Sunday, October 17, 2010

"The Purpose of the Second Coming" by Bob Mumford

This afternoon I was hugely irritated when our internet broadband, television and phone went down thanks to Virgin Media - from 12:00 to 20:00. However I decided to use the time profitably and type up a New Wine Magazine article from 1974 by Bob Mumford on the Second Coming of Christ. I find this issue one of incredible significance - because it seems to me that the church uses the 2nd coming as an "escape hatch" when things get tough. Rather than fighting and becoming militant about what we believe in - many look to the skies and say with a sigh; "Ah well - Jesus will come soon".

As Bob Mumford clearly shows - the second coming of Christ was never meant to be the escape hatch for the church. He may have written the article in 1974 but I still think the teaching carries much truth for today. Here it is;

"The 2nd Coming is more than a divine rescue mission

As a serious and eager seminary student, I was assigned the research topic of “The Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ”. I was taken aback when reading in one of the massive reference volumes I was using, “Every serious student of prophecy would do well to remember that no one has ever accurately interpreted scriptures which pertain to future events”. The experiences of the following years have proven that admonition to be exceedingly accurate. As a result, I have spoken little about prophetic events and above all, felt the necessity not to be dogmatic. I should however make it clear from the beginning that I hold to a literal, visible return of Jesus Christ in glory (Acts 1:9-11). I also believe that the usual dispensational and popular teachings concerning the rapture, marriage supper, tribulation etc have been grossly misinterpreted and soul-ishly interpreted. As we approach the end of the age, pre-, post- and mid-tribulational interpretations that accompany them will undergo major adjustments. There will be many facts and events and texts that we should have seen but in reality did not. These new ingredients will modify much of our understanding concerning prophetic events. As the prophet Hosea explained, “Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3).

A simple illustration of the prophecies and events of Christ’s first advent will serve to illustrate what I mean. It was written about the origin of the Messiah, “Out of Egypt I have called My Son” (Matthew 2:15). “That He was born in Bethlehem” (Micah 5:2). “Yet He was from Nazareth”. Can you see the impossibility of accurately interpreting all the biblical facts in proper perspective until the circumstances of His birth were known? How could the readers of the prophecies possibly understood that His parents were from Nazareth and that was to be His home? And that due to a decree for taxation, Mary was taken by Joseph to Bethlehem where Jesus was born? Also, that being warned in a dream not to return to Nazareth the family of Jesus fled to Egypt where they were later led to return? How clear it seems to us now, but how confusing to the prophets and prophetic interpreters prior to the unfolding of the events.
Anyone browsing casually in a religious bookstore will quickly be overwhelmed by the overabundance of printed material of different theories and interpretations about the 2nd coming. Even the general attitude and approach of the Scriptures can seem confusing. The time of Christ’s return is unknown (Matthew 24:36-42); but the concept of imminence (that He may come today) has always been a truth held dear to the heart of the church (James 5:8). On the other hand, examination of many scriptures tend to give us another view; that certain events, such as spiritual maturity in the church, world evangelism, establishment of His government and kingdom etc must be accomplished PRIOR to His coming. This seems to exclude any possibility of immediate return.

Bible truths are often set in opposition to each other – like parallel lines – which act as balancing factors in the life of the church. “Behold I come quickly” is balanced by the command; “Occupy until I come”. These parallel lines can only meet in the infinite Creator.

Purpose of His Coming.

It will not be my purpose to examine the reality or circumstances of His coming but to try and shed some light on the purpose of His coming. We cannot dwell on the entire purpose of the 2nd coming but rather examine what I feel to be one major purpose of His coming.

Unfortunately much of the popular teaching that centres on events in the world that will preceed the coming of Christ (i.e. wars, famines, natural disasters, the rise of the antichrist and satanic activity) has tended to make us believe that Christ is coming back to snatch the church out of the world just before it self-destructs! For the cataclysmic-minded believers it has become a divine rescue mission to save the persecuted church in it’s last gasp. If we examine the 2nd Coming in the light of the purpose of the church, the bride of Christ and her mission on the earth, it takes on a very different meaning. The coming of the Lord Jesus is the consummation or completion of God’s plan for the church through the ages. It is a victory celebration rather than a rescue mission!

As the Apostle Paul speaks of the Lord’s coming in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, he writes of a fiery judgement that will come upon the world. Then in verse 10, he speaks of Christ’s coming as it will relate to the church. He says; “ ... He shall come to be glorified in His saints”.

The concept of a spiritual coming in the saints prior to His physical coming for His saints is overlooked by most people.

Paul clearly teaches that Jesus is coming for a bride that is “glorious ... not having any spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:27). This is Christ revealed in the saints. This same theme is carried on elsewhere in Scripture. Galatians 4:19 reads; “My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”. Acts 3:21 states; “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world begun”. And James 5:8 admonishes us; “Be patient therefore brethren until the coming of the Lord. Behold the husbandman (God) waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth and hath long patience for it, until He receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stabilise your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh”.

Many of us have been given the idea that Christ’s coming is what defeats the foes and establishes His kingdom. Jesus said however that all power (authority) had been given to Him in heaven and in earth; and because of that we were to go into all nations and disciple them. Rather than thinking of Christ’s coming as an event that accomplishes His purpose in the earth, let us consider His coming as God’s consummating His eternal purpose by that very event.

