Article of the Month

 

February 2007

The Secret Return of Jesus

 

It is difficult to overcome preconceptions.  Nearly all Christians have lived with the idea that Jesus returns visibly.  Some see him on a white horse; some hear him blowing a trumpet.  Others have all kinds of scenarios including the burning of the earth and a twenty-four hour day of super-fast judgment confining souls to bliss or blisters.  A series of novels—bearing nearly no resemblance to actual Scriptural truths—has emerged to warn us not to be left behind to suffer the horrible results of an anti-christ’s deceptions.  It all seems like Harry Potter for adults!  Who can make sense of it all? — especially since it clearly defies both good reasoning and sound Biblical interpretation. It satisfies only sensationalism, and our entertainment media have created a large hunger for such fantasy. 

SO, WHAT IS THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER? 

First of all, it would be wise to acknowledge that the Bible does contain references to Jesus on a horse, to a trumpet’s blowing, to a burning of the earth, to something called hell, to anti-christ, and to any number of things which need careful and prayerful thought and study.

Jesus, himself, points out that such colorful story-telling is done specifically so that understanding will not be available to the casual observer nor before the right time.  (Matthew 13:10, 11, 13, 14, 34, 35.)  He says, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.”  (Matthew 11:25, 26)  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were “in the dark” where prophetic understanding was concerned.  Today has remarkable parallels.

Even the book of REVELATION opens with a clear interpretive warning statement:

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ which…
he sent AND SIGNIFIED…”
(Revelation 1:1)

This word, SIGNIFIED, literally means PUT INTO SIGNS AND SYMBOLS.  In plain speech it is saying that the prophecies of Revelation are NOT to be takes AS WRITTEN, but to be DECODED—taken out of their symbolic colorfulness, and interpreted in the rational light of sound Scriptural comparisons.

We must accept the sincerity of those who interpret the Bible literally, but a careful student of God’s Word soon will find that literal interpretation becomes absurd.  In Daniel 7, we see a “beast” which devoured the whole earth.  Is there ANYONE who believes that?  Fortunately in that chapter, Daniel shows us (7:23) that the “beast” is NOT a beast at all.  It represents (symbolizes) a government with power to dominate the world.  So, the symbolic BEAST WHICH DEVOURS THE EARTH becomes the literal ROMAN EMPIRE WHICH DOMINATES THE CIVILIZATION of its day.  We must apply this same kind of study and interpretive technique throughout prophecy.  Otherwise we will be sensationalists, preaching the scary and irrational, and making God’s Word obnoxious to truth seekers.

Concerning the subject of the symbols relating to Jesus’ return, then, we will come to learn that the white horse he “rides” represents the end-of-the-age return of PURE DOCTRINE—the negating of the dark-age errors Christianity as developed and retained.  The “clouds” in which he comes represent both the TROUBLE (stormy times) and the OBSCURITY (lack of clarity) which are associated with his return.  The trumpet represents the PROCLAMATION of the message now due (to those who can hear it).  The burning of the earth represents the DISINTEGRATION of society’s former stability.  It was well stated by President Woodrow Wilson when World War I broke out.  He (and the headlines) proclaimed “The World is on Fire!”  Somehow everyone knew what he meant.  But when the Apostle Peter makes the same statement about our day, we seem only to be able to take him literally.  How foolish we can be!

As far as anti-christ (or “the man of sin”) is concerned, we need only look to the Apostles Paul and John for our interpretative clues.  John (I John 4:3) said that anti-christ in his day “was already…in the world.”  The Apostle Paul (II Thessalonians 2:3-7) agreed, telling us that anti-christ “doth already work.”  The anti-christ is HISTORY, not prophecy.  Protestantism clearly defined anti-christ as being the apostate Roman church.  Martin Luther (in the early 1500’s) preached this idea clearly.  Most of us can read about it in “The Epistle Dedicatory” at the front of our King James Bibles.  This dates from 1611 and shows that the Anglican translators identified anti-christ as the office of the Papacy.  (Some King James Bibles no longer are published with this opening Epistle.  Apparently “political correctness” has dictated its removal.)  The fact is, the idea of a personal anti-christ at the end of the age was an invention of Catholic theologians in order to take the heat away from Papacy.  Protestants have now fallen for and adopted this deception.

HOW, WHEN, AND WHY DOES JESUS RETURN?

Of these three questions, the HOW and the WHY are the parts least understood and most generally corrupted with fantastic and imaginative explanations.

HOW Jesus returns is not difficult to understand if we can allow ourselves to ignore the centuries of misconceptions surrounding the subject.  Jesus said, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more.”  (John 14:19)  This statement is clear and true.  The world will not see Jesus again.  Hence, the teachings of a visible second advent immediately fail.  BUT, the Bible also says, “Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him.”  (Revelation 1:7)  The Bible does not contradict itself.  One of these statements is symbolic; the other is literal.  It is nearly impossible to read John 14:19 as symbolic; but, as we have seen, Revelation TELLS US that its words are symbols (SIGNIFIED—Revelation 1:1).  Revelation 1:7 is telling us that Jesus returns in trouble and obscurity (“clouds”), and that all will DISCERN his presence manifested in these troubles—not literally see him with the eye.  Even a blind man can say, “I see.”

