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The Second Coming (sometimes called the Second Advent or the Parousia) is a Christian and Islamic belief that Jesus will return again, after his ascension to heaven about two thousand years ago. The idea is based on messianic prophecies and is part of most Christian eschatologies.
Views about the nature of Jesus's Second Coming vary among Christian denominations and among individual Christians, as well as among Muslims and Bahá'ís.
Several different terms are used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ:
In the New Testament, the Greek word ἐπιφάνεια (epiphaneia, appearing) is used five times to refer to the return of Christ.
The Greek New Testament uses the Greek term parousia (παρουσία, meaning "arrival", "coming", or "presence") twenty-four times, seventeen of them concerning Christ. However, parousia has the distinct reference to a period of time rather than an instance in time. At Matthew 24:37 parousia is used to clearly describe the period of time that Noah lived. The Greek word eleusis which means "coming" is not interchangeable with parousia. So this parousia or "presence" would be unique and distinct from anything that had occurred before. The word is also used six times referring to individuals (Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus,[1Co.16:17] Titus,[2Co. 7:6–72] and Paul the Apostle [2Co. 10:10][Phil 1:26][2:12]) and one time referring to the "coming of the lawless one".[2Thes 2:9]
Gustav Adolf Deissmann (1908) showed that the Greek word parousia occurred as early as the 3rd century BC to describe the visit of a king or dignitary to a city – a visit arranged in order to show the visitor's magnificence to the people.
In Islam, the term Rajʽa (Arabic: الرجعة, romanized: al-rajʿah, lit. 'Return') refers to the Second Coming. The term is most commonly used by Shia Muslims.
Main article: Predictions and claims for the Second Coming of Christ
Views about the nature of the Second Coming vary among Christian denominations and among individual Christians. Many specific dates have been predicted for the Second Coming, some now in the distant past, others still in the future.
Main article: Christian eschatology
Further information: Katechon
Most English versions of the Nicene Creed include the following statements:
...he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in his glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. ... We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
A 2010 survey showed that about 40% of Americans believe that Jesus is likely to return by 2050. This varies from 58% of white evangelical Christians, through 32% of Catholics to 27% of white mainline Protestants. Belief in the Second Coming was popularised in the US in the late nineteenth century by the evangelist Dwight L. Moody and the premillennial interpretation became one of the core components of Christian fundamentalism in the 1920s.
See also: Olivet Discourse § Imminence
Jesus told his disciples,
"Truly I tell you, this generation [greek: genea] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
The most common English translation of genea is "generation", which lead some to conclude that the Second Coming was to be witnessed by the people living in the same generation as Jesus. For instance, according to historian Charles Freeman, early Christians expected Jesus to return within a generation of his death and the non-occurrence of the second coming really surprised the early Christian communities.
In most German Bibles, genea is instead translated as "family/lineage" (geschlecht). Likewise for Danish, Swedish and Norwegian (slægt, släkte and slekt, respectively). The Danish linguist Iver Larsen argues that the word "generation" as it was used in the King James Version of the Bible (1611) had a much wider meaning than it has today, and that the correct translation of genea in the context of the second coming is "kind of people." (specifically the "good" kind of people; the disciple's kind of people, who, like the words of Jesus, will endure through all the tribulations). In Psalm 14, the King James version uses "generation" in this wide and outdated sense, when it declares that "God is in the generation of the righteous." According to Larsen, the Oxford Universal Dictionary states that the latest attested use of genea in the sense of "class, kind or set of persons" took place in 1727. Larsen concludes that the meaning of "generation" in the English language has narrowed considerably since then.
Bible scholar Philip La Grange du Toit argues that genea is mostly used to describe a timeless and spiritual family/lineage of good or bad people in The New Testament, and that this is the case also for the second coming discourse in Matthew 24. In contrast to Larsen however, he argues that the word genea here denotes the "bad" kind of people," because Jesus had used the word in that pejorative sense in the preceding context (chapter 23.) He also lists the main competing translation alternatives, and some of the scholars that supports the different views:
Jesus is also recorded as saying,
"...there are some standing here, which shall not taste death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
He makes similar predictions in five other places in the Gospels; Mark 9:1, Mark 13:30, Matt 24:34, Luke 9:27, Luke 21:32. In religious sceptic Victor J. Stenger's view, when the coming did not happen within the life-times of his disciples, Christianity changed its emphasis to the resurrection and promise of eternal life. A competing view is that it is Jesus' coming in power on the mountain that provides the correct interpretative frame for the "not taste death" statement. The author of Second Peter describes the event:
"For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, 'This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain."
