Olan Hicks — First affirmative
The proposition: The Bible teaches that the second coming of Christ will be a return in person, visible to all, accompanied by the resurrection and judgment, and will occur at the end of the world.
Defined: “The Bible” means the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. I believe that the Bible is the only reliable source of information on the matter we are debating here. By “teaches” I do not mean that it merely implies it or may be so interpreted. I mean that it expresses it clearly. In this proposition we have four things to prove, (1) Christ will return in person, (2) Christ will return in a form visible to all, (3) At His return the resurrection and judgment will occur, and (4) This will occur at the end of the world. I will be citing scriptures that say these things expressly.
Let’s consider this up front: The Bible is not complicated. It is written for man and it is not written in code. God’s message is meant to be understood. It says what it means and it means what it says. Understanding it requires only that we read what His word says and handle it correctly. The exhortation to do that in 2 Timothy 2:15 reads in the KJV “rightly dividing the word of truth.” For instance there are two covenants, the law of Moses and the New Covenant of Christ. Proper handling of the word will make a distinction between these two covenants. When that is not done the Gospel message becomes distorted. But if each is recognized in its proper usage a beautiful message of salvation is clearly understood. By the same token there are two kinds of “presences” of Christ, symbolic and in person presences. Proper handling will distinguish between these. When that is not done incorrect conclusions are reached. When it is done a beautiful picture of God’s plan emerges.
We will now discuss this plan, as clearly revealed in the Bible, not theories, speculations, or prophetic interpretations. The Bible says God had this plan in mind before He created the world. Paul said, “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world for our glory.” (1 Cor. 2:7) At verse 10 he said, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” We will discuss and study these things that are revealed, for it is the only way we have to know the things that God has in mind. We will present them as they are written.
As a sort of over view the Bible story is this: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and put in place the laws of nature to govern the physical universe. He created the animals and last of all the first humans. He placed them in a wonderful garden where they had no need for anything. But Satan also came to the first couple and managed to persuade them to disobey the only command they had been given, which was to refrain from eating the fruit of a certain tree. Their disobedience brought sin into the world and death by sin. God’s action to counter that evil began immediately. He said that the seed, or offspring, of Adam and Eve, would bruise the head of Satan and Satan would bruise his heel. That “seed” was His own Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s plan for man’s redemption included a physical, or national, involvement of God with humans, Israel in particular. Jesus would be born of flesh and blood. The family tree from which He came was chosen, the Israelite nation. The Israelites, being flesh and blood, were often not faithful to the commands of God. He sent them prophets through the years and gave them many advantages but, as Jesus said, they mistreated most of them. He said of Jerusalem, “The one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her.” (Mat. 23:37) He said that He would have gathered her children to Himself as a hen gathers her chicks but they were not willing.
This was the part of the story that culminated in the AD70 event, the destruction of Jerusalem under an attack by Roman armies. Jesus predicted that occurrence and said of it, “These are the days of vengeance.” (Luke 21:22) It is a foolish mistake to confuse that occurrence with God’s dealing with the entire world. In Don’s affirmatives that is exactly what he did. His proposition said that all the things God had planned for the world occurred in the fall of Jerusalem in AD70, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, and the judgment. That, as we have shown, is a product of inferences improperly drawn from misinterpretation of some Bible prophecies. That is why so much of it contradicts facts expressly stated by the inspired New Testament writers.
Now, looking to these Biblical writings as our source of information and our standard of measurement, let us bring out the explicit statements which set forth the truth on each of the four points I am affirming in this proposition, (1) that the second coming of Christ will be in person, (2) will be visible to all, (3) will be accompanied by the resurrection and the judgment, and (4) it will occur at the end of the physical world.
(1) Christ will return in person. Jesus said, “If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.” (John 14:3)Here, in personal pronouns, the Lord Jesus said that He will come again and receive His followers to Himself. What this says, in the ordinary meaning of words, is clear. The word “myself” in the text is a reflexive pronoun form of “autos,” which means it refers to the same one speaking or being spoken of. In other words the same “I” who said He was going away is the same “I” who will return and receive them. The clear statement is that Jesus would himself return. This agrees with Acts 1:11. When He left to go and prepare this place, the apostles watched Him go up to heaven in visible form. The angels said to them, “He shall come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” This did not occur in the AD70 event. Promoters of the AD70 theory admit that Jesus was not there in person. Therefore it was not His second coming. These are explicit statements. His coming will be in person as His ascension was in person.