Jesus taught that his return would be like a thief in the night (unnoticed).  The disciples apparently understood that Jesus’ second advent would be invisible because they asked for a SIGN so that they would be aware of it.  (Matthew 24:3)  They asked, “What shall be the sign of THY PRESENCE and of the end of the age?”

Note carefully, the King James and most other translations say “sign of thy coming and of the end of the world.”  But the Greek word translated “coming” DOES NOT MEAN COMING!  Its only meaning is PRESENCE—the opposite of absence. The Greek word translated “world” means “AGE.” The disciples knew that Jesus’ second advent was in a PERIOD known as “the end of the age” and that he would be PRESENT but invisible at that time. They wanted EVIDENCE (a sign) so that they would not miss it!

This subject is complex, but Scripturally harmonious.  Jesus returns INVISIBLY.  He is no longer a human being.  He needs no longer to manifest himself in such a weak form.  He is a Divine spirit being with all the needed power to intervene in earth’s affairs to bring about his incoming Kingdom.

WHY Jesus returns is another subject corrupted by the unscriptural nightmares of fallen men.  Acts 3:20, 21 contains the essence of WHY Jesus returns.  God sends Jesus to earth the second time to RESTORE ALL THAT HAS BEEN LOST—most particularly, perfect eternal life in a Garden of Eden earth.  God calls this work of Jesus “THE TIMES OF RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS”—and he says ALL the prophets have foretold it!  How can we have missed it?  What a wonderful reason for Jesus to come back.

O, yes.  The Bible says “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in which the heavens shall pass away…the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  (II Peter 3:10)  And it was Peter that said BOTH of these things in Acts and in II Peter!  But again, one is a symbolic prophetic statement, the other a literal statement of fact.  Again, it is nearly impossible to construe Acts 3:20, 21 as symbolic.  Thus II Peter 3:10 is symbolic, representing the SECRET PRESENCE of Jesus destroying the old religious institutions which have misrepresented him (“the heavens”), and also destroying the old way that society (“earth”) has corrupted itself, and hurt mankind.  It is not the literal heaven and earth that will be destroyed (“burned up”), it is the failures of mankind that will be destroyed to make way for the “restitution of all things” good.

WHEN Jesus returns seems to find some measure of agreement among Christians.  However, it was not always so.  Some in the Apostles’ day thought it was imminent.  Some at various points during the last two thousand years expected it in their days.

At the first advent, men were in expectation of him (Messiah).  (Luke 3:15)  Yet, at the same time, Jesus accuses them saying, “Thou knowest not the time of thy visitation.”  (Luke 19:44)  What a strange contradiction of ideas!  It was THEN as it is NOW, the advent of Jesus is widely expected but nearly totally unrecognized.  And Jesus gave the clue:  “The TIME” of visitation.  His advent is known through Biblical CHRONOLOGY (time, prophecy), not by vision!  The conclusive testimony of Biblical time prophecies is that Jesus has returned.  He has been here for some time in a thief-like presence preparing the way for his Kingdom.

To any of us who have been taught the old wrong ideas about Jesus’ return, it is nearly inconceivable to receive the idea that he is already here—returned invisibly.  He has been secretly intervening in earth’s affairs for many decades.  He has been building up Israel to use them as a visible earthly tool when his Kingdom is established and functioning.  (Zechariah 8:20, 23)  At the same time he has been weakening and gathering the nations in order to bring this sick old world—this miserable way of doing things—to an end.  (Zephaniah 3:8, 9)  Then will begin the era of peace for which we pray.  The Kingdom of God will be manifest in the earth, and God’s will shall be done here as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:10)

THE STUNNING ANNOUNCEMENT

It is during this tumultuous period in which we live that Christians who have been enlightened can preach to Zion (both to Israel and to Christianity) the astounding message, “Thy God Reigneth”  (Isaiah 52:7).  The seventh trumpet (the final message before the Kingdom) has sounded, and we can make its intelligence known:  “The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15-18)  Then, as the prophecy continues, the nations are angry before the blessings of the resurrection.

We are on the threshold of the most wonderful time that men can imagine.  It is the time prophesied in Psalm 46:8-10 when                        

“He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth,” and when God shall say, “Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen; I will be exalted in the earth.”

Jesus already is secretly present, laying the foundations for that blessed day.  The gloom and doom stories being told, that make his return a curse to all except faithful Christians, are a blot on the character of God and on His merciful purposes.  “God…is the Savior of ALL MEN” ultimately, but “specially of those that believe.”  (I Timothy 4:10)  The true believers will, indeed, shortly join their Lord to reign with him over the earth.  (Revelation 5:10)  That will be GOOD for the earth and for those who DO NOT NOW believe.  That is when Psalm 46:10 will come to pass.  THEN the unbelievers will be invited to cease the commotion, and learn:  “Be still, and KNOW that I am God.”

* * * * *

The secret and invisible second advent of Jesus is revolutionary in concept.  Most will be happy to retain their sensational views of the subject rather than to look into the beauties of the Biblical truths on the subject.  Many hours of prayerful study—many hundreds of pages of explanation of the relevant Scriptures are required.  But isn’t the concept worthy of investigation?