Jimmy Akin responds to someone’s question about the Second Coming of Jesus.
That leads me to wonder: When was the last time you’ve heard a sermon on this topic in a Catholic or a mainline Protestant Church? I never have. I’ve heard more sermons on NFP–or even the 12 Steps(!). And yet the Second Coming is something proclaimed in the Creed and something witnessed to throughout the New Testament. At the very least it should be the topic of homilies on Christ the King and during the Advent season.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the Second Coming:
673 Since the Ascension Christ’s coming in glory has been imminent,565 even though “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority.”566. This eschatological coming could be accomplished at any moment, even if both it and the final trial that will precede it are “delayed”.567
674 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.568 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”569 St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”570 The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,571 will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.572
The Church’s ultimate trial
675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.573 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth574 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. 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.575
676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,576 especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.577
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.578 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.579 God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.580
Thus Catholic eschatology rejects both a spiritual second coming, attained by human effort, and theories that would rescue the Church from suffering (e.g., dispensationalism). The Church will suffer, through the hands of one who exalts himself over God.
And speaking of the Antichrist, that was a topic raised during the Papal retreat preached by Cardinal Biffi (and here). Quoting Vladimir Solviev, he said, “The Antichrist presents himself as a pacifist, ecologist, and ecumenist.”
Hmm. That would be interesting to debate. On the ecological point, in fact Revelation (11:18) says that God will destroy those who destroy the earth; the message of the three angels of Revelation 14 begins with a call to worship the one who created the heavens and the earth. So care for the earth and worship of the one who made it are at the heart of the eschatological battle.
Will the antichrist be a pacifist? Well, he will certainly claim to be bringing a version of peace. Of the little horn of Daniel 8 who would rail against God’s people and God’s anointed, it is said “by peace he shall destroy many” (Daniel 8:25). The beast of Revelation 13, a composite of the Danielic beasts and little horn power, is no pacifist–he is “allowed to wage war against the holy ones and conquer them.”
What about his being an “ecumenist”? Well, he certainly is an attractive figure (even “Satan masquerades as an angel of light,” 2 Cor 11:14). He works miracles and calls all to a false worship (Rev. 13), and persecutes the faithful remnant “who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus” (Rev. 12).
Recalling Soloviev’s portrait of the Antichrist, the preacher said that the Antichrist waters down the truths of the faith, making concessions to satisfy every interest, and steadily gaining popularity. “The crowds follow him,” the cardinal said, “except for little groups of Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants.”
This lingering remnant, Cardinal Biffi said, levels the charge against the Antichrist: “You have given us everything except the one thing that we want: Jesus Christ.”
Now there’s a critical issue. “You have given us everything except the one thing that we want: Jesus Christ.”
The word “antichrist” only appears in 1 John. There were antichrists then–hold fast to what you have learned, he exhorts, and don’t be like those who’ve gone astray! Jesus is the test (1 John 4)–is he preached and acknowledged? Or is something or someone preached in place of him?