14.3. How Many Comings of Christ

Typically, we speak of only two “comings” of Christ. The First Coming was His virgin birth by Mary and subsequent ministry which ended at the cross and His ascension. The Second Coming will be at the end of the age to judge evil and establish His kingdom. So far, so good. But how are we to understand the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost? After all, Christ said:

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John John 14:16-18) [emphasis added]

Elsewhere, we see that the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. Rom. 8:9; 1Pe. 1Pe. 1:11). So in a sense, “Christ came” on the Day of Pentecost for it was His Spirit which breathed life into a new creation on that day: the Body of Christ (1Cor. 1Cor. 12:13). If we include this “coming,” we have at least three comings of Christ—two physical and one spiritual. We know these three comings are all different because of differences in the situations which attend each event. What we are doing here is analogous to the way we study “coming” passages in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, we notice some passages which describe the coming Messiah as a victorious king (e.g., Ps. Ps. 2:1; Isa. Isa. 9:6) and other passages which describe Him as a suffering servant (e.g., Ps. Ps. 22:1; Isa. Isa. 53:1). How are we to reconcile these differences? One solution, taken by many who reject Christ, is to assume these passages describe two different individuals. The correct solution, which we understand from the New Testament, is to understand that a single individual is in view, but He comes multiple times. At His First Coming, He is the suffering servant. At His Second Coming1 He is the victorious King who will reign eternally. As Christians studying the Old Testament, we think nothing strange in noticing the irreconcilable differences between these “coming” passages and understand them as describing different events. This same situation occurs when a careful study is made of the many “coming” passages within the New Testament which describe His future coming. The “coming” passages differ in numerous ways which make it impossible to see them all describing the same event.

Notes

1 We use the term in its traditional sense: to denote his physical coming yet future.