Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Study of Early Christianity: Second Coming

Second Coming – “He Will Come Again”
What Christians refer to as the second coming of Christ is a close fit for common messianic expectations during the Second Temple period. Some expected a messiah who would restore the Davidic kingdom. Others expected the messiah(s) to usher in a golden age surpassing anything that had gone before.[1] Jesus did not fit either picture.
The Jewish Messiah first came as a humble man (Philippians 2:5-8). He prophesied that he will come a second time in power and glory (Matthew 24:30; Mark 8:38). Some of his disciples watched him ascend from the earth and into a cloud after his resurrection (Acts 1:9). Then two angels confirmed that he will return just like he left (Acts 1:11). When Jesus returns in the clouds, the world will recognize him (Luke 17:24-25; Revelation 1:7). The Messiah will indeed come as a Davidic king, bringing an age of unprecedented peace and prosperity (Revelation 22:16; Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:7; 11:6-9; Zechariah 14:6).
The Apostolic Fathers taught what they had received – that Jesus would return to earth in glory and power, being seen and recognized by the world.[2] This doctrine of the two advents of Christ was expounded quite clearly by Irenaeus and Justin Martyr. They explained that, though the first advent was one of suffering and rejection, the second advent will be marked by power.[3] One of the primary ways Jesus will display his power is by executing judgment. Early Christian pastors and theologians often taught about the second coming and the final judgment of the human race together, which is fitting because Christ is returning to judge the human race.

[1] Stanley E. Porter and Craig A. Evans, Dictionary of New Testament Background : A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (electronic ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000). Apocalyptism
[2] According to Eusebius (an ancient church historian) Papias taught that Jesus will return to earth to set up a literal kingdom.  Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, 265. “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.” Didache XVI, ANF VII p. 382 “And the unbelievers “shall see His glory,” and strength; and they shall think it strange when they see the sovereignty of the world in Jesus, saying, Woe unto us, Thou wast He, and we did not know and did not believe, and we did not obey the presbyters when they declared unto us concerning our salvation.” 2 Clement XVII, ANF VII p. 522
[3] “…understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set for as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory…” Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho CX, ANF I p. 253
“…all the prophets announced His two advents: the one, indeed, in which He became a man subject to stripes, and knowing what it is to bear infirmity, and sat on the foal of an ass, and was a stone rejected by the builders, and was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and by the stretching forth of His hands destroyed Amalek; while He gather from the ends of the earth into His Father’s fold the children who were scattered abroad, and remembered His own dead ones who had formerly fallen asleep, and came down to them that He might deliver them: but the second in which He will come on the clouds, bringing on the day which burns as a furnace…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies XXXIII, ANF I p. 506