FROM a reader:
There is so much confusion regarding the “second coming” of Jesus. Some call it the “Eucharistic reign”, namely His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. Others, the actual physical presence of Jesus reigning in the flesh. What is your opinion on this? I am confused…
“SECOND COMING” IN PRIVATE REVELATION
The problem seems to lie in the use of the words “second coming” that have appeared in various private revelations.
For example, the well-known messages of Our Lady to Fr. Stefano Gobbi, which have received an imprimatur, refer to “the coming of the glorious reign of Christ” as his “second coming.” One could mistake this for the final coming of Jesus in glory. But an explanation of these terms is given on the Marian Movement of Priests website that point to this coming of Christ as “spiritual” to establish an “era of peace.”
Other alleged seers have spoken of Christ returning to reign physically on earth in the flesh for a thousand years as a man or even as a child. But this is clearly the heresy of millenarianism (see On Heresies and More Questions).
Another reader asked about the theological validity of a popular prophecy where Jesus allegedly says, “I will manifest Myself in a series of supernatural events similar to the apparitions but much more powerful. In other words, My second coming will be different than My first, and like My first, it will be spectacular to many but also unknown initially to many, or disbelieved.” Here again, the use of the term “second coming” is problematic, especially when used in conjunction with the alleged description of how He will return, which would be a contradiction of Scripture and Tradition as we’ll see.
“SECOND COMING” IN TRADITION
In each of the above mentioned “messages,” there is the potential for confusion and even deception without a proper understanding of the teachings of the Magisterium. In the Tradition of the Catholic faith, the term “second coming” refers to the return of Jesus in the flesh at the end of time when the dead shall be raised to judgment (see The Last Judgments).
The resurrection of all the dead, “of both the just and the unjust,” will precede the Last Judgment. This will be “the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man’s] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” Then Christ will come “in his glory, and all the angels with him.” …Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. …And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1038
Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia: For the Lord himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. —CCC, n. 1001; cf. 1 Thess 4:16
He will come in the flesh. This is what the angels instructed the Apostles immediately after Jesus ascended into Heaven.
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
He comes to judge the living and the dead in the same flesh in which He ascended. —St. Leo the Great, Sermon 74
Our Lord Himself explained that His Second Coming is a cosmic event that will manifest in a powerful, unmistakable fashion:
If anyone says to you then, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you beforehand. So if they say to you, ‘He is in the desert,’ do not go out there; if they say, ‘He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be… they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt 24:23-30)
It will be seen by everyone as an exterior event.
…it is an event visible to all men in every part of the earth. —biblical scholar Winklhofer, A. The Coming of His Kingdom, p. 164ff
The ‘dead in Christ’ will rise, and those of the faithful left alive on earth will be “raptured” to meet the Lord in the air (*see note at the end regarding the false understanding of the “rapture”):
…we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord… will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess 4:15-17)
The Second Coming of Jesus in the flesh, then, is a universal event at the end of time that will bring about the Final Judgment.
A MIDDLE COMING?
That said, Tradition also teaches that the power of Satan will be broken in the future, and that for a period of time—symbolically a “thousand years”—Christ will reign with the martyrs within the boundaries of time, before the end of the world (see Dear Holy Father… He is Coming!)
I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus… They came to life and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Rev 20:4)
What exactly is this reign? It is the reign of Jesus in His Church to be established throughout the world, in every nation. It is the reign of Christ sacramentally, no longer in select regions, but in every place. It is the reign of Jesus present in spirit, the Holy Spirit, through a New Pentecost. It is a reign in which peace and justice will be established throughout the world, thus bringing about the Vindication of Wisdom. Lastly, it is the reign of Jesus in His Saints who, in living the Divine Will “on earth as it is in heaven,” in public and private life, will be made into a holy and purified Bride, ready to receive her Bridegroom at the end of time…
…cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:26-27)
Some biblical scholars observe that in this text, the washing with water recalls the ritual ablution which preceded the wedding—something which constituted an important religious rite also among the Greeks. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, The Theology of the Body—Human Love in the Divine Plan; Pauline Books and Media, Pg. 317
It is this reign of God through His Will, His Word, that has led some to interpret St. Bernard’s famous sermon as inferring not only a personal but corporate “middle” coming of Christ.