The apostle Paul clearly stated this same truth in terms so specific that it should forever settle the question. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:36f) The phrase “the Lord Himself” is in the Greek text; “autos o kurios,” literally Himself the Lord. Thus it is confirmed again by express Bible statement that Jesus will Himself return.
Why did Paul say this in a repetitious way? Did he know that some would deny some of the facts he was giving here and teach that the second coming of Christ would not occur in this way? Yes he knew that. If you read on there in the First Thessalonian letter, in chapter five he said that they knew the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. In his second letter to them in chapter 2 he referred to the wrong teaching, specifically the notion that the day of His return had already come. If he came and they did not see Him it would mean that He came invisibly. He reminded them that they knew about the coming of this day and should not be deceived. He said, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,” do not be shaken in mind or troubled….” (2:1-2) He then said let no one deceive you “either by spirit, or by word, or by letter as iffrom us” that the day of Christ has already come. “That day will not come until the falling away comes first.”
So Paul’s message to the Thessalonians was quite thorough, with several significant details. Paul was predicting a time to come when Jesus would return in person and was warning them not to let anyone tell them differently, that the Lord had already returned, which would mean He did so invisibly. Thus my point #1 is established, not by inference or interpretative opinion, but by explicit Bible statements. What is specifically stated, by Holy Spirit inspiration, is that Jesus Himself will return, in person, which is the same manner in which He was taken up to heaven. Paul said the purpose will be to take His people up with Him “and so we will always be with the Lord.” Obviously this is not a symbolic coming and it is not what happened at Jerusalem in AD70.
(2) His return will be visible to all. The angels in Acts 1:11 told the disciples, “He will come in like manner as you SAW Him go into heaven.” They saw His ascension. That is why they were looking up toward heaven. His return will be in the same manner. In Revelation 1:7 the same prediction of this event occurs. “Behold He is coming with clouds and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.” The Bible says repeatedly that He will be seen returning just as He was seen leaving. The phrase “Every eye shall see Him,” tells us that He will be visible world wide. These explicit statements by inspired writers say He will be seen.
Hebrews 9:26-28 states as clearly as it could be said, that this event is visible, and clearly re-enforces the idea. “Now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” Notice the text says “once.” But concerning symbolic presences there were several, not just one. He was with the Israelites in the wilderness. (1Cor. 10:4) He was with the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:25) But His literal presence on earth to sacrifice Himself for our sins occurred once. God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, once. Then verse 28 says, “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Notice in these verses the word “appear,” both in reference to His first coming and in reference to His return. At verse 26 it is from the Greek word “nepsanerotai,” which means to be revealed. He appeared once to sacrifice Himself for sin. At verse 28 it is from the Greek word “ophthesetai,” the word from which we get our word ophthalmology. Both words specifically set forth the idea of being visible. So here again, similar to the text in Acts 1, the Bible says that He came in visible form ONCE, and He will return “a second time” in the same form, visible. Thus it is clear that His second coming is not one of the symbolic appearances mentioned in the Bible. It is the second appearance of its kind, in person and visible to human eyes.
A basic mistake in the AD70 theory is that they fail to differentiate between these two kinds of presence. They confuse the symbolic “comings” with the personal “second coming” predicted in scripture. They know that the “days of vengeance “ on Israel was a symbolic “coming.” (Matthew 24:30 – Luke 21:22) Several of this kind have occurred, but only “once” is He said to have come in personal form. When He commanded His apostles to take the Gospel to the whole world, He said, “And lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mat. 28:20) This is one of several symbolic presences. But His return that is spoken of in the scriptures as a “second” coming is expressly declared to be physical and in person. Thus my point #2 is established, not by inference or interpretation, but by express Bible statements. The Bible says His second coming will be in a form that is visible. They saw Him go up to heaven and He will be seen in the same way as He returns. He came in bodily form once and He will return in that form “a second time.” These are facts, explicitly stated in the Bible.
