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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Spring Edition 2004

On Avoiding Extremes Regarding The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ

   A vital part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the proclamation of the biblical truth concerning His return.

    Some within the professed church today do not believe that Jesus is coming back. Others say that nobody can know what the Bible says about it. Still many others hold to a very detailed speculative theory about Christ's second coming that is totally false.

    For the above reasons it is important to take the time and make the effort necessary to understand what can be clearly proven from the Bible itself regarding this subject.

    Following is a summary of the one most central issue that divides the church today over New Testament statements regarding the second coming.

    Here is that statement of New Testament fact:

    The second coming of Jesus Christ will take place only at the "end" of the world. "When shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3).

    The above question of Jesus' disciples reflected the prevailing Jewish belief that the Jerusalem temple was indestructible, and must remain standing until the end of the world. If and when the temple was destroyed, the Jews imagined, the age would end, and the messianic judgment would take effect.

    Jesus had already made the connection between the end of the world and the universal judgment of mankind in the parables of Matthew 13, as well as in such miscellaneous statements as Matthew 16:27: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works." Further amplification of this truth is found in Matthew 25:32-46; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 2:6,16; 3:6; 14:9-12; E Corinthians 5:10; II Timothy 4:1; Revelation 11:15-18; and 20:11-15.
    What Jesus taught the disciples in Matthew 24, however, was that, contrary to Judaism's current belief, the endurance of the Jerusalem temple and the messianic judgment at the end of the age were not prophetically connected. The whole purpose of Jesus' statements in this chapter was to draw a distinction between the time of the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, which was to happen forty years later, and the day of universal messianic judgment at the end of the messianic age, an event that must be regarded as being yet future. (For a detailed outline of the major points of this distinction please read the comments in Whedon's Bible Commentary under Matthew 24.)

    The disciples did not understand this distinction, and neither do many of us, especially that segment of modern believers called "radical preterists," who insist that the end of the age and the second coming of Jesus Christ has already happened in 70 A.D. The logical end result of adopting radical preterism, we should know, leads to a denial, both of the bodily resurrection of the dead, and of any future universal judgment.

    While many evangelicals scoff at the radical preterists' fictional second coming of Jesus Christ in 70 A.D., they themselves are just as much in fictional delusion concerning the second coming of Jesus, as are radical preterists, ironically, by their embrace of the dispensational premillennial theory, which denies the general resurrection of the dead and universal judgment of all mankind that the New Testament clearly teaches will happen at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

    When we eliminate the extremes above, that is, the radical preterists fictional second coming of Jesus Christ in 70 A. D., on the left, and the dispensational premillennialists' fictional silent coming of Jesus in the secret pretribulation rapture of the church, on the right, we have remaining the mainstream body of historically orthodox Christians, who believe what the New Testament really teaches.

    It teaches that Jesus will come in the end of the world to resurrect the dead and to judge all mankind, and this event will happen when conditions are just as he said they would be. This best boils down to the post-tribulational a-millennial doctrine of eschatology held by John Wesley and the majority of the Christian church for the majority of her existence.

    This historic faith of the church is perfectly satisfying to a Wesleyan Arminian conservative holiness mindset. A return to it would solve many of our movement's mentality issues.

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