We have previously covered Old Testament prophecies concerning the first coming—the incarnation—of Jesus. Now, we will see what the Bible has foretold about the second coming of Jesus.
As we come to this second area, however, we enter a completely different approach than the prophecies concerning Jesus’ first coming, and this is because of Jesus’ own words about it:
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)
And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. (Acts 1:6-7)
The importance of the above two passages cannot be overstated. Many of us have seen several attempts to pinpoint when Jesus was supposed to come back based on various current events (i.e., after Israel became a nation on 5/14/48; the Six-Day war from 6/5/67-6/10/67; the assassination of Anwar Sadat on 10/6/81; the expulsion of the Shah of Iran and the installation of an Islamic state in Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979; the 40 year generation theory from 1948-1988; Y-2K; the 40 year generation theory from 1967-2007; the terror attack of 9/11/2001; the election of Barack Obama; the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian President in 2005; and many more).
As we will see, such attempts are not new; they have been going on for at least 2000 years!
At this point, we are going to look first at the Scripture that foretells the Second Coming of Jesus in the Old Testament, then we will look at the Scripture that foretells the Second Coming of Jesus in the New Testament, and then we will look at some attempts throughout history that have tried to pinpoint when Jesus was returning.
Old Testament Prophecies
One of the most important Old Testament prophecies concerning the return of Christ and the reestablishment of Israel is found in Ezekiel 37-39. In chapter 37, we have an account of the nation of Israel being resurrected, and, without falling into the trap of eisegesis (i.e., reading into the text something that isn’t there), I believe that most any knowledgeable and objectiveindividual, be they a biblical or historical scholar, or any adult who has a solid grasp on Scripture and world history, would have to say that these chapters have and are happening before our very eyes. Below is a very succinct analysis of these chapters:
1. The political and spiritual revival of the Nation of Israel after it appeared they were dead and forgotten
You can see this in Ezekiel 37:1-4. Here’s what happened in history:
In the 1890s
In the late 19th century, a movement called Zionism emerged under the direction of a man named Theodor Herzl, and his unabashed goal was the reestablishment of Israel in Palestine. In 1895, Herzl met with a wealthy Jewish businessman in Paris, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, and suggested to him the vision of the Jews once again having their own nation and flag, but Hirsch was unresponsive to the idea. That in turn led Herzl to strike out on his own:
The conversation was notable for its effect on Herzl rather than on the Baron de Hirsch, who refused to hear him out. It led to Herzl’s famous pamphlet The Jewish State, published in February 1896 in Vienna. The Jewish question, he wrote, was not a social or religious question but a national question that could be solved only by making it “a political world question to be discussed and settled by the civilized nations of the world in council.” Some of Herzl’s friends thought it a mad idea, but the pamphlet won favourable response from eastern European Zionist societies. In June 1896, when Herzl was en route to Constantinople (Istanbul) in the hope of talking to the Ottoman sultan about obtaining the grant of Palestine as an independent country, his train stopped in Sofia, Bulg.; hundreds of Jews were present at the station to greet Herzl and to hail him as a leader. Although he remained in Constantinople for 11 days, he failed to reach the Sultan. But he had begun the career as organizer and propagandist that would end only with his death eight years later. ((The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., s.v. “Herzl, Theodor”)
Herzl next attempted to rally Jewish leaders in Great Britain to embrace his vision, but they were politely indifferent to his proposal. He then felt that what was needed was a worldwide counsel meeting of those who shared his same Zionist aspirations. He finally settled on Basel, Switzerland:
The congress met at the end of August 1897, attended by about 200 delegates, mostly from central and eastern Europe and Russia along with a few from western Europe and even the United States. They represented all social strata and every variety of Jewish thought—from Orthodox Jews to atheists and from businessmen to students. There were also several hundred onlookers, including some sympathetic Christians and reporters for the international press. When Herzl’s imposing figure came to the podium, there was tumultuous applause. “We want to lay the foundation stone,” he declared, “for the house which will become the refuge of the Jewish nation. Zionism is the return to Judaism even before the return to the land of Israel.” One of Herzl’s most faithful supporters was the writer Max Nordau, who gave a brilliant address in which he described the plight of the Jews in the East and in the West. The three-day congress agreed upon a program, henceforth to be known as the Basel Program, declaring that “Zionism aspires to create a publicly guaranteed homeland for the Jewish people in the land of Israel.” It also set up the Zionist Organization with Herzl as president. (Ibid.)
After World War I
After WWI, the Balfour Declaration, which was a part of the settlement of the War and the dismemberment of the former Ottoman Empire under Turkish control (Turkey was an ally with Germany, and thus, on the losing end), provided for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” (Ibid., vol. 1, 832-832).
After World War II
After WWII, President Harry Truman was a strong proponent for letting the European Jewish refugees move and resettle in Palestine. This was ultimately referred to the United Nations, and the following is the account of what happened:
The General Assembly voted on May 15, 1947, to create a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP-United Nations Special Committee on Palestine) to submit “such proposals as it may consider appropriate for the solution of the problem of Palestine.” When it arrived in Jerusalem, UNSCOP was boycotted by the Arabs but actively aided by the Zionists. Few issues had been more studied than Palestine, and UNSCOP found nothing new but urgency. The only solution, it suggested, was partition, but it urged that the consequences of partition be mitigated by the maintenance of economic union. On November 29 (1947), the UN General Assembly approved, with slight frontier modifications, the UNSCOP recommendations. . . .On May 14 (1948), the State of Israel was proclaimed and was immediately recognized by the Soviet Union and the United States. On the following day, as the British announced the end of their mandate in Palestine, troops of the modern Transjordanian army and their poorly trained and ill-equipped counterparts from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq entered the country. (Ibid., Elahu Elath, “Israel,” 143)
Thus, for the first time since 63 BC when Israel came under Roman domination by Pompey, in exactly 2,011 years, Israel was once again a nation of its own authority and government. However, during the 1948 War of Jewish Independence, the Jordanians retained control of the Old City, while the modern state of Israel retained control of the modern city of Jerusalem and declared it to be its capital. However, between June 5-10, 1967, during what is called the Six Day War, Israel regained control of the Old City of Jerusalem, and for the first time since 70 AD when Titus sacked and destroyed Jerusalem, the whole of Jerusalem was once again under Jewish control.