Main article: Preterism
The position associating the Second Coming with 1st century events such as the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 is known as Preterism.
Some Preterists see this "coming of the Son of Man in glory" primarily fulfilled in Jesus' death on the cross. They believe the apocalyptic signs are already fulfilled including "the sun will be dark" (cf. Mark 13:24–15:33), the "powers ... will be shaken," (cf. Mark 13:25–14:63, 15:5) and "then they will see" (cf. Mark 13:26–15:31, 15:39). Yet some critics note that many are missing, such as "But 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." (2 Peter 3:10). And "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30)
According to the Catholic Church, the second coming will bring about the fullness of the reign of God and the consummation of the universe, mankind, and salvation. The Catholic Church believes there are three things that hasten the return of Jesus: the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy; living with the mind of Jesus; and praying for the Lord to come, above all in the Eucharist.
Many Christian denominations consider this second coming of Christ to be the final and eternal judgment by God of the people in every nation resulting in the glorification of some and the punishment of others. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew.
A decisive factor in this Last Judgement during the second coming of Christ will be the question, if the corporal and spiritual works of mercy were practiced or not during lifetime. They rate as important acts of mercy, charity and justice. Therefore, and according to the Biblical sources (Matthew 25:31–46), the conjunction of the Last Judgement and the works of mercy is very frequent in the pictorial tradition of Christian art.
It is the traditional view of Orthodox Christians, preserved from the early Church, that the Second Coming will be a sudden and unmistakable incident, like "a flash of lightning".[Mt 24:27] They hold the general view that Jesus will not spend any time on the earth in ministry or preaching, but come to judge mankind. They teach that the ministry of the Antichrist will take place right before the Second Coming.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, a part of the Oriental Orthodox communion of churches, teaches that the second coming of Jesus will be radically different than his first coming, which "was to save the lost world".
Orthodox layman Alexander Kalomiros explains the original Church's position regarding the Second Coming in River of Fire and Against False Union, stating that those who contend that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years "do not wait for Christ, but for the Antichrist." The idea of Jesus returning to this earth as a king is a heretical concept to the Church, equated to "the expectations of the Jews who wanted the Messiah to be an earthly King." The Church instead teaches that which it has taught since the beginning.
A reference to the second coming is contained in the Nicene Creed and Apostles Creed, which is recited during the Lutheran and Anglican liturgies: "He [Jesus] shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and His kingdom shall have no end." An analogous statement is also in the biblical Pauline Creed (1 Corinthians 15:23).
The Lutheran and Anglican churches proclaim the Mystery of Faith in their liturgies: "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."
Some Methodist denominations teach that the Second Coming is connected with the Last Judgement. The Emmanuel Association, a Methodist denomination in the conservative holiness movement teaches:
We believe that the second coming of Our Lord is to be personal and premillennial, also that it is imminent (Acts 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; Matthew 25:13; Revelation 22:12). We must distinguish between the Rapture―His coming in the air to receive His saints, which may occur at any moment―and the Revelation―His coming down to earth with His saints (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Matthew 24-27; 26:29; Revelation 20:4), which latter will not occur until after the gathering of Israel, the manifestation of the Antichrist, and other prophesied events (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10; Revelation 19:20). ―Principles of Faith, Emmanuel Association of Churches
Main article: Second Coming in Mormonism
The standard works of the largest denomination in the Latter Day Saint movement, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), say that Christ will return, as stated in the Bible. They also teach that
When the Savior comes again, He will come in power and glory to claim the earth as His kingdom. His Second Coming will mark the beginning of the Millennium. The Second Coming will be a fearful, mournful time for the wicked, but it will be a day of peace for the righteous.
The LDS Church and its leaders do not make predictions of the actual date of the Second Coming.
Latter-day Saints have particularly distinct and specific interpretations of what are considered to be signs stated in the Book of Revelation. According to LDS Church teachings, the restored gospel will be taught in all parts of the world prior to the Second Coming. Church members believe that there will be increasingly severe wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other man-made and natural disasters prior to the Second Coming.
