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Author Topic:   The (Second?) Coming of Christ in Early Christianity
Member (Idle past 357 days)
Posts: 4519
From: VA USA
Joined: 12-05-2005

Message 8 of 12 (675003)
10-05-2012 12:29 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-17-2012 1:28 PM

Re: How did early Christians talk about the return of Jesus?
... the earliest Christian writings (being for him the letters of Paul, Hebrews, and Revelation) no mention of Jesus' apocalyptic coming is described as a return, a second coming

But in Hebrews - " And when He [God the Father] brings again the Firstborn into the inhabited earth ..." (Heb. 1:2)

The phrase "brings again the Firstborn" has to mean that His coming here is "again" or a subsequent time, a second time.

In First Corinthians 15 Paul says that the resurrected Christ appeared to over 500 hundred brethren at one time. This was in His first physical occupation on the earth (v.6). But in the same chapter he speaks of the Lord's coming -

" ... those who are Christ's at His coming." (v.23)

So this would be a subsequent coming of Christ that Paul refered to as at a future time.

Revelation 22:12 records Christ Himself speaking of His coming - "Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me to render to each one as his work is." This to be a coming after His first appearnce on the earth.

"Amen. Come Lord Jesus" is John's response. This refers to Jesus coming again.

"Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments that he may not walk naked and they see his shame." (Rev. 16:15)

This is a warning from Christ concerning His second coming.

" If therefore you will not watch, I will come as a thief, and you shall by no means know at what hour I will come upon you." (Rev. 3:3)

This is a subsequent coming of Christ which the Christians are being warned of.

From this he draws the conclusion that these authors did not, in fact, believe it was a second coming but instead a first coming

So far I see no reason for this reasoning whatsoever.

—the implication being that these authors could not then have believed Jesus to have already been a living being who walked the earth.

This is absurd.

Earl Doherty in The Jesus Puzzle (2006):
If readers can free themselves from Gospel preconceptions, they should find that these and other references of the same nature convey the distinct impression that this will be the Lord Jesus' first and only coming to earth,

The passages I sited above do not bear that out. Warnings of His coming, for example, would be meaningless unless His status, attainments, an obtainments had been previously established.

It could be said that His presence as the Holy Spirit was never said to have gone off the earth. And only Luke and Mark speak of His physical ascending to heaven. The New Testament being very balanced does not give the impression that He went anywhere at the end of Matthew and John.

So on one hand, in His form as the Spirit of Christ He is with the disciples all the days, even unto the consummation of the age (Matt. 28:20). And John really does not leave the impression that Jesus "went away."

Paul, whose writings are the earliest in the NT, locates Jesus Christ in two places:

1.) At the right hand of God interceding for His believers (Rom.8:34)

2.) Within the believers as the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9,10) . And it should be noted that Paul uses the terms "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," and "Christ" interchangeably. So through this Spirit then - "Christ is in you".

So Paul is consistent with Mark and Luke that Jesus is ascended to heaven physically, yet also indwelling the believers on the earth.
Paul writes "the last Adam became a life giving Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45) . As the life giving Spirit, Christ Himself in His pneumatic form can indwell those who receive Him into their innermost spiritual being.

For space sake, I cont. below.

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This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 04-17-2012 1:28 PM Jon has not yet responded

Member (Idle past 357 days)
Posts: 4519
From: VA USA
Joined: 12-05-2005

Message 9 of 12 (675005)
10-05-2012 1:06 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-17-2012 1:28 PM

Re: How did early Christians talk about the return of Jesus?

that this longing to see Christ has in no way been previously fulfilled. We keep waiting or the sense of "return" or the simple use of a word like "again."

Hebrews used the word "again" in Hebrews 1:6.

We wait for these writers to clarity, to acknowledge, that Jesus had already been on earth, had begun the work he would complete at the Parousia (his "coming" at the End-time);

Maybe this was a typo. "these writers to clarify .." ?

Though Christ is physically absent and at the right hand of God interceding for Christians and probably the world (Rom. 8:34) He is working throughout the church age. That is working Himself as the life giving Spirit INTO the personalities of all those who open to Him. As each saved person opens up their being to Christ, He is working Himself into their soul. He is wroughting and infusing His pneumatic being into His believers. The degree to which He can do this depends upon their openness to allow Him to sanctify them.

