The surest assurance of Jesus’ second coming comes from the words of Jesus Himself. His disciples believed Him as the promised Messiah and cherished the hope of overthrowing the Roman rule and establishing the Messianic Kingdom. So Jesus’ crucifixion was too much for them to accept. The uneducated fisher folk from northern Galilee felt themselves orphaned aliens in the city of Jerusalem. Comforting them Jesus said: “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you” (John 14:18). Reassuring them of His unfailing care Jesus told them “… I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place to you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2, 3).
In addition to this solemn promise given to His disciples, Jesus has given more details about His second coming. In Matthew 24:3, we see the disciples asking three questions to the Lord: “… Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” The first question relates to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. As foretold by the Lord the temple was destroyed by the Romans in A. D. 70. The second and the third questions relate to the coming of the Lord.
About the Time of His Coming
More than any other detail of the Lord’s coming man is most envious about its time. “Where is the promise of His coming?” is a mocking question many do ask in every age (2 Peter 3:4). It is a mystery hidden in the heart of God the Father – “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36). Some use this verse to question the deity of Jesus. ‘If He is god, He must be omniscient if He does not know such an important fact, He is not omniscient and not God’ – they argue. It is because they deliberately close their eyes to the mystery of incarnation that they fail in grasping the truth. God cannot cease to be God. The second person of the Holy Trinity is always and for ever God. He emptied Himself of His free-will. ‘Not my will, Father, may your will be done’ – was His motto. Jesus handed over His choice of using His deity to the Father. He is perfect. God came as the perfect man. Jesus lived and ministered in His manliness and used His godliness only at the will of the Father. The omnipresent God limited Himself into the womb of a virgin. The omnipotent one gave Himself over to be exhausted even to the point to say: “My strength is dried up like a potshard.” And the omniscient one stood speechless before His accusers. He humbled Himself to such a level to identify Himself with us and to be a model for us to emulate. It was in this context that Jesus said. “But of that day and hour no one knows… not the Son, but the Father alone.” As per the will of the Father, Jesus did not use His omniscience in the context. Now that the Lord is glorified with the glory He eternally shared with the Father, He knows the time of His coming. That is why He testifies in the Book of Revelation: “Yes, I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20).
The church of god living through the centuries has been ‘called in one hope, for one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one god and Father of all’ (Eph. 4:4-6). One faith and one hope is assured through the centuries by keeping the time of the Lord’s coming a mystery. Every believer living in every age can live in the hope that the Lord will come during his life-time. Paul cherished that hope and we too live in the same hope of glory (1 Cor. 15:51; I Thes. 4:17).
About the Manner of His Coming
Jesus has foretold two contrasting facts about the manner of His coming–stealthily, stealing in like a thief and like a glaring lightening that fills the whole sky from one end to the other (Matt. 24:43; 24: 27; Luke 17:24). How can these two apparently contrasting ideas describe the same event? This points to the two phases of Jesus’ coming. These two provide answers to the second and the third questions the disciples asked the Lord–Your coming and the end of the age.
Jesus has told His disciples that both His going to the Father and coming back are for them. He went to prepare a place for them. He will come again to receive them into Himself so that they too shall be where He Himself is. Also Jesus had promised the disciples: “After a little while, the world will no longer see me, but you will see me…” (John 14:19). The disciples meeting Him ‘after a little while’ will be a private affair. The world will not see Him then. Like a thief stealthily collects the valuables and leaves unseen by others, the Lord will gather His dear ones He has redeemed with His own precious blood. This will be the first phase of Jesus’ second coming.
The Signs of Jesus’ Coming
The Jews generally are sign seekers (1 Cor. 1:22) Jesus’ disciples too were asking for signs of His coming. Jesus foretold about wars and rumours of war, persecution of true believers, the rise of false prophets who will succeed in misleading many and the rising of lawlessness resulting in human relationship growing cold. History is replete with such occurrences over and over again fulfilling the words of the Lord.
Natural calamities like the sun getting darkened, the moon growing dim, the stars falling from the sky and the shaking up of the powers of heaven are all predicted. When such things happen the Son of Man will appear in glory riding on the clouds. All nations of the world will see Him and will mourn. This is the second phase of the coming of the Lord.
Another sign of this glorious appearance of the Lord relates to the Israelites. Fig tree is a scriptural symbol of the Israelites. Jesus cursing the fig tree and it withering away was symbolic of the nation of Israel getting cast aside from their favoured position before the Lord. As a sign His second coming, Jesus pointed to the fig tree. The withered fig tree will grow tender branches and put forth leaves, He said (Matt. 24:32). In AD 70, the city of Jerusalem with its temple was destroyed and the Israelites were scattered all the world over. But in our generation we see the withered fig tree flourishing. The Israelites have returned to their promised land and have become a power to reckon with. It shows that the Lord is right at the door (Matt. 24:32,33).
Jesus’ Declaration Before the Sanhedrin (Matt. 26:63–64)
Jesus was standing trial before the apex court of the Israelites – the Sanhedrin. Quite unusually, the high priest, the presiding judge of the court, stood up and in the name of the living God asked Jesus: ‘Are you, the Christ, the Son of God?’ Jesus answered that He is and quoting from the Book of Daniel, He declared: “I tell you hereafter, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven”. It was the prophetic declaration of the glorious return of the Lord. Jesus’ words were more than enough to conscience the Sanhedrin that He is the promised Messiah. But they deliberately refused to accept the clear truth. They won’t see the Lord coming to gather His saints; but will witness His glorious return to judge the world. This is the call Jesus gives. As we do not know when the Lord will return to collect His precious bride, we must be alert and should stand ready to receive Him.