Most Christians have a belief that Christ will come again, but the details vary considerably. Most see Christ as their Elder Brother, just as we do, but often they see His Coming as a Coming in Anger to destroy the wicked world and all in it. Some see Him first taking those who are worthy to Heaven with Him in one single action, and then destroying everything else.
This is usually called the "Rapture", because of the postulated rapture of those thus saved from disaster at the last minute. Many modern thinkers would see any such happiness as being merely a manifestation of great selfishness, for it is hard to see how any really good individual could be rapturously happy when most of their fellow-mortals were being been destroyed. Possibly it is a reflection of the way that some medieval theologians contended that the joy of the "Saved" was actually enhanced by witnessing the sufferings of the damned!.
Needless to say, few but the msot extreme fundamentlists would say such things today, and it is hard to see how the actual idea developed, for it is quite distinct from the way that Christ Himself described His judgement. He does not speak of destoying the peoples, but of judging them, of separating the nations one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (St Matthew 25; 32)
The idea of the Rapture may be based on 1 Thessalonians 4; 15-17 in which St Paul tells us that those who are dead will be judged first, before the living, and that thereafter the living will be "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:" so let us examine this passage.
We have already seen from his previous writings (2 Corinthians 12; 2) that St Paul was a first class mystic in his own right. And this seems to be a reference to Christís descent through the Planes and His Judgement of those on the Astral and Spirit Planes before He judges those on earth. And this is clearly correct.
Those who dwell on the Form Plane will see Christ sooner than those that are on the Astral Plane and much sooner than those who remain on the Earth plane. Their time of waiting is shorter and their time of struggle is shorter. Moreover, their work on the Spirit Plane is not so difficult as that on the two lower planes, and God is Just. Those who are working on the earth are working under the most trying circumstances of all, with greater temptations and difficulties, therefore their service deserves a higher reward and so it shall be. The dead shall indeed see Him before we do, but our reward will be the greater. Yet the ultimate reward, teh Crown of Victory, is the same for all those on all three Planes who persevere in His Service until He comes.
Whilst this is clearly applicable to the great majority, there may possibly be a few exceptions. There are a number of historical instances when great servants of God were "Assumed" into Heaven or "caught up" into the clouds in a manner similar to our Lordís departure at His Ascension. We shall discuss the psychic mechanism that He used to produce this effect at another time, but there is no reason to doubt that He could employ that same ability to effect a similar result in others. Our Ladyís "Assumption" is probably the best-known example of this type of miracle, and if we are to accept the general artistís rendition of the event, this is certainly the way it happened. Other examples include the Assumption of Moses and the carrying away of Elijah and both of these have also been depicted in art.
We may therefore assume that such "assumptions" are certainly possible. We do not suggest, however, that all or even most of the servants of Christ will be assumed in that way when He comes to reign on earth. Most will be used by Him in His work for mankind on earth, for obviously if He is to rule the whole earth as King, that will be a mammoth task and He will require many of His faithful servants to help him therein
There are however many other Christians who play lip-service to a Belief in the Second Coming, but who look for some sort of a "raising of the spiritual consciousness of humanity", rather than a physical coming of Christ. This idea is actually just one more example of nineteenth century Rationalism trying to rationalise away a Christian Doctrine, but unfortunately it is still found in many of the larger denominations today.
It is the official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that Christ will come again, and most other Catholic and Orthodox Groups support this view, but many of their more worldly theologians try to rationalise it away in this sort of fashion.
Yet other Romans suggest that Christ's Second Coming is no more than a world-wide acceptance of His Presence in the Eucharist. They equate His Coming with some form of triumph for the Roman Church over all other denominations, and often express this view by saying that; "Christ will reign through His Vicar". By this they mean that the Pope, the head of the Roman Church, will become the defacto ruler of the world, just as at certain times in the Middle Ages he was the de-facto ruler of Western Europe.
Many other Christians are vague about exactly what they expect to see when Christ comes, but from the earliest Biblical times there has been a looking-forward to His Parousia. (A Greek word meaning Advent) The term was widely used at that period, when it was generally expected that the Return of Christ would be quite soon.
It is plain that in the decades immediately following Pentecost, Christís Parousia was expected almost immediately, and there are several references in the canonical epistles which support this view. There are even reports that Christ appeared with many followers in the clouds over Jerusalem just before its Fall in 70 A.D.
The historicity of this appearance is given support by the Jewish historian Josephus who tells of claims of a great Army in the clouds, and who also describes Halleyís Comet as hanging like a great sword over the doomed city. To Christians, of course Josephusí "sword" would have been seen as the Sign of the Cross - "the Sign of the Son of man in heaven" that had been promised by Christ in St Matthew 24; 30.
But even though Christ may well have appeared at that time and condemned the City that had rejected Him, the remainder of His Promises concerning His Second Coming have yet to be fulfilled. Not "every eye" saw Him at that time, nor had He then gathered the remnant of the Israelites from "out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them".
And certainly He has not yet reigned as "King over all the earth", as He Himself (St Matthew 25, 32) and so many other prophets have predicted. (Zechariah 14; 9. See also St Luke 1; 32,33 & Revelation 11; 15.)
It is generally believed, also that Christís Coming will be preceded by a period of great tribulation in which the true followers of Christ will be bitterly persecuted and the forces of materialism will become dominant. There are many Biblical references that foretell this time of trouble. Christ Himself, says in St Matthew 24; 21, 22;
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
St Paul describes this period in his second epistle to St Timothy, chapter 3, 1-5
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
It is clear that many of these prophecies, though fundamentally correct, have been grossly mis-represented, usually in an effort to support one philosophical position against another. But there is no doubt that difficult times are approaching. The ending of an Age is always a time of tribulation and many prophets have warned us that the collapse of Western civilisation is approaching.
It is plain that this collapse could take place in at least two different ways Ė either through anarchy or through dictatorship. We today can see that the increasing threats by terrorists could easily produce a state of anarchy, whilst the government response of imposing more and more restrictions on civil liberties could easily end in dictatorship. In an attempt to make our supporters as free as possible from these twin threats, we have always been advised to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Of the two threats, however, dictatorship by an anti-religious government is undoubtedly the greater danger to Christianity and both we and indeed most other denominations expect the time of tribulation to include a great anti-religious leader generally called Antichrist.
There is not time here to consider this subject in detail, but much has been written about this person, both in religious and in secular circles. According to St John, (1 John 2; 18) there were many antichrists in his day, but he also refers to the prophecy that a great "Antichrist" will come.
In the Book of Revelation he makes it plain that the term refers to a single man (Revelation 13; 18) but also refers to a Beast which shall ascend out of the Bottomless Pit.
The idea of "Antichrist" is not restricted to religious writings. Jeanne Dixon the famous American seer once said that the man who would become Antichrist had been born in the Middle East in 1961. Note; I neither endorse nor condemn this prophecy. I merely mention it as an example of modern views about Antichrist. Other groups also expect a final conflict between the leaders of the forces of good and the forces of evil on earth.
This final battle is usually called the battle of Armegeddon a word that is derived from the Hebrew "Ha Meggidon", referring to the great plain of Meggido in northern Israel where Solomon built the stables for the horses for his cavalry and chariots. (1 Kings 9; 15) Archaeologists have discovered evidence of many great battles that were fought in this region, especially the great victory of pharoah Thutmose iii over the Canaanites in the15th Century B.C.. (See also 2 Chronicles 35; 22 & Zechariah 12; 11)
According to St John (Revelation 16; 16) it will be at Armageddon that the final battle between good and evil will take place, in which Christ and his followers will triumph over the forces of evil. And although we should hesitate to claim that it will necessarilly take place at this site, nor even that it will be a physical battle at all, it is certain that the war between good and evil will reach its climax before Christ can reign as King.
But it is not only Christians who look for the Return of Christ. They may not know Him by that name, but all the other major religions of the world expect a "Great One" who will come and establish a new and glorious era on the earth. A time of spiritual replenishment and Peace and even of material well-being and prosperity Ė a truly Golden Age.
There is not time here to provide great details although I will do so in another place, but a brief outline of the beliefs of the major faiths is provided together with the table below which compares the various views and ideas.
|Religion||Founder's Name||Expected One||Founding Date||Remarks|
|Hinduism||Unknown||Kalkhi||8000 to 4000 B.C.||TENTH Incarnation of Vishnu the Preserver, Second Person of the Hindu Trinity. Previous "incarnations" are not historical|
|Judaism||Moses||Messiah or Christ||c 1450 B.C.||Literally the "Anointed of Jehovah" Promised by the Salvator Himself to Abraham that He would be his descendent. Gen. 18; 18|
|Zoroastrianism||Zoroaster||Saoshyans||c.600 B.C.||The Third Saviour, due before the end of the Third Age which ends some 3000 years after Zoroaster's time.|
|Jainism||Vardhamana||First Tirthankara||6th century B.C.||First Tirthankara of the New Cosmic Age. The Old Cosmic Age, now ending had 24, of which most were not historical. Vardhamana was the last.|
|Taoism||Lao-tse||6th century B.C.||Does not seem to expect a Saviour, but is often linked with Mahayana Buddhism to expect a new Enlightened One|
|Buddhism||Gautama||Maitreya||6th century B.C.||The FIFTH Enlightened One, Gautama being the FOURTH Enlightened One. The others are not historical|
|Confucianism||Confucius||6th century B.C.||Does not seem to expect a Saviour but like Taoism usually links with Mahayana Buddhism to expect a new Enlightened One|
|Christianity||Jesus Christ||Christ the King||c. 30 A.D. (Pentecost)||Unlike other "Messiahs" Christ promised He would Himself Return. This distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. When Christ comes again, others may welcome Him as their promised King, but Christians can claim to know Him.|
|Islam||Mohammed||The Mahdi||c. 622 A. D. (Hejira)||The Mahdi, the Son of God has long been expected. It should be noted that this is not a return of Mohammed, but the coming of an even greater One, although there is no suggestion that The Mahdi will actually be Divine.|
To the Hindus, the oldest of all the world's major religions, the coming one is "Kalkhi" the Tenth Incarnation of Vishnu the Preserver, who plays a similar role in the Hindu Trinity to that of Christ in our own. Their literature retains stories, which may or may not be founded on fact, of some of his previous Incarnations, the most important of which are Rama, the ideal prince and Krishna the great warrior.
