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03 July 2019

Finality of His Advent

SYNOPSIS - The “coming” of Jesus produces the final judgment, the resurrection, the consummation of his kingdom, the cessation of death, ultimate victory over all his enemies, and the New Creation

Dawn Light - Photo by Tadej Skofic on Unsplash
Tadej Skofic on Unsplash
Some interpretations of the Last Days claim the return of Jesus will be followed by an interim period during which Jesus reigns on the earth but sin and death continue to occur, at least to a limited degree. At the end of this period, once again, Satan will lead humanity in a final rebellion against the Lord. Logically, this means sin, death, and Satan will not be overthrown completely when the “Son of Man” arrives. The final judgment and the final victory of the Lamb must be delayed until after the end of this interim period, the so-called “Millennium.”

This scenario is dependent on a single passage in the book of RevelationWithout it, this view would not exist. It stands in tension with the rest of the New Testament in which the coming of Jesus results in the final judgment, the destruction of the wicked, the resurrection of the dead, the New Creation, an everlasting reign of righteousness, and the cessation of death - (Revelation20:1-10).

For example, in his Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Jesus portrayed both divisions of humanity being gathered at the “final harvest” - the just and the unjust. The “wheat” is gathered into the “barn,” the “tares” are tied into bundles and burned. The wheat represents the “sons of the kingdom,” the tares the “sons of the evil one.” The evil person who sowed the tares is the Devil and the “harvest” occurs at the end of the age (Matthew 13:24-30).

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats pictures all nations gathered before Jesus for judgment - “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.” The “sheep” inherit “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” but the “goats” are cast off into "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” The first group receives everlasting life, the second “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats was given as part of his final recorded block of teaching, the so-called “Olivet Discourse.” In it, Jesus stated explicitly that when the "Son of Man comes," he will be accompanied by his angels. At that time, all the nations of the earth will mourn at the sight of him arriving in power. He will send his angels to “gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).

In his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul wrote that at the arrival of Jesus dead Christians will be resurrected and, along with believers that remain alive on the earth, the church will "meet him in the air" as he is descending from heaven. His arrival will be heralded by “the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God.” From that point forward, believers will be with the Lord “forevermore” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

God did not appoint believers to “wrath” but, instead, to attain salvation through Jesus. In contrast, the “day of the Lord will arrive with sudden destruction” upon the unprepared and “they shall not escape.” Thus, in Paul’s theology, the “day of the Lord” brings both salvation and destruction, the former to believers, the latter to unbelievers (1 Thessalonians 5:1-7).

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul wrote that the righteous will be vindicated when Jesus is “revealed from heaven with his angels.” However, their persecutors and all “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” will pay the ultimate penalty, “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” At that time, Jesus will be “glorified in his saints and admired in all them that believe.” Again, at the same final event, the righteous are vindicated and the wicked condemned (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul labeled this event the “arrival” or parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also the “Day of the Lord” and the "Revelation of Jesus from heaven." In each case, this is the same “coming” when Jesus gathers the saints to himself and judges their persecutors. Two events must occur before that day can come - The unveiling of the “man of lawlessness” and a “falling away”:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) – “But we request you, brethren — in behalf of the Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, That ye be not quickly tossed from your mind, nor be put in alarm — either by spirit or by discourse or by letter as by us, as that the day of the Lord hath set in: That no one may cheat you in any one respect. Because that day will not set in — except the revolt come first, and there be revealed the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction” – (The Emphasized Bible).
This “man of lawlessness” will use “all power and signs and lying wonders” from Satan to deceive all who do not love the truth. But he will be destroyed all the same by Jesus at the “brightness of his coming” or Parousia (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).

Church graveyard - Photo by Jamie Haughton on Unsplash
By Jamie Haughton on Unsplash
In his first epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul responded to members of the congregation that were denying the future bodily resurrection. Not only did he affirm the reality of the resurrection, but he also linked it to the past resurrection of Christ and provided a broad outline of events that will occur at the time of his “arrival” (parousia). The righteous dead will be raised, the kingdom of God will be consummated, all His remaining enemies will be subjugated, including the “last enemy, death." On that day, both living and dead saints inherit the kingdom and receive “immortality” (
1 Corinthians 15:20-57).

The subject of the future resurrection is also addressed in his letter to the Romans. If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in our mortal bodies, then He will also quicken our mortal bodies by this same Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit confirms that we are His children and, therefore, “joint-heirs with Christ” destined to experience that same resurrection. Not only so, but the creation itself eagerly awaits the “manifestation of the sons of God,” at which time creation itself will be “delivered from the bondage of corruption.” This means the New Creation and the “redemption of our body,” that is, the bodily resurrection (Romans 8:10-23).

The Apostle Peter explicitly links the New Creation to the “coming” or Parousia of Jesus, and to the judgment of the wicked. This event he labels the “Day of God,” an echo of the Old Testament theme of the “Day of Yahweh.” For the ungodly, this day mean “judgment and destruction.” It will arrive unexpectedly, just “like a thief in the night,” and it will result in the replacement of the old created order with the “new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:3-13).