(3) The resurrection and judgment will occur at the time of His second coming.
In the Bible Jesus Himself describes this occurrence in absolutely clear terms. “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth. Those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28-29) Notice what is explicitly stated in this passage.(1) The dead will hear HIS VOICE. He will be here. (2) ALL will hear His voice and come forth. The resurrection of all the dead will happen at this time, which Jesus called an “hour.” (3) The doers of good will be resurrected to life and the evil doers to condemnation. The judgment will happen at this time.
This is the consistent teaching of scripture. For instance Paul told the men at Athens that God has “appointed” this specific day “in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He has appointed, and has given assurance in that He has raised Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) It cannot be said any more clearly. To deny that this will ever happen is unbelief, pure and simple.
In Revelation 20 the vision of John pictures it exactly the same way. “I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God. and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things that were written in the books.” Verse 6 has Christ present in that “they lived and reigned with Him a thousand years.” Verse 13 emphasizes that in the final resurrection all the dead are raised, those in the sea, those in Hades, etc. So again we have these details given specifically. The world wide resurrection occurs as John saw all the dead, “small and great, stand before God.” These who were dead have heard His voice and come forth to stand before God and be “judged” by what is written in the books.
This same scene is confirmed in a host of Bible passages. For instance Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the things done in this body, whether it is good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10) Then he added, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” (Verse 11)
#4. His second coming will occur at the end of the world, the passing of the heavens and earth.
This removal of the heavens and earth is not a symbolic occurrence, nor is it the ending of an age. The words in the text where Jesus said the heavens and earth will pass away are “ouranos” and “ge,” the Greek words for the actual heavens and the earth. (Matthew 24:35) After Jesus said that the temple would be destroyed and not one stone left upon another, and that there would be signs indicating when that time would be, He then said that these two things, “ouranos” and “ge” would pass away and that no one knows the time of that occurrence.
Peter is the most graphic of the writers in describing the passing of the heavens and earth and in connecting it with the Lord’s return. In 2 Peter 3 he describes the matter clearly. First he mentions the “promise of His coming.” At verses 3-4 he said that because His promised return is being delayed scoffers would come in the last days asking “Where is the promise of His coming?” So it is His coming that is the subject here. At verse 9 he says that the Lord is not “slack” concerning that promise but that it will happen. He will return. He said it is being delayed because the Lord is not willing for any to perish but that all should come to repentance. Then he described graphically what that day will consist of when it does come.
Starting at verse 10 he first says that it will come “as a thief in the night.” This confirms what Jesus said about it in Matthew 24:50. “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of.” Obviously then this is not the event predicted earlier in that chapter for it had signs to indicate its coming and by which the people could know and prepare for it. i.e. flee into the mountains. This event has no warning signs. It comes when it is not expected, “as a thief in the night.”
Then Peter describes exactly what will happen when the promise of His coming does occur: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat. Both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” (verse 10) So the Lord will keep his promise, this appointed day will come. This is not just a symbolic passing of the heavens and the earth as a separate event from His coming. They occur together and both are literal. The “day of the Lord,” i.e. His coming, and the end of the world are the same event. That is the day that will come at a time that no one knows of, “as a thief in the night,” in which the heavens will pass away and the earth will be burned up. Thus my fourth point is explicitly stated in God’s word. His promised second coming will occur at the end of the world. Certainly the military attack on Jerusalem by the Roman army is not the event described here. “God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” and it will not fail. The Bible writers all confirm that it will happen when the Lord Jesus Himself returns. It is repeatedly called “The day of the Lord.”
At verse 12 Peter repeats this occurrence as something they were looking to in the future. “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat.” Then he says that “we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” He then reiterates again the need to be looking for these things.
My fourth point is established, being expressly stated many times in the inspired writings. The day of the Lord will be the second coming of Christ and the passing away of the heavens and the earth.
Paul puts forth the same picture in 2 Thess. 1, that the Lord will be “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the Gospel.” (Verses 7-8)
I have cited the scriptures which expressly state these four facts.
