Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 5 – The Kingdom of Christ
by Gerald R. Thompson
The kingdom of Christ is what everything is about. Jesus, the Bible, God’s will, man’s purpose, the universe – the meaning of everything is tied to the coming kingdom. So it makes sense that we should take care to find out everything we can about the nature of that kingdom.
Mat. 24:29-31, 36-44 (summary) – For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. After the great tribulation, sun and moon will be darkened, and the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. Jesus will appear on the clouds, with a loud trumpet call, and gather His elect from the four winds. Plus, no one knows the day or hour.
John 14:3 – “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Acts 1:6-11 (summary) – “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” As Jesus ascended in a cloud, He will come again in a cloud.
2Th. 2:1-12 – The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will not occur, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed. This Antichrist will be killed by the appearance of the coming of Christ.
Rev. 19:11-21 – A rider on a white horse, King of kings, Lord of lords, who comes to judge the nations. The armies of heaven follow on white horses. He will strike his enemies and rule with a rod of iron. At the Great Supper of God, birds will feast on the flesh of the nations arrayed against God. The beast and False Prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire.
The Second Coming, a/k/a the Second Advent, is one of the most foundational doctrines of Christianity. It, like the resurrection from the dead and life everlasting, is a key hope of all Christians and a core belief of the faith. The Second Coming serves three basic purposes:
1) Jesus comes to finalize the judgment of the world by conquering the Antichrist personally;
2) Jesus comes to redeem His Church (that is, transform the bodies of all believers), both alive and dead; and
3) Jesus comes to inaugurate His kingdom reign on earth (including the restoration of Israel).
The conquest of the Antichrist was discussed earlier regarding Armageddon and the Great Day of the Lord. The redemption of the Church was discussed under the topic of the First Resurrection and is treated in detail there. The inauguration of the earthly kingdom is discussed under the topic of the Millennium, which follows after that. Here, we will examine the manner and timing of the Second Advent, and why it is so important.
The Second Coming of Christ was predicted by Him both in Mat. 24:29-44 and John 14:3, and was also foretold by the angels immediately following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:11). It is a fairly common theme in Paul’s epistles as well. But its origins trace much farther back, certainly to Zech. 14:3-4, where it is said that the Lord will do battle with the nations and stand on the Mt. of Olives.
But it goes back even farther, at least as far back as Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”
You see, the very concept of the Messiah, as prophesied throughout the O.T., is that of a conquering king who will sit on the throne of David and rule the world. That is why the Jews, in the time of Jesus’ First Advent, kept expecting Him to conquer Rome and establish His earthly kingdom at that time. They did not realize what God was doing, namely, splitting the kingdom of Christ into the spiritual and the physical, and establishing each of them at different times. They expected that these would both happen at once, and so they missed what God was doing.
But just because Jesus came the first time solely to establish the Church and not to overthrow Rome, does not mean the Jews were entirely wrong, or that God’s plans for a physical kingdom had changed. The biblical concept of a Messiah still requires, as it always did, that Jesus would at some point conquer the nations and set up His kingdom in a physical sense. That is why the Second Coming is such a crucial doctrine of the faith – it is part and parcel of the concept of the Messiah, which cannot be complete without it.
The apostles knew this to be true because they asked Jesus, just before He went up to heaven, whether this was the time He was restoring the kingdom to Israel. Acts 1:6. They knew at that point the establishment of a physical kingdom was absolutely essential to God’s plan. They only saw it in terms of restoring Israel, but they knew there was something undone.
However, Jesus had not yet even finished with the inauguration of the Church (as the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent), so He told them about the coming of the Holy Spirit and deferred the kingdom question with the statement: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
In other words, Jesus did not deny that He would restore the kingdom to Israel. He simply deferred answering the question, as if to say, “It isn’t time for you to know the answer to that question yet.” Perhaps it was even that He could not answer the question, because no one knows the day or hour of his coming except the Father alone, not even the Son. Mt. 24:36. If anything, Jesus’ answer would seem to be a confirmation that He would return to restore Israel, rather than a denial of it.
The manner of the Second Coming is this:
1) Every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail over Him. Rev. 1:7. The phrase, every eye will see him, even those who pierced Him is interesting, because all those who crucified Christ are dead. The phrase recalls Zech. 12:10, speaking of the nation of Israel, that “when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child.”
This suggest that Israel will have a collective memory and remorse for their part in the crucifixion. The Jews will recognize Jesus as the firstborn son they rejected, and will feel regret. Perhaps this will help to trigger their turning to Christ after this. But the phrase can also mean that to God, all people have an eternal spirit which remains after the body dies. So even the physically dead will know that Jesus has returned.
The fact that all the nations of the earth will mourn or wail at the Second Coming should be obvious. All of the faithful will likely be dead at the time, leaving only the unbelieving masses to witness Jesus’ return. They will, of course, realize that all of their denials of the divinity and power of Christ have been wrong, and like it or not they will be under His direct rule here on out. Not a very happy prospect, if you have spent your life in defiance of Him.
