The Second “Coming” Already Happened…But Not In The Way You’re Thinking (Part 1)

The Second “Coming” Already Happened…But Not In The Way You’re Thinking (Part 1)

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.
Matthew 24:29-31

Pardon Me While I Let a Little Cat Out of a Very Big Bag

Of the things Christians are usually divided over, Jesus’ incarnational first coming seems to be a point of unity. We all agree that He was born a few years BC, which humorously might suggest that the Christ was born before Christ, a rather ironic blight upon poor Dionysius Exiguus’ dating system. Yet, notwithstanding a Scythian error or two, we all agree that Jesus lived to be less than 40, He died a horrific death at the hands of the Jews, He rose again visibly and bodily in Jerusalem, and He ascended into heaven in the early thirties of that first common era century. His Ascension into heaven not only ended His first incarnational coming, but it also ushered in His heavenly reign over His Kingdom, the Church, that continues down to this day.

Yet as clear as His first coming has been, there has been an unbelievable amount of confusion on when the second coming will occur. For instance, some—among the full preterist types—believe everything in the New Testament has already happened and that a future bodily coming of Christ is unnecessary or, at the very least, was not recorded in the Bible so we cannot expect it. On the other end of the eschatological spectrum, the full-fledged futurist types tend to quibble over whether Jesus’ second bodily coming will be a pre-tribulational, mid-tribulational, or post-tribulational escape via a wonkavator-like-rapture.

What very few seem to notice is that there are two kinds of divine comings in the Bible. There are the bodily comings where God takes on a human body, such as when He walks with Adam and Eve in the garden, passes by Moses, dances in a fiery furnace, comes as Lord and Messiah to the Jews, and returns bodily at the end of human history. All these we affirm. Yet, there is another kind of “divine coming” in the Bible, where God spiritually comes in judgment against a wicked nation that we must not overlook if we are going to understand this passage.

That is the eschatological cat I would like to let out of the end-times knapsack and that is where I would like us to dive in today. For clarity, I will provide 10 reasons why Jesus’ second coming has already occurred in the first century, but with that, I will give you the most important qualifier that is needed before I begin. Here goes…I believe Jesus will physically return at the end of human history. I believe that He will come back in bodily form, give us new spiritual bodies, and call us up to meet Him in the air (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15 & 1 Thessalonians 4). My contention in this article is that the “coming” Jesus is referring to in Matthew 24 is not the end of human history coming, but a divine judgment coming against the Jews for their covenantal infidelity.

To support this view, I will be giving 10 lines of cold hard Biblical data that come right out of the text. But, if you would like more information on what these two kinds of divine comings are (Physical Incarnational and Judgment Covenantal) and how they are used in the Bible (e.g. Isaiah 19:1), then see the article I wrote a few months back that covers this very topic.

For all others, onward!

Evidence 1: The Meaning of “Immediate”

Many, such as eminent New Testament Scholar, D.A. Carson, suggest a multi-thousand-year gap between verses 28 and 29 of Matthew 24. Those within that ilk conclude that our Lord is referring to the downfall of Jerusalem in AD 70 in verses 15-28, but then wrongly assume Jesus hopscotched 2000 years forward into the modern era when moving along to verse 29. This suggestion could be reasonable if there was a shred of evidence to defend it. Yet, the evidence is insurmountable in the opposite direction.

In fact, the insurmountable evidence I am speaking of rests on a single word… “Immediately”! Notice how the passages flow:

For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 29 But, immediately after the tribulation of those days…
—Matthew 24:27-29a

Assuming a multiple thousand-year gap between verses 28 and 29 is the scholarly equivalent of trying to sell ice to an Eskimo. To say it differently, it might be a tough sell. But, I suppose it could be done if there were actual contextual factors, that were right there in the text, alerting the reader that Jesus consciously intended to wax proleptically. But, this cockamamie thesis falls apart quicker than a house made out of toilet paper when you stop to consider what the word “immediate” means.

Not to state the obvious, but if verse 28 is referring to the downfall of Jerusalem, as many attest and we just proved last week, then verse 29 cannot refer to an entirely different era. It must happen immediately after the previous one, limiting its fulfillment to the first century.

Evidence 2: “All These Things”…

Before we get to the meat of verses 29-31, let us recall the sauce Jesus prepared for us in verses 34-35. He said:

Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
—Matthew 24:34-35

We do not have to know mathematics on par with men like Isaac Newton to understand that 34 is just a bit larger than 29, 30, or 31. And we do not require formal training from men like Noam Chomsky, to comprehend that “all these things” means all the things Jesus just said in verses 1-28. What we need is the courage of men like Luther, Calvin, and Knox to believe what Jesus said, even if it is difficult to imagine and especially if it messes with our theological system.

Let me say it plainly, verses 29-31 happened in the first century, in that generation, because Jesus said “All these things” would happen in a single generation in verse 34 and we believe that He meant it. This is the unavoidable conclusion you must come to unless you want to turn yourself into a human pretzel.

Evidence 3: The Sun, Moon, and Stars as Apocalyptic Imagery of Judgment

Jesus said:

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
—Matthew 24:29

In the words of Ricky Ricardo, it looks like we have some “esplainin to do”. If we are positing that all these things happened in the first century, then it sounds like we are saying that the sun darkened, the moon stopped shining, and a host of stellar luminaries fell from out of the sky, all within a generation from Jesus speaking. To be fair, that is what I am saying, but not completely.

Like Carson and other scholars, I also detect a switch has occurred between verses 28 and 29. Yet, instead of seeing that switch happening in the timing of the prophecy’s fulfillment, I see the switch occurring in the kind of genre Jesus is employing. For instance, in verses 3-28, Jesus is using the normal kind of language one would use when speaking to a friend. He is answering their questions in a straightforward and dialogical way that the disciples accurately record through historical prose. This form of communication is straightforward, plain, and easily discernible.

Yet, as Jesus continues speaking, He switches to a common Old Testament form of communication that His first-century interlocutors would have easily comprehended. This switch was to the apocalyptic genre, which foretells future-oriented events through the lens of symbols. The word apocalyptic means “to reveal” and it does so through visionary, figurative, and metaphorical speech patterns that were common to His contemporaries but not so to the modern man.

Read More

Scroll to top