Therefore for them to be born again is only a birth.
For them to grow normally is His working His life and nature into them with their cooperation.

that men and women had formerly witnessed their deliverance in the event of Jesus' death and resurrection; that he had been "revealed" (one of Paul's favorite words in speaking of the Parousia) to the sight of all in his incarnated life as Jesus of Nazareth. But never an echo of such ideas do we hear in the background of these passages. (p. 50)

I think the rest of this man's thought I would have to see to comment on this section.

This is a question that I've considered before; and I had never really found anything of a satisfactory answer. It had appeared to me as though this was indeed one of a few good points from the Mythicist camp. And at first it seems really hard to get around what appears to be a complete ignorance of a 'first' coming of Jesus by early Christians.

I don't see any such "ignorance" of Christ's first coming physically to the earth at all in the New Testament.

Doherty (2006):
Perhaps the most telling reference of them all is Hebrews 10:37:

"For soon, very soon (in the words of scripture) 'he who is to come will come and will not delay.' "

Its not telling that there was no first coming of Christ because Hebrews not only says "when He brings again the Firstborn" but also that Christ will appear a second time.

"So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time to those who eagerly await Him, apart from sin, unto salvation." (Heb. 9:28)

In His first coming He offered to bear sinner's sins on His cross. And then ascended to the right hand of God somewhere at the pinnacle or peak of the universe in heaven ( do not ask me where).

" ... having made purification of sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Heb. 1:3)

From there He will appear a second time when God brings again the Firstborn into the inhabited earth (1:6; 9:28)

This is from Habakkuk 2:3 (LXX). The prophet was referring to God himself, but by the Christian period this was one of those many biblical passages reinterpreted as referring to the Messiah.

Before I lose this post on a technicality, I better stop here.
But Christ is God incarnate. So there is no descrepancy.

Paul's early writing says that the Firstborn from the dead is also the one in whom the fulfness of the Godhead bodily dwells.

"For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell" (Col. 1:19)
"For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9)

And this One whom refers to is "... the Firstborn from the dead" (1:18).

So Hebrews says "when He brings again the Firstborn into the inhabited earth" the writer is speaking of the incarnated Godman who will come again. And this One "will appear a second time..."

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

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This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 04-17-2012 1:28 PM Jon has not yet responded

Member (Idle past 357 days)
Posts: 4519
From: VA USA
Joined: 12-05-2005

Message 10 of 12 (675007)
10-05-2012 1:40 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jon
04-17-2012 1:28 PM

Re: How did early Christians talk about the return of Jesus?

The word erchomenos bothers Doherty because it is not a clear reference to a second coming. Certainly, if the author of Hebrews believed Jesus to have already been on earth once before, he would use words to reflect this belief.

The writer of Hebrews is not confused. In chapter one Christ made purification of sins and sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Then the writer expects Christ to be brought again into the inhabited earth.

Paul too uses a word, parousia, which presents no implication of an initial visit to earth by Christ. Did these authors not believe Jesus to have already come to earth once before? Is that why they use language appearing ignorant of an initial visit?

This could call for much discussion. But briefly Christ in His second appearance on the earth hovers near the earth in a kind of secret enclusure. This secret hovering near the surface of the earth is the parousia.

Revelation shows Christ first clothed with a cloud, then sitting on a cloud, then coming with the clouds. He is near the earth as the earth convulses with natural calamities. His secretive nearness to the earth in a concealed way is part of His parousia. But this parousia starts with the rapture of some believers to the third heavens to the throne of God.

From the time of the rapture of some believers off the earth to the third heavens and the descent and secretive hovering of Christ near the earth, preparing to be openly manifested, is the parousia. And it appears in many English NTs as "coming".

Even though Christ is with the believers in Spirit with their spirit, He is still coming physically. The idea is that we live by His invisible presence. Then as a reward, we will be will reign with Him in His visible presence. Those who have not learned to live by His invisible presence will suffer some loss at His second coming.

But the Gospels and the book of Acts show that some 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus trained the disciples to live by His unseen and invisible presence. He would appear and He would be removed from their sight. He trained the first disciples to realize that though they could not see Him He was still with them.

This foundational teaching permeates the New Testament. He never left us believers in one very real sense. Paul's closing word to his co-worker Timothy was the the Lord Jesus was WITH his innermost being, his regenerated spirit -

"The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you." (2 Tim. 4:22)

These are the last words written by Paul, the man who God used to write some 13 of the 27 New Testament books. He wants Timothy to realize above all that the Lord Jesus Christ is WITH his spirit.

This is reaffirmation that the believer is JOINED to the Lord in the spirit - "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17)

The Lord is with the Christians. The Lord is joined as one spirit to the Christian's regenerated spirit. The Lord is therefore with them. And because of this grace and enjoyment of His presence is with them. Indeed He is with them until the consummation of the age (Matt. 28:20). He is invisible. But He is with them. It behooves them to realize that though they cannot see Him, He is nonetheless WITH THEM. We Christians should live accordingly.

And if we do not learn that He is really with us it will be a shock to face Him when He does appear again the second time.

Acts says that the angels (or men) told the disciples that as He disappeared from their sight in ascension, He will likewise appear again:


"And when He said these things, while they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him away from their sight.

And while they were looking intently into heaven as He went, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you beheld Him going into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11)

So after His resurrection He trained them to live by His invisible presence over 40 days. Then He was taken up into heaven in their sight. And the two angels (or men) informed them that as He was taken away from their sight in His ascending to heaven, in like manner He would appear again to them some day.

In the meantime, with everyone who receives Jesus, the Lord is with their spirit. Christ is in them. For Christ has become "a life giving Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45)

The last Adam became a life giving Spirit.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

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This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jon, posted 04-17-2012 1:28 PM Jon has not yet responded

Member (Idle past 357 days)
Posts: 4519
From: VA USA
Joined: 12-05-2005

Message 11 of 12 (675011)
10-05-2012 2:17 AM

Based on these observations, then, it would appear as though it was common practice for early Christians to use rather plain language in describing the second coming of Jesus, language that was not specific in indicating whether the coming of Christ was a first coming or a second come.

Peter's early gospel message clearly says that heaven received Christ until He comes again at the restoration of all things.

"Jesus ... Whom heaven must indeed receive UNTIL the times of the restoration of all things, of which God spoke through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old." (Acts 3:20,21)

Peter is refering to the messianic promises of a restoration of the Davidic throne and reign of Israel. This is a restoration of Edenic conditions on the planet as the Anointed One, the Messiah reigns from Jerusalem over all the earth.

His first coming was that of the Suffering Servant. His second coming is of the vindicated King over all the earth. In between heaven must receive Him. And His believers must learn to live by His invisible presence. They will be rewarded with the manifestation of the kingdom as a reward if they are matured in this kingdom living during the age of grace - the church age.

The conclusion that Paul and the author of Hebrews are not likely talking about a second coming simply because they do not specifically say so cannot stand; the way they talked about Christ's apocalyptic arrival is simply the way all Christians talked about it, whether they clearly believed in a first coming or whether their beliefs on a first coming are in question.

The mistake much evangelical Christianity makes is threefold at least.

1.) They mistakenly view Heaven as God's intended eternal home for the saved. Thus many fail to see the millennial kingdom upon the earth.

2.) They mistakenly view eternity as starting when Jesus has His second coming. But before the eternal age there is at least 1,000 years.

3.) They fail to recognize that after the second coming of Christ He still can exercise discipline over Christians. Ie. we can still be disciplined by the Father even though we have the gift of eternal life.

Now my question for this thread is: Why do early Christians use such language to describe a second coming? Why no mention of this coming as a 'return'? And is there any other terminology that shows up in connection with the 'second coming'?

In the course of the last three of four replies I proved that they did speak of Chist's coming again or a second time or implied as much.

I think there are two errors that Bible readers need to avoid.

1.) Thinking somehow that the Christian writers were so befuddled and unclear that they didn't know if Jesus had already been on the earth through incarnation.

2.) Thinking that the Christian writers wrote about Jesus as if He were TOTALLY absent since He ascended.

He came physically and historically.
He ascended to heaven and we expect a second physical coming.
In the mean time He is indeed with the believers, within them, in them, in their midst to be our life and everything.

In His second coming there is some reward associated with how well we Christians grasped that all this time He has actually been with us. Did we LIVE as if He was with us? Or did we live like He was no where around and we were on our own?

The latter realization is the intended one of the New Testament.

Edited by jaywill, : No reason given.

Member (Idle past 357 days)
Posts: 4519
From: VA USA
Joined: 12-05-2005

Message 12 of 12 (675040)
10-05-2012 11:38 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Jon
04-17-2012 2:32 PM

Re: How did early Christians talk about the return of Jesus?
need to address the fact that it is fallacious to expect explicit mention of a second coming from authors such as Paul when even those who clearly believed in an historical Jesus do not make this mention with explicit language?

I'm not sure how we can get around this. It's pretty silly to expect Paul to be so specific about the 'secondness' of Jesus' coming when no other authors wrote that way. Early Christians just didn't seem to see the need to specify that Jesus' 'parousia' would be a second coming and so none of them ever talked about it in this way.

Or so seems to be the picture that's developing before me.

The earliest NT documents known are the writings of the Apostle Paul. The book of Romans is Paul basic outlay of major Christian doctrine.

Paul's introduction indicates Christ has come to earth a first time -

" ... the gospel of God ... concerning His Son, who came out of the seed of David according to the flesh, Who was designated the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness out of the resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1:1,3-4)

His resurrection of course implies His death. His death implies His living on the earth. His living on the earth as a descendent of David implies His birth as David's seed, on the earth. Therefore this intruduction indicates the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the earth.

In chapter 8 Paul locates Christ, at the time of his writing, as being both in the believers and in Heaven. Right now I focus on Him being in Heaven -

"Who is he who condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died and , rather, who was raised, who is also at the right hand of God, who also interceds for us." (Rom. 8:34)

To Paul Christ was born on earth, lived on earth, died on earth, was raised from the dead on earth, ascended to the right hand of God, and is presently (as he writes) there interceding for the Christians on the earth.

As to the future from the time Paul writes, he warns of the coming judgment of the world through Jesus Christ according to Paul's gospel -

"In the day when God judges the secrets of men according to my gospel through Jesus Christ." (Rom. 2:16) .

The judgment of God carried out through Jesus Christ was Paul's expectation seen in the book of Acts -

"Because He [God] has set a day in which He is to judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He has designated, having furnished proof to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:31)

For God to judge the world through this man, the world either must go to where this man is or this man must come to where they are. Nothing suggests that the unsaved go to heaven to be judged. I submit that Christ comes to earth to judge.

Back to Romans and this coming judgment -

"But according to your hardness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ..." (Rom. 2:5)

Since the unbeliever living and not repenting is storing up wrath for the day of judgment, it must mean that the Judge is coming where they are, the earth.

Let's not leave the Christian out. The Christian is to be judged too, not for perishing or eternal redemption, but for dispensational reward of discipline in the millennum(Rom. 14:10) .

"For we [including Paul] will all stand before the judgment seat of God, ... each one of us [including the apostle] will give an account concerning himself to God."

I do not use this verse to indicate a second coming to the surface of the earth. For the saved Christian may be taken somewhere to be judged. But the unsaved, unrepentant unbeliever, if living at that time, expects the judgment and the Judge, the man Jesus, to come to where he is. That is the earth.

Jesus carries out the judgement - "God judges the secrets of men ... through Jesus Christ" (Rom. 2:16; Acts 17:31)

So the second coming of Jesus Christ is a teaching of Paul's epistle of basic Christian doctrine.

This judgment is so clear to Paul, that though it is coming, he writes that it IS already revealed -

"For he wrath of God is revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness of men .... etc. " (Rom. 1:18)

Notice also that it is "revealed from heaven" indicating that Christ the Judge is coming from heaven. But He previously was born, lived, died, resurrected on the earth. And as Paul writes Christ is at the right hand of God in heaven interceding. So physically He must come down out of heaven to the earth a second time.

This is rather negative. So let us also indicate the positive aspect of His second coming to those who believe in Him. His revelation will also be a manifestation of the sons of God who have His life and have matured in that life -

"For I consider that the sufferings of this preent time are not wirthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed upon us. For the anxious watching of the creation eagerl awaits the revelation of the sons of God ... the creation itself will also be freed from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God ... we ourselves groan in ourselves, eagerly awaiting sonship, the redemption of our body." (See 8:19-23)

The postive aspect of Christ's second coming is that it reveals the sons of God and frees the creation. The invisible One who has lived in the saints becomes the visible glory in "the redemption of our body".

And let us not leave Israel out either. Paul says "And thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written, 'The Deliverer will come out of Zion; He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.' " (Rom. 11:26)

So Christ's second coming certainly has its Messianic aspect in relation to Israel as well. He comes to the earth. This is practical and physical. He comes out of Zion in the Holy Land and reigns over the restored Davidic kingdom from Jerusalem.

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This message is a reply to:
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