The Buddhists, to whom Buddha is not God, but simply the Enlightened One, look for another Enlightened One. Although there are differences within Buddhism, generally they look for "Maitreya" the Fifth Enlightened One (Gautama was the Fourth) and expect that when He comes he will provide yet further "Enlightenment" to all mankind.
Moslems look for the coming of the "Mahdi" the Son of God, no less! And considering that they do not acknowledge Jesus as such, this may seem strange, though their theologians are by no means agreed on the implications of the term and certainly do not generally expect the Coming One to be Divine.
Jews still look for the coming of their promised Messiah, though without admitting that He has already been and that they rejected Him 2000 years ago. They still expect that Elijah will act as his forerunner, and many still conclude their modernised Passover ceremony by providing an extra glass of wine in his honour.
Jains look for the beginning of a new Cosmic Age, which will be ushered in by the first of a new series of Tirthankaras. (Vardhamana was the 24th and last of the old Age.)
Zoroastrians along with a number of smaller groups also look for a "Coming One" , Saoshyans (or Saoshyant) who will initiate a New Golden Age.
With the exception of some members of the Judao-Christian-Moslem groups of religions almost all of the others do not see the Coming One as Unique. He is merely One of a series of Great Ones, or a Reincarnation of the Same Great One, and as He has done many times in the past He is expected to renew the spirituality of the world and usher in a New Age. This is a view with which we would broadly concur, and in fact there are many indications in the Bible that Christ has been to earth before.
There are many prophecies about the return of Christ, and they are found both in the Bible and in the writings of our own Mystics. We do not see the Coming of Christ as leading to the destruction of the world, but rather to the ending of this Age and the establishment of a New One. We believe that there will be many terrible things that precede His Coming, but by helping to prepare His Way, we believe we may help to alleviate that suffering, for as Christ promised (St Matthew 24; 22) "for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." But He cannot come too soon, for else would many in the world be unwilling to receive Him. Many people today are interested only in worldly pleasures and to them the reign of Christ would require sacrifices. Things will have to get pretty bad before such people will be willing to accept Him. But He cannot come until at least a large percentage do, and the reason is not hard to find. It is connected with the Free Will that God has given to each one of us. "If He comes too soon He must come to rend, He must come to shatter and not to mend, but He is Love."
However if we hope to be numbered among His elect, will do our best to hasten the day of His return by working and praying towards that end and thereby we may also earn the right to end our own earthly incarnations. The Ending of an Age is always a time of testing. "Some may pass but others will fail, for the human soul is weak and frail; but those who are true will have played their part, have paid their debts and will soon complete their cycle of lives on earth".
Like many other faiths we see Christ as the Divine Salvator Who comes to earth on a regular basis to help forward all souls in incarnation. And as we believe that all the lesser Creation also have souls, we believe He helps them too. Many people do not believe that animals have souls, and even if they see that the coming of Christ will benefit mankind, they cannot believe that it will aid the rest of Creation. It certainly will, and if we stop for a moment to consider just how much spiritual power is brought to earth by the coming of One Who is actually Divine, we will realise that this must be so. The Salvator comes to earth to help forward the spiritual progress of all those souls which are close to the end of their round of earth lives, but in doing this He also speeds up the progress of all the younger souls.
"The earth rolls on for many an age and the humblest soul eventually becomes a sage and then passes beyond earthly existance. Then another cycle of spirits will rise from a humbler form to the human state, for such is the law of God. And such is the love of Christ the King that as each of the cycles swings home again He hastens back to earth in order that He may then gather His chosen band of perfect souls from every land in order that He may save them from return."
That is substantially up to us. People have to want Him to come back, by which we mean, a large percentage of the world's population, which is where we come in. The more people who we can persuade to pray for and works towards the hastening of His Coming, the more swiftly He will return. "But He cannot wait for all".
And there is a very important reason why He cannot wait indefinitely, as we have already seen, for as more and more souls reach a certain point in their spiritual evolution, their need for Him and the New Revelation that He will bring with Him becomes more and more pressing. Their need, as it were places a "last possible time" for His Coming, whilst the increasing number of those that desire His Presence, means that the "earliest possible time" could be right now.
IF YOU WANT CHRIST TO COME AGAIN SOON, PRAY FOR IT AND ASK OTHERS TO DO LIKEWISE. FOR THUS EACH ONE OF YOU MAY PLAY A PART IN HASTENING THE DAY OF