John Steward of Jesus
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"Second" (Coming)

"Second coming" is a phrase not found in the scriptures. Where did the common use of the phrase start? Probably from Hebrews 9:28-- So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

It is said that Christ shall appear "the second time". But what does this mean?

Even in the same chapter there are two previous "appearances" mentioned, though the Greek word used is different in each of the three (verses 11,25).

If we limit ourselves to the word in verse 28, which is the common word for "see" (active) or "be seen"(appear) (passive), it is no simpler to claim that some future appearance will be the "second". There are many "appearances" recorded in the New Testament which use this word, the most convincing perhaps in I Cor. l5:3ff "...Christ died...was buried...rose again...he was seen of Cephas (an appearance), then of the twelve (second appearance?); after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once (third?); ...after that he was seen of James (fourth?); then of all the apostles (fifth?). And last of all he was seen of me (Paul) also...(sixth?)" Based on this N.T. record, any later appearance would hardly be the "second".

How are we then to make sense of this second appearance? What follows is what is my best interpretation at this time.

The verse itself has a significant reference to the appearing the second time "without sin unto salvation". The entire chapter has references to the O.T. ritual of sacrifice for sin. The entire book is related to the superior work of Christ as compared with the O.T. order. Verse 7 refers to the offering of the high priest "for himself, and for the errors of the people".

If we review the ritual for the Day of Atonement in Leviticus l6 (which I recommend doing now) we are reminded that the high priest took a bull and two goats. The goats were tied at the entrance of the tent as Aaron went in to sacrifice the blood of the bull to make atonement "for himself and for his house" (vs.11). Then Aaron returned to the entrance (where he was seen--made an appearance-- by anyone watching ) to kill one of the goats (vs. l5) and so that he could again go inside the tent with some of its blood as a sacrifice to make atonement for the sins of the people. Aaron would then again come outside the tent (make a second appearance for all those waiting for his "return") and send the second (scape) goat away bearing the sins of the people.

The "second" appearance is important for the people because it confirms that atonement for their sin has been made, and they have again found relief from its burden.

Although Christ did not sin, he bore our sin and became sin for us. It seems fitting to think of his "first" appearance as confirming that he himself had been relieved of the load of that burden, and his "second" appearance as confirming that the sin of all his people had also been covered in the atonement.

All this is highly symbolic, but that is the nature of all O.T. ritual and the book of Hebrews. The point is that when Jesus appeared the "second" time, everyone knew that the atonement had been complete, because now the sins of all those included in the people of Israel had been covered and sent away with the scape goat.

It is not my purpose now to establish when in time this "second" appearance occurred, but to indicate why it seems to me that the "second" appearance in Hebrews 9:28 is not so described because it is next in sequence after the appearance in Bethlehem.

Those familiar with the Day of Atonement knew the significance of the second appearance. Most of those who read Hebrews today do not.