Concerning the purpose of His coming, Bakers Theological Dictionary says,

“So Jesus’ parousia (coming) is not the decisive event of the gospel; it is rather the inevitable sequel of the decisive event which took place with His death and resurrection. The time of it’s occurrence does not matter so much as the fact that it’s occurrence is assured!”.

Sequence of Events:

It is this inevitable sequence of events which begins with His death and resurrection and sees Him establish a kingdom on the earth (His revelation in the saints) that is consummated by His visible return for the saints. At this present time He is in the process of establishing that spiritual kingdom in the earth. Psalm 110:1 is one of the verses most quoted by New Testament writers. It speaks even to the casual reader that there is a purpose to be accomplished by Christ being seated at the right hand of God the Father. “He (Christ) will sit there until ...”. I make your enemies your footstool”. A similar theme is carried throughout the New Testament ... “Until” ... the redemption of the purchased possession (Ephesians 1:14) ... the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) ... the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:14) ... the harvest of tares and wheat (Matthew 13:30) ... we all come in the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:13). The same Psalm is quoted in Acts 2:35. “Until I make thy foes thy footstool”. This expresses Peter’s understanding of Psalm 110:1. Jesus ascension to the right hand of the Father would continue until something that that approximated Christ’s victory in the human situation had been accomplished here on the earth.

There is a present kingdom just as surely as there is a future one. But the kingdom of God must be proclaimed, received and established in some degree prior to the coming of the King of that kingdom to rule. Matthew 24:14 teaches us this much.

Does it seem incongruous to believe that the body, which is His church and bride be won, sanctified and prepared before He comes for her?

Is it not logical to assume that the kingdom in spiritual form be established – literally established – on earth in the saints before God reveals His King and His kingdom? (Revelation 5:10). New Testament grammar teaches us that His coming (parousia) is to be a revelation (unveiling) of Jesus Christ. Somehow and His own spectacular way, God will reveal Jesus His Kingdom and church and bride by the events of His parousia.

The Place of the Church:

Whatever God has yet to do in the earth, He purposes to do it through and by means of a militant church, an advancing kingdom, a united body which is rising to the challenge!

“Thy people will be willing in the day of thy power” says the Psalmist in 110:3. The years of spiritual warfare, evangelism, missionary endeavour, combined with the present global outpouring of the Holy Spirit, cause me to know that God is setting the stage to consummate His purpose in the earth by the revelation and return of His King – which has been delayed ... until!
Let’s turn to the book of Revelation for a glimpse of what I am trying to express.

“Behold He cometh with clouds and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Revelation 1:7).

This is the literal return of the One who was taken in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11). What an unveiling of God’s eternal purpose in Christ, His Son! What a sudden consternation and embarrassment to the world which has rejected God’s Son and abused His church! What joy and triumph for those who belong to Him – for those called according to His purpose! As the writers of Hebrews says; “ ... and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation”.
Whatever the unique turn of prophetic events or unexpected developments in the church or in the nations; those who have come to see the purpose of His coming, will not be preoccupied with dates, signs or dispensational charts or attempting to place the label of antichrist on a world figure.

In Revelation 22:17 we find these words;

“And the Spirit and the bride say come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely”.

As one who longs for His coming, but also sees the purpose of His delay, the Lord began to say something to me from this verse. When the Spirit and the bride say; “Come ... Come Lord Jesus” = it will be then that those who are sensitive to that which the Holy Spirit is saying will know that His coming is in fact very near. The Spirit and the Bride are now saying; “Unity ... plurality ... submission ... obedience”. The Spirit is seeking to draw us – each of us – into a belonging – a kind of spiritual community if you will. All of these words plus the quickening pace of the pain and peril of the day in which we live, cause me to listen carefully to hear a cry – not just teaching – but a cry in the Spirit among the beloved that groans and sighs. This cry when heard and interpreted will say; “Come, oh come Lord Jesus – the Spirit and the bride are ready – come Lord Jesus!”. When we hear this, sense this, perceive it among the beloved, it is then that we can know that His purpose for delay is nearly completed. The bride has made herself ready. The Holy Spirit who was given to present her faultless before Him in her wedding garment agrees .... “Yes she is ready! Come Lord Jesus!”.

“He which testifies those things saith, surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so. Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).


Jeremy K said...

My pastor, George Kouri, who is a spiritual son of Ern Baxter is doing a series called "The Last Days According to Jesus". It is very much in line with this article! Videos can be seen here:

dspeters5 said...

And you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds. this is an apocalypic language quoted many times in the Old Testament, specifically Daniel. One of the main themes of Revelation is the impending judgement on Jerusalem. The Maranatha refrain, come Lord Jesus, very well could be the parousia in coming judgement on the Jewish nation and the destruction of Jerusalem. There were thousands of documented sightings of chariots in the sky during the siege of Titus. Josephus records these sightings as do other secular Jewish historians. Kenneth Gentry, Greg Bahnsen, Roushdoony, R.C.Sproul, Spurgeon, Edwards, Meredith Kline would interpret, "come Lord Jesus", as a cry to judge Israel and usher in a spiritual reign of Christ. I do agree with Mr. Mumford that the kingdom will come in a spiritual kingdom and that the "Christ must remain seated on the throne UNTIL all of his enemies are made a footstool for his feet."

I fellowship at Fountain of Life church in Lombard, Il. Our senior pastor, Ben Essenburg was one of Ern Baxter's disciples. I had many opportunities to spend time with Ern Baxter. And I agree with Bob Mumford, it will take a militant church to disciple nations of people until all of Christ's enemies are subdued.

Dennis Peters