Main article: Seventh-day Adventist eschatology
Fundamental Belief #25 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church states:
The second coming of Christ is the blessed hope of the church, the grand climax of the gospel. The Saviour's coming will be literal, personal, visible, and worldwide. When He returns, the righteous dead will be resurrected, and together with the righteous living will be glorified and taken to heaven, but the unrighteous will die. The almost complete fulfillment of most lines of prophecy, together with the present condition of the world, indicates that Christ's coming is imminent. The time of that event has not been revealed, and we are therefore exhorted to be ready at all times (Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; John 14:1–3; Acts 1:9–11; Matthew 24:14; Revelation 1:7; Matthew 24:43, 44; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 Corinthians 15:51–54; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10; 2:8; Revelation 14:14–20; Revelation 19:11–21; Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; 2 Timothy 3:1–5; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6).
Jehovah's Witnesses rarely use the term "second coming", preferring the term "presence" as a translation of parousia. They believe that Jesus' comparison of "the presence of the Son of man" with "the days of Noah" at Matthew 24:37–39 and Luke 17:26–30 suggests a duration rather than a moment of arrival. They also believe that biblical chronology points to 1914 as the start of Christ's "presence", which continues until the final battle of Armageddon. Other biblical expressions they correlate with this period include "the time of the end" (Daniel 12:4), "the conclusion of the system of things" (Matthew 13:40,49; 24:3) and "the last days" (2 Timothy 3:1; 2 Peter 3:3). Witnesses believe Christ's millennial reign begins after Armageddon.
Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century scientist turned theologian, taught that his time (that historians have called the Age of Enlightenment) was an age of darkness and doubt for the Christian church. Historian Marguerite Beck Block writes,
Now therefore it was time for a new church to be founded upon the earth, and for this purpose it was necessary for the Lord Himself to make his Second Coming to the sons of men.
"The night is followed by a morning which is the coming of the Lord. . . . The prevailing opinion in the churches at the present day is, that when the Lord shall come for the last judgment. He will appear in the clouds of heaven with angels and the sound of trumpets, etc.," but this opinion is erroneous. The Second Coming of the Lord is not a coming in person, but in spirit and in the Word, which is from Him, and is Himself. . . . Heretofore it has not been known that ‘the clouds of heaven’ mean the Word in the sense of the letter, and that the ‘glory and power’ in which He is then to come, mean the spiritual sense of the Word, because no one as yet has had the least conjecture that there is a spiritual sense in the Word, such as this sense is in itself. But as the Lord has now opened to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and has granted me to be associated with angels and spirits in their world as one of them, it is now disclosed.
. . . This Second Coming of the Lord is effected by means of a man to whom the Lord has manifested Himself in Person, and whom He has filled with His Spirit, that he may teach the doctrines of the New Church from the Lord by means of the Word. . . . That the Lord manifested Himself before me. His servant, and sent me to this office, . . . I affirm in truth.”
In Max Heindel's teaching, there is a distinction between the cosmic Christ, or Christ without, and the Christ within. According to this tradition, the Christ within is regarded as the true Saviour who needs to be born within each individual in order to evolve toward the future Sixth Epoch in the Earth's etheric plane, that is, toward the "new heavens and a new earth": the New Galilee. The Second Coming or Advent of the Christ is not in a physical body, but in the new soul body of each individual in the etheric plane of the planet where man "shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." The "day and hour" of this event is not known. The esoteric Christian tradition teaches that first there will be a preparatory period as the Sun enters Aquarius, an astrological concept, by precession: the coming Age of Aquarius.
In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: عيسى ʿĪsā) is considered to be a prophet and messenger of God, as well as the Messiah who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā'īl) with revelation called the Injīl (Gospel). The belief in Jesus (and all other messengers of God) is required in Islam, and a requirement of being a Muslim. Muslims do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, as they believe God has no equals, but instead as a prophet. The Quran states that Jesus was born to the virgin Mary. Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified, as a lookalike was made to resemble him, who was crucified instead. Jesus was then raised to the heavens where he is believed to be alive. In the Quran, the Christian belief of the Resurrection of Jesus is not mentioned.
The Quran refers to a conversation between Jesus and God on judgement day in Sura Al-Ma'idah 5:116, 5:117. Jesus is questioned 5:116 "Did you ever ask the people to worship you and your mother as gods besides Allah?". To which Jesus replies 5:117 "I never told them anything except what You ordered me to say: “Worship Allah—my Lord and your Lord!” And I was witness over them as long as I remained among them."
