Christians use a range of names for this concept of Jesus Christ's second coming or return, drawing on a range of Biblical images. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on General Judgment:
In the New Testament the second Parousia, or coming of Christ as Judge of the world, is an oft-repeated doctrine. The Saviour Himself not only foretells the event but graphically portrays its circumstances (
The phrase Second Coming is not used in the Bible. It comes from the life or incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth as being his first coming to earth. Some Christians refer to the Second Coming as the last coming because of scripture referring to him as being the "First and the Last", "The Beginning and End", "The Alpha to Omega". and others do not define it by number, highlighting Christ's coming as an ongoing process.
The Parousia is the term used in the Bible, see Strong's G3952 for details, which includes the Thayer's Lexicon definition: "In the N.T. especially of the advent, i.e., the future, visible, return from heaven of Jesus, the Messiah, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the kingdom of God." According to the Bauer lexicon: "of Christ, and nearly always of his Messianic Advent in glory to judge the world at the end of this age."
Jesus Christ, the Son of ManIn the Bible, the synoptic Gospels contain several examples of Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man or talking about the climactic role of the Son of Man coming (often in "glory" or in "his kingdom") and Jesus' own impending suffering and execution, and similar persecution of his disciples: , , , , , ; the apocalyptic chapters set on the Mount of Olives called the Olivet discourse (, ) and The Sheep and the Goats or "Judgement of the Nations" (); and again when he was on trial before the Jewish high priests (); and the "Twelve thrones of judgment" (). Most scholars interpret Jesus' use of the title Son of Man as self referential – applying to himself a significant messianic image from the apocalyptic sections of the book of Daniel. refers to a "human one" who will come on the clouds in "glory" and in "his kingdom" and be given dominion to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. This is presented as the eschaton and an end of the world:
In the Gospel of John Jesus also employs the image of the Son of Man when talking about "the last day" . Here it is linked with "being raised up" – the resurrection of the dead. A theme reinforced in where Martha describes Jesus' coming both in terms of resurrection and as an ongoing process, and in where Jesus says "I will come again" so his disciples may live with him in his Father's house.
In the gospels Jesus often referred to the Kingdom of God being right "at hand and "these things" – including the Son of Man's coming in his kingdom - occurring with immediacy to his listeners.
Both Matthew and Luke also include the statement,
The Bauer lexicon (since updated by Arndt and Gingrich) of Koine Greek states that γενεά(genea) means “the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time. Generation, contemporaries.”Robinson's Greek & English Lexicon states that γενεά(genea) means: "The interval of time between father & son... from thirty to forty years those living in any one period; this present generation."
According to Dr. William L. Lane, author of the 2 volume Hebrews commentary in the Word Biblical series and the Mark commentary in the New International Commentary seriesThe significance of the temporal reference has been debated, but in Mark ‘this generation’ clearly designates the contemporaries of Jesus (see on , , ) and there is no consideration from the context which lends support to any other proposal. Jesus solemnly affirms that the generation contemporary with his disciples will witness the fulfillment of his prophetic word, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the Temple.
Some such as Jerome interpret the phrase "this generation" to mean lifetime or the Jewish race; however, if Jesus meant "race" he would have used genos(race) not genea(generation). Others such as Hal Lindsey see it applying to a generation of future readers rather than the generation of people Jesus was addressing within the narrative. Origen and Chrysostom refer it to all Christian believers.
Some Christian theologians (Preterists) see this "coming of the Son of Man in glory" primarily fulfilled in Jesus' death on the cross. During his ministry Jesus continually linked the Son of Man sayings with his own forthcoming suffering, death and resurrection, which can be understood symbolically as applying equally to the struggles of everyone - following "the way" demonstrated for others in his spiritual journey. Some theologians purport that some or all of the prophecies laid out in the Olivet discourse are then fulfilled within the narrative of Jesus' passion, for example:
- The need for disciples to "keep alert and pray" and "stay awake" is demonstrated literally on the same mountain two nights later when Jesus interrupts his disciples' sleep to explicitly say "the hour has come".
- The time frame of significant hours as spelled out in the apocalypse "you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, at cockcrow or at dawn" is mimicked in the passion narrative "when it was evening Jesus came" praying in the garden in the middle of the night, "at that moment the cock crowed for the second time" and "As soon as it was morning the chief priests ... bound Jesus and led him away"().
