How Does Christ Come the Second Time?
Christ Jesus promised that he would come again. The fact that many have been disappointed as to his return does not prove that he will never come but merely that they lacked understanding. How will Christ come again? and when? and why?
CHRIST’S apostles confidently expected him to return, to come a second time. That is why they asked him, “What will be the sign of your presence and of the consummation of the system of things?” While professed Christians are generally agreed that Christ will come again they widely differ as to how he will come.—Matt. 24:3, NW.
This was very apparent at the meeting of the World Council of Churches held at Evanston, Illinois, in the latter half of August, 1954. In discussing the meeting’s theme, “Christ—the Hope of the World,” some insisted that Christ would come literally, in the same human body he had while on earth, at which time he would destroy the wicked and deliver his followers. Others held that Christ comes through man’s applying the Christian principles to his problems of disease, hunger, slavery and the like. What does the Bible have to say on how Christ will come again?
To appreciate the truth regarding how Christ comes again we must first of all appreciate how he came the first time and why he came in that way. He came in a way that was unique, for he had a prehuman existence. The Scriptural testimony is unequivocal in this regard. Said he: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven.” “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” “Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory which I had alongside you before the world was.”—John 3:13; 8:58; 17:5, NW.
While on earth Jesus was not part human and part spirit. No, “he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men.” He did not clothe himself with flesh, but “the Word became flesh,” we are told; he “was produced out of a woman.”—Phil. 2:7; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4, NW.
And why did the Word become flesh? First of all, that he might preach the truth to humankind. He said that he came forth for the purpose of preaching and told Pilate: “For this purpose I have been born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” Secondly, he also became flesh to demonstrate that a perfect human creature could prove faithful under test: “He learned obedience from the things he suffered.” And finally, he was produced out of a woman so that he could give his soul or life as “a ransom in exchange for many.” All mankind had come under condemnation because of the sin of a perfect man; only the sacrifice of a perfect life could relieve mankind of the condemnation of sin and death.—John 18:37; Heb. 5:8, 9; Matt. 20:28, NW.
HOW WILL CHRIST COME AGAIN?
Should we expect Christ to come again in a human body? No. Why not? Among other reasons, because he accomplished the threefold purpose for which, as we have just seen, he became flesh, and so he no longer needs a human body. Not only that, but having sacrificed his human life as a ransom, to take it back would be to cancel the ransoming of the human race. Besides, we are plainly told of his “being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” Also, that in contrast with the first Adam, who was “out of the earth and made of dust,” Christ Jesus as “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” He ascended to heaven, something no human could do, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” ‘He is now the reflection of his Father’s glory and the exact representation of his Father’s being.’—1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Cor. 15:47, 45, 50; Heb. 1:3, NW.
Some point to Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection and the fact that the tomb was empty as proof that Jesus still has his human body and that we are therefore to expect him to come again as a human creature. However, note that Mary did not recognize Jesus; she thought him to be the gardener until he called “Mary!” in the old familiar way. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus thought him to be a stranger. And after certain apostles had gone back into the fishing business and Jesus appeared to them on the shore, what caused them to realize it was Jesus was not his appearance but the miraculous draught of fishes. Only to satisfy doubting Thomas did Jesus appear in a form similar to that which he had before he died.—John 20:1-29, NW.
Nor do the angels’ words, that Jesus would “come thus in the same manner,” require that he come in a fleshly body. The angels said that Jesus would come, not in the same form, but in the same manner. His manner was quiet and unobserved except by his immediate followers. So his return would at first be observed only by his followers who had faith in him.—Acts 1:11, NW.
But what about Revelation 1:7 (NW), which reads: “Look! he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him”? In view of the fact that the Bible often makes reference to sight in a figurative sense and in view of the physical impossibility of everyone on earth literally seeing Jesus were he to come in a human body, we must conclude that figurative sight is here referred to; especially in view of Jesus’ plain statement: “a little longer and the world will behold me no more.”—John 14:19, NW.
Yes, and when we further consider the glorious and powerful things that Christ will accomplish at his second coming it becomes even more apparent that he would not return as a human. For a human to lead the spiritual forces involved in carrying out Jehovah’s purposes during Christ’s second presence would be even more incongruous and unthinkable than for a general on a donkey to be at the head of a vast fleet of armored tanks as they charge into battle or for an admiral to use a sailboat to lead a flotilla of superdreadnoughts in an assault. Christ Jesus comes again for the purpose of judging and executing judgment and, as the Head of mighty spirit forces, he is the mightiest and most glorious of them all.—Rev. 19:11-15.