And ˹on Judgment Day˺ Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you ever ask the people to worship you and your mother as gods besides Allah?” He will answer, “Glory be to You! How could I ever say what I had no right to say? If I had said such a thing, you would have certainly known it. You know what is ˹hidden˺ within me, but I do not know what is within You. Indeed, You ˹alone˺ are the Knower of all unseen. 5:116
I never told them anything except what You ordered me to say: “Worship Allah—my Lord and your Lord!” And I was witness over them as long as I remained among them. But when You took me, You were the Witness over them—and You are a Witness over all things. 5:117
In the Quran, the second coming of Jesus is heralded in Sura Az-Zukhruf as a sign of the Day of Judgment.
And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way. 43:61
Ibn Kathir presents this verse as proof of Jesus' second coming in the Quran in his exegesis Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim.
There are also hadiths that foretell Jesus' future return such as: Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43: Kitab-ul-`Ilm (Book of Knowledge), Hadith Number 656:
Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts).
According to Islamic tradition, Jesus' descent will be in the midst of wars fought by the Mahdi (lit. "the rightly guided one"), known in Islamic eschatology as the redeemer of Islam, against the al-Masih ad-Dajjal (literally "the false messiah", synonymous with the Antichrist) and his followers. Jesus will descend at the point of a white arcade, east of Damascus, dressed in saffron robes — his head anointed. He will then join the Mahdi in his war against the Dajjal. Jesus, considered in Islam as a Muslim (one who submits to God) and one of God's messengers, will abide by the Islamic teachings. Eventually, Jesus will slay the Antichrist Dajjal, and then everyone from the People of the Book (ahl al-kitāb, referring to Jews and Christians) will believe in him. Thus, there will be one community, that of Islam. Sahih Muslim, 41:7023
After the death of the Mahdi, Jesus will assume leadership. This is a time associated in Islamic narrative with universal peace and justice. Islamic texts also allude to the appearance of Ya'juj and Ma'juj (Gog and Magog), ancient tribes that will disperse and cause disturbance on earth. God, in response to Jesus' prayers, will kill them by sending a type of worm in the napes of their necks. Jesus' rule is said to be around forty years, after which he will die, (according to Islam Jesus did not die on the cross but was taken up to heaven and continues to live until his return in the second coming). Muslims will then perform the Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayer) for him and bury him in the city of Medina in a grave left vacant beside Muhammad.
Main article: Jesus in Ahmadiyya Islam
The Ahmadiyya movement (declared un-Islamic by principles of Islam) believe that the promised Mahdi and Messiah arrived in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908). This is generally rejected by mainstream Muslims, who do not regard Ahmadis as a legitimate sect of Islam.
The hadith (sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) and the Bible indicated that Jesus would return during the latter days. Islamic tradition commonly depicts that Jesus, upon his second coming, would be an Ummati (Muslim) and a follower of Muhammad and that he would revive the truth of Islam rather than fostering a new religion.
The Ahmadiyya movement interpret the Second Coming of Jesus prophesied as being that of a person "similar to Jesus" (mathīl-i ʿIsā) and not his physical return, in the same way as John the Baptist resembled the character of the biblical prophet Elijah in Christianity. Ahmadis believe that Ghulam Ahmad demonstrated that the prophecy in Muslim and Christian religious texts were traditionally misunderstood to suggest that Jesus of Nazareth himself would return, and hold that Jesus survived the crucifixion and later died a natural death. Ahmadis consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (the founder of the movement), in both his character and teachings, to be representative of Jesus, and that he attained the same spiritual rank of Prophethood as Jesus. Thus, Ahmadis believe this prediction was fulfilled and continued by his movement.
According to the Baháʼí Faith, the Second Coming is a gradual process that coincides with the advancement of human civilization from the beginning of humanity. It teaches that the founders of the major world religions each represent a return of the Word and Spirit of God as a new, unique personification sent by God, who introduces new teachings, laws and revelations, such that all major religions are part of a progressive revelation. Each Coming is said to build upon the major world religions emerging from earlier ages, verifying previous spiritual truths, and fulfilling its prophesies regarding a future return or coming. In this context, the Second Coming is depicted as a continuation of God's will in one continuous faith, with different names as presented by the founders of each religion as the voice of God at different times in history.
