(August 29, 2018) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, shares…
‘Whenever I ask anyone about Jesus’ second coming, I seem to be given an answer that differs from other answers I’ve received from others.’
So wrote a concerned reader, adding, ‘Can you please give me an easy answer to my question: What can we know for sure about the return of Jesus?’
Easy answers can be suspect!
I wish I could give an easy answer to your question… but, like many things theological, an easy answer is often suspect!
The problem is that in the Bible God reveals to us many things that are not easy to grasp but he nevertheless wants us to be aware of them. To help us he uses what theologians call ‘language of accommodation‘ – that is – terminology with which we are familiar to give us some insight into things that are unfamiliar.
The matter raised by this perturbed reader is in the area of eschatology, or concerning the doctrine of ‘last things.’ With reference to the return of Jesus Christ…
- We know generally what is going to happen but –
- We do not know precisely how it is going to happen.
The difficulty is in arriving at an accurate understanding of the biblical facts.
A mélange of ideas
Many people vigorously assert the correctness of their particular interpretation while others equally vigorously and vociferously declare that their interpretation is the correct one. So we end up with a mélange of ideas, opinions and dogmatic assertions to which is added a bundle of terminology that is more confusing than enlightening.
We know that when Jesus returns those who belong to him will be ‘caught up’ to meet him (1 Thessalonians 4:17 and possibly some other supporting New Testament passages).
The word ‘rapture’ is sometimes used to describe this. Some argue that the second coming of Jesus will be in two stages, first a ‘secret’ rapture of believers and secondly, at some later stage, the appearing of Jesus to judge the world.
To this are added ideas and interpretations about ’the tribulation’ and ‘the millennium’ – and so we end up with a raft of competing theories such as:
- A Pre-Tribulation Rapture
- A Mid-Tribulation Rapture
- A Post-Tribulation Rapture
Then there are added different ideas about the millennium (that is mentioned in Revelation). The most favoured ones are:
Further confusion is added to the mix with the inclusion of ideas about the ‘signs of the times,’ the interpretation of unfulfilled biblical prophecy, which nations will be involved in battle of Armageddon, the identity of the Antichrist, the meaning of the symbolic language in the book of Revelation … and so on.
The best approach
Despite the many differences in interpretation there is significant agreement concerning the core truths of eschatology.
Therefore the best approach, I suggest, is to try to isolate the sure facts from particular interpretative slants (if that is possible) and to affirm those things about which all agree, namely…
1. The Return of Jesus Christ
It has been stated that it is mentioned 318 times in the New Testament, and that – apart from Galatians, 2 and 3 John and Philemon – every book in the New Testament refers to it.
Also, many of the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Jesus Christ refer to his second coming as King rather than his first coming as Saviour.
2. The Resurrection of the Body
At Christ’s return the body of believers will be resurrected. This truth fills us with hope because it reminds us that death has lost its power, sin has been forgiven and suffering will be no more.
3. The Day of Judgment
This is a timely and sobering warning that one day we shall be judged by Jesus. Believers will be judged according to how they have lived, and although we will not lose our salvation, we will be called to account. Unbelievers will be judged and not be saved because they have not placed their faith in Jesus,
The above is a much abbreviated (and inadequate) summary of the ‘Last Days’ – but I trust that is helps all readers to understand something about those things that have yet to take place.
My advice would be: Hold lightly to interpretations but hold fast to what has been made clear in the Bible.
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
Recommended is his enlightening Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org