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The Second Coming and the Unending Wait for It

I write on diverse religious issues, often analysing perspectives from the Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Bahá’í).

"When will the great Day dawn?" the man seems to muse.

"When will the great Day dawn?" the man seems to muse.

Two Contrasting Positions on the Advent

There are two broad categories of religious groups in my interfaith community as far as this discussion is concerned: Those who believe the anticipated Advent has not yet occurred, and those who strongly claim it has already. This article is dedicated to the first group, those who are still waiting for the messianic Advent to occur. And with the followers of Christ having been given the lion’s share in preparing the whole of mankind for this world-shaking event, it seems appropriate to dedicate this piece to the Christian expectation.

Cathedral with Christian worshippers

Cathedral with Christian worshippers

What Christians Believe About the Second Advent

The first obvious question to be asked is: Why are Christians still waiting for the return of Jesus when, by their own admission, many of the key signs of the Second Advent, as outlined in the Gospel, have already been fulfilled—implying, without much doubt, that man is living in the last day?

The simple answer is in their belief that the anticipated Advent would be instantly visible to everyone on earth. This is the main reason Christians say the Christ could not have come because no one has seen him come.

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

— King James Bible, Revelation 1:7

A believer looks to the heavens in great anticipation

A believer looks to the heavens in great anticipation

Prophecies Anticipating Universal Awareness

Employing the King James Bible throughout, let’s begin by citing those prophecies that anticipate universal awareness of the promised Christ at his appearance:

Matthew 24:29-30 states:

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And 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."

So, the key point is that, amid their mourning, all the tribes of the earth will see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.

Mark 13:25-26 puts it this way:

"…and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."

While Luke 21:26-27 adds:

"…for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

But Revelation 1:7 is even more explicit in enunciating that:

"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him…."

Every eye will see the Christ come, the Bible says.

Every eye will see the Christ come, the Bible says.

Other Prophecies Foreshadowing a Lack of Awareness

So, this is pretty straightforward, right? Well, not so fast—because there are other prophecies that seem to suggest something rather different and cannot be so easily ignored. If they were not crucial to understanding the whole transcendental event, why would they have been revealed by the Lord himself in the first place? The following are some of the Gospel verses that suggest a different turn of events:

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1. Watch

The first in this category is the repeated warning by Jesus for the faithful to watch. The warning appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; in letters of the Apostles; and in two verses of the Book of Revelation (3:3 and 16:15).

“Watch” basically means: keep your eyes open, be alert, and be on the lookout. So, the question is: If it would be so easy to see the Christ at his appearance, why the repeated admonition to watch? What happens to those who fail to watch? Would they also see?

2. Thief in the Night

But Jesus doesn’t just ask the faithful to watch. He gives a reason, and the reason he gives is that his coming will be like that of a thief. We find this mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and in the same two verses of the Book of Revelation as above (3:3 and 16:15).

The Apostles went even further than this to underline that the Christ would not just come like a thief, but more “as a thief in the night” (I Thessalonians 5:2, and II Peter 3:10).

So, the question again is: Is it easy to see a thief in the night? How can all eyes see a thief in the night?

3. Some Will Be Asleep

But the faithful were not being asked to watch simply on account of the Christ appearing as a thief in the night. The bigger worry was that the believers themselves would be fast asleep at the time. We find a warning to that effect in Mark 13:35-36:

“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.”

Interesting! He comes suddenly, and he finds you sleeping. Again, the question is: Can a sleeping man see what is happening around him? Why are the faithful being warned not to sleep if every eye would so easily see the promised Advent?

Asleep at an inopportune moment

Asleep at an inopportune moment

And take heed to yourselves, lest... that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.

— King James Bible, Luke 21:34-35

4. Like a Snare

In Luke 21:34-35, the faithful are further warned in these forthright terms:

“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.”

A snare is a trap for catching game and is usually camouflaged and hidden to make its detection difficult. Therefore, if that day will come as a snare “on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth,” that should be another strong indication that the event will not be universally visible and observable.

More Prophecies Foreshadowing a Lack of Awareness

Now, if you are still unconvinced about what these warnings mean, what about the following?

