his wife for a proof-text, he found that he could not produce one. There are plenty of texts on the other side. Surely if it were to be secret, it would not be 'with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God' (I Thess. 4:16).

Sudden and Unexpected

Speaking about the word 'apocalypse,' or 'revelation,' of the Lord, used in the New Testament for His second coming, Dr Geerhardus Vos says that the 'very idea of suddenness and unexpectedness seems to be intimately associated with the word.' (Pauline Eschatology, p.79). It 15 as if a curtain were suddenly flung aside and the Lord of glory revealed. His coming will be 'as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety ; then sudden destruction cometh upon them' (1 Thess. 5:2, 3). The Saviour Himself said that His coming would be 'as the lightning' (Matt. 24:27) – as sudden, and as universally visible. None will foresee it and all will see it at once. What a warning this should be to careless sinners and to slack, easy-going professors of religion !

Glorious and Triumphant

The contrast is often drawn in the New Testament between the two appearings of our Lord. He came in the body of His humiliation, but He will come in the body of His glory (Heb. 9:28). He 'took the form of a servant,' but when He comes again 'every knee shall bow' to Him (Phil. 2:5-11). He came to be rejected and killed, but He will come 'in his own glory and the glory of his Father and of the holy angels' (Luke 9:22-26). He came as a child but He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, victorious over every foe (Rev. 12:5; 19:11-16).

One of the common New Testament words for Christ's 'coming' would be more properly translated 'arrival.' The New Testament writers recognized indeed that Christ had already arrived, but 'the arrival,' the epochal coming, the one fully worthy of the name, belonged to the future. They had an intensively prospective outlook-for them the momentous event is the coming of the Lord.

Another word for His second coming – 'the revelation' – is used in the same way, as if this, rather than His first coming, was the revelation par excellence.

Another term for it is 'the day' – 'the night is far spent', 'the day is at hand' (Rom. 13:12). When He comes, darkness will vanish for ever for His own, and deliverance, joy, and blessedness will be ushered in. Indeed, His second advent is described as 'our redemption.'

J. A. Bengel says beautifully (on Acts 1:11) – 'Between His ascension and His coming no event intervenes equal in importance to these : therefore, these two are joined together. Naturally, then, the apostles . . . set before e them the day of Christ as very near. And it accords with the majesty of Christ that during the whole period between His ascension and His advent, He should without intermission be expected.'

It was characteristic of the saints of the Old Testament that they looked for the consolation of Israel, Christ's first coming. Now 'this is pinned as a badge to the sleeve of every true believer, that he looketh for and longeth for Christ's (second) coming' (John Trapp). The New Testament keeps this great event constantly before our minds and urges it on our attention, that we may be active, earnest, patient, joyful and holy. [8]

 

FRANCIS PIEPERThe Second Advent of Christ

Scripture teaches that, in divine majesty and surrounded by the hosts of His angels, Christ will return visibly, in the sight of all men, for the purpose of the final Judgment of the world and the induction of His Church into eternal glory. Luther: "He will then not be bedded in the manger, nor ride on an ass, as He did in His first advent, but burst forth from the clouds in great power and glory."

This return of Christ is to be maintained as a positive fact against both the direct denial of it by the scoffers who say: "Where is the promise of His coming?" and the forgetfulness of the Christians, who according to their flesh are very apt to fail to remember the return of Christ.

However, certain as Christ's visible return is, the exact time and hour of its occurrence is hidden, as Christ says: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matt. 24:36). In vain, therefore, do men try to compute the time of His arrival. They should, however, carefully take note of the numerous signs of Christ's returnwhich Scripture reveals.

The Signs Revealed in Scripture.

"All parts of Creation . . . shall herald that day." (Luther, St. L. XI:59; 1:255 f.) These signs are abnormal conditions or disturbances (a) in the social world (general hostility among nations, wars, pestilence, famine, persecution of the Christian Church, etc.) ; (b) in the realm of nature (earthquakes, floods, disturbances among the stellar bodies, etc.) ; (c) particularly in the Church (false teachers, the falling away from the Gospel, the rise of the Antichrist who comports himself in the Church as though he were Cod and, using Christ's name, seduces many to apostasy from Christ by his lying powers, signs, and wonders) . Just as the irregularities and ailments in man, the microcosm, are heralds of his approaching death, so these abnormal occurrences and disorders in the realm of nature, the macrocosm, and in the Church are the harbingers of the approaching great Judgment and the end of the world. Luther: "Heaven and earth creak and crack like an old house ready to crash and collapse and act in every way as though they divined that the world is soon to come to an end and that The Day is close at hand." (St. L. VII: 1480 f.)