(1) The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout. (2) He will be seen by everyone on earth. (3) The resurrection of ALL the dead will occur at that time and all will stand before the judgment. (4) This will occur at the end of the world, when the heavens pass away with a great noise and the earth is burned up. To deny each of these will require one to deny what is explicitly and repeatedly stated in scripture.
To deny that Jesus Himself will return from heaven one will have to deny Acts 1:11, 1 Thess. 4:16, John 14:3 and others. To deny that at His return He will be seen visibly one will have to deny Acts 1:11, Revelation 1:7. Hebrews 9:26-28 and others. To deny that the resurrection of all the dead and the judgment will occur at that time one will have to deny the words of Jesus Himself in John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:12, 2 Corinthians 5:10 and others. To deny that this will all happen at the end of the world, at the passing away of the heavens and the earth, one will have to deny the entire description given in 2 Peter 3, the words of Jesus in the second half of Matthew 24, the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians1, and others.
There is no way to “spiritualize” these, i.e. make them only symbolic and not actual. The Biblical descriptions of them are clear and explicit. Paul knew about what is now called the “preterist” theory and wrote specifically against it. In fact he called it blasphemy. In his first letter to Timothy he mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander whom he had “delivered to Satan” that they may learn not to “blaspheme.” And what were they teaching? In his second letter to Timothy he mentioned Hymenaeus again, along with Philetus, and said concerning what they were saying, “who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past and they overthrow the faith of some.” (2:18) At verses 16& 17 he called it “profane and idle babblings” and said it would increase to more unGodliness and would “spread like a cancer.”
I want to say again here that I am not anyone’s judge. These men seem to be sincere, but I am not God. I cannot speak with certainty about that. But one thing we can be certain of, the scriptures I have presented here show clearly that the conclusions they have reached from inferences they draw from some prophecies, are very wrong. The basis of my viewpoint is the fact that what they say contradicts the expressly stated Biblical facts. Therefore I plead with all believers, don’t risk your spiritual destiny on this fantasy. It will not hold water. The things that God has foretold will happen exactly as He foretold them. Christ has gone to prepare a place for the faithful and He will come again. Believers will be gathered to Him to enter an eternity with God, where there will be no more of the sorrows common to life in the flesh. But remember, the Bible says “to those who look for Him.”(Hebrews 9:28) Don’t let anyone persuade you to stop looking for Him.
A simple choice.
I do not believe that AD70 advocates will deny that these passages I have presented say what they say. That would be defeated simply by looking at them. What they have done so far is argue that certain prophetic statements imply that all these things have happened in the past, and therefore they conclude that they were figurative and not literal. I expect Don will continue to argue that. We will see. What that amounts to is declaring the Biblical descriptions of these events wrong. It is to over rule the Biblical specifications with human theory.
In any case the bottom line is that we have a choice, to either believe what is stated in the Bible or believe the conclusions of a speculative theory. In Don’s affirmatives he could not present any Bible passages which state his viewpoint. There aren’t any. He could only offer a theory based on a number of prophetic utterances from which he drew inferences. Ironically, as we have already pointed out, that same procedure has produced theories in the past and every one of them turned out to be wrong. William Miller in1844, Charles Taze Russell in 1874 and 1914, and Ellen G. White after them, drew conclusions from the same prophecies, especially the book of Daniel, and calculated the date of the second coming. All turned out to be incorrect. Now the AD70 advocates are using the very same procedure, inferences from the prophecies, especially the book of Daniel, to calculate that the date of the second coming was AD70. The conclusions are wrong because the procedure is wrong. Jesus said that no one knows that date, not even the angels of heaven but the Father only. (Mat. 24:35)
So the choice then is between explicit Bible statements and a human theory that has always been wrong. I suggest that God has planned the route we must take through this life and into eternity and has clearly revealed that in His word. That is what we need to accept and put our faith in. There is no other way to get there. God has warned us not to be led astray by philosophy and empty deceit, according to the principles of the world and not according to Christ. (Col. 2:8) I say again, I do not question anyone’s sincerity. But I do question their accuracy when it comes to using their philosophical conclusions to over rule what God has expressly said. I sincerely hope that pointing out these facts, as we are doing here, will help many to reconsider and make the right choice.