May 26, 2014 Broadcast


A Message by R.C. Sproul

At the ascension of Christ, the disciples were promised that Jesus would come again, and the second coming of Christ has remained the church’s blessed hope ever since. The second coming has also been the source of great controversy. In this lecture, Dr. R.C. Sproul explains some of the basic facts concerning the second coming, while at the same time dispelling some common misconceptions.

From the series: What Did Jesus Do?: Understanding the Work of Christ

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  1. article

    The Coming of the King

  2. devotional

    The Return of the Lord

  3. article

    Awaiting His Return

The Coming of the King

Ken Gentry

Few doctrines of the Bible receive more attention among evangelicals today than the second coming of Christ. And since His return is a foundational doctrine of the historic Christian faith, it well deserves our notice.

Unfortunately though, the second advent is more deeply loved and firmly believed than biblically understood. We tend to have a “zeal without knowledge” in approaching this doctrine. This is tragic in that properly comprehending it is vitally important for framing a Christian worldview. After all, it exalts the consummate glory of His redemptive victory, completes the sovereign plan of God for history, and balances a full-orbed theology of Scripture.

Our Prophetic Mis-focus

Before pointing out how the second coming is so important to these worldview issues, we must be alert to two contemporary errors that put the doctrine out of focus: dispensationalism and hyper-preterism. The great majority of evangelicals today are dispensationalists who have what Jay E. Adams has called “prophetic diplopia” (diplopia is an eye problem causing double vision). A newer view (no pun intended) of the second coming is hyper-preterism, which involves “prophetic myopia” (near-sightedness). Let me explain these presbyopia (loss of focusing ability) problems.

Prophetic Diplopia. The Bible only speaks of two comings of Christ: His incarnational first coming in humiliation and His consummational second coming in exaltation. According to Scripture His second coming is just that, a second coming: “he will appear a second time” (Heb. 9:28). The angels certainly do not mention two future comings (Acts 1:11). The Bible never speaks of a “third coming.”

However, dispensationalists believe He will come again and again. This view is diplopic in that they hold He will return seven years prior to the final advent secretly to resurrect deceased saints and rapture living believers out of the world. Oddly enough, this “secret rapture” theory is based on the noisiest verse in Scripture: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16). How could such a dramatic event be “secret”? After all, the angels speak only of one future coming which is a visible event: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11b).

The secret rapture is diplopic in separating by 1007 years the resurrection of believers from that of non-believers (contrary to: John 5:28–29; Acts 24:15) and by removing the resurrection from the end of history (contrary to: John 6:39, 44; 11:24; 1 Cor. 15:21–25). Such diplopia impairs our biblical foresight.

Prophetic Myopia. A new view afflicting our eschatological vision suffers from prophetic near-sightedness. Hyper-preterists teach that Christ’s second coming was to occur in the near future soon after His ascension (contrary to: Matt. 25:5, 14, 19; Acts 1:7; 2 Peter 2:4, 8–9). They also believe (along with dispensationalists) that He comes secretly. But in their case they teach that He returned in the first century.

Our Prophetic Refocus

The glorious second coming impacts our worldview in numerous ways, three of which I mentioned above and will now discuss.

First, the second coming exalts the victory of Christ in redemption. When Christ came in the incarnation, it was to suffer in humiliation by dying for the sins of His people: “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8; compare with Matt. 1:21; Luke 19:10). But Scripture does not leave Him on the cross or in the tomb; it teaches His consequent glorification through four steps: resurrection, ascension, session, and return.

Christ’s return in glory is necessary to complete His redemptive victory, for then He returns as an all-conquering Redeemer-king. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9–11). But as Hebrews notes: “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb. 2:8b). So then, Christ’s second coming is necessary in conclusively demonstrating His redemptive victory for all to see.

Second, the second coming completes the plan of God for history. Though Christ legally secured the defeat of sin, death, and the devil in the first century, all three evils remain with us (Rom. 7:18–25; 1 Peter 5:8–9). They have been vanquished legally before the judicial bar of God (Col. 1:13–14; 2:13–15). They are being vanquished historically through the continuing progress of the Gospel (Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 15:20–23). They will be vanquished eternally at the second advent of Christ (Rom. 8:18–25; Rev. 20:10–15).