- The apocalyptic signs are fulfilled including "the sun will be dark" (compare to ), the "powers ... will be shaken" (compare to and ), and "then they will see" (compare to and ).
They further claim that such an interpretation highlights the Christian claim that the "glory" and "dominion" of God is best seen in the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus crucified.
Eastern Orthodox Church theologians believe the Son of Man's glory is seen in the gift of the Holy Spirit to their church members and so does not refer to the second coming. They say this γενεά ("generation" or "age") is the current unrestored age, distinct from the age to come; the age of restoration.
Other theologians point to other Biblical images that better match their idea of "coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory" such as the transfiguration witnessed by three of Jesus' disciples, which follows directly after the "there are some standing here..." verse in all three synoptic Gospels, or John of Patmos's heavenly visions described in the book of Revelation.
Others say they are unable to explain this verse in the light of what they see as a delay. C. S. Lewis called this "the most embarrassing verse in the Bible" .
According to historian Charles Freeman, Early Christians expected Jesus to return within a generation of his death. When the second coming did not occur, the early Christian communities were thrown into turmoil
Other Biblical images
In Jesus' Ascension is linked to him coming again:
- So when the apostles had come together, they asked Jesus, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’
- He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
- While he was going and they were gazing up towards the sky, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go to heaven.’
- Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.
The apocalyptic book of Revelation includes images of the last judgment and the victory of the Kingdom of God, including the Messianic Age, and ends with the prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus" . See also Maranatha.
To other Christians these verses highlight aspects of the Eschaton that have not yet happened or not yet been fully realized. Drawing on the images from Acts, these Christians expect Jesus' coming to fulfill some or all of these criteria:
- occur specifically at the Mount of Olives;
- on a cloud; descending through the sky - or, conversely, while being "lifted up" while disciples are looking up to the sky.
They may also expect Jesus to come only as or after some or all of these aspects have been realised:
- Jesus' disciples learn to stop confusing the Kingdom of God with a nationalistic campaign to "restore the kingdom to Israel";
- Jesus' disciples stop trying to define God's Kingdom by chronologies of "times and periods";
- "the Holy Spirit has come upon" Jesus' disciples and they "receive power"; and
- people have witnessed Jesus "in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth".
Catholic and Orthodox ViewIt is the traditional view of Catholics and Orthodox Christians that the second coming will be a sudden and unmistakable incident, like "a flash of lightning" (Matthew 24:27). They hold the general view that Jesus will not spend any time on the earth in ministry or preaching. They also agree that the ministry of the antichrist will take place right before the second coming.
The many denominations of Protestantism have differing views on the exact details of Christ's second coming. Only a handful of Christian Organizations claim complete and authoritative interpretation of the typically symbolic and prophetic biblical sources. A common thread is the belief that Jesus will return to judge the world and to establish the Kingdom of God (fulfilling the rest of Messianic prophecy). A short reference to the Second Coming is contained in the Nicene Creed, a widespread Christian statement of faith: "He [Jesus] shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; of His kingdom shall have no end". An analogous statement is also in the earlier Pauline Creed, . The Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and United Methodist liturgy proclaims the Mystery of Faith to be: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again". Generally, mainstream Christianity does not offer predictions on the date of the Second Coming, though some mainstream Christians may also form their own ideas of how and where it will happen. Such information, however is not considered essential to receiving "salvation".
Notably, many Christian churches, especially those of the Latter Day Saint movement have particularly distinct and specific interpretations as to various signs presented in the Book of Revelation. Much of this gives them direction and a distinct confidence in their role in helping prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus. See Second Coming (LDS Church).
Non-Orthodox Esoteric or Gnostic tradition
In the Esoteric Christian tradition, claimed by its adherents to originate with the Essenes and later among the Rosicrucians, there is a distinction to be made between Jesus the man, and the Christ or true nature. Jesus is considered a high Initiate of the human life wave (which evolves under the cycle of rebirth) and of a singularly pure type of mind, vastly superior to the great majority of the present humanity. He was educated during his youth among the Essenes and thus prepared himself for the greatest honor ever bestowed upon a human being: to deliver his pure, passionless, highly evolved physical body and vital body (already attuned to the high vibrations of the 'life spirit'), in the moment of the Baptism, to the Christ being for His ministry in the physical world. Christ is described as the highest Spiritual Being of the life wave called Archangels, and has completed His union ("the Son") with the second aspect of God.
In this western tradition, there is a clear distinction between the Cosmic Christ, or Christ without, and the Christ Within: the Cosmic Christ, the 'Regent of the Earth' , aids each individual in the formation of the Christ Within, the Golden Wedding Garment (KJV), also called "Soul body", the correct translation of Paul of Tarsus "soma psuchicon" (Greek "soma" [body] and "psuchicon" [psu(y)che – soul], "It is sown a soul body; it is raised a spiritual body ...": ; distinction of "spirit and soul and body": ).
According to this tradition, the Christ Within is regarded as the true Saviour who needs to be born within each individual in order to evolve toward the future Sixth Epoch in the Earth's etheric plane, that is, toward the "new heavens and a new earth" (): the New Galilee . The Second Coming or Advent of the Christ is not in a physical body but in the new soul body of each individual in the etheric region of the planet (Greek "politeuma" [commonwealth], "Our commonwealth is in heaven ...": ) where man "shall be caught up IN THE CLOUDS to meet the Lord IN THE AIR" (, , ). The "day and hour" when this event shall be, as described in the Bible, is not in the human knowledge domain (Matthew 24:36, ). The esoteric Christian tradition teaches that first there will be a preparatory period as the Sun enters Aquarius by precession: the coming Age of Aquarius.
Though Judaism has no single official view of Jesus, it generally rejects Jesus' status as Jewish Messiah and, therefore, the idea of his Second Coming. Most Jews believe that Jesus failed to fulfill specific Messianic prophecies, see also Rejection of Jesus. They often claim that, among other things, Jesus' death and failure to redeem the world after his first coming are proof that he could not be the Messiah. Rabbi David Wolpe believes that the Second Coming was "grown out of genuine disappointment" and invented by Christians to theologically compensate for Jesus' death and failure to redeem the world. Jews are awaiting the first coming of their messiah.
The mainstream Islamic view of the second coming maintains Jesus did not die (see Islamic view of Jesus' death) and was lifted up to Heaven by God, where he is waiting to descend during the “last days” when corruption and perversity are rife on Earth. Jesus will return to wage a battle against the false Messiah (Dajjal, or Anti-Christ), break the cross, kill swine and call all humanity to Islam, as originally called upon by all the prophets including himself. Jesus shall be accompanied by an army of the righteous, they shall be very few in number—only 313—compared to the followers of the anti-Christ, however they shall win for they shall be fighting against darkness. Three plus one plus three equals seven, a holy number in all Abrahamic religions. The Dajjal will wage war with his army of corrupt followers and mischief-makers and those have fallen under his deception.
Hare Krishna movement has embraced Jesus Christ as an avatar or incarnation of God. Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of Autobiography of a Yogi, made an extensive commentary on the Christian Gospels published in a two-volume set as The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You. As the title implies, the book offers a mystical interpretation of the Second Coming in which it is understood to be an inner experience, something that takes place within the individual heart.
