Pastor David B. Curtis

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Christ's Coming in Corinthians

1 & 2 Corinthians

Delivered 04/19/15

This morning we are going to examine what Paul had to say to the believers in Corinth about the Second Coming of Christ. This is a controversial subject today with most of the Church looking forward to a future coming of Christ that will end the world as we know it. In a recent interview former Congress woman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) predicted that President Barack Obama's handling of the Middle East was a sign of the End Times and that Jesus Christ would soon return to Earth.

She said, "If we actually turn our back on Israel as we have seen Barack Obama do today, if that happens then I think we will see a scale and a level of push back in the United States, negative consequences. I don't know what they are, but I believe that the Bible is true. And believe what the Bible says is that our nation and the people of our nation will reap a whirlwind, and we could see economic disasters, natural disasters."

She went on to say, "We need to be so on fire right now about the things of Christ and the things of God, that needs to occupy our time and our thoughts virtually from morning to night because we have very little time—in my opinion—left before the second return of Christ. That's good news!" Is it really good news? The prophet Amos seems to disagree with Bachmann.

Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light; As when a man flees from a lion And a bear meets him, Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall And a snake bites him. Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, Even gloom with no brightness in it? Amos 5:18-20 NASB

The Day of Yahweh was a time of great judgment for Israel. Amos is the earliest prophet to introduce this motif of the "Day of Yahweh." His criticism shows that Israel expected the Day of Yahweh to be a time of vindication and victory over their enemies. Amos warns them to be careful what they wish for since the Day of Yahweh is a day of disaster.

This view expressed by Bachmann is the dominant position on the Second Coming in the Church today, but is it biblical? As we look at what Paul taught the Corinthians over two thousand years ago, it will hopefully help us better understand when Christ was to return.

The church in Corinth was begun by Paul on his second missionary journey. Paul stayed in Corinth for at least a year and a half preaching the Gospel and teaching believers. Many of the Corinthians came to Christ, and a church was founded. About three to four years after Paul left Corinth he wrote the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians to the church. If you were going to write a letter to the Corinthians, how would you begin? How would you begin to address this group if you knew just how messed up they really were? Would you question their salvation? Would you tell them to consider whether they are even Christians? Many people who hold to the Lordship-Salvation position would surely say these people are not Christians because of their sin, which included ongoing fornication. If you did believe that they were Christians in spite of their sin, how would you deal with them?

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. 1 Corinthians 5:1 NASB

< They were being divisive, living in immorality, suing one another, and getting drunk at the Lord's supper, just to name a few of their sins. With all of their sin, some of which was worse than unbelievers, Paul begins his letter by reminding the Corinthians of their secure position in Christ:

Paul, called as an apostle of Yeshua the Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Yeshua, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, their Lord and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:1-2 NASB

Paul doesn't call them spiritual scum bags, he calls them "set apart in Christ" and "saints by calling"—the word "calling" is kletos, which means: "appointed to." We could translate this: "called to belong to Yeshua the Christ." This is pretty amazing. Pastors should take note of this.

Paul, when preaching in Corinth, obviously preached the judgment of God, the return of the Lord and our accountability to Him. The Corinthians knew all about the Second Coming of Christ, and they were eagerly awaiting His return:

so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:7 NASB

The "revelation of our Lord Yeshua the Christ" is referring to His Second Coming. Notice their attitude toward the Second Coming: They were"awaiting eagerly." This attitude implies that they believed the Second Coming to be near. Now keep in mind here as we talk about the Second Coming that Paul is writing to first century saints in Corinth. Keep in mind the principle of audience relevance. This book did not arrive in the mail today for us, it was written two thousand years ago to the Christians who lived in Corinth. What it meant, it meant first and foremost to them. Believer, we must test everything we believe by the text. The beliefs you hold must come from the text. And we must be open to allowing the text to shatter our false ideas.

so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:7 NASB

The words "awaiting eagerly"—here are from the Greek word apekdechomai. This Greek word is made up of three words put together: the word "to receive," which speaks of a welcoming or appropriating reception such as is given to a friend who comes to visit; the word "off," speaking here of the withdrawal of one's attention from other objects; and the word "out," used here in a perfective sense, which intensifies the already existing meaning of the word. The composite word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and eager waiting for the coming of the Lord. I think it is obvious that Paul taught the Corinthians that the Second Coming of Christ would take place in their lifetime.