Man's failure to recognize these abnormalities as precursors and signs of the approaching advent of Christ, and the tendency even of Christians to overlook them, is caused by the "astounding stupor" (mirabilis stupor) dulling our eyes, mind, and heart since the Fall. (Luther, St. L. 1:256; Opp. Exeg., I, 266). "We are living in a more than Egyptian darkness" (1:255,265). Things actually abnormal and unnatural we regard as normal and natural. But, as Luther reminds us, the fact that in all these things we are face to face with most unnatural conflicts surely ought to "strike our eye." Since men were created for mutual love and service, it is a horrible abnormality that their interests clash and a bellum omnium contra omnes is going on and that entire nations and coalitions of nations wage devastating and bloody wars. Abnormal, furthermore, are epidemics and famines, for man is to replenish the earth, and the earth is to nourish and support man. It is a monstrous phenomenon, moreover, that the world hates the Christian Church, which proclaims to the world for its salvation the perfect reconciliation achieved by the blood of God's incarnate Son. Instead of accepting this Word and welcoming the preachers of it as benefactors, decorating the streets in their honor and giving them medals, the children of the world fulfill the words of Christ: "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name's sake" (Matt. 24:9). And when the earth quakes and demolishes the works of men's hands and buries man himself under the wreckage; when floods swallow man and his goods, these surely are no normal phenomena. Christ wants us to regard them as signs of the imminent collapse of the world.

Christ specifically declares the rise of false teachers in the Church to be a sign of the end. Why they are signs is not difficult to see. The Gospel has been purchased by Christ at great price through His satisfactio vicaria; at His command it is being proclaimed in the world; and "it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." Should not therefore all who profess to be Christian teachers be most diligently intent on delivering this message to men pure and unadulterated, without detracting from it or adding to it? But what happens is what Christ foretold: "Many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:5). The denial of Christ's vicarious satisfaction itself has become general among professed Christians. This is a state of things so abnormal, so contrary to the purpose for which the Church exists, for which the world continues to exist, that false teachers stand out among the signs of the Judgment and the end of the world.

From among the catastrophes indicative of the nearness of Christ's appearance Scripture singles Out the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the destruction of Jerusalem as particularly significant. These striking divine punishments are preludes to the general Judgment of the world. Notice also that Christ connects the preaching of the Gospel in the whole world with the end of the world when He says: "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14).

To what extent have these signs been fulfilled? Like Luther, we must, on the one hand, speak guardedly on this point; on the other hand, however, we shall have to say with him "that the greater part of these signs have already occurred and not many others are to be expected." These signs, it should be added, are purposely so designed as to make computing the exact time of Christ's return impossible, with a view to keeping Christians constantly alert. The Lord warns (Matt. 24:42): "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." [9]


[1] Basic Theology. Charles C. Ryrie. Victor Books. 1988. Pages 439-440.

[2] The Millennium. Loraine Boettner. The Presbyterian And Reformed Publishing Co. 1957. Page 3.

[3] The Millennium. Loraine Boettner. The Presbyterian And Reformed Publishing Co. 1957. Page 18.

[4] Christian Theology. Millard J. Erickson. Baker Book House. 1983. Page 1186.

[5] The Last Things. George Eldon Ladd. W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1978. Pages 46-47.

[6] Foundations of the Christian Faith. James Montgomery Boice. Inter Varsity Press. 1978. Pages 704-705.

[7] Israel and the New Covenant. Roderick Campbell. Geneva Divinity School Press. 1954. Page 68.

[8] The Momentous Event. W.J. Grier. The Banner of Truth Trust. 1945. Pages 9-12.

[9] Christian Dogmatics. Francis Pieper. Concordia Pub. House. 1953. Vol. III, pages 515-519.