Date of the Second Coming Author Notes 1745–present Emanuel Swedenborg Emanuel Swedenborg witnessed the Last Judgment in 1757 as one of many events recounted in his works resulting from visions of Jesus Christ returned. He tells of almost daily interaction with Christ over the course of almost 30 years. His return is not in the flesh, but in His Holy Spirit. "Neither shall they say see here or see there, for behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20). September 15 1829 George Rapp George Rapp, founder and leader of the Harmony Society, predicted that on September 15, 1829, the three and one half years of the Sun Woman would end and Christ would begin his reign on earth. Dissension grew when Rapp's predictions went unfulfilled. In March 1832, a third of the group left and some began following a man named Bernhard Müller who claimed to be the Lion of Judah. Nevertheless, most of the group stayed and Rapp continued to lead them until he died on August 7, 1847. His last words to his followers were, "If I did not so fully believe, that the Lord has designated me to place our society before His presence in the land of Canaan, I would consider this my last". October 22 1844 William Miller and the Millerite Movement The fact that this failed to happen the way people were expecting was later referred to as the Great Disappointment. Some Millerites continued to set dates; others founded the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Advent Christian Church, which continued to expect the Second Coming but no longer set dates for it (Members of the Bahá'í Faith believe that Christ did return on May 23 1844 as the Báb (the Gate), the forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh (Glory of God)). 1874 Charles Taze Russell Charles Taze Russell, the first president of what is now the Watchtower Society of the Jehovah's Witnesses, calculated 1874 to be the year of Christ's Second Coming, and until his death taught that Christ was invisibly present, and ruling from the heavens from that date prophesied.Russell proclaimed Christ's invisible return in 1874, the resurrection of the saints in 1875, and predicted the end of the "harvest" and a rapture of the saints to heaven for 1878, and the final end of "the day of wrath" in 1914. 1874 was considered the end of 6,000 years of human history and the beginning of judgment by Christ. 1914 Jehovah's Witnesses The interpretation of the Second Coming is important in the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses, as these hold that it occurred in 1914, and instead of an apocalyptic Second Coming it is to be interpreted as an unseen presence, and the visible events of the final times will occur at a later date. 1917–1930 Sun Myung Moon The followers of Reverend Sun Myung Moon consider Rev. Moon to be the Lord of the Second Advent called by Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday at the age of 15 on a Korean Mountainside. (See Divine Principle) 1930s Rudolf Steiner Steiner described the physical incarnation of Christ as a unique event, but predicted that Christ would reappear in the etheric, or lowest spiritual, plane beginning in the 1930s. This would manifest in various ways: as a new spiritual approach to community life and between individuals; in more and more individuals discovering fully conscious access to the etheric plane (clairvoyance); and in Christ's appearance to groups of seekers gathered together. 1975 Herbert W. Armstrong Armstrong, Pastor-General of the Radio Church of God, and then the Worldwide Church of God, felt the return of Jesus Christ might be in 1975. Of particular note was the book 1975 in Prophecy! written by Armstrong and published by the Radio Church of God in 1956. Though, never explicitly stating a date in the booklet, the title led people to believe the date was the second coming. June 21 1981 Bill Maupin Maupin, a pastor in Tucson, Arizona, wrote a book predicting the date of the Second Coming. His congregation sold all their belongings and went to a hilltop on that day to await the event. 1994? and 2011 Harold Camping Harold Camping, WFME radio Bible founder and teacher, published a book, 1994?, a prediction of Christ's return was likely pointing to 1994 but that the end will be 2011. 2011 was also in the book 1994?. Camping wrote "Adam when?" and claimed the Biblical calendar meshes with the secular and is accurate from 11,013 BC–2011 AD. 1999 through 2009 Jerry Falwell Fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell predicted in 1999 that the Second Coming would probably be within 10 years. 1999 Nostradamus Nostradamus predicted that "from the sky will come a great King of Terror" in 1999. This was interpreted by some as a prophecy about the second coming of Jesus. When this did not occur, some of his followers and those of Edgar Cayce claimed that Jesus was conceived in 1998, born in 1999, and is currently living on Earth as a reincarnated person. September 13 2007 Paul Sides Paul Sides predicted that September 13, 2007 marks the end of seven years of "wars and rumors of war" that erupted when The Oslo Accords were annulled. Then he predicts a final seven year "tribulation period" that culminates in a war over the Holy Land that brings back the Messiah. September 30 2008 Mark Biltz Mark Biltz , Pastor of El Shaddai Ministries, predicts September 30, 2008 (Rosh Hashanah) as the potential day of the second coming of Jesus based on four total Lunar Eclipses that occur seven years (Great Tribulation period) after September 30, 2008 in 2014 and 2015 that happen to fall on the two Jewish holidays Pesach and Succot in both 2014 and 2015. Mark believes this to be