This Greek word is only used eight times in the New Testament, and seven of them are in reference to the Second Coming. Three of the eight uses of apekdechomai are found in Romans 8:

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly [apekdechomai] for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:19 NASB
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly [apekdechomai] for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly [apekdechomai] for it. Romans 8:25 NASB

This passage is often used against Preterism. Our opponents say that "creation" is still in bondage, it is decaying, therefore Preterism is wrong. Let me ask you a question, "Can the physical creation 'wait eagerly' for the sons of God to be revealed?" No, of course not. Paul is not talking about the physical creation in this verse, he is talking about Israel. Israel is the "creation." The Greek word used here for "creation" is ktisis, which is at times used for the physical creation, but it is also used for mankind:

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15 NASB

Here "creation" is ktisis, and it is obvious it doesn't mean physical creation. They were to preach to people.

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

Here believers are made a new creation, ktisis; the church, the body of Christ. We are no longer in the body of Adam, but are new in Christ:

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Galatians 6:15 NASB
And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. Colossians 1:15 NASB

So this word ktisis does not always mean the physical creation, it is used for men.

In Isaiah 43 we see that Israel was God's creation:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! Isaiah 43:1 NASB

He is talking here about the creation of the covenant people Israel.

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB

Here we see that they were waiting for their adoption as sons, which was the same thing as the "redemption of our body." We'll talk about this more when we get to 2 Corinthians.

Let's move on in the book of Corinthians:

who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8 NASB

The "end" here is "the Day of our Lord" and does not refer to the end of time, but to the end of the Jewish age. Notice our Lord's words:

And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:3 NASB

The "these things" refers to the Temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1 the disciples point out the Temple buildings to Yeshua. In verse 2 Yeshua says, "All 'these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the Temple be destroyed?" The disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the Temple.

So the "end" is the end of the Old Covenant era. The "Day of the Lord" is a day of judgment on the rebellious Israel.

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB

Here Paul tells the first century Corinthian believers to "wait until the Lord comes." Doesn't this clearly imply that His Coming would be soon, at least in their lifetime? How can they wait for Him to come for thousands of years?:

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 NASB

The "end of the ages" has come upon the first century saints. Not the end of the world, but the Old covenant Age.

Now let's look at chapter 15, which deals with the resurrection. About eighteen years ago I was teaching verse-by-verse through the book of 1 Corinthians. I was in chapter 14 when I had a paradigm shift. I realized that the Second Coming of Christ was not future to us, but was a past event. So, I could not teach on the resurrection of chapter 15; I knew my paradigm shift would greatly alter my view of the resurrection. And it did. I used to believe that the resurrection involved corpses coming out of the ground. Now, I understand the resurrection as a spiritual transformation from death to life.

We don't have time to deal with all that is in this chapter, and my intention is simply to show that the Corinthians expected Christ to return in their lifetime:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 NASB

Notice that Paul says that at the last trumpet the dead will be raised imperishable, and "we" shall be changed. Who are the "we" in this text? Paul and all first century Christians. It is not referring to us, Paul looked for this event in his lifetime—we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed.

If you compare Scripture with Scripture, you will see that 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, and Matthew 24: 31 are all parallel text; they are all talking about the same thing:

"And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Matthew 24:31 NASB

Here we also see the trumpet and the elect gathered. Notice what happens in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53: The trumpet sounds and the dead are raised. This is a reference to the dead in Christ. The dead are raised into the presence of God, and the living are changed. The living put on immortality. Is this a different trumpet than the one Yeshua spoke of in Matthew 24:31? No! In the Tanakh the trumpet was sounded to gather Yahweh's people. This is a spiritual gathering into the presence of Yahweh, this is the resurrection. This is the same idea found in Matthew 24:31, the trumpet is sounded, and the elect are gathered, or resurrected. Daniel connects the resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem:

"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:1-2 NASB

Just in case we miss it, he further clarifies it as the time of Jerusalem's destruction in verse 7:

And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed. Daniel 12:7 NASB

Daniel is told that the resurrection will be when the power of the holy people (the Jews) has been completely shattered. This happened in A.D. 70.

Paul taught that the resurrection would soon take place:

having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 NASB

Paul uses the Greek word mello here, there is "about to be" a resurrection; "about to" in his day. Paul expected the resurrection and the coming of Christ in his lifetime, and this is consistent with what we find elsewhere in the New Testament. The Coming of Christ is always "soon," it is never spoken of as far into the future. It is always "near," always "at hand," always in their generation.

If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed. Maranatha. 1 Corinthians 16:22 NASB

The word "Maranatha" here means: "the Lord is coming!" This is Paul's watchword, and its force lies in the certainty and nearness of the Lord's Coming.

Let's look at some verses in 2 Corinthians that deal with the Second Coming:

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NASB

In the first century the Spirit was given as a pledge of the promised coming redemption. This sealing of their hearts as a pledge is the same thing as Paul talks about in Romans 8, but there he calls it "the spirit of adoption":

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15 NASB
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB

So they were waiting eagerly for their adoption as sons, which was the redemption of the body. Paul deals with this redemption of the body in chapter 5 of 2 Corinthians.

