“Having established scripturally (See our last two studies, “Signs of Christ’s Presence” and “I will Come Again”) that the second advent of Christ begins with a secret invisible presence which is discernible only by the eye of faith, and only to those members of the Church who are awake and watching, the question logically arises,
Will the future revealing to all mankind likewise involve mental perception or literal sight?
Harmony must be sought between two sets of scriptures relative to this matter. Matt 24:30-31 and Rev 1:7, IF taken LITERALLY, could be interpreted to mean that all mankind will see the returned Christ with their literal eyes. On the other hand, the following four scriptures state, with clarity, that after Christ ascended into heaven, mankind would not and could not see him with the literal eye.
(1) "Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but ye [shall] see me: because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19) Here is a plain statement by Jesus just prior to his death and resurrection that the world would never again see him.
Those living then, that is some of them who dwelt in the area in which Christ taught may have seen him when he resided in the flesh, but of these, few would ever see him again.
Then he adds that "ye," the apostles and all the church would see him again.
Because "ye shall live also," just as Christ was resurrected, so his faithful followers will be raised at his second advent. "The world sees me no more." When Christ returns, the world will not see him with the literal eye, but his followers will literally see him when they are caught up together with him in their resurrection bodies.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be (what our spiritual bodies will be like), but we know that when He is revealed (to us at the Second Advent, following our change), we shall be like Him (possess the same spiritual body as him), for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
(2) Heb 1:1-3 tells us that the glorified Christ is the express image of the Father's person. Col 1:15 speaks of Christ, "who is the image of the invisible God." These scriptures show that when Christ ascended into the presence of God, he was the exact image of the Father. From 1 Tim 6:16 we learn that Christ is "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see." If no man can see Christ after his ascension, because he is the exact glorious image of the Heavenly Father, then no man can see the returned Christ of glory.
(3) Acts 22:6-8 and 11-14 reveal that a mere glimpse of the glorified Christ completely blinded Saul of Tarsus. If required the power of God through Ananias to even partially restore Saul's sight.
(4) Luke 17:20 reveals that the King of Glory will return unobserved. The 17th Chapter of Luke is speaking of the second presence of Christ, when he returns to set up his kingdom. Verse 20 states, "The Kingdom of God comes not with observation." If Christ's return was visible to man, then the Kingdom of God would come visibly.
Literal, or Symbolic
These four scriptures show that the glorified Christ WILL NOT and CANNOT be seen at his return. Yet Rev 1:7 and Matt 24:30 seem to indicate that all mankind will see the returned Lord.
Will this be by literal sight or by mental perception (as for example, when we say, "I see [understand] what you mean")?
As Christians, we cannot afford to base our conclusions upon one set of scriptures that do not fit with our views. We must accept the challenge: "Study to show thyself approved unto God…rightly dividing the Word of Truth."
The only valid way to ascertain the correct view of any Biblical doctrine is to collate all the scriptures on a given subject and then rightly divide them, that is, harmonize them. Only then can we be sure of the correct understanding. When all the scriptures on a given subject are brought together, they will harmonize. They will not contradict.
It is generally admitted that some scriptures are symbolic, for example, the fig tree of Matt 24:32 which represents the nation of Israel and the eagles of Luke 17:37 which symbolize faithful Christians. The problem is how to determine if a passage is literal or symbolic. Whenever a literal interpretation does violence to reason or places the passage in direct antagonism to other plain statements of Scripture, it is a good indication that the passage should be considered figuratively or symbolically and its interpretation as a symbol should be sought in harmony with obviously plain and literal passages.
Remember John 14:19; 1 Timothy 6:16; Acts 22:6-8, 11-14 and Luke 17:20 are all plain statements to the effect that the returned Lord cannot and will not be seen by the human eye. These scriptures should be read and reread. They are literal statements that cannot be taken symbolically.
However in contrast our Lord’s Great Prophecy as recorded in Matthew and Luke is filled with many metaphorical and figurative allusions so too the Book of Revelation which is specifically stated to be a book of signs, a symbolic prophecy. Those who attempt to force a literal interpretation upon either one of these prophecies do violence to the scriptures and only succeed in leading themselves as well as others into further confusion.
(Excerpts taken from the booklet, “I Will Come Again” edited)
Continued with next post.
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