The Second Advent

W.J. Grier*

The great event of the future is the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures plainly declare that this advent will be personal, visible, sudden and unexpected, glorious and triumphant.


The New Testament teaches that our Lord will come in person. while the Scriptures refer to great events in the history of the individual, like death, and great events in the history of the Church, like the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and the destruction of Jerusalem, as comings of Christ, yet they also declare in no uncertain language that there is to be a final triumphant return of Christ towering far above these other partial and typical comings. 'The Lord himself shall descend from heaven' (1 Thess. 4:16).


It is clearly taught in the New Testament that the Lord will return visibly. His first coming was literal and visible, and we may be sure that His second coming, which is so often linked with it in Scripture statements, will be literal and visible too. 'This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven' (Acts 1:11 His second coming is to be as visible as His ascension. 'Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven : and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other' (Matt. 24:30,31).

The late Dr R. V. Bingham once held the common doctrine of a secret appearing of the Lord and a secret rapture of the saints, but, on being asked by his wife for a proof-text, he found that he could not produce one. There are plenty of texts on the other side. Surely if it were to be secret, it would not be 'with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God' (I Thess. 4:16).

Sudden and Unexpected

Speaking about the word 'apocalypse,' or 'revelation,' of the Lord, used in the New Testament for His second coming, Dr Geerhardus Vos says that the 'very idea of suddenness and unexpectedness seems to be intimately associated with the word.' (Pauline Eschatology, p.79). It 15 as if a curtain were suddenly flung aside and the Lord of glory revealed. His coming will be 'as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety ; then sudden destruction cometh upon them' (1 Thess. 5:2, 3). The Saviour Himself said that His coming would be 'as the lightning' (Matt. 24:27) – as sudden, and as universally visible. None will foresee it and all will see it at once. What a warning this should be to careless sinners and to slack, easy-going professors of religion !

Glorious and Triumphant

The contrast is often drawn in the New Testament between the two appearings of our Lord. He came in the body of His humiliation, but He will come in the body of His glory (Heb. 9:28). He 'took the form of a servant,' but when He comes again 'every knee shall bow' to Him (Phil. 2:5-11). He came to be rejected and killed, but He will come 'in his own glory and the glory of his Father and of the holy angels' (Luke 9:22-26). He came as a child but He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords, victorious over every foe (Rev. 12:5; 19:11-16).

One of the common New Testament words for Christ's 'coming' would be more properly translated 'arrival.' The New Testament writers recognized indeed that Christ had already arrived, but 'the arrival,' the epochal coming, the one fully worthy of the name, belonged to the future. They had an intensively prospective outlook-for them the momentous event is the coming of the Lord.

Another word for His second coming – 'the revelation' – is used in the same way, as if this, rather than His first coming, was the revelation par excellence.

Another term for it is 'the day' – 'the night is far spent', 'the day is at hand' (Rom. 13:12). When He comes, darkness will vanish for ever for His own, and deliverance, joy, and blessedness will be ushered in. Indeed, His second advent is described as 'our redemption.'

J. A. Bengel says beautifully (on Acts 1:11) – 'Between His ascension and His coming no event intervenes equal in importance to these : therefore, these two are joined together. Naturally, then, the apostles . . . set before e them the day of Christ as very near. And it accords with the majesty of Christ that during the whole period between His ascension and His advent, He should without intermission be expected.'

It was characteristic of the saints of the Old Testament that they looked for the consolation of Israel, Christ's first coming. Now 'this is pinned as a badge to the sleeve of every true believer, that he looketh for and longeth for Christ's (second) coming' (John Trapp). The New Testament keeps this great event constantly before our minds and urges it on our attention, that we may be active, earnest, patient, joyful and holy.

* Quote from: The Momentous Event, W.J. Grier, The Banner of Truth Trust. Printed in 1945.