Of the Second Coming of Christ, and his Personal Appearance
The personal appearance of
Christ will be before the resurrection of the just, which is the first
resurrection; that will be at the coming of Christ, which might properly
have been treated of before that resurrection; but that I chose to lay
before the reader in one connected view, the separate state of the soul
after the death of the body, until the resurrection, and the resurrection
of it: and for the same reason I have treated of the doctrine of the resurrection
in both its branches together, of the just, and of the unjust; though
the one will be a thousand years before the other; and many events will
intervene between them; as the conflagration of the world, the making
of the new heavens and the new earth, and the dwelling and reigning of
Christ with his saints therein, and the binding of Satan during that time;
all which will follow the personal appearance of Christ, and will be treated
of after that, in their order.
There have been various appearances of Christ already; many in an human form before his incarnation, as a presage and pledge of it; but his principal appearance, and what may be called his "first" appearance and coming, was at his incarnation; there were several appearances of him to his disciples after his resurrection, and to Stephen, and to the apostle Paul, after his ascension; and there was a coming of him in his kingdom and power sometime after to take vengeance on the Jewish nation for their rejection of him, and the persecution of his followers. There is now an appearance of Christ in heaven as the advocate of his people; and there is a spiritual appearance of him at conversion, and in after visits of his love, and communion with him; and in the latter day there will be a great appearance of Christ in a spiritual manner, or a coming of him by the effusion of his Spirit upon his people, when his spiritual reign will take place, elsewhere treated of; after which will be the personal appearance of Christ to reign in a still more glorious manner. Hence his appearance and kingdom are joined together, when he will judge both quick and dead, #2Ti 4:1 and this will be attended with great glory, and is called his "glorious appearing", #Tit 2:13 and in distinction from his first coming and appearance at his incarnation, it is called his "second", #Heb 9:28 which will now be treated of,
1. By giving the proof of the certainty of it, that Christ will most surely appear personally to judge the world, and reign with his people; which may be most firmly believed, depended upon, and looked for; and this will appear,
1a. First, from what the patriarchs before and after the flood have said of it; for so early has it been spoken of, as may be observed from the prophecy of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, recorded by the apostle #Jude 1:14,15. "Saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all"; which prophecy, whether it was written or not, is not certain, nor how the apostle came by it, whether by tradition, as the apostle Paul had the names of the magicians of Egypt, or by divine revelation; however, it is made authentic by the Spirit of God, and is to be depended on as fact; and is to be understood, not of the first, but of the second coming of Christ, as appears by his attendants, "ten thousands his saints"; such and such a number of them were not with him when he came in the flesh, but his second coming will be "with all his saints", #1Th 3:13 and by the work he is to do, to execute judgment on all, and to convince of and punish wicked men for their words and works; see #Ec 12:14 #Joh 3:17. Job also declared his faith, that Christ his living Redeemer should "stand at the latter day on the earth", that is, the latter or last day of the present world; since it is connected with the resurrection of the dead he believed in, and the future judgment, #Job 19:25-27,29. Also David the patriarch, as he is called, #Ac 2:29 speaks of the coming of Christ to judge the earth and world, and the people of it with righteousness; and which is repeated, to denote the certainty of it, #Ps 96:13 98:9.
1b. Secondly, the certainty of Christs second coming and personal appearance may be confirmed from what the prophets have said concerning it; for it has been "spoken of by the mouth of them all", #Ac 3:21 and though the prophecies greatly respect his spiritual reign, yet are intermixed with many things concerning his personal coming and appearance; and it requires skill and care, being attended with some difficulty, to distinguish and separate the one from the other; and besides these, there are some which chiefly and plainly respect his personal appearance and kingdom; as,
1b1. The prophecy in #Da 7:13,14 where, after the destruction of Antichrist and the AntiChristian states in the spiritual reign, signified by the slaying and burning of the "fourth beast", follows in a natural order the coming of the "Son of man" to take possession of his kingdom; Christ said to be like one, either in conformity to the language of the former visions, his kingdom being humane, gentle, just, and wise, as well as powerful, and not beastly, as the others; or because he was not yet become man; or rather the "as" or "like" is not an "as" of similitude but of certainty, as in #Mt 14:5 Joh 1:14 Php 2:7 and being described as coming "with the clouds of heaven", fixes it to his second and personal coming, which is always so described, #Mt 24:30 26:64 Re 1:7. The "Ancient of days" he is said to come to, is God the Father, the eternal God; they that brought him near him are either the saints, who hasten his coming by their prayers; or the angels: or it may be impersonally read, and "he was brought"; which denotes the august and magnificent manner in which he will be personally and visibly put into the possession of his kingdom and dominion; which will have a "glory" beyond all expression, and will be "everlasting"; it will never be succeeded by another; and though Christs personal reign on earth will be but a thousand years, yet his whole reign, personal and spiritual, will be of a long duration, and which in scripture is called "everlasting", #Ge 17:8 Le 16:34. Besides, this kingdom, when delivered up, will not cease, but will be connected with, and issue in the ultimate glory, in which Christ will reign with his saints for ever.
1b2. Another prophecy in #Da 12:1-3 respects the second and personal coming of Christ; for he is meant by Michael, who is "as God", as his name signifies, equal to him; the "great prince", the prince of the kings of the earth, and the head of all principalities and powers. "Who standeth for the children of Daniels people"; meaning the election of grace among the Jews, on whose behalf Christ will stand at the time of their conversion in the latter day; previous to which it will be a time of great trouble; both to the saints, when will be the slaying of the witnesses; and to the antichristian states, when the vials will be poured out upon them, which will bring on the spiritual reign; after which will be the personal coming of Christ, here implied, since the resurrection of the dead will follow, and when such will be rewarded in the kingdom of Christ, who have been eminently serviceable in his interest; and the rest of the chapter is taken up about the time when these things shall be.
1b3. The prophecy in #Zec 14:4,5 respects the second and personal coming of Christ; since "all the saints" will come with him, and descend with him on earth; when his feet shall stand on the mount of Olives, and when Christ will be king over all the earth, #Zec 14:10 and the saints will be in a sinless state, #Zec 14:20,21 though there are some things which respect the spiritual reign of Christ, and a time of distress previous to it, #Zec 14:1-3, 6-8.
1b4. The prophecy in #Mal 4:1-3 respects not the first but the second coming of Christ, when the day of the Lord shall "burn like an oven"; the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all that therein is shall be burnt up; and "all the wicked" shall perish in the conflagration; be burnt up "like stubble", and be properly "ashes under the soles of the feet" of them that fear the Lord; to whom it will be a glorious day, on whom the sun of righteousness shall arise, #Mal 4:4.
(continued next page)