So how do we cut through all the various denominational views on the doctrine of the second coming of Christ to arrive at a biblical understanding of the return of Christ? There are many complexities regarding the doctrine of the second coming that would take far too long to describe in this article, but suffice it to say that it is a generally accepted belief (orthodoxy) through denominational lines that Christ will at some point return and this world will cease to be as we know it today. I hold to the premillennialism view, which is the belief that all who have repented of their sins and received Jesus as their savior by faith will be raptured out of the world, followed by the tribulation period of seven years, followed by the second coming of Christ, followed by a 1,000 year reign of Christ, followed by the destruction of the world. At the other end of the spectrum is the view of Amillennialism which is the belief that there is no rapture or 1,000 year reign of Christ, but at some point Christ does return and the final judgment follows.
Irrespective of which view one holds, it is vital to understand that the Bible clearly teaches that an end to this world will occur. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” (Revelation 21:1) It is also clear from scripture that there will be a cataclysmic event that will take place at the end when Christ returns. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, ….and they shall see the Son of man (Jesus) coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:29-30) “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Unfortunately the misguided predictions of Mr. Harold Camping and his followers have done a great disservice to this vital doctrine of the rapture and second coming, turning this doctrine into a topic of mockery and laughter when it should be a most sobering thought to think that at any moment Christ could return and this world will be plunged into chaos and devastation on a grand scale unlike anything experienced heretofore since the creation of the world.
Although we may disagree on all of the complex details regarding the second coming of Christ, and certainly I disagree with Mr. Camping predicting a specific date, it is certain that the Bible makes it clear that there will be an end and after that there will be judgment. “…and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works….and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:12,15)
Since the ascension of Christ nearly 2,000 years ago the believers have been looking for Christ’s return. The disciples thought Christ’s return was immanent just a few days after seeing him ascend into heaven. The past 2,000 years since Christ’s return to heaven has produced many prognostications as to when the Lord will return to earth. Obviously all have been wrong. However, one thing that we can be assured of, seventy five years from now most everyone reading this article will have ceased to exist here on earth. Whether our departure from earth comes by way of the rapture or by way of death is really inconsequential. What is consequential is not the mode in which we leave this earth, but where we spend eternity once we leave this earth. “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
Pastor, Randy Mason
Liberty Baptist Church of Marshalltown
Pastor Randy Mason