|Observing the Text!|
Tension Between the Two Ages
We live in the tension of the two ages: this present evil age and the age to come. In his first coming, Jesus brought the future into the present. We do not have to wait to experience the future at some future date. We can experience the kingdom now even in this present evil age. The death of Jesus on the cross made it possible for us to enter into the age to come now. In that event, believers have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God (Col. 1.13). This is good news. Believers can live the life of the age to come now. When Paul speaks of being “in Christ,” he is saying that believers can experience the power and life of the age to come in their present reality (2 Cor. 5.17).
As we have said repeatedly, we live in this present evil age but with the life and power of the age to come. While the present experience of the future ingdom is only partial, it is real. The complete power of the age to come will not be fully expressed at every moment while this evil age remains. To complete the work that Jesus has already begun, i.e., the inauguration of the updated kingdom, he must return for the consummation of the kingdom to occur.
|Interpreting the Text!|
The Consummation of the Kingdom (The Second Coming)
The following are the words the New Testament uses for the event of the Second Coming. They are:
This word can be translated presence (1 Thess. 3.13) and arrival (1 Cor. 16.17). The word is often used in a semi technical sense of a visit of a person who has a high rank, especially of emperors or kings who were visiting their provinces. Jesus is pictured in the New Testament as seated at the right hand of God in heaven. He will visit the earth again in person (Acts 1.11) at the close of the age (Matt. 24.3). He will come in power and glory (Matt. 24.27) to raise the dead in Christ (1 Cor. 15.23). He will gather his people (2 Thess. 2.1; see. Matt. 24.31) and destroy evil (2 Thess. 2.8).
This word is translated by revealed (2 Thess. 1.7). It could also be translated unveiling or disclosure. The Second Coming will disclose the lordship of Jesus to the world (Phil. 2.10-11). His apokalypsis will be the revealing to the world the glory and power that are now his (2 Thess. 1.7).
This word is translated coming (2 Thess. 2.8). This word could be translated appearing and would indicate the visibility of the return of Jesus. While largely limited to the so-called Pastoral Letters, Paul used the word to tell the church at Thessalonica that Jesus will slay the man of lawlessness by the breath of his mouth and destroy him “by the epiphaneia of his parousia” (2 Thess. 2.8). The return of Jesus will not be secret or hidden but will be a visible breaking into history of the glory of God.
The Second Coming is the personal and visible return of the same Jesus who departed as recorded by Luke in (Acts 1.11). The first time Jesus came, he brought the power of the kingdom of God and defeated Satan. The second time he comes, there will be a full restoration of the rule of God in the world. The classic position found in the early church creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed is different from the position taken by modern dispensational theologians. Dispensational theology teaches that the coming of Jesus will occur in two parts: the first, a secret rapture of the church; the second, some seven years later. Often called pretribulational dispensationalism, this view is espoused in the Scofield Reference Bible and modern teachers like Hal Lindsey. Dr. John Walvoord, the former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, admitted in his book The Rapture Question (1957 first printing) that pretribulationism, a coming of Jesus for the church before the great tribulation, is not explicitly taught in Scripture. This admission which appeared in the first printing of the book in 1957 was deleted from later printings (Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. Revised. 602).
Catching Up (Rapture)
The most commonly used term about the catching up of Christians at the Second Coming is rapture. This event is described in 1 Thessalonians at 4.16-17. The catching up of believers is Paul’s way of expressing the sudden transformation of the living for the weak, corruptible body of this physical order to the powerful, incorruptible body that belongs to the new order of the age to come. It is the sign of passing from the level of mortal existence to immortality (Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. Revised. Revised. 610-611.)The most commonly used term about the catching up of Christians at the Second Coming is rapture. Click To Tweet
Another phrase is the day. This expression takes several different forms, including the day of the Lord, the day of the Lord Jesus, the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, the day of Jesus Christ, the day of Christ, and that day. In view of the fact that for Paul and the early Church the exalted Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:11), efforts to distinguish between the Day of the Lord and the Day of Christ, (finding in them two different eschatological programs – one for Israel and one for the Church) are misguided. They all refer to one event.
