One of the most famous lines in American history is General Douglas MacArthur’s quote: “I shall return.” He said it as the final line in a brief statement that he made to reporters after a harrowing escape from Corregidor and his arrival in Australia during World War II. The full statement reads: “The president of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan; the primary objective of which is the relief of the Philippines. I came through, and I shall return.”
Two years later, on October 20th, 1944, MacArthur waded ashore onto one of the Philippine islands. In a radio broadcast later that same day, he declared: “People of the Philippines, I have returned.” MacArthur’s statement, however, pales in comparison to a far greater statement of very similar vein made by the Lord Jesus Christ. Of infinitely more importance to this world is Jesus’ promise, “I will return.”
The climax of the book of Revelation is the return of Jesus Christ (Rev. 19). It occurs primarily in an event called the Second Coming, which is hinted at in Revelation 1:7–8:
Those two powerful verses introduce the theme of the book of Revelation: Jesus Christ the Lord is coming. They describe the event that occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation when Jesus will return physically, visibly, suddenly, and gloriously. A day is coming, as real as today, when Jesus will return in blazing splendor and unspeakable glory to destroy His enemies, rescue His saints, and establish His kingdom.
Revelation 1:7–8 describes many features of the Second Coming of Christ. The first is its unparalleled importance, exemplified in the word, “Behold.” The Greek word for “Behold” is used 26 times in the book of Revelation. It is used to introduce divine oracles, divine pronouncements, and important truths that the Holy Spirit gives.
This particular oracle introduces the theme of the entire book: “Behold, He is coming.” The Second Coming is not a second rate unimportant teaching of Scripture. In fact, the Second Coming is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. To deny the Second Coming is to be outside the realm of orthodox Christianity. The Second Coming appears in more than 500 verses in Scripture; 23 of the 27 New Testament books refer to the Second Coming. It is mentioned more times than Jesus’ first coming. One scholar estimates that one in every 25 verses in the New Testament refers to the Second Coming.
Charles Erdmann of Princeton Seminary wrote, “The return of Christ is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. It is embodied in hymns of hope. It forms the climax of the creeds. It is the sublime motive for evangelistic and missionary activity. And daily it is voiced in the inspired prayer, ‘Even so, come Lord Jesus.’” David MacLeod, in his excellent book on last things writes, “It is often forgotten that the second coming of Christ is not just the aberrant fascination of end time junkies and apocalyptic doomsdayers. It is the historic faith of the Christian church.”
The testimony of the early church affirms the reality of the Second Coming. Written at the end of the first century, the Epistle of Barnabas reads, “When His Son comes, He will destroy the wicked one, will judge the godless, and will change the sun and the moon and the stars, and then He will truly rest.” Justin Martyr, writing early in the second century, stated, “Hear, too, how He was to ascend into heaven according to prophecy and how He should come again out of heaven with glory.” Irenaeus, writing in the second century, wrote, “When this antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months and sit in the temple in Jerusalem. And then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire.”
Every major creed of the early church refers to the Second Coming: the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. All the major confessions throughout church history speak expectantly of Christ’s return. Even the Lord Himself promised that He would return. Matthew 24:29-30 says, “The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.” By introducing this profound oracle with “Behold,” the Holy Spirit reminds believers of the unparalleled importance of the Second Coming.
Over the next several blogs, we will consider six more features of the Second Coming as described in Revelation 1:7–8.