The “At’s” of the Second Coming


The very tiny Greek word, en, is used a lot in Scripture, especially in relation to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It means “at,” and yet it means a little more than just “at.” It has to do with a fixed point in space and time. Certain things will happen “at” the Second Coming. Or, more accurately, our Lord’s much-anticipated Second Coming will trigger a series of events that will happen. They can’t happen any time before He returns, but they will happen “at” His return. His return is the fixed point in space and time when these events will occur.

Let’s take a quick survey of all the “at’s” of the Second Coming.

Resurrection at His coming

But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:23 KJV)

This verse comes in the midst of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, in which he was addressing one of many problems this great, metropolitan church had. The good folks in this congregation were worried about the resurrection – whether or not there would even be one. The resurrection was then as it is now, a key part of the Gospel – Christ’s resurrection and our eventual resurrection. Some in the church wondered about it.

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (1 Corinthians 15:12 – 14 KJV)

That was their problem. And it was a big problem. To deny the future resurrection of the dead – at the Second Coming – was tatamount to saying that Christ didn’t rise from the dead. And, as Paul said, if that’s true, then he’d been wasting his time preaching. Christ’s resurrection is inexorably linked to ours. To say it won’t happen to us is to say that it didn’t happen to Christ. Paul’s powerful argument in support of both resurrections goes like this:

Christ’s resurrection was an integral part of the Gospel message. Without it, there could be NO salvation. If Christ was resurrected, then so would each and every believer. Without the reality of the future resurrection, there would be little or nor motivation for living a holy and righteous life.

So you see, then, as far as Paul was concerned, belief in the believer’s resurrection was an absolute non-negotiable part of the faith. It determines how the believer views the past (Christ’s resurrection), how the believer views the future (his resurrection), and how he lives his life today. That’s how important believing in the resurrection is.

The very salvation we possess is predicated on the fact that Christ rose from the dead. He was the very first One to be resurrected in the history of history. Certainly a very fortunate few individuals have returned to life, like Lazarus, for example. But in all those cases, their immaterial selves returned by command to their own bodies. But they all would eventually die. Resurrection, though is different. It’s not temporary re-animation – it’s an entirely new event. Christ was the “first fruits.” He shows us what our resurrection will be like.

The idea of “first fruits” is more important than it appears. It alludes to two things. It references the first harvested crops of the season, which were brought into the Temple as an offering, and they represented a sample of what’s to come later.

“The Harvest Festival (Festival of Pentecost): Fifty days later you shall bring to the Lord an offering of a sample of the new grain of your later crops.” (Leviticus 23:15, 16 TLB)

So because Christ has risen, all who believe in Him will also rise. That’s the order of this event. Christ first, then all who believe in Him. It’s a guarantee. And it’s why belief in and the preaching of both resurrections are so important to the Christian faith.

“AT” the Second Coming, all believers in Jesus Christ – those who have passed on and those who are still alive – will experience a resurrection that will transform them into people ready to spend an eternity in Heaven.

Changed at the last trump

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 KJV)

Closely related to the first point is this one. The “last trump” will trigger the bodily change in believers that must take place. It will be an orderly change. Paul says not all believers will die before Christ returns; some will still be alive when He returns. But all will change just like He did. At the sound of the last trump, not one but two things will happen. First, all – all – true believers from all ages and dispensations will be changed in an instant of time. The dead first, followed immediately by the living. It’s hard to imagine how this will happen. Hollywood has tried to show it, but I don’t think we can possibily grasp how this bodily change – this resurrection – will happen. But there is a second thing that will happen. “AT” the last trump, not only will we see the two groups of believers, dead and alive, change, we’ll see the true believers separated from those who aren’t. True believers will be changed. Those who aren’t true believers won’t be.

Rewarded at His appearing

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ… (1 Peter 1:7 KJV)

Here’s something else that will happen at Christ’s appearing: your faithfulness through all the ups and downs of your life, will be completely vindicated. Remember that time you faced a crisis in your life and you felt like giving up but didn’t? God noticed. Remember that temptation you resisted that nobody ever knew about? God did. And when Jesus Christ returns, He will vindicate your struggles and faith.

In the midst of any kind of suffering, it’s very easy to think that God has abandoned you, or worse, that He really doesn’t care about you. But nothing can be further from the truth!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3 – 5 KJV)

This is a wonderful canticle of praise. These three verses are verses of the highest praise for the divinity and humanity and work of our Lord. His “great mercy” has birthed in us salvation; the “lively hope” that there is something better for all true believers than just this world. That salvation is a result of Christ’s resurrection. Our new life in Christ came to us by way of His resurrection. This new life gives us a “lively hope,” or a “living hope,” of a better future. Because of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we have a hope that can never be taken away. After all, that hope is based on the Man who rose from the dead, triumphant of over death, hell, and the grave.

Because of His resurrection, we are heirs to the glorious inheritance of God. Our inheritance is “imperishable,” it will never decay. It is “undefiled,” or perfect in every way, without any flaw. And it “will not fade away,” that is, we will never get bored with or tired of it. It is “reserved in heaven.” Folks, your reward is just waiting for you to claim it. At His coming, the child of God will take possession of his inheritance, he will be with his Lord and he will be like his Lord.

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2 KJV)

A crown of righteousness at that day

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8 KJV)

“A crown of righteousness” is better understood to be “the crown of righteousness.” It’s not exactly the same thing as a reward. The crown of righteousness is something imputed to us – it’s Christ’s righteousness finally and forever fused to our being. We have it now, but it is hindered or limited by our sinful natures. But at His appearing, it will be a true and obvious reality as our old, sinful natures are once and for all done away with in our glorious resurrection.

This wonderful statement comes in the midst of a warning against false teachings in the church. Sadly, many people, even those who call themselves Christians, are easily swayed and trapped by false teachings. It’s a measure of the continuing strength and influence of our sinful natures that we so easily fall prey to what the false teachers peddle.

In Timothy’s day, the teaching d’jour was a form of super asceticism; the idea that denying the human body all manner of pleasure was considered to be a form of holiness. That’s legalism carried to the endth degree.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3, 4 KJV)

That’s not 21st century America Paul is writing about, although it could be! Against all the false teachings of the day, Paul wrote:

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5 KVJ)

In other words, Paul urged young Timothy to simply remain faithful and put up with any and all “afflictions,” or persecutions; to continue preaching the Word. Timothy could do those things because Paul himself already did:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith… (2 Timothy 4:7 KJV)

Paul’s end was near and he knew it. He knew something else: His conscience was clear; he had not wavered in his faith; he did what God called him to do; he voiced no regrets as the end of his life loomed large on the horizon. He was ready to receive the crown of righteousness.

This idea of a crown continues Paul’s imagry of a race or competition where the prize would be a literal garland of olive leaves. This prize is the possession of all true believers who remained faithful during their time on earth. More specifically, it is for those who “love” or look forward to Christ’s Second Coming.

Ashamed at His coming

So far so good. “At” His coming, true believers will be the recipients of some marvelous blessings. And yet, all will not go well for some:

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. (1 John 2:28 KJV)

God abides with us through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, but at the same time, we are to make every effort to abide in God. This speaks of the closest possible relationship.

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (1 John 2:27 KJV)

That “anointing” is the relationship we have with God, and John makes it clear both parties have a part to play in maintaining it. We have to put forth the effort to abide in Him.

Many things will happen “at” Christ’s coming. Let’s be ready!

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