What Christ's First Advent Tells Us About His Second Coming

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
In a time of renewed ends-times speculations and date-setting, we must recognize our limitations.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part four (final) of a series. Read part three.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. - Galatians 4:4-5

Thus far in this series we have seen the meaning of the phrase "the fullness of the time" - the strategic moment for Christ's first coming, no sooner, and no later. We have also taken a small glimpse at the vast complexity and infinite wisdom of God's plan. We have also seen that no one knew the strategic moment of Christ's first advent, or even the events immediately preceding it, until He actually came.

Understanding these facts lead us to a fourth question: What about the future? What about Christ's second coming?

Today we are seeing a renewed epidemic of end-times speculations. Some of us have lived long enough to remember what went on in Evangelical circles in the 1970s and 1980s. Books and movies like The Late Great Planet Earth, and later on, the Left Behind series, gripped the attention of many people.

Many "date-setters" appeared on the scene in those days, and since then. Radio and television preachers would say, "I know the Bible says that 'No man knows the day nor the hour' - but friends, here is the inside scoop. I have it all figured out. I have 'connected the dots' in prophecy. I have done the mathematical computations. We can know the answer to the question, 'When will be the fullness of the time for Christ's second coming?' by superimposing today's news headlines on Scripture." But as the trend of the headlines changed, their speculations changed.

These charlatans made millions of dollars leading people along with one prediction after another. But as we look back on those days, we see that those speculations and predictions proved to be totally false.

An epidemic of the same kind of false prophecy and date-setting has begun again, especially since the year 2020. Once again, the end-times speculators are making millions of dollars propagating false teachings. Once again, millions are being led astray. This time the false teachers have the full advantage of the Internet; they can spread falsehoods at the speed of light.

Christians committed to the sole and unique authority of Scripture must heed the warning that the Holy Spirit through Paul have to Timothy, and to succeeding generations:

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. (2 Timothy 2:14-16)

Christians can and do legitimately differ on their views of the end times, within the bounds of Scripture. But God does not want us to operate in the realm of speculation. He wants us to recognize our limitations. He commands us to stick to the authority of His Word.

We need to remember what happened before Christ's first advent. Among the people who lived 2,000 years ago were those who knew the Scriptures and lived in anticipation of their Messiah's coming. The Old Testament gave them many specific prophecies about it.

But what happened when the time came? God placed a bright star in the heavens to guide the wise men to His Son. But where did these men go first? They went to the king's palace, because that is where they expected to find a king.

God had to send angels to tell shepherds to go and seek their Messiah in the most unlikely form - not a king on a throne, or a prince in a palace, but a poor baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. The angels had to tell them to look for Him in the most unlikely of places - not in Herod's palace, but in a manger where animals fed. That was only the beginning. Many prophetic points were overlooked or misinterpreted, and many details of the actual events were not given in prophecy.

Here is the lesson that each of us as believers must learn: our forebears in the faith who looked for Christ's first coming really only understood what had happened, and how prophecy had been fulfilled, when they looked back on what had happened.

Who knows, there may have been Hal Lindsays and Harold Campings in that day who thought they everything figured out, and led people stray. Scripture tells us that many appeared on the scene in those days who even falsely claimed to be the Christ, built up a following, but came to nothing (e.g., Acts 5:34-37). We must remember that the point of prophecy, as we read in 2nd Peter 1:19, is its actual fulfillment - not man's speculations, but God's own validation of the person and work of Jesus Christ in the fullness of the time.

Like believers 2,000 years ago, we once again live in anticipation of Christ's coming. And just as it did 2,000 years ago, Bible prophecy gives us many indications of the events that will take place. Christ will come in glory with His saints. There will be a resurrection. There will be judgment. Satan's defeat will be consummated. The wicked will be cast into Hell. This earth will be renovated by fire, and there will be new heavens and a new earth. Believers will dwell with Christ, free from both the power and the presence of sin, forever. We know these things on the authority of the Word.

But Scripture also makes it clear to us that the time and circumstances of Christ's second coming will take the world - including believers - by surprise. Scripture says that He will come suddenly, unexpectedly, "as a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10), "at an hour you do not expect" (Matthew 24:44).

In the meantime, the news headlines will tell us each day of the rise and fall of nations and alliances of nations, and of God's raising up of one ruler and putting down of another. This or that false religion will seem to gain the upper hand. Wars will be fought. Men will continue their futile efforts to bring lasting peace and order to this sin-cursed earth.

But God does not tell us to look to the news headlines in order to interpret His Word. He tells us to compare Scripture with Scripture. The Bible is our sole authority.

Jesus may return today, or tomorrow. Or, He may not return for a thousand years. We have a a difficult time admitting that last possibility. We want Him to come - now. We want God's clockwork to tick ever faster. We long for the day when this conflict between good and evil will be over. We see what we believe are signs that it may be soon. But no one knows the day or the hour of the Lord's return.

Our interest as the redeemed of the Lord should not be in speculation and date-setting, but in understanding God's ultimate purpose in Christ's second coming. That purpose is the re-gathering and reconciliation of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:7-10), and the presentation of His saints, holy and without blame (Ephesians 5:27, Colossians 1:13-20).

We must trust the details to our Lord. The believers of 2,000 years ago fully understood the prophecies of Christ's first coming only in hindsight. The Apostle Paul could only go to the synagogues of Asia Minor "explaining and demonstrating" from the prophetic Scriptures that Christ had come the first time (Acts 17:3) in the light of what had already happened. Likewise, we will only fully understand the prophecies of Christ's second coming from the vantage point of glory.

But here and now, while we wait, we Christians are the only ones who can look at the state of this world, no matter how bad it may get, and have a calmness about the present in the midst of calamity and a confidence about the future no matter what it may hold.

Nothing can take us out of the Father's hand, no matter how He directs the future course of world events (John 10:28-29). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:18-39). We alone understand that whatever men and nations may do, they are completely under the control of the almighty and sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, who is working it all together to fulfill the Father's ultimate purpose.

Timing is everything with God.

For the believer in Christ, God provides well-timed grace - that is the literal meaning of the words "grace to help in time of need" in Hebrews chapter 4 verse 16. God's perfect timing is everything in the life of the Christian and of Christ's church.

But for the unbeliever, God's declaration is this: Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2). The accepted time will fully come to an end when Christ returns. But with the exception of those who are alive at His coming, the accepted time will come to an end for each of us individually, for it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). There is no second chance.

Judgment and Hell are coming for the lost. Grace and an everlasting kingdom are coming for the redeemed.

Dear friend, choose this day whom you will serve - the false gods of this world, or the one true and living God, and His Son, the King, Jesus Christ, who came once and is coming again.


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