Third, the second coming balances the theology of God in Scripture. This glorious doctrine not only finalizes Christ’s redemptive victory (pouring eternal glory on His redeeming love) and completes the plan of God (demonstrating divine wisdom in His creational plan). But it also provides us with a full-orbed system of doctrine balancing out majestic biblical truths. Were it not for the second advent:

  • We would have a creation (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:3) without a consummation (Acts 3:20–21; Rev. 20:11), resulting in an open-ended universe (1 Cor. 15:23–24; 2 Peter 3:3–4).
  • We would have a world eternally groaning (Rom. 8:22; 2 Cor. 5:1–4), without any glorious perfection (Rom. 8:21; 2 Peter 3:12–13).
  • We would have a Savior quietly departing (Luke 24:50–52; 1 Cor. 15:5–8), without any victorious demonstration (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10–11).
  • We would have a redemption spiritually focused (Rom. 8:10; Eph.1:3), without a physical dimension (Rom. 8:11; 1 Thess. 4:13–18).
  • We would have a Redeemer bodily ascended (Acts 1:8–11; Col. 2:9), without any physical family (1 Cor. 15:20–28; Phil. 3:20–21).
  • We would have a gospel continually necessary (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8), without any final completion (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 15:24).

Truly, the second coming is a “blessed hope” upon which we must carefully focus.

The Return of the Lord

A large part of the New Testament is concerned with prophecy. Not only did Jesus fulfill all kinds of prophecies found in the Old Testament, but both He and His apostles made other prophecies and predictions concerning the future.

Much of New Testament prediction focuses on an event that was to occur within the lifetimes of many people then alive. Jesus predicted that the nation of the Jews as a whole would continue to reject the Good News, and that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed by God's wrath. After describing this coming judgment in Matthew 23:1–24:33, using both literal predictions and symbolism, Jesus said that the generation listening to His voice would not pass away before all these things had happened.

The judgment upon Jerusalem—upon the old covenant—is a "down payment" on fulfilled prophecy. What Jesus predicted about Jerusalem did indeed come to pass in a.d. 70, and this leads us to believe that what He said about His future return will also come to pass. Jesus' judgment upon Jerusalem was not only because she put Him to death but also because she continued to persecute His witnesses after Pentecost. This judgment proves His ascension to the Father's right hand, His present position as King, and that He will someday come to judge all men and all nations.

Liberal theologians note that the New Testament writers frequently say that Jesus will return soon, that His coming is near. Since Jesus did not return in the first century, say the liberals, the New Testament writers were wrong. What the liberals fail to see, however, is that these passages have either partial or full reference to Jesus' judging Jerusalem in a.d. 70, and thus were literally fulfilled.

Centuries come and go, and Jesus has not returned, but we should not be surprised. After describing the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told the disciples that it might well be a "long time" before His final return (see Matthew 24:36, 48; 25:5, 19). While we will surely rejoice at His coming, we can also rejoice that He has postponed it, giving time for the full number of His elect to be gathered into the kingdom.


Awaiting His Return

Burk Parsons

There is a widespread fascination with the end of the world. Throughout history, we have witnessed the bold assertions of soothsayers, naysayers, and doomsdayers. Every day, self-proclaimed prophets of the end times make whimsical predictions about the future. Claiming to have biblical authority, they tout their cleverly devised schemes about the end of the world as we know it, and by reading between the lines of the Old Testament prophetical books, they carefully contort the words of sacred Scripture to fit their fictional fantasies about the second advent of Christ.

Christians throughout the world have become so enamored with some obscure aspect about the second advent of Christ that they construct their entire systems of doctrine upon what might happen — not upon what has happened. We are, indeed, called to live with eager expectation of the second advent of Christ, but we should only do so in light of the first advent of Christ. In remembrance of Christ’s first advent, it is not enough simply to wish Jesus a happy birthday. In fact, to do so borders on blasphemy. Instead, we are called to remember and to celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the eternal Logos.

At the first advent of Jesus Christ, the fullness of time had come and God sent forth His Son into this fallen world. As the prophets foretold, He was born of a virgin who was richly blessed of God. He was born under the law of God, not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. As was necessary to redeem those under the Law, He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Law and took upon Himself the sins of His people, His sheep for whom He laid down His life.

As His people, we confess that Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead. We believe He will return to this world not as a babe in a manger but as the King of all the earth, in power and glory to manifest His reign over the new heavens and the new earth.

We confess His return because of what He taught us at His first advent and on account of the hope that is within us. For this reason, during the wonderful Advent season that comes each year, we should eagerly await the second advent of Christ as we celebrate the first advent of Christ. Nevertheless, let us always be mindful that although Christmas day comes only once a year, we are called to remember and celebrate the eternal work of Christ — past, present, and future — each day of our lives coram Deo, before the face of God.

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