Let's look at that text:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NASB

What was this pledge for? It was that they would receive their new body and be present with the Lord:.

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 NASB

Most people today interpret this text as talking about a change that takes place to our biological body at death. If you read it in isolation, it's easy to see how you could get that, but if we consider the context, we'll get a different sense:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1 NASB

"We have"—here is a present active indicative, which means they already have a house not made with hands. So there are two houses existing at the same time, the earthly tent and an eternal house not made with hands. During the transition period the Old and New covenants existed together for a period of forty years. Can these be two biological bodies?

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 2 Corinthians 5:2 NASB

The "this house" here is the "earthly tent" of verse 1. They were groaning in the house they were in, and longing for a new home from heaven. Is this a physical body? We certainly could say that we groan in our biological bodies. But is this what Paul is talking about? I don't think so. This word "groan" is the same word that Paul used in Romans 8:23 "...even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." So both texts have the same meaning.

I see Paul in our text in 2 Corinthians 5 as comparing two covenants, the Old and the New. The Old Covenant caused groaning. If we look at the context of this chapter, the contrast of covenants is clear:

who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 NASB
For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:9 NASB

This should be clear that Paul is contrasting the two covenants. The Old kills, the Old condemns, and therefore they groan:

For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:11 NASB

This verse is much clearer in YLT:

for if that which is being made useless is through glory, much more that which is remaining is in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:11 YLT

The Old was "being made useless" the tent of the Old Covenant body was being torn down. Now look at chapter 4:

always carrying about in the body the dying of Yeshua, that the life of Yeshua also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10 NASB

"Body"—here in both uses is singular, he is not talking about plural bodies. The "our" is plural but "body" is singular. Paul has been talking about the covenants, and now he uses "body" to speak of them. He hasn't switched his topic to physical, biological bodies, he is still talking about the covenants:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Paul says the "outer man" is decaying; that is what he said in 3:11. They were not to look at things "seen"—this is again the Old Covenant: the Temple, priesthood, sacrifices, feast days, which were temporal. But they were to look at things not seen— the New Covenant, which is eternal.

Now from this context of the contrast of covenants we move to chapter 5 where the subject is still a contrast of covenants, not biological bodies:

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1 NASB

Paul is not talking about new individual bodies, but about the covenants. The earthly tent, our house, is a reference to the Temple:

Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 2 Corinthians 5:6 NASB

The "we" here is not us! The "we" is Paul and his first century Jewish audience. Think about this: If the body here is our physical body, then as long as we are in the biological body we are absent from the Lord. Are believers today absent from the Lord? No, we dwell in His presence, that is the glory of the New Covenant:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, Revelation 21:3 NASB

We live in the presence of Yahweh, sin has been dealt with, and we have full access to His presence:

for we walk by faith, not by sight— 2 Corinthians 5:7 NASB

We no longer see the Temple, it is no longer physical. It is a spiritual dwelling place:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 NASB

Yeshua the Christ is the Cornerstone of the new spiritual Temple, the apostles and prophets are the foundation. This building is described as growing into a holy Temple (in the first century), to become God's dwelling place. God moved in, in A.D.70.

we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 NASB

They wanted to be absent from the body of Israel, the Old Covenant and to be present with the Lord. The tent of the Old Covenant has been torn down. It was completely dismantled in A.D. 70, and believers today dwell in God's presence now and forever.

Many believers today will say, "What is the big deal with eschatology, why should we even care about it?" We should care about it because it dominates New Testament Scripture. Paul taught the doctrine of the Second Coming to all the churches. It must have been important for us to know.

Listen to what John Calvin said, he said this about the doctrine of predestination, but it also applies to Preterism:

The Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination [or we could add Preterism] in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what it is in any way profitable to suppress.

Calvin goes on to say:

But for those who are so cautious or fearful that they desire to bury predestination in order not to disturb weak souls—with what color will they cloak their arrogance when they accuse God indirectly of stupid thoughtlessness, as if he had not foreseen the peril that they feel they have wisely met? Whoever, then, heaps odium upon the doctrine of predestination [or Preterism] openly reproaches God, as if he had unadvisedly let slip something hurtful to the church.

Since Preterism is taught in the Bible, how can we be afraid of it? We believe that the Bible is the Word of the Living God. Our doctrinal statement reads: "All the Scripture is verbally inspired as originally written, and therefore is infallible and inerrant." (II Timothy 3:16, 17; II Peter 1:21; Matthew 5:18; I Corinthians 2:13) The Bible is the very Word of God. We cannot accept the misleading statement: "The Bible contains the Word of God."

If we believe the Bible is God's Word, why can't we believe what it says? Why do we hold the traditions of the Church over the Word of God? Paul spent much time talking about eschatology, and, therefore, so should we.

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