significant as the four Lunar Eclipses falling on the aforementioned Jewish holidays has happened in the past in 1492, 1948 and 1949 highlighting those years to be significant in Jewish history. In 1492 the Jews were expelled from Spain, in 1948 Israel became a nation, and in 1949 Jerusalem became the capital of Israel. In addition, he attributed these Lunar events to the "signs in the heavens" that the Bible speaks of. 2012 Jack Van Impe Televangelist Jack Van Impe has, over the years, predicted many specific years and dates for the second coming of Jesus, but has continued to move his prediction later. Many of these dates have already passed, and he recently pointed to 2012 as a possible date for the second coming. Van Impe no longer claims to know the exact date of the Second Coming, but quotes verses which imply that mankind should know when the second coming is near. 2034 Joseph Nathan Smith The group at www.2034AD.com has documented the discovery of the year for the second coming of Jesus in the Bible. (Joseph Nathan Smith, Rest Unto The Land, ISBN 978-0-6151-6189-1, , 2007, USA) Unknown Master Beinsa Douno Master Beinsa Douno prediction for the Second Appearance of Christ: "Christ Impulse will gradually penetrate into the human being and will take over guidance during the further development of the humankind (sic.). We are still in the beginning of all this now." (Master Beinsa Douno, The Master, The Life of the Sixth Race, ISBN 954-744-050-0, , 1900–1946, Society Byalo Bratstvo - Bulgaria) Unknown Rastafari movement The Rastafari movement believes Haile Selassie is the second coming (although he himself did not encourage this belief). He embodied this when he became Emperor of Ethiopia, but is also expected to return a second time to initiate the apocalyptic day of judgment. Haile Selassie, also called Jah Ras Tafari, is often considered to be alive by members of the Rastafari movement. 2060 Isaac Newton Isaac Newton, in Nova Science[s "Newton's Dark Secrets"; in the public television science show, in its treatment on the spiritual life of Isaac Newton, the narrator approximately said Newton calculated biblical clues of the return of Christ to be in the year 2060 AD.
- Emanuel Swedenborg and those in the New Church believe Jesus is making his second coming by revealing Himself in the spiritual meaning of the Bible. They believe that the Last Judgment was commenced in the beginning of the year 1757, and was fully accomplished at the end of that year. This Judgement on the Christian church, which took place in the spiritual world, marked the beginning of Christ's second coming. Last Judgment passage number 45
- Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be the Return of Christ. Followers of the Bahá'í Faith believe that the fulfillment of the prophecies of the second coming of Jesus, as well as the prophecies of the 5th Buddha Maitreya and many other religious prophecies, were begun by the Báb in 1844 and then by Bahá'u'lláh. They commonly compare the fulfillment of Christian prophecies to Jesus' fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, where in both cases people were expecting the literal fulfillment of apocalyptic statements.
- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, A 19th century Islamic figure from India, who claimed to be the second coming of and likeness of Jesus, the promised Messiah at the end of time, as well as being the promised Mahdi, being the only person in Islamic history to have claimed to be both. He preached the supremacy of Islam and promoted the spread of Islam through peaceful means, writing over eighty books. He gathered thousands of followers within his lifetime and founded the Ahmadiyya religious movement.
Contemporary American politics
The rise of fundamentalist Christianity as a political force in the United States, has allegedly had an influence upon political decisions on the global stage. The majority of fundamentalist Christians in America subscribe to dispensationalist theology and biblical literalism, which predicts that at the second coming Jesus Christ will commence his reign over a re-established Jewish nation in the Middle East. The belief that the Jews must be returned to the Biblical lands of Judaea and Samaria before the world can end has, according to some, driven up American support for an aggressive Israeli approach to its neighbours in the Holy Land. These views have been propagated by Christian Zionist preachers such as Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and Hal Lindsey. However, the majority of the Christian world both within and outside of America, including the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and most Presbyterian churches, rejects dispensationalism as a valid belief system.
- Christian eschatology
- Last judgment
- Second Coming (LDS Church)
- Summary of Christian eschatological differences
- Sun Myung Moon
- Unfulfilled historical predictions by Christians
- List of people who have claimed to be Jesus
- New World Order (conspiracy)
- Christianity and Islam
- The Second Coming, a poem by William Butler Yeats
- The Gospel of the Second Coming, a book by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy
- Explanatory text in The New Jerusalem Bible (1990). Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-14264-1
- Lewis, C.S. (1960). The World's Last Night and Other Essays. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-698360-5
- Heindel, Max, How Shall We Know Christ at His Coming?, May 1913 (stenographic report of a lecture, Los Angeles), ISBN 0-911274-64-2 www
- James Stuart Russell. The Parousia, A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming