The Second Coming of Jesus
When we think of Advent, we automatically think of Christmas and Jesus’ coming as a baby two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. The way Advent has been structured liturgically, however, the first two weeks of Advent do not look to the past but rather to the future and Jesus’ second coming at the end of time.
The second coming of Jesus is one of the most important themes in the New Testament. It is found in almost every book of the New Testament. The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is entirely about the second coming. The second coming is mentioned throughout the Mass: in the Creed, in the Eucharistic Prayer, in two of the memorial acclamations after the consecration of the bread and wine, and in the prayer immediately following the Lord’s Prayer.
The second coming is clearly expressed in the Acts of the Apostles as Jesus ascends into heaven. An angel says to the apostles, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). The second coming, therefore, refers to the future return of Christ in power and glory, he will set up his kingdom, and judge the living and the dead. Unfortunately, the Second Coming, mostly from the book of Revelation, has received a rather fearful, mournful reputation for it will be the time when the wicked will be punished. Advent, however, focuses on the hope filled, joy filled aspect of the Second Coming when the good will be rewarded with everlasting happiness with God.
When the church was first organized after the ascension of Jesus, the early Christians believed that Jesus would return very soon. In fact, most of them, including St. Paul, believed that Jesus would return within their lifetime. As the first century drew to a close and Jesus still had not returned, the church began to realize that Jesus’ return was not imminent. When Paul came to this realization, he was not depressed or saddened, he took Jesus delay in returning as a providential act of God. It gave the church more time to proclaim the gospel and prepare the world for Jesus’ return. This, in fact, is the primary mission of the church – to prepare the world for Jesus’ glorious return at the end of time. Two thousand years later, we still wait for Jesus to return and the wait continues. Yet we must be about the business that Jesus has given his church and ourselves – to prepare the world for his return.