One of the most confusing things about the Olivet Discourse and other prophetic passages in the New Testament is that they refer to two different comings of Christ, one in the first century when Jesus would come in judgment on apostate Jerusalem, and the other on the Last Day when Jesus will come in final judgment of mankind in conjunction with the resurrection of the just and the damned. Some passages speak about the first, some speak about the second, and some may possibly speak about both. But it can be confusing. There are several keys, however, which can help dispel the confusion.First, realize that the presence of apocalyptic language does not tell us which coming of Christ is in view. The purpose of apocalyptic language is to assure us that it is Christ sovereignly presiding over world events to bring his judgment to bear, not to clue us into what, where, and how. For those, we must look to the context, and particular to any straightforward language in the context. One of the fullest examples of apocalyptic language in Scripture is in Isaiah 13.1-19, which appears to describe the end of the world and the final judgment of mankind, but which actually foretells God’s judgment of Babylon in the 6th century BC by giving them over to military conquest by the Medes (Isaiah 13.1, 17-19). (For more on the nature of apocalyptic language, see Matthew Sermon 80.) Bottom line: Take the straightforward language straightforwardly and the apocalyptic language apocalyptically. The modern evangelical church’s reversal of that maxim has led to much mischief, not to mention many embarrassingly incorrect predictions.Second, understand that the texts which unmistakably talk about Christ’s coming on the Last Day contain no time frames and no indications of immanent fulfillment (see, e.g., Acts 17.31-32; 1 Cor 15.22-26, 51-54). Moreover, their applications do not command constant emergency readiness, but rather long term faithfulness (see, e.g., 1 Cor 15.57-58). The idea that every generation of Christians is supposed to live in a constant state of emergency evacuation readiness which precludes full orbed, long term culture building, Church building, and Kingdom building is simply mistaken. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15.58). Do that, and you have nothing to worry about.
Click the play button to listen to 'Christ's Coming' by Alan Burrow.