Doctrine of the Last Things (Part 5)
Transcript of William Lane Craig’s Defenders 2 class.
Some definitions to keep in mind:
Eschatology = Study of Last Things
Eschaton = the final event in the divine plan; the end of the world.
Parousia = the coming or the presence of the Lord
Apokalupsis = the revelation of the Lord
Epiphaneia = the appearing of the Lord
Gnosticism = a Greek doctrine which depreciated the value of the material and exalted the value of the spiritual.
Preterism = the return of Christ predicted by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse has already occurred.
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My commentary under the cut and pasted sections from Dr. Craig’s full transcript is in YELLOW , as always
KEY ISSUE: What basic descriptive data can a Christian arrive at by looking at the key scriptures describing the Second coming of Christ?
Sections from the Transcript:
If it interests you to see the Discussion portion (or Q&A), please click the transcript link.
Dr. Craig offers 4 points on the nature of the Second Coming. They are:
- The Second Coming of Christ will be a personal coming.
- The return of Christ will be glorious.
- It will be a decisive event.
- It will be a sudden and unexpected event.
There isn’t too much reading in this part since there was a lot of the time was given to discussion or Q&A. I copied all of Dr. Craig’s transcipt except the answers to the Q&A, as I usually do. I don’t have any comments of my own this week. You can review the transcript and reply if you are inclined to.
Nature of the Second Coming
Let’s move ahead now to our next point which is the nature of the Second Coming. Here I want to make four points.
- The Second Coming of Christ will be a personal coming. The discussion that we’ve had of the Rapture view and Preterism leaves us, I think, with the classical Christian view that the return of Christ will be a visible, decisive, singular event that will bring about the end of human history, the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment of mankind. That, I think, is the classical traditional view that best represents biblical teaching. So, with respect to the nature of the Second Coming, it will be personal. That is entailed by the classical view.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-15. Many of these verses we’ve read already.
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.
This alludes to what I mentioned a few moments ago in response to the first question. Those who have died in Christ are now in this intermediate state of disembodied existence away from the body but at home with the Lord. When Christ comes again he will bring with him the souls of the departed righteous dead, and then their bodies will be raised from the dead in a transformed, powerful, immortal resurrection body. Then those who are alive at the time of Christ will similarly be transformed. So I think that this implies that this is a personal literal coming of Christ again with the deceased saints who are currently with Christ.
Also, look at Acts 1:11b. There the angels say to the disciples,
“This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Christ ascended personally into heaven; he will come again personally from heaven. It is analogous.
- The return of Christ will be glorious. In contrast to the humble state at which the first coming occurred, the Second Coming will be in his glory.
Matthew 24:30 says,
then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Here we have this visible public event of power and glory which is the return of Christ.
Compare Mark 14:61-62. This is the trial scene where Jesus is interrogated by the high priest.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
This leads immediately to Jesus’ condemnation for blasphemy. Here Jesus is going to be seen on the clouds of heaven, seated at the right hand of God himself, coming in power.
Finally, Revelation 1:7, a passage which recalls the passage we read in Matthew,
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.”
So this will be a glorious, powerful return of Christ.
- It will be a decisive event. By that I mean that this is the termination of human history. The return of Christ closes human history. 1 Corinthians 15:22-24,
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
So the coming of Christ is not something that occurs so to speak midway through human history. This is the end of the world in the sense that it is the time at which the dead are raised, Christ destroys every enemy, and he hands the Kingdom over to God the Father.
So it is a decisive event.
- Finally, it will be a sudden and unexpected event. Matthew 24:37-44:
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Here this indicates the abruptness and the unexpectedness of the return of Christ. The nature of the return of Christ therefore requires readiness on the part of his believers precisely because they do not know the time of his return.
Also look at 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, Paul’s advice concerning this very subject. He says,
But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
We may not know when Christ will return, but this is a call to vigilance, to readiness, so that when he does return we won’t be caught off guard like the person whose house is burgled because he didn’t know that the thief was coming.
So the nature of the Second Coming of Christ is going to be a personal, glorious, decisive, sudden, and unexpected event terminating human history.