5. Parable of the Virgins

Matthew 25:1-13 is about the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Lest there should be any doubt as to what it is all about, the whole passage, but especially the 13th verse, makes clear that it is about the coming of “the Son of man.” What happened in the parable is unambiguously narrated. Ten virgins were anxiously waiting for the bridegroom, the Christ, to come. On account of preparations they had earlier made, five virgins managed to find their way to him and be admitted into the wedding hall of his divine presence. The other five failed in their attempt to reach him and so did not see him at all.

Is this not proof enough that of the expectant believers—not just of everyone, but those in eager anticipation—a proportion would not be able to see him?

Bride and bridegroom at a wedding ceremony: The Christ comes as a bridegroom.

Bride and bridegroom at a wedding ceremony: The Christ comes as a bridegroom.

6. The Analogy of Noah and the Ark

What about the analogy of Noah and the Ark in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke? Does that give one the assurance that the appearance of the Christ (represented by Noah) would be universally known and the building of his Ark of Salvation recognised by all?

From the analogy, we get to understand that people would be distracted and preoccupied with their busy affairs, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage….” And this state of affairs would persist “until the day that Noe [Noah] entered into the ark, and [they] knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

Note the phrase: “and [they] knew not….”

Noah’s ark: An artist impression

Noah’s ark: An artist impression

7. The Cloud

Finally, let’s turn our attention to the word “cloud”. It would be observed that the verses earlier cited, whereby the Son of man is seen coming, are all accompanied by the word “cloud”. Why, and what does that tell us?

Let’s go over the relevant verses:

Matthew says: “…they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven….”

Mark says: “…then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds….”

Luke says: “…then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud….”

And Revelation says: “…he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him….”

Ask yourself this simple question: Is it possible to see something when it is overshadowed by a cloud, the sun for example? How can one be so sure one would see the Christ if he came “in a cloud”?

After all, was it not a cloud that obscured the vision of the disciples during the ascension of Jesus, thus bringing an end to that otherworldly spectacle according to the biblical account? “…while they beheld,” Acts 1:9 narrates, "he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

Jesus promises to come in the clouds

Jesus promises to come in the clouds

Yes, Every Eye Can Still See the Christ

This then brings us to a key question. If the Christ would not be so easily seen at his advent, why does Revelation 1:7 say, “every eye shall see him”?

The simple answer is that the “eye” in question is not literal but figurative. It is reference, not to the physical eye but the inner, spiritual eye and the power of insight. In other words, the verse is signalling that all those with spiritual eyes will see the Christ come. This means, in effect, that those without spiritual eyes, the blind, will fail to see him—just as the unbelieving masses of Israel failed to “see” and recognise Jesus of Nazareth as their promised Messiah and were consequently labelled as “blind (John 12:37-40).

Were it a reference to the physical eye, imagine to what extent the laws of creation would have had to be upended to make that possible! Let us not forget, in this regard, that our world is not flat, as the people of old used to think, but spherical, a globe. It is hardly possible for most people to see even one of the thousands of planes flying in the air around the world at any one time, how much less can the whole world see a single event in the sky! According to God’s own established law of creation, it is not possible.

But beneath the above elucidation of the words, “every eye shall see him,” is another layer of meaning. It is that in the long run, perhaps over the course of centuries, there would not remain an individual on earth who would not have recognised the true Christ and converted to his divine cause. In this instance, “seeing” becomes synonymous with “recognition” rather than with “visual perception”—a recognition that happens over an extended period rather than in an instant.

Independent Search for the Christ

Hopefully, the ideas explored here will encourage sincere believers to put all their trust in God and in God alone, pray more for divine inspiration, rely more on the power of independent investigation in their search for the Christ, and shun rigid doctrines and interpretations that lack divine authority.

Pray more for divine inspiration

Pray more for divine inspiration

Biblical References

1. The faithful are admonished to “watch” for the Second Coming: Matthew 24:42-43, 25:13; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:37-39, 21:36; I Thessalonians 5:6; I Peter 4:7; Revelation 3:3, 16:15.

2. The Son of man comes as a “thief”: Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; I Thessalonians 5:2, 4; II Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3, 16:15.

3. The analogy of Noah and the ark: Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-27.

4. The unbelieving are labelled as “blind”: Mathew 15:14, 23:16-26; John 9:39-41, 12:37-40.

The End-Time Messianic Advent

© 2021 Kobina Amissah-Fynn

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