The Book of Revelation also locates key events like the judgment of the wicked at the coming of Jesus. In his prologue, John declares - “Behold, he is coming with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all the tribes of the earth shall wail because of him.” The passage echoes the words of Jesus about the “coming of the Son of Man” and alludes to Daniel 7:13-14 and Zechariah 12:10.
The victory of Jesus at the end of the age results in the New Heavens and New Earth. When the Sixth Seal is opened, the “day of the Lord” begins, the day of His “wrath” when all the wicked attempt to hide from the judgment about to fall (Revelation 1:7, 6:12-17).
The “Day of the Lord” will be marked by great celestial and terrestrial upheaval. In the vision of the Sixth Seal, the same Old Testament language is employed that was used by Jesus in his Olivet Discourse to portray the universal upheaval that will accompany his “arrival”:
  • (Daniel 7:13) “I continued looking in the visions of the night when, lo! WITH THE CLOUDS OF THE HEAVENS, ONE LIKE A SON OF MAN WAS COMING — and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Zechariah 12:10) “But I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitant of Jerusalem the spirit of favour and of supplications, and THEY WILL LOOK UNTO ME WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED — AND WILL WAIL OVER HIM, as one waileth over an only son, and will make bitter outcry over him, as one maketh bitter outcry over a firstborn.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Matthew 24:29-31) – “But straightway after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her brightness, and the stars will fall from heaven — and the powers of the heavens will be shaken; And then will be displayed — THE SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN IN HEAVEN, and then will smite their breasts — ALL THE TRIBES OF THE EARTH; and they will see THE SON OF MAN — COMING UPON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN with great power and glory.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Revelation 1:7) – “Lo! HE COMETH WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye shall see him, such also as pierced him; and ALL THE TRIBES OF THE LAND SHALL SMITE THEMSELVES FOR HIM.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Revelation 6:12-17) – “And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, that a great earthquake took place; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the full moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig-tree sheddeth her winter figs when by a great wind it is shaken, and the heaven was withdrawn as a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island out of their places were shaken…and they say unto the mountains and unto the rocks — Fall upon us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the anger of the Lamb; Because THE GREAT DAY of their anger is come, and who is able to stand?” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Cosmos Turmoil - Photo by Yash Raut on Unsplash
Yash Raut on Unsplash
In 
Revelation, this day of cosmic upheaval occurs at the end of the Seven Seal openings, not a thousand years after the return of Jesus. Likewise, when the Seventh Trumpet sounds, all the kingdoms of the earth are transferred to the realm of the Lord, and “he will reign forever and ever.” This “day” includes the arrival of God’s wrath, the raising of the dead, the judgment of the wicked, the vindication of the righteous, and the destruction of “them that destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:15-19).

When the seventh angel pours out the contents of his “bowl of wrath” following the “battle” at Armageddon, the “kings of the earth” and their armies are overthrown. The Seventh Bowl of wrath produces terrestrial and celestial upheaval, the destruction of the city of “Babylon,” the downfall of the “cities of the nations,” and the transformation of the earth (“Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” - Revelation 16:12-21, 19:17-21).

The same final battle described in the Sixth Bowl of wrath is presented again in the vision of the Rider on a White Horse - Both images borrow language from Ezekiel 38-39, the attack by “Gog and Magog.” Only in this picture, the Rider on a White Horse arrives to do battle with this force, presumably, Jesus Christ (Revelation 16:12-21, 19:17-21).

Once again, the same final conflict is described in Revelation 20:7-10, a passage that also borrows language from Ezekiel 38-39. This “battle” also results in the destruction of the attacking force, the final judgment before the Great White Throne, and the casting of the wicked into the "Lake of Fire." Thus, the “thousand years” occur before the final judgment and the attack by “Gog and Magog” (Revelation 20:7-15).
If the battle and judgment scenes described in the preceding passages from Revelation refer to the same events that are to transpire on the “Day of the Lord,” then whatever the thousand-years period is, it must precede the final “battle” and the Great White Throne of Judgment, not follow them.
Thus, the New Testament tells a consistent story. The “coming” or Parousia of Jesus means the final judgment, the resurrection of the dead, terrestrial and celestial upheaval, the consummation of God’s kingdom, the cessation of death, the final overthrow of all God’s enemies, and the New Creation in which righteousness prevails evermore. This leaves no room for any subsequent interim period during which sin and death continue to occur, however infrequently.

Also relevant is the consistent teaching in the New Testament that Jesus began to reign over all things following his death and resurrection. His singular victory over death, sin, and Satan was achieved in his past Death and Resurrection - Their defeat does not require another interim period during which Christ begins to reign, but also must continue to do battle with his enemies (e.g., Philippians 2:9-11, Hebrews 1:1-4).