What if you discovered that Christ had returned; the second coming was fulfilled? If you are informed on popular theology concerning the second coming of Christ, you most likely believe that Christ promised to return to end Christian suffering, to end the world, and to make all things right much like they were before sin entered the world. Some would go so far as to say that the saved of every age will one day live forever on a renewed earth, farming, eating, sleeping, having families and doing all the things in a blissful state of happiness, which Adam and Eve missed because of sin.
Of course, all of this would take place in a world that knows no death or disease just like at the beginning before death entered the world, except people would be clothed. Posed with this question of Christ’s return, most would be disturbed that they had been left behind; not righteous enough to make the first cut. Those caught away must have been whisked off to heaven in the “twinkling of an eye”, and somehow those left behind would have to endure the terrors of the destruction of the planet, the solar system, and the universe. As you may note there is some conflict in this story.
How are the faithful whisked off to a heavenly domain and yet enjoy the sinless earth-life denied the first couple and all who lived in the previous age?
Permutations of the “coming” abound and are often centered on a thousand year reign of Christ and his chosen people. Some are premillennial and others amillennial and still others hold to a postmillennial view; suggesting Christ’s position in the timeline is determined by the conflicts before, during or after the thousand years. The interpretation of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book of the Bible, when taken literally speaks volumes to those who are led by modern advocates of Christ’s immediate return; 2000 years removed from his promise to the first generation of followers. Israel looked for the restoration of their kingdom by God, as prophesied so many times in the past. After his ascension, the Lord’s disciples preached the restoration of all things. Acts 3:20-22
20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.
What if the “restoration of all things” was something other than what we have been told? Did Jesus want to restore the Garden, the tree of life, the body of flesh and blood? What if his goal was to remove the system of religion that kept God at arm’s length? Wasn’t God’s revealed religion designed to allow a select Nation to approach him even in their sinful state? If sin has been conquered and access to Him made available, who needs religious privilege to access God now? Who needs religion or priests or sacrifice? Alternatively, was his objective to restore the relationship with God that was lost by the sin of the human race; before He laid down the law and before he instituted religion? To restore all things sounds like a return to the Garden but was this really the actual point of his coming? After all, no one really believes we will return to the former ignorance and innocence of Adam and Eve.
No one really believes that God wants us to be back in a garden without shame and without clothes! What if Jesus did what he promised to do within the lifetime of those to whom he came? What if everything written in the law and the prophets was fulfilled by Christ within the generation of his appearing? Is this so strange? What if the day of his wrath was the same day as the destruction of the temple, the end of his people, the end of the Jewish nation, the fulfillment of the promise to destroy the temple? Is it possible that the second coming was to destroy his enemies, the religious Jews who denied him, accuse him, murdered him, and persecuted his disciples? What if the end of the world was really the end of an age? What if the kingdom of heaven has come down to earth and the dwelling place of God is among mortals right now? Would this make a difference in your life?
If the kingdom of heaven came in the first century, will it ever pass away? (Dan. 7:14) Does the Christ remain forever? (Jn 12:34) Is his kingdom an everlasting one? (Dan. 7:27) If the last enemy, Death, has been defeated by the life of Christ, for what then do we wait? (1 Cor 15:26, Rev. 20:14) If the devil has been defeated, (1 Jn 3:8, Luke 10:18, Rev. 12:12, Heb.2:14) sin has been abolished, (Romans 6:14) and the law of God with its demand for the death penalty has been taken out of the way, (Romans 10:4) what is left that Christ has not fulfilled? Well, the Bible is filled with nuggets and tidbits of discovery that keep the student engaged in the Word. Matthew, the most Jewish of the gospel accounts, is filled with strange, wondrous, and bewildering thoughts from Jesus. Unfortunately, they are strange to us who are so far removed from the life and times of those ancient days.
Christianity is plagued with subjective theologies and misgivings about God, the Christ and even the nature of the New Covenant. A revisit to the biblical narrative is the only course of action; throwing down bias and predeterminations. Such are the meanderings of a Bible student who has had no answers for some of the most profound predictions, promises, and expectations of Christ and his disciples in the last generation of Jews. From his early teachings, Jesus said things that are strange to us today since we are filled with so many alternate theories of life, death, sin, disease, suffering, and salvation. Consider this passage in Matthew 5:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus spoke of the permanency of the Mosaic Law. He would be charged with breaking the law many times over in his short career but his life proved a perfect alignment with it. He made it clear in this saying that the law would not be taken out of the way… until all had been fulfilled. Therefore, until the end of the Jews as a nation, this law would abide and every son of Abraham would be subject to its counsel and its condemnation. This is fascinating as Jesus shows that the law would pass away, and with it, the covenant would change when the Jews saw his fulfillment of all that had been spoken concerning them and himself. He reminded them after his resurrection that this is the thing he had taught them;
44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Luke 24.
Again, consider this passage in Matthew as Jesus prepared his disciples to carry his gospel message about the kingdom to the Jewish nation: First the names of those he spoke to are given. These instructions were to them, and not to us.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
To them, he gave these specific instructions.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Jesus tells them what to expect:
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. 17 Be on your guard; 18… you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
These last remarks must extend beyond the current assignment as Jesus speaks of “the end”. Jesus tells these disciples that they will not have reached all the towns of Israel before He returns.
23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “The student is not above the teacher. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, 26 “So do not be afraid of them, 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid. 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others 33 But whoever disowns me before others,
He makes it clear that His ways will destroy even families
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, 40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Matthew does not record the return of the 12 from their evangelistic efforts but Mark does, saying only this:
Mark 6: 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
While we are left to believe that the 12 went out and immediately came back with news of their conquest, Matthew sees them off but does not record their return or their reaction to the preaching of repentance. This must be considered a commissioning of those disciples for their life’s work, which would end when Christ would come to them.
This would be at a time before they had finished warning all of Israel of repentance and the wrath to come. What has always bothered me about this passage is that Jesus places his coming before all the towns of Israel had heard the call to repentance. This means he came before the chosen disciples finished their work. It is much easier to ignore this passage than to deal with it. I would rather find other supporting scriptures to the idea that Jesus was speaking of his return rather than to ignore this passage of scripture.
What else do the scriptures say of the coming of the Messiah? Is there support for the view that Christ has established his eternal kingdom and reigns now and forever more? Stay tuned for more Bible studies that look at the fulfillment of scripture by Jesus Christ. Go to Part II.