2) The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens. Jesus will appear on the clouds, with a loud trumpet call, and come in great power. Mt. 24:30-31. At the First Advent, when Jesus came to the world as a baby, certainly some people did take notice of him, but for the vast majority of people on the earth, His appearance was unnoticed. Not so the Second Advent, when everyone will take notice. This will be the greatest theatrical event in all history.
I don’t assume this means everyone on the globe will have a direct line of sight, for that would seem to be impossible. However, with all the attending signs of His coming – clouds, strange stuff happening with the sun and moon, a loud trumpet blast – I conceive everyone on earth will know something big is happening when it happens. Not just that they see it on the news, but all men will see and hear for themselves that something very unearthly is happening.
As for the sign of the Son of Man, Mt. 24:29 says that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” But v. 30 continues, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man.” In other words, the sign of the Son of Man follows these other heavenly signs – they are not one and the same. I take it that the appearance of Jesus is the sign of the Son of Man – Jesus Himself is the sign.
3) It will be a unique day, neither day nor night. Zech 14:6-7. We already know that immediately preceding the appearance of Jesus, probably only by minutes or hours, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Well, I guess that’s as good a way as any to describe a day when daytime and nighttime are jumbled up.
But the full text of Zech 14:6-7 is worth looking at. “On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.” Like I said – grand theater. And why not?
4) Jesus will gather His elect from around the world, both dead and alive, and meet them in the air. Mt. 24:31; 1Th. 4:16-17. We have here described the first resurrection, which some people view as the Rapture, and others view as part and parcel of the Second Coming. I am in the second camp, for reasons explained in the next section. Regardless, this is the event in which believers are translated, that is, given new bodies which will not die and are incorruptible.
Notice that there is a kind of up and down thing going on. First, the saints (the dead in Christ first, then those who are alive) are caught up from the earth and meet Jesus in the air, which I take to be mid-descent on His part. Then, the saints follow Jesus the rest of the way so that when He touches ground, all the saints will be with Him, riding white horses, no less. Zech. 14:5; Rev. 19:14.
One of the arguments put forth by dispensationalists in favor of the secret Rapture is that it supposedly makes no sense for believers to go up to meet Christ, only to immediately come back to earth. Therefore, the first resurrection cannot happen at the same time as the Second Coming (so the argument goes). I frankly don’t know why this should pose a logical problem.
How does it make any more logical sense for believers to be translated, go all the way up to the third heaven, and wait around doing nothing until they are needed to return with Christ? Strictly speaking, God can do this deal any way He likes – both are within His power. But which way has He revealed in His word? But more on this in the next section.
5) Jesus will touch down on the Mount of Olives with His followers with Him on white horses, to conquer the nations. Zech 14:3-4. Rev. 19:14. OK, so now we have a location. Jesus isn’t going to return to earth just anywhere randomly, but He will come specifically to the Mt. of Olives, which is on the doorstep of Jerusalem. Convenient, since the enemies of God will be waiting on the mountains around Jerusalem. That way, they can all get together.
We are also told that “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” Zech. 14:4. So when Jesus returns, He will not only shake the sky, but split the earth.
6) Jesus will personally defeat the Antichrist and throw him and the False Prophet into hell. 2Th. 2:8; Rev. 19:20. I have already mentioned that Jesus will kill the Antichrist by the mere appearance of His coming. A word will go forth from His mouth like a sword, and fire will come down to destroy the armies of the Antichrist. The saints won’t have to lift a finger. I have also already discussed how the Antichrist and False Prophet will be immediately thrown into the lake of fire, and Satan locked in the abyss. And this is how the Second Coming will come to a close.
Although, we can expect that there will be a substantial aftermath of this event. Those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons wielded by the enemies of God and burn them for seven years, so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests. They will seize the spoil of those who despoiled them, and plunder those who plundered them. Finally, all the multitude of the armies of the Antichrist will have to be buried in the Valley of the Travelers, in Israel. Ezek. 39:9-11.
7) No one knows the day or hour except the Father alone. Mt. 24:36. This is a rather strange statement, given that Jesus said He and the Father “are one.” Jn. 10:30. Doesn’t Jesus know what God the Father knows? Now, yes. But when the statement was made, Jesus was in His human form, in which He had laid aside certain attributes of divinity. Phlp. 2:6-7. No, I don’t think members of the divine Trinity keep secrets from each other.
Now, as to timing, 2Th. 2:1-12 makes clear that the Second Coming will not occur until after the Antichrist is revealed. Since the appearance of Jesus results in the immediate defeat of the Antichrist, his coming must be at the very end of the Tribulation. Since the Tribulation will last 3½ years, doesn’t that mean people will be able to figure out when Jesus will return, since the Tribulation will be clearly inaugurated by the Abomination of Desolation and possibly the breaking of a peace treaty? Well, the scripture only says no one knows the day or hour.
Even the very next scripture (Mat. 24:32-35) in the lesson of the fig tree, tells us that people will know when it is time for these things to take place. So the exact day or hour, no. But the month and year? Probably yes. But only if you are alive at the end of the Tribulation. And if you are reading this now, you probably won’t be.