The Second Coming: What are we looking for? The greatest cataclysm of world history. The prophets talk about the bad news of the return of God to earth in the person of Jesus by a phrase that’s been mentioned a number of times in this book. The phrase is the Hebrew phrase yom Adonai. We translate it “the day of the Lord” or “the day of Yahweh.” The prophets stumble over each other trying to find adequate language to describe the horror of that day.
Turn to the end of the Old Testament to the little book of Zephaniah. Zephaniah shares with Joel and many other prophets of God a phrase that is the phrase of absolute horror. It’s called the great day of the Lord.
Zephaniah in 1:14-16 writes that the great day of the Lord is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of Yahweh is bitter. Mighty men will scream aloud. That is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, devastation and desolation, darkness and gloominess, clouds and thick darkness. I look at all of those pairs of words, and I see a man ransacking a thesaurus, if there were such a thing available, trying to find adequate terms to describe the calamity of the day of the return of Christ to the earth, because when He returns it will be in the worst judgment in the history of the world.
How can that be? How can that be if Genesis 6 to 9 describes the death of all living by the great flood? How can that be, given the suffering that we’ve experienced even in our own lifetime, like the recent calamitous flooding in places like Honduras, from typhoons, tsunamis, horrible earthquakes, hurricanes, all of these so-called acts of nature? How can there be something worse than all of those things?
I think what makes the Second Coming worse in judgment is that all of those things God did through mediation, that is through Creation, nature gone riot, Creation in upheaval. But in the Second Corning, the judgment will be done, not by water, not by flood, not by fire, not by storm, but by His own hand. Did you hear that?
We’re all familiar with the story of the ten plagues. Are we familiar with the wording of Exodus 11? Turn back there where the announcement of the tenth plague is given. The last plague God used to deliver Israel from Egypt is the most horrendous of the list. There were others that were awful, the turning of the Nile to blood, the darkening of an eclipse that lasted for days and was specific on the Egyptians and not the people of Israel. Some eclipse that was. Cattle disease, boils, gnats, flies, awful things, but none of the plagues is like the tenth. Because in the tenth plague we’re told that from the house of pharaoh, to the humblest farmer in the land, and even extending out to the barn, the firstborn of Egypt will die. They will not die, however, as Sunday school lessons have it, by the “Angel of Death,” but by the hand of God.
Look at Chapter 11 verse 1: “The LORD [Yahweh] said to Moses, ‘One more plague I will bring on Pharaoh.’” He says I will do this. Verse 4, “Thus says the LORD , ‘About midnight, I am going out into the midst of Egypt’” You see what we’ve done? We’ve softened this because it’s almost intolerable. It’s something that we can’t stomach. God? No, we’d like it to be done by an angel. God? No, we’d like it to be done by a demon. God? No, we’d like it to be done by a storm or a disease, but God says, “I will do this.” And so He did.
Turn to Chapter 12 and look at the summary in verse 29. “It came about at midnight that the LORD struck all the first-born.” Not an angel, not a seraph, not a messenger, but the Lord.
I do Passover Seders in the spring. The rabbis sometimes got things right, and this they nailed. In the Passover Haggadah, the liturgy for that wonderful service of praise to God for deliverance from Egypt, there is a homily on these words from Chapter 11 where God says, “I will go out into the midst of Egypt.” Listen to this. “The Lord, Yahweh, brought us forth from Egypt, not by means of an angel, nor by means of a seraph, nor by means of a messenger, but the Most Holy. Blessed be He in His own glory. As it is said, ‘I will pass through the land of Egypt in this night, I will smite every firstborn of the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment.’ I, Yahweh, I will pass through the land of Egypt, I, Myself, and not an angel. I will smite every firstborn, I, Myself and not a seraph. And on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgment, I, Myself, and not a messenger. I, Yahweh, I am He, there is none other.” And that’s the way it was. When the final act of deliverance was done, it was God who did it. And that was to get His people out of Egypt. And then when they came to the watery mass, and the army was behind them and the Sea of Reeds or the Red Sea was before them, then it was again that God acted in His own person, not by an angel, not by a seraph, not by a messenger, but in His own glory.
Turn to Exodus 15. This psalm, the first psalm in the Bible, is the celebration of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and it’s celebrated every year by Jewish people all over the world. Jewish people who follow their own Haggadah know this better than we Christians, because they recite this every single year. When God brought Israel from Egypt, not only was it He, and He alone, who slew the firstborn, but it was He, and He alone, who fought against their enemies and destroyed them. And when the song was sung, verse 3 says, “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is His name.” Yahweh is a man of war, Yahweh is His name. And in those words, we are celebrating the fact that it was God, and God alone, who delivered them. Adonai ish milchamah, Adonai shemo. Yahweh is a warrior, His name is Warrior God.
That’s what we have portrayed about sweet King Jesus in Revelation 19. Jesus, when He comes down, is a man of war. Look at the words, verse 11, “He judges and wages war.” Look at the words of verse 15, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword.” The point is that it is He who will fight directly, personally.
The Second Coming of Jesus: What are we looking for? The greatest calamity in all of human history.
The people of the world don’t understand this. They use the word Armageddon which is our word, a Bible word. But they use Armageddon to describe nuclear holocaust, nation against nation. Back in the days of the Soviet Union there was such a threat of the end of the world, we thought, by one nation lobbing missiles against another and though it was thought that was Armageddon, it was not. That would be horrific, it would be world war, but it’s not Armageddon. Armageddon is the nations gathered together at the end of the Tribulation period to withstand God the Father putting His Son Jesus Christ on the throne of David in Jerusalem. That’s what Psalm 2 is about. That’s what Psalm 110 is about.
In Psalm 2, the nations are gathered together against the Lord, and against His Messiah, His anointed. And the One who is in heaven laughs in derision as He says, “I set My king on My holy hill, Zion.” Do you think the nations can withstand the power of God? That’s why there’s the greatest cataclysm of all of history. What makes it the worst is it’s not water, it’s not fire, it’s not disease, but it’s the Lord Himself who comes to judge.
Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, John F. Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, eds., The Road to Armageddon: A Biblical Understanding of Prophecy and End Time Events (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1999), 161-165. Used by permission.