Bahá'u'lláh announced that he was a manifestation of the returned Christ, understood as a reappearance of the Word and Spirit of God:
O thou who art waiting, tarry no longer, for He is come. Behold His Tabernacle and His Glory dwelling therein. It is the Ancient Glory, with a new Manifestation.
He wrote to Pope Pius IX,
He Who is the Lord of Lords is come overshadowed with clouds... He, verily, hath again come down from Heaven even as He came down from it the first time. Beware that thou dispute not with Him even as the Pharisees disputed with Him without a clear token or proof.
He referred to himself as the Ancient of Days and the Pen of Glory, and also claimed:
This is the Father foretold by Isaiah, and the Comforter concerning Whom the Spirit had covenanted with you. Open your eyes, O concourse of bishops, that ye may behold your Lord seated upon the Throne of might and glory.
Baha'u'llah also wrote,
Say: We, in truth, have given Ourself as a ransom for your own lives. Alas, when We came once again, We beheld you fleeing from Us, whereat the eye of My loving-kindness wept sore over My people."
Followers of the Baháʼí Faith believe that prophecies of the second coming of Jesus (along with prophecies from other religions) were fulfilled by his forerunner the Báb in 1844 and then by the events occurring during the days of Bahá'u'lláh. They believe that the fulfillment of Christian prophecies by Baha'u'llah is similar to Jesus' fulfillment of Jewish prophecies, where in both cases people were expecting the literal fulfillment of apocalyptic statements that led to rejections of the Return, instead of accepting fulfillment in symbolic and spiritual ways. Baháʼís understand that the return of the Christ with a new name was intended by Jesus to be a Return in a spiritual sense, due to Jesus explaining in the Gospels that the return of Elijah in John the Baptist was a return in a spiritual sense.
Main article: Judaism's view of Jesus
See also: Rejection of Jesus
Judaism teaches that Jesus is one of the false Jewish Messiah claimants because he failed to fulfill any Messianic prophecies, which include:
- Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26–28).
- Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5–6).
- Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
- Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "God will be King over all the world ― on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
Regarding the Christian idea that these prophecies will be fulfilled during a "second coming," Ohr Samayach states "we find this to be a contrived answer, since there is no mention of a second coming in the Jewish Bible. Second, why couldn't God accomplish His goals the first time round?" Rabbi David Wolpe believes that the Second Coming was "grown out of genuine disappointment. [...] When Jesus died, true believers had to theologically compensate for the disaster."
In the early developments of the Rastafari religion, Haile Selassie (the Ethiopian Emperor) was regarded as a member of the House of David, is worshipped as God incarnate, and is thought to be the "black Jesus" and "black messiah" – the second coming of Christ. It was claimed that Marcus Garvey preached the coming of the black messiah on the eve of Selassie's coronation. Due to this prophecy, Selassie was the source of inspiration of the poor and uneducated Christian populations of Jamaica, who believed that the Emperor would liberate the black people from the subjugation of European colonists.
In modern times some traditional Indian religious leaders have moved to embrace Jesus as an avatar, or incarnation, of God. In light of this, the Indian guru Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, wrote an extensive commentary on the Gospels published in 2004 in the two-volume set The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You. The book offers a mystical interpretation of the Second Coming in which it is understood to be an inner experience, something that takes place within the individual heart. In the introduction of this book, Yogananda wrote that the true Second Coming is the resurrection within you of the Infinite Christ Consciousness. Also stated in the Book of Luke – "Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21)
Daya Mata wrote in the preface of The Second Coming of Christ that the "two-volume scriptural treatise thus represents the inclusive culmination of Paramahansa Yogananda's divine commission to make manifest to the world the essence of original Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ." In sharing her memories of when she wrote down his words, she shares – "the great Guru, his face radiantly enraptured, as he records for the world the inspired exposition of the Gospel teachings imparted to him through direct, personal communion with Jesus of Nazareth." Larry Dossey, M.D., wrote that "Paramahansa Yogananda’s The Second Coming of Christ is one of the most important analyses of Jesus’ teachings that exists....Many interpretations of Jesus’ words divide peoples, cultures, and nations; these foster unity and healing, and that is why they are vital for today’s world."
Jesus Christ returning to earth has been a theme in several movies and books, for example: