To understand and enjoy the Scriptures, it is necessary to differentiate between the first and second comings of Christ. His First Coming refers, of course, to His birth as a baby in Bethlehem's manger. The Second Coming points forward to the time when He will return. The first is concerned with the sufferings of Christ, the second with the glory that will follow (1 Peter 1:11).
In this chapter we will present Christ's Second Coming in a general way, presenting only the simple fact that the Savior is coming again. In the next chapter we will see that there are several phases to His Second Coming.
The Old Testament prophets foresaw the coming of the Messiah, but they were confused by what they saw. The Spirit of God revealed to them that the Christ would come in both humiliation and glory. He would suffer, bleed, and die, but He would also triumph over all His foes. They could not reconcile this. What they didn't realize was that they were dealing with two distinct advents of the Messiah, with more than 1900 years between them.
Oftentimes the two comings are merged together in the Bible with no indication of an intervening time period. If we can learn to detect these quick transitions, it will add greatly to our pleasure and profit. Here are some examples.
The first twenty-one verses of Psalm 22 clearly refer to the First Advent; they depict the sufferings of the Savior on the Cross. But there is a distinct break between verses 21 and 22. The last ten verses of the psalm point forward to the victory and glory of the Second Advent.
We also find the two comings in Isaiah 9:6, 7:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
The coming to Bethlehem is described by the words "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..." All the rest of the verses point forward to the time when He will return to reign in power and great glory.
The two advents are also found in Isaiah 49:7:
Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
The first advent is apparent in the words "to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers," but the rest of the verse points unmistakably to His second coming.
Now notice Isaiah 52:14, 15:
Even as many were astonished at thee (his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men), so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him, for that which had not been told them shall they see, and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Verse 14 obviously describes the Savior on the Cross; those who watched the Crucifixion were astonished at the depths of His suffering. He was so disfigured that He was no longer recognizable as a man. But there is a tremendous contrast in verse 15. When the Savior comes back, men will be astonished at the brilliance of His glory. The nations will be startled to see the lowly Stranger of Galilee returning as King of kings and Lord of lords.
One of the best-known examples of a passage where the two advents are blended is Isaiah 61:1, 2:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn.
When Jesus was in the synagogue in Nazareth He quoted from these verses (Luke 4:18, 19). But notice that He stopped with the words "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." He did not continue to the expression, "and the day of vengeance of our God." Why? Because His First Advent ushered in the acceptable year of the Lord. His Second Advent will begin "the day of vengeance of our God."
We have a similar illustration of the two advents in Psalm 34:15, 16:
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears an open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When Peter quotes these verses in 1 Peter 3:12 he stops short of the words "to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth." All the rest of the quotation applies to the age in which we are now living, but this final expression looks forward to the Second Advent of Christ.
The prophet Micah foretold that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Messiah (Mic. 5:2):
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
But then Micah quickly skipped over to Christ's Second Coming, when He will be great unto the ends of the earth (Mic. 5:4):
And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God, and they shall abide; for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.
In Zechariah 9:9 we have an obvious prediction of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem:
Rejoice greatly, o daughter of Zion; shout, o daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
But the next verse carries us forward to the Second Coming, when Christ will reign from sea to sea:
And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off-, and he shall speak peace unto the heathen, and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
We find the two comings merged in the New Testament as well as in the Old. Take Luke 1:31-33, for example:
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The first verse was obviously fulfilled when Jesus was born (see Matt. 1:25). But verses 32 and 33 pass over this present Church Age to the time when Christ will return to sit upon the throne of David and to rule over the earth.
There is a veiled reference to the two advents in Luke 20:18:
Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
In the first part of the verse, the stone (Christ) is on the earth. During His Incarnation men fell on Him and were broken. In the second half of the verse, the stone is coming down from above. When Christ comes back He will scatter the disobedient as dust.
A final and more obvious instance of the combination of the two comings is found in Hebrews 9:26, 28:
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.... So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
He appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; that was His First Advent. He will appear the second time without sin unto salvation; that is when He comes again.