We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming, he was seen on earth, dwelling among men… In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming Our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty… In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. —St. Bernard, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol I, p. 169
The Church teaches that the “second coming” is at the end of time, but the Church Fathers accepted that there may also be a coming of Christ in “spirit and power” before then. It is precisely this manifestation of Christ’s power that slays the Antichrist, not at the end of time, but before the “era of peace.” Let me repeat again the words of Fr. Charles Arminjon:
St. Thomas and St. John Chrysostom explain… that Christ will strike the Antichrist by dazzling him with a brightness that will be like an omen and sign of His Second Coming… The most authoritative view, and the one that appears to be most in harmony with Holy Scripture, is that, after the fall of the Antichrist, the Catholic Church will once again enter upon a period of prosperity and triumph. —The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, Fr. Charles Arminjon (1824-1885), p. 56-57; Sophia Institute Press
If before that final end there is to be a period, more or less prolonged, of triumphant sanctity, such a result will be brought about not by the apparition of the person of Christ in Majesty but by the operation of those powers of sanctification which are now at work, the Holy Ghost and the Sacraments of the Church. —The Teaching of the Catholic Church: A Summary of Catholic Doctrine, 1952, p. 1140
Jesus foretold that His coming again in flesh would be distorted by “false messiahs and false prophets.” This is happening today, particularly through the new age movement that suggests that we are all “christs.” So, it doesn’t matter how anointed or how “sure” you may feel that a private revelation is from God or how much it has “fed” you—if it contradicts Church teaching, it must be set aside, or at least, that aspect of it (see Of Seers and Visionaries). The Church is your safeguard! The Church is your rock whom the Spirit leads “into all truth” (John 16:12-13). Whoever listens to the bishops of the Church, listens to Christ (see Luke 10:16). It is the infallible promise of Christ to guide His flock “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Speaking of the present dangers in our times, there is, for example, a man apparently alive today known as Lord Maitreya or the “World Teacher,” although his identity remains unknown at this time. He is being heralded as the “Messiah” who will bring about world peace in a coming “Age of Aquarius.” Sound familiar? Indeed, it is a distortion of the Era of Peace in which Christ brings about a reign of peace on earth, according to the Old Testament prophets and St. John (see The Coming Counterfeit). From the website that promotes Lord Maitreya:
He is here to inspire us to create a new era based on sharing and justice, so that all may have the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, health care, and education. His open mission in the world is about to begin. As Maitreya himself has said: ‘Soon, now very soon, you will see my face and hear my words.’ —Share International, www.share-international.org/
Apparently, Maitreya already appears ‘out of the blue’ to prepare people for his public emergence, and to communicate his teachings and priorities for a just world. The website claims his first such appearance was on June 11, 1988, in Nairobi, Kenya to 6,000 people “who saw him as Jesus Christ.” According to one press release, Share International, who promotes his coming, stated:
At the earliest possible moment, Maitreya will demonstrate His true identity. On the Day of Declaration, the international television networks will be linked together, and Maitreya will be invited to speak to the world. We will see His face on television, but each of us will hear His words telepathically in our own language as Maitreya simultaneously impresses the minds of all humanity. Even those who are not watching Him on television will have this experience. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of spontaneous healings will take place throughout the world. In this way we will know that this man is truly the World Teacher for all humanity.
Another press release asks:
How will viewers respond? They will not know His background or status. Will they listen to and consider His words? It is too soon to know exactly but the following may be said: never before will they have seen or heard Maitreya speak. Nor, while listening, will they have experienced His unique energy, heart to heart. —www.voxy.co.nz, January 23rd, 2009
Whether or not Maitreya is a real character or not, he provides a clear example of the kind of “false messiahs” Jesus spoke of and how this is not the kind of “second coming” for which we await.
THE WEDDING PREPARATIONS
What I have written here and in my book is that the Era of Peace to come is a global reign of Christ in His Church to prepare her for the celestial wedding banquet when Jesus will return in glory to take His Bride to Himself. There are essentially four key factors that delay the Lord’s Second Coming:
I. The conversion of the Jews:
The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 674
II. An apostasy must take place:
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. —CCC, 675
III. The revelation of Antichrist:
The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. —CCC, 675
IV. The Gospel is to be preached in the whole world:
‘This Gospel of the kingdom,’ says the Lord, ‘shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations, and then shall the consummation come. —Catechism of the Council of Trent, 11th printing, 1949, p. 84
The Church will be stripped naked, as was her Lord. But the consequent triumph of the Church over Satan, the re-establishment of the Eucharist as the Heart of the Body of Christ, and the preaching of the Gospel throughout the whole world (during the period of time that follows the death of the Antichrist) is the re-clothing of the Bride in her wedding dress as she is “bathed in the water of the word.” It is what the Church Fathers called the “sabbath rest” for the Church. St. Bernard goes on to say of the “middle coming”:
Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation. —St. Bernard, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol I, p. 169
Thus, these four criteria can be understood in the light of Scripture and the teachings of the Church Fathers as comprising a final phase of humanity in the “end times.”
JOHN PAUL II
Pope John Paul II commented on the middle coming of Jesus in the context of the interior life of a soul. What he describes as taking place in the soul is a perfect summary of what brings about the fullness of this advent of Jesus in the Era of Peace.
This interior Advent is brought to life through constant meditation on and assimilation of the Word of God. It is rendered fruitful and animated by prayer of adoration and praise of God. It is reinforced by constant reception of the Sacraments, those of reconciliation and the Eucharist in particular, for they cleanse and enrich us with the grace of Christ and make us ‘new’ in accordance with Jesus’ pressing call: “Be converted.” —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Prayers and Devotions, December 20th, 1994, Penguin Audio books
While at the Divine Mercy Basilica in Cracow, Poland in 2002, John Paul II quoted directly from the diary of St. Faustina:
From here there must go forth ‘the spark which will prepare the world for [Jesus’] final coming‘ (Diary, 1732). This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. —Introduction to Divine Mercy in My Soul, leatherbound edition, St. Michel Print
This “time of mercy” we are living in, then, is truly part of the “end times” to ultimately prepare the Church and the world for those events foretold by our Lord… events that lay just beyond the threshold of hope which the Church has begun to cross.
*NOTE ON THE RAPTURE
Many evangelical Christians hold fast to the belief in a “rapture” in which believers will be plucked from the earth before the tribulations and persecutions of Antichrist. The concept of a rapture is biblical; but the timing of it, according to their interpretation, is erroneous and contradicts Scripture itself. As mentioned above, it has always been the constant teaching from Tradition that the Church will pass through a “final trial”—not escape it. This is precisely what Jesus said to the Apostles:
‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20)
As for being raptured from the earth and spared from the tribulation, Jesus prayed the opposite:
I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
Thus, He taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.“
There will be a rapture when the Church meets Jesus in the air, but only at the Second Coming, at the last trumpet, and “thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:15-17).
We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor 15:51-52)
…the present-day concept of the “Rapture” is found nowhere in Christianity—neither in Protestant nor Catholic literature—until the early nineteenth century, when it was invented by an Anglican priest-turned-fundamentalist-minster named John Nelson Darby. —Gregory Oats, Catholic Doctrine in Scripture, P. 133