The Coming of Jesus is an event for all people. It will mean either salvation or judgment, depending on one’s relationship to Jesus. Salvation is not just concerned with people; it also concerns the transformation of the physical order. The coming of Jesus is a cosmic event in which God, who has visited men already in the first coming of Jesus, will visit them again as the glorified Christ. The goal of redemption is nothing less than the establishment of God’s rule over all of creation.
Other Terms to Note:
Rebellion is the word is apostasy and has been translated by some Dispensational Theologians as departing. There is no support for such a translation in ancient literature. The word usually means outright opposition to God. This is not a falling away as has often been suggested as much as it is apathy toward God and his authority (1 Tim. 4.1).
The Man Of Lawlessness Revealed
This phrase is usually understood as referring to the Antichrist. Here is an interesting thought. If verse 1 means the rapture of the saints before the tribulation as stated by John Walvoord in The Rapture Question (152), and in verse 2, the day of the Lord is the second coming of Jesus, and the rebellion and man of lawlessness are revealed during the tribulation when the church has already been raptured, then Paul is telling the Thessalonians something they did not really need to know because they would already be gone in the rapture. Obviously, he is telling them something that they should observe has not happened so they may be calmed about the report which they had received. Paul leaves his readers with a description of the character of the Antichrist. The spirit of Antichrist is always here (1 John 4.3). At the conclusion of this present evil age, all evil appears to be embodied in one human being-the Antichrist. He will arrogate to himself all authority both secular and sacred. He will demand total submission including worship. His character is lawless. His destiny is to be doomed to destruction. His activity will be to set himself up against God. I do not believe that Paul is referring to a rebuilt temple. The temple had not yet been destroyed and the word he uses is not the whole temple but the innermost shrine. He uses this word later in his book to the Corinthians to mean the church (1 Cor. 3.16-17). It is a metaphorical way of expressing defiance to God by the Antichrist.
The Coming of the Kingdom
When Jesus speaks of consummation, he does so with symbols. The Gospel of Mark briefly describes the end of this present evil age and the coming of the kingdom. Jesus speaks about this event in catastrophic language in which the whole cosmos will be affected. Heavenly bodies contort like the sun darkening and the moon turning to blood. We must remember that this is poetic language and is best understood against an Old Testament background. Dr. Ladd suggests that these words in Mark 13.24-25 are not meant to be taken in exacting literalism while at the same time they do point forward to actual cosmic events. In the Old Testament this language often suggests divine judgment is on the verge of occurring.
What Then Should We Do?
Several remarks of Jesus could cause us to believe that the coming of the kingdom is imminent (Matt. 10.23; Mark 9.1; 13.30-31). On the other hand, there are other sayings that indicate there is a delay before the consummation will come (Mark 13.7-10; Luke 19.11). The tension between the impending and delayed coming of the kingdom is characteristic of kingdom theology. We live in the present and waiting on the not yet. This uncertainty is often difficult for the Westerner to accept. We all too often try to harmonize what should be left in tension. When we take one side above the other, we emphasize one picture to the exclusion of the other. We must understand biblical thought patterns in the historical context in which they were given, rather than forcing them into our own modern analytical categories.
It is clear. Jesus will return. It is not clear when that moment will be. What are we to do? Be busy teaching the words and doing the works of the kingdom in this present evil age.It is clear. Jesus will return. It is not clear when that moment will be. Click To Tweet
|Living into the Text!|
It is always important to live into what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- How does living in the tension between the ages affect your day-to-day life? What are you not doing that you should do?
- In what ways has dispensational theology, which espouses a pretribulational rapture of the church, caused you to live out your present kingdom life?
- How does the consummation of the kingdom drive you to teach the words and do the works of Jesus? If they don’t, why not?
- What three things can you do this week to ensure that you are giving away the kingdom of God to those around you?
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.