Second Coming of Christ - Part 1

There is much speculation, and there are many false ideas about the return of Christ. Some say He will return to reign here on earth for a literal 1,000 years. They speak of the rapture that will take place, as the saints are taken suddenly from the earth. But what does the Bible teach about the second coming of Christ? “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). These words of the angels to the apostles were spoken as the Lord ascended to the Father after His redemptive work on earth was complete. He had been raised from the dead by the power of God, and proved Himself to be the Son of God. Just as those who stood there on that day saw Him ascend, every eye shall also behold His second coming. However, there is a great deal of confusion and false teaching concerning Christ’s second coming. Today we are going to see what the Bible teaches about the second coming of Christ.

First of all, let’s talk about a doctrine called “premillennialism.” The word “premillennialism” is not in the Bible, and the doctrine is not there either. Premillennialists believe that when Jesus came to the earth the first time, He was unable to set up His earthly kingdom because the Jews rejected Him. They believe this, in effect, forced Jesus to set up the church as a temporary situation, to last only until He comes again to establish His earthly throne. I’d like for you to think about this for a moment, and what this idea says about the Lord. First of all, it says the Lord, although He is Deity, could not accomplish what He intended to do! It also suggests that if He was defeated in His purpose the first time He came to earth, why could He not be defeated the next time? Also, think about this for a moment. In past lessons, we studied the church and its essential role in man’s salvation. How could the church have been an afterthought with God—something He brought into existence as an alternative plan when Jesus was rejected by the Jews? It is not possible.

Premillennialism degrades the church, denies the power of Deity to carry out a Divine purpose, and distorts the teachings of the Word of God about our Lord’s second coming. Listen to Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:10-11 and see if you can accept the idea that the church was only an afterthought with God: “to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord...” Notice that the church was in the mind of God long before the Lord ever came to this earth. Beyond this, the church was in the mind of Christ as the very institution He would build to save man from sin. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build it. In Acts 20:28, Paul told the elders of the church at Ephesus that the church was purchased with the precious blood of Christ.

If you have been with us for our studies about the church, you know that the Bible clearly shows when the church was established. It was on the first Pentecost day following our Lord’s resurrection. You also know that the church and the kingdom are one and the same, although the premillennial doctrine says they are not. Listen again to the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18-19: “And I also say unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Notice that Jesus used the terms church and kingdom interchangeably. There is no difference. The church is the kingdom and the kingdom is the church. Christ is king now over His kingdom, and when He returns He will deliver it up to the Father in heaven, according to Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:24. Listen to them: “Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power.” Now notice Paul says when Christ comes again it will end, not begin, all rule. He is ruling now. What does that say about the idea of a future reign of Christ on earth in a literal kingdom? It says that such an idea is false.

I have one of our tracts here, written by Roy J. Hearn, who used to work with us at Truth For The World in assisting with Bible questions. The tract is entitled “Will Jesus Reign on Earth for 1,000 Literal Years?” In it, he deals with a favorite proof passage of the premillennialists—Revelation 20, verse 4: which says: “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” Brother Hearn points out that many things taught in the book of Revelation were “signified” unto John. They were taught to him by signs, symbols, and figures of speech. Revelation 20 does not teach anything about a literal, bodily resurrection of the saints. It does not say when the thousand year reign will take place nor where. In this excellent tract, Roy J. Hearn calls attention to the highly figurative references, and He points out that this reign, referred to in Revelation 20, included only a certain class of saints—those who were martyred for the cause of Christ. Is the beast mentioned in Revelation 20, verse 4 a literal beast? No one would claim that. Why then is it claimed that the thousand years is a literal period of time?

Let me read another portion of this excellent tract, where Roy Hearn writes: “Also, there are figurative resurrections in the Bible. Bringing the house of Israel out of captivity is pictured as bringing them out of their graves (Ezekiel 37:1-15). In a figurative sense, John the Baptist was called Elijah; not Elijah literally raised from the dead, but John in the spirit and power of Elijah.” Then Roy Hearn makes this statement about the thousand years. “The ‘thousand years’ refers to a period of time when faithful preachers of the Gospel would boldly defy false religions.” The point that must not be overlooked here is that Revelation 20 says absolutely nothing about the return of Christ to the earth. And as this tract I have quoted from concludes, “Any honest student of the Bible must conclude that neither Revelation 20, nor any other passage for that matter, teaches that Christ will literally reign on this earth for a thousand years!”
Well, what about the idea of the Rapture? Is it true that the faithful will be suddenly taken from the earth at some time before or after a supposed period of tribulation here, as some think? The Bible says absolutely nothing about the rapture. Just as with the whole premillennial doctrine, the word “rapture” is not in the Bible, nor is the idea of a rapture found anywhere. There are variations of the doctrine of premillennialism, which include a rapturing of the saints before the literal thousand year reign of Christ. However, we have seen that the Scriptures deny the idea of the thousand year reign, and the idea of a Rapture is also denied by the Scriptures. What is taught in the Bible is that Jesus Christ will come again, not to live and reign the earth—for He reigns now in Heaven over His kingdom, the church. But He will come again to judge the world, and to take His present kingdom, the church, home to the Father, where the kingdom will continue in its eternal phase.

In our final lesson on the second coming of Christ next time, we will examine some clear, undeniable Scriptures which teach us about the second coming of our Lord, and all that is involved in it. What we will examine will not be difficult to understand, because it is pure Bible, not the fanciful theories and ideas of men who have perverted the prophecies and twisted the teaching of the Bible on this subject.