All of the questions (without the answers copied in) asked in the DISCUSSION portions of the transcript. You can go to website (transcript link is above) to read answers, if interested:
Question: I was wondering whether we have taken that in too much of a literal sense, almost like when Jesus told Nicodemus about how you must be born again and he couldn’t comprehend it because, in a literal sense, being born again and going back into your mother’s womb is hard to comprehend. The first coming of Jesus is sowing of the seed of Emmanuel – God with us. That is a reality that he is going to bring to each one of us. The Second Coming of Christ, I suspect, is the maturity or the harvest of this thought, God with us. What do you think?
Question: Do you think there is a difference between Hyper-Preterism and Historic Preterism. Hyper-Preterism says that the resurrection has already occurred; there is no remaining prophecy to be fulfilled. Historic Preterism says that the Second Coming is still to come, just like the other orthodox view.
Question: The answer I would give to her is – first of all, the word I believe is (in the Greek) genea, generation, which can mean race. So some people might say God’s people – the Israelites – will not pass away until this happens. That is one thing that would get her over the hump. But here is the second one: what generation was he talking about? Was he talking about the generation of people, the Hebrew men, that were listening to him or, as I believe, was he talking about the generation of people in the future who would see these things happen? This has spawned a whole lot of numerology like: because Israel was established in 1948 so add a generation to that. Of course they didn’t obtain control of Jerusalem until 1967 so add a generation to that. For that matter, what is a generation? So I fail to see how that would destroy her faith.
Question: Like he said, “There are some standing here who will not taste of death until they see the Kingdom of heaven come with power.” My position is that there are some people who have overcome and rule with Christ and they have been since he rose in that generation. That didn’t mean everybody and doesn’t preclude the physical resurrection later. It just means it is possible
Question: In Matthew – I think you actually quoted Mark but Matthew does the same thing – “He will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds from one end of the sky to the other.” Do you see that as the same event? Here the angels are blowing the trumpet and they are going to get the elect from the four winds. Do you see that as the same thing mentioned in Thessalonians and Corinthians? The change in the twinkling of an eye?
Followup: What is the mystery then in 1 Corinthians 15 that he is telling?
Followup: Didn’t Martha even understand that? When she talked about the regeneration? Was that a mystery that they would inhabit a Kingdom with Messiah? Do you think they didn’t know that there would be a resurrection?
Followup: Yes, from Daniel 12:1.
Followup: Well, that’s not what a mystery is.
Followup: A mystery is something revealed that has not been revealed before.
Followup: I would just say that those of us who believe in a rapture – which, by the way, you kept saying it was invisible. I don’t ever remember studying that or hearing that the rapture is invisible.
Followup: I don’t know. I never read that, so I don’t know. I don’t think God minds showing us all what he is doing. But anyway, I would just say that for those of us who believe in a rapture, whether it is pre-, mid-, or whatever, that the mystery here is the rapture. That is what he is talking about. When you look at Matthew 24, which I believe is written to the Jews during Daniel’s 70th week (if you just circle all the ‘you’s and look at who he is talking to, he is talking to the Jews) that is then when he comes and all the tribes will mourn. I believe the tribes that it refers to is the Jews. I believe they will be saying the words of Isaiah 53. They are the only people on Earth who would say the words of Isaiah 53. That is what I wanted to ask you. Corinthians seems to be instantaneous in the twinkling of an eye where Mark and Matthew say he will send the angels and he will gather his elect. I believe that does happen but I believe it is going to take place over a period of time (the Matthew and the Mark events).
Followup: Instantaneous. There is like no time passes.
Followup: It would be all the believers at that point. They are going to be taken up.
Question: It seems to me that talking about the mystery we keep focusing on that second part – the “we will all be changed” part. But it seems to me the mystery is really the first part – “we will not all sleep.” The Jews believed in a resurrection of the dead, and I am sure the Corinthians had heard about that. But the point, it seems to me, he is making is we are not all going to be dead when that resurrection occurs. This is not completely the end of the world where everything is over. The resurrection occurs while some of us are still alive and we will all be caught up and changed.