Four Important Truths Relating to the Second Coming of Christ (1)
In the previous article we looked at Hebrews 9:27-28 and I asked what the Second Coming means to you; what do you expect to happen when Christ returns? We saw that the author of this letter declares that Jesus is coming back to “save” those who eagerly await his return. In this article I want to continue our investigation of Christ’s coming by noting the first two of four important truths about our Lord’s return. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article we looked at Hebrews 9:27-28 and I asked what the Second Coming means to you; what do you expect to happen when Christ returns? We saw that the author of this letter declares that Jesus is coming back to “save” those who eagerly await his return. In this article I want to continue our investigation of Christ’s coming by noting the first two of four important truths about our Lord’s return.
“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:27-28).
(1) The Second Coming of Christ is the unmistakable proof that what Christ accomplished at his First Coming was final, sufficient, perfect, and singular.
Now, where do I find that in this passage? It’s in our author’s statement in v. 28 that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins “once” and that when he returns it won’t be to “bear the sins” of anyone. He has already done it. It is accomplished. It is finished! It is done! If at his Second Coming Jesus was to offer yet again a sacrifice for sins it would tell us that his death on Calvary and the shedding of his blood at the time of his first coming was actually no better than the sacrifice of the blood of bulls and goats and lambs that occurred repeatedly throughout the time of the OT. A sacrifice that must be repeated is imperfect. Otherwise it would be offered only once. Christ’s sacrifice was offered “once” and by means of it he has already perfectly and finally “put away sin” (v. 26).
Therefore, every time you think about the Second Coming or talk about it with others it ought to bring unparalleled joy and excitement and peace to your soul because it reminds you that the problem that your sin once posed to your relationship with God is over and done with. Don’t ever think that Christ is coming back to die for you yet again. His death was singular and final and forever and once for all. Praise God!
(2) The Second Coming of Christ is confirmation that it is appointed for all people to die only once.
Note carefully the words “just as” at the beginning of v. 27 and the word “so” at the start of v. 28. Clearly he is drawing a parallel between the death of Jesus Christ and the death of all humans. Christ died once. He offered himself to die on the cross as a sacrifice for sin only once. So also every human being dies only once. The NT does speak of a “second death” but that is not a second physical death. The “second death” in Revelation is the final spiritual death that perpetuates for eternity an unbeliever’s separation from God.
If you are wondering if this rules out any concept of reincarnation, the answer is most assuredly, Yes! According to Hinduism, for example, your lot in life right now is the result of how you behaved in a previous life. They call this the principle of karma. In other words, if you are healthy and wealthy now, if you are in a position of power and influence, this is a reward from good deeds you performed in a former life. If you are suffering and deprived now, you are only getting what you deserve from the failures and sins you committed in a previous incarnation. At best you can strive to improve your future life by laboring to do good now. In this way you might increase the odds of being re-born in the next life at a higher level of existence.
The aim of Buddhists, who also believe in reincarnation, is to finally and forever escape this seemingly endless cycle of birth, death, and re-birth, and enter into a state of nothingness called Nirvana, which means “extinguishing” or “ceasing to exist.” Tibetan Buddhism, of which the Dalai Lama is the well-known leader, believes that when you die your soul resides in a dreamlike state called Bardo for 49 days. It is during this period of seven weeks that one’s ultimate destiny is determined. The virtuous or those who lived righteously in this life may be set free from the cycle of reincarnation and enter into Nirvana. For all the rest, karma pulls them into yet another reincarnation.
As bizarre as this may sound, well-known celebrities such as actors Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, and Steven Seagal embrace it. Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, was an advocate and practitioner of Zen Buddhism until his death.
But our author is quite clear: all men die only once. Now of course there are a couple of notable exceptions in the Bible. I have in mind people like Lazarus who are miraculously raised from the dead and then must eventually die again. But note well that those who die and are raised are raised back into the same identity they had in this present existence. They do not die only to live again in another era of time, with a different name and another identity. Lazarus was raised to live in the same town and with the same two sisters, Mary and Martha, in the same period of history in which he formerly lived. So, one cannot appeal to biblical instances of resurrection to prove the possibility of reincarnation. Lazarus was not incarnated a second time in another body but was raised in the same body in which he had first died and in that same body he eventually died again.
By the way, if you are wondering why there are so few bodily resurrections recorded in Scripture, the answer is quite simple: It is no great blessing to have to die twice!
Before I leave this point, let us also take note that all humans are “appointed” to die. Who made this appointment with death? I didn’t and neither did you. Someone else has appointed all of us to die. Clearly, it is God who has appointed all mankind to die. We know this from what we read in Scripture concerning the fall of Adam and Eve. Paul says this in Romans 5:12 – “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
In the strictest sense of the term, no one dies of “natural causes”. People don’t die because nature has run its course or because so-called “natural law” dictates that they do. Death is by divine appointment, no less so than is life. The reason we die is because sin has set in motion the judgment of God. Our bodies decay and eventually expire because, as Paul says in Romans 8, God has subjected the entire creation to futility. However, don’t ever forget that there is an infinite difference between the death of God’s children and that of men and women who depart this life without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. More on that in a moment.
King David in Psalm 139 was even more explicit when he said of God: “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16). Of course, God utilizes a variety of means in his sovereign authority over life and death: car accidents, cancer, even Satan is granted permission to take the lives of some of God’s people. This is quite clear not only from the book of Job but even more so in Revelation 2:10 – “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (see also Rev. 12:11).
Yes, Satan can kill people. Cancer can kill people. Heart attacks can kill people. Old age can kill people. But God exercises sovereign authority over all. Nothing catches him by surprise.