Do You Believe in the First Coming?
in a literal return of the Lord at the end of the age, I find that in some circles there is a serious imbalance on this issue. The biblical record of the apostolic preaching found in the book of Acts focuses on the first coming of Jesus. We are not left with any recorded instance of Peter, Paul, or any other apostle, preaching the parousia of Christ to bring people to repentance. They preached the Cross and the Resurrection (I Cor. 15:3-4).
Satan’s most successful strategy has been to deceive the Church regarding the victory Christ has already won through the Cross. Many are looking to Christ’s return to accomplish what was done in the first coming. They are looking for Jesus to defeat the Devil, when he has already met his defeat. Hebrews 2:14 says “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Note the fact that the devil was “rendered powerless” (Greek word- katargeo) through the Cross.
Jesus said “how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matt. 12:29). Is this not what Jesus did through the Cross? Is not the advance of the Gospel the “plundering” of Satan’s house? This word, translated as “binds,” is the Greek word deo, which is the same word used in Revelation 20:2 which states: “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound (Greek– deo) him for a thousand years.”
God proclaimed to Satan his defeat in the Protevangelium, in which He revealed that through the Woman would come the Redeemer to crush the Serpent’s head:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” (Gen. 3:15)
The definitive fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 is at the Cross and validated through the Resurrection. The entire story of the Old Testament is leading the reader to the culmination of Christ’s redemptive work, and subsequent defeat of Satan, fulfilling God’s promise made to Adam. The “climax” of history is past, not future. The “climax” is the First Coming, not the Second Coming, as strange as that may seem to most believers today. The “Defeated Church Syndrome” (Nov. 25, 2002 -- Arrows of Truth) is a result of an improper soteriology, which produces an incorrect eschatology. The Second Coming is not Christ triumphing over His enemies, He has already done that—at the Cross.
Note the words of the Apostle Paul, in describing what Christ has done:
“… having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Col. 2:14-15)
Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). What authority will Jesus have when He returns, that He does not already have?
The central fact in history is the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. In that, Satan has been defeated. He has been suffering continual defections since that time. He is fighting a rearguard action, knowing his time is short. His most successful strategy has been to deceive the Church into believing that he is “alive and well.” He has convinced the Church that she is defeated and can do nothing but wait for heaven.
The theologian Oscar Cullmann illustrated all this with his famous D-Day analogy. The resurrection and ascension of Christ represents the D-Day of the Kingdom of God, the decisive turning point in redemptive history. In World War II D-Day was not the end of the war, but it was such a decisive turning point that for all intents and purposes the war was over. What was left was a “mop-up” exercise (the Battle of the Bulge excepted). In like manner the decisive, definitive work of the Kingdom has been accomplished. We are living in the interim awaiting the consummation that will occur at Christ’s appearing.
This obviously does not in any way, negate the fact that we are in a battle now. Although the Kingdom was established definitively in the finished work of Christ, it is established progressively throughout history, and will be established finally on the Last Day (John 6:39-44, 54, 7:37, 11:24, 12:48). The Bible teaches that Jesus is now ruling the nations with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 19:15); He is now seated in power above all other rulers in heaven and earth, possessing all authority (Ps. 2:1-12, 110:1-7; Matt. 28:18; Rev. 1:5, 17:14, 19:16). On the other hand, the Bible teaches that the Kingdom develops progressively, growing stronger and stronger as time goes on (Isa.9:7; Dan. 2:34-35,44; Matt.13:31-33; I Cor. 15:25). The same letter to the Ephesians that tells us of Christ’s absolute rule over creation (1:20-22), informing us that we are reigning with Him (2:6), also commands us to put on the “full armor of God” for battle against Satan (6:10-17). This is no contradiction – just two aspects of one reality.
Our confidence in ultimate victory over evil rests on the finished work of Christ at the Cross. We can experience progressive triumph in this present age, because Christ has triumphed over Satan definitively.