2. The reunification of the Jews
Ezekiel 37:15-20 simply talks about the reunification of the Jews around the one element of their nation, Israel, and the fact that they are all Jews, versus one of the ten northern tribes or the two southern tribes.
3. The establishment of Israel and the Millenium
Ezekiel 37:21-28 has a twofold application: verses 21-22 may be seen to have a modern prototype with the establishment of the Nation of Israel, but they also portend of the future during the millenneal reign of Christ.
4. End-time battles
Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 describes end-time war and conflicts, but it is not altogether clear just when these battles will occur.
All against Israel
However, in 38:1-6 delineates all of the enemies of Israel who will be joined against her. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 38:8-16, we have the battle plan that is aimed at Israel.
Victory over Gog
The ultimate victory over Gog is described in 38:17-39:20, and the last portion of this carnage is also described in Revelation 19:17-18, and this passage in Revelation is considered to be associated with the battle of Armageddon.
As stated initially, the exact time of when this battle occurs is not certain. Some think it might occur toward the end of the first half of the Tribulation period while Israel is at peace, but, as has already been stated, the description of the birds and animals eating the flesh of those killed during the battle is clearly a description of the battle of Armageddon that takes place not during the middle of the Tribulation, but rather at the end (Revelation 19:17-21).
Both Israel and her enemies will know who the one true God is
However, in Ezekiel 39:21-29, at the end of this battle, the defeated nations will observe God’s judgment against them; Israel will forever know the Lord their God who brought them back from exile; and God will pour out His Spirit on Israel:
21 And I shall set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. 22 “And the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God from that day onward. 23 “And the nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity because they acted treacherously against Me, and I hid My face from them; so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and all of them fell by the sword. 24 “According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I dealt with them, and I hid My face from them.”‘” 25 Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I shall be jealous for My holy name. 26 “And they shall forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. 27 “When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. 28 “Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. 29 “And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God. (Ezekiel 39:21-29)
This being the case, we also see in Revelation that John also saw a vision wherein Gog and Magog would fight at the end of the millenniam in Revelation 20:7-9:
7 And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. 9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. (Revelation 20:7-9)
This, therefore, is an example of true biblical prophecy, but also of our inability to fully understand how it is all going to play out. Thus, as we look at all of the above, the following scenarios are the possible considerations: (1) an initial battle just before the middle of the Tribulation; (2) a continuing struggle leading up to the battle of Armageddon; (3) two battles with Gog and Magog, with one being during the Tribulation (either at the middle or end), and the other at the end of the Millennium.
There is one more Old Testament prophecy for us to look at. Daniel 9:20-27:
20 Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, 21 while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. 23 “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision. 24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. 25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:20-27)
As you can see, this passage has much to do with the first coming of Jesus, and it is actually only verse 27 that has to do with the Second Coming of Christ. That verse is of extreme importance with regard to the events during the Tribulation period that will usher in Jesus’ return. However, the “seventy weeks” spoken of in verse 24 are controversial from the point of view of its historical context, versus a prophetic oversight that would transcend the historical perspective of Daniel’s time period.
From the prophetical perspective, there is a debate as to whether Daniel is really a prophecy, or rather a historical “retelling” of what occurred. The reason for that question is the specificity with which the book of Daniel lays out the prophetic future in such detail from Daniel’s time frame in the early 6th century BC up to and through the death of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 BC, which is covered in chapter 11. Thus, the question arises as to whether or not this is prophecy or history because of the disbelief of some who say that NO PROPHECY could ever be that specifically correct, and the reason for their saying that is that they have a very limited view of God and His supernatural power and ability to give such a prophecy to a man, if they even believe in prophecy at all. Therefore, what is at issue for many scholars, teachers, and pastors is whether or not such specific prophecy could possibly be ascribed to God, and if they do not believe it can, then they see this as simply a “historical retelling” of events that occurred, and consequently, they view Daniel as having been written sometime in the late 2nd to perhaps the early 1st century BC.
However, setting aside the critical analysis for the sake of brevity, we are going to look at the Book of Daniel as an authentic, accurate, and divinely inspired account of the historic events that occurred in the life of Daniel from 605 BC to 538 BC, and of future, prophetic and authenticated historical events that would occur up through the death of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 BC, and then to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ in the first half of the 1st century BC, and finally, to the final seven year “tribulation” period, wherein we will see the Antichrist come and fulfill II Thessalonians 2:1-10 and Revelation 11 & 13. Therefore, with regard to verse 27, what we see being described is the peace treaty that the Antichrist will make with the Jews at the beginning of the Tribulation, but then in the middle of the Tribulation, he will break it off and seek to kill all of the Jews (see Revelation 11:1-14 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12).
Thus, the above New Testament passages are a fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 regarding the Antichrist and his ultimate end at the Second Coming of Jesus described in II Thessalonians 2:8: “And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming.”