Not only are we not to look for Christ to be visible to human eyes when he comes again but we should not even think of his leaving heaven and coming within the confines of earth’s atmosphere for him to be present. He returns or “visits” the earth as did Jehovah in times past, by turning his attention to things of earth. Thus Jehovah did not literally come down or “visit” (King James Version) the Israelites while they were in Egypt or at the time of the birth of John the Baptist; rather, he “turned his attention” to them. Likewise, when he began to call out a people from the nations for his name he did not literally “visit” but “turned his attention to the nations.” (Ex. 4:31; Luke 1:68; Acts 15:14, NW) See also An American Translation and Moffatt.
THE TIME OF CHRIST’S SECOND PRESENCE
The Scriptures indicate three features to follow Christ’s second coming and use three Greek words to refer to them: his parousia, or presence; his epiphaneia, or “manifestation”; and his apokalypsis, or “revelation.” Many Scriptures speak of the act of Christ’s second “coming” (eʹlevsis), such as Acts 7:52; but the Christian Greek Scriptures speak also many times of his second presence (par·ou·sía), his being invisibly here, not his being on the way.
In answer to his apostles’ question as to the sign of his second parousia or presence Jesus did not tell them to look in the sky but gave them a composite sign by which they could tell he was present. All the physical facts indicate that this sign has been seen since 1914. Has it not been since that year that we have seen warfare, earthquakes, pestilences and famine to an unprecedented extent? And have we not since then seen persecution of Christians in all nations and the preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom in all the inhabited earth?—Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21.
Additionally, Bible chronology, based on Daniel’s prophecy regarding the “seven times,” when viewed in the light of God’s measuring rule of a “day for a year,” corroborates 1914 as the time for the coming of him “whose right it is,” namely, Christ Jesus.—Dan. 4:1-37; Ezek. 4:6; 21:27.
All these facts regarding Christ’s second presence expose the fallacy of the teaching that Christ comes again in that man applies Christ’s principles to his problems. Jesus told us to expect just the opposite: his parousia would be marked by “increasing of lawlessness,” and it would be a question as to whether he found “faith on the earth.” And Paul foretold that the last days would be “critical times hard to deal with.” For Christ’s return to wait upon man’s applying his principles would mean for Christ never to come.—Matt. 24:12; Luke 18:8; 2 Tim. 3:1, NW.
FEATURES OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE
Having noted how Christ comes, as an invisible spirit and by his turning his attention to the affairs of earth, and that his presence began in 1914, by what actions has he shown that he has turned his attention to the affairs of earth? Revelation 11:15-18 and Re 12:1-12 show that Jehovah began to rule by means of his Son, Christ Jesus, when the nations became angry, namely, in 1914, and that thereafter followed a war in heaven resulting in Satan and his demons’ being cast out. From the time Jesus ascended into heaven he patiently waited until 1914 to begin ruling thus in the midst of his enemies.—Ps. 110:1-6; Heb. 10:13.
Having cleared his enemies out of heaven Christ next turned his attention to his followers on earth, both those sleeping in death and those living, to proceed with his epiphaneia, or “manifestation.” The physical facts indicate that, just as Christ came to the Jewish temple three and a half years after he came as the Messiah, so in 1918, three and a half years after his presence began, he came to his spiritual temple for judging and rewarding. That meant a resurrection and the giving of the “crown of righteousness” to Paul and “all those who have loved his manifestation,” and who were asleep in death, and it meant Jehovah’s favor and increased privileges of Kingdom service for those Christians still living and who had been found faithful.—2 Tim. 4:8, NW.
Since then Christ has been supervising a work of dividing the “sheep” from the “goats” even as he foretold, a work of educating the sheeplike ones so that they can seek Jehovah, righteousness and meekness and thus be hidden in the day of his anger. This feature of Christ’s presence is really a time of favor for his followers on earth and will continue until the time for his apokalypsis, or his revealing, the “revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings due punishment upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.” Other scriptures refer to this “revelation” as Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”—2 Thess. 1:7, 8; Rev. 16:14, 16, NW.
Following the destruction of all the visible enemies of righteousness and the abyssing of Satan and his demons at Armageddon, the thousand-year reign of Christ will begin. He, together with his body or bride, will, as the seed of Abraham, bless all the families of the earth and will continue to rule until even death is destroyed and there is no more pain, outcry or mourning and God’s will is done on earth as in heaven. With that God’s purpose for Christ’s second presence will have been fully accomplished. To sum up: We have seen that Jesus came the first time as a human to bear witness to the truth, to prove his integrity under test and to give his life a ransom for man, and that he really was flesh and blood; that he was raised from the dead as a spirit; that he could not have inherited heaven had he remained a human nor, much less, as such, accomplish the glorious purposes of his second presence; that he came as an invisible spirit and in the sense that he directed his attention to earth’s affairs, and that after his second coming three features appear, the first, the parousia, or presence, beginning in 1914. Those who are wise will take advantage of his present manifestation of favor before his revelation in fiery destruction upon his enemies at Armageddon