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An Introduction to Bible Prophecy (6): The Appearing in Glory

J Hay, Comrie

The Lord’s Second Coming will be in two distinct phases. We described the first phase as "The Rapture" and we call the second stage "The Appearing in Glory", or "His Revelation". A period of at least seven years will separate the two. At the Rapture He will be unseen by the world; His Revelation will be visible and public. At the Rapture He will descend to the air; at the Revelation He will descend to the earth. At the Rapture He will come for His saints as their Lord; at the Revelation He will come with His saints as the Son of Man to stamp His authority on the world. The Rapture will be followed by the Judgment Seat of Christ for believers; the Revelation will be followed by the Judgment of the Nations. The Rapture will precede the Tribulation; the Revelation will precede His Kingdom. We now consider this second stage of His coming.

When will He come?

The question does not presuppose fixing a date, for "of that day and hour knoweth no man" (Mt 24.36). Rather, it entails the establishing from Scripture precisely where the event fits in God’s programme. It will take place as the climax of the Tribulation period. "After that tribulation…then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (Mk 13.24-26).

His appearing is the precursor to His reign: "one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven…And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom" (Dan 7.13-14). In a vivid description of His appearing it is said, "…and he shall rule them with a rod of iron" (Rev 19.15). So His appearing bridges the Tribulation era and His millennial Kingdom.

How will He come?

We answer this in various ways. First, He will come unexpectedly. For the world, His coming will be as dramatic and surprising as the flood in Noah’s day or the outpouring of fire and brimstone on unsuspecting Sodom (Lk 17.26-30). Despite the chaos of the Tribulation days, people will be making every effort to maintain normality, coping with working life and keeping up their social activities: then, intervention from heaven. One can imagine them endeavouring to handle the constraints of the Tribulation, and trying to be au fait with reports of the global conflict when an unprecedented event hits the headlines. The news will be as unexpected and unwelcome as a break-in from a thief in the night; there will be a sudden, spectacular, supernatural intrusion to shatter the complacency of a benighted world! The despised Nazarene will appear and claim His inheritance, and the world will tremble. "Peace and safety" had been their slogan (1 Thess 5.3); now the dream explodes.

He will not only appear unexpectedly, but He will come visibly, as obviously as a flash of lightning illuminating the night sky (Mt 24.27). Many charlatans professing to be the Christ will hide themselves in remote areas or be holed up in "safe houses" (vv.24-26), but their clandestine activities will belie their claims. The genuine Messiah will be seen "coming in the clouds with great power and glory" (Mk 13.26). "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him" (Rev 1.7). "Power and great glory" will be another feature of His appearing (Mt 24.30). It stands in contrast to His first advent when He was laid in a manger: what apparent weakness, what humiliation. But His omnipotence and splendour will be obvious to all when He revisits the scene of His suffering and shame.

Who will accompany Him?

Myriads of angels will be in attendance (Mk 8.38), "ten thousands of his holy ones" (Jude v.14, RV), His "mighty angels" (2 Thess 1.7). Also in His train will be "the armies which were in heaven" (Rev 19.14), and their attire leads us to believe that these "armies" are identified with the Lamb’s wife of the preceding context (v.8). In other words, believers will accompany the Lord Jesus at His manifestation. It is stated unambiguously in Colossians 3.4 that "When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested" (RV). It is pleasing to learn in Scripture that on that occasion glory will accrue to Him when the fruit of His travail is observed: "He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thess 1.10).

Where will He come to?

In general terms we have spoken of His descent to earth, and undoubtedly the Armageddon campaign will involve His Presence in different places - Edom and Bozrah for example (Is 63.1). However, at His descent He will alight on Mount Olivet. At a time when Jerusalem is beleaguered, "his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives" (Zech 14.1-4). The place from which He ascended (Acts 1.6-12) will be the spot to which He will return. The topography of the whole area will be altered dramatically by His descent. The mountain will divide to create an immense valley running from east to west. We assume that the valley will be the channel for a new waterway linking the Mediterranean with the Dead Sea (Zech 14.8). Its waters will be "healed", and the marine life of the Mediterranean will thrive in what was once a salt-saturated basin, bereft of life (Ezek 47.1-12).

Why will He come?

The immediate reason for His appearing will be to "make war" (Rev 19.11). The last article noted that the whole area will be a theatre of war, and, as has just been observed from Zechariah 14, Jerusalem will be under siege, with the threat of the complete annihilation of Israel. Just at that point He will intervene. Whatever the reason for their being in Israel, the massed armies of the world will close ranks, and, influenced by the beast, will have the temerity to suppose that they can pit themselves against the white horse Rider from heaven (Rev 19.19)! With His word, illustrated by a "sharp sword" that will go "out of his mouth" (v.15), He will deal with them, their fate almost reminiscent of a nuclear holocaust (Zech 14.12). "The great supper of God" (Rev 19.17, RV) will then be held when the vultures and their ilk will be summoned to gorge themselves on the flesh of the fallen. This will be in reality "the day of vengeance of our God" (Is 61.2).

Two notable characters will survive the carnage - the beast and the false prophet. The lake of fire will open its mouth to receive its first victims, and these two archenemies of Christ will be "cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Rev 19.20).

What will transpire?

With the battle over, the "King of glory" will advance on the beleaguered city. The herald will call for the half-moon "heads" of the city gates to be lifted up in honour of this Dignitary. The doors must be swung wide so that the King of glory can enter. He is "The Lord mighty in battle". He is "The Lord of hosts" (Ps 24.7-10). He will then "ascend into the hill of the Lord", mount Zion, the ancient seat of the Davidic dynasty, and assume authority (v.3). He will stand in "his holy place", the Temple, for this monarch will combine priesthood and kingship; "he shall be a priest upon his throne" (Zech 6.13).

A priority will be the regathering of Israel, and angels will be despatched worldwide to effect this (Mt 24.31). North, south, east and west will be commanded, "Give up…Keep not back: bring my sons from far" (Is 43.5-6). However, not every Jew will gain access to the land. A sifting process will be in place at the borders, and only the saved of Israel will be admitted, while those who have remained rebellious will experience divine judgment (Ezek 20.34-38). The national repentance of Israel is described graphically in Zechariah 12.10-14 when "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced".

Another major event between His appearing and the inauguration of His Kingdom will be the judgment of the nations at the valley of Jehoshaphat, the "valley of decision" (Joel 3.12-14). Full treatment is given to the subject in Matthew 25.31-46, referred to in a previous article. The judge is "the King", sitting on "the throne of his glory". Arrayed before Him will be two groups: sheep and goats. The sheep are "the righteous", who, by their works, will give evidence of their standing. They will enter "the kingdom" and experience "life eternal". The goats are the "cursed" whose lack of works will expose their rejection of Christ. They will experience "everlasting fire", "everlasting punishment".

There will be one further event preparatory to Him setting up His Kingdom, that is, the resurrection of martyred tribulation saints. "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev 20.4). The stage is now set for His beneficent reign.

To be continued.

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