THE TIMING OF JESUS’ RETURN TO EARTH

 

This story involves the timing of the end of Jesus’ first advent as well as His second. The primary reason for addressing it now, however, is that it is closely related to the story in the previous chapter, which also dealt with the timing of Jesus first advent after the fourth millennium after Creation. In that discussion, a day was equated to a thousand years, as suggested in Psalm 90 and 2 Peter 3:8.

In this story, Jesus’ resurrection took place three days after His crucifixion. These “days”, of course, were actual twenty-four hour periods of time. All four Gospels describe that time, which was a fulfillment of Jonah’s prophetic journey inside a great fish, described in Jonah 1:17:

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”

In Matthew 12:40, Jesus Himself speaks in confirmation of this event’s prophetic significance:

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

This particular passage firmly places the event in the grave. It also suggests that its time duration was three full days and three full nights. Another passage that suggests that Jesus lay in the grave three full days is found in Mark 8:31. Here the implication of complete days is suggested by the word “after”.

“And [Jesus] began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and by the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

This point, that Jesus lay in the grave three complete days, is emphasized because there are other passages in the Bible that suggest otherwise, implying that one of these days might not be complete or, indeed, that what took place may have occurred at the very beginning of the third day. Such passages include Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:19, Mark 9:31, 10:34, 14:58, Luke 9:22, 13:37, 18:33, 14:46, and John 2:19. A typical passage, in a direct quote of Jesus, is presented in Mark 9:31:

“For he taught his disciples, and said to them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after he is killed, he shall rise the third day.”

Many attempts have been made to reconcile these conflicting statements, some quite clever, but all of them trying to demonstrate how a partial day can be considered to be a full day. These reconciliations may have merit. However, there may be a better answer, one that doesn’t involve conflict at all. In this alternate explanation, those passages that specify that Jesus lay in the grave three complete days apply to the actual three-day period when Jesus, like Jonah, lay entombed.

Those passages that hint of a partial third day may be describing an entirely different event: Jesus’ second advent on the third millennium after His first advent, when He returns for His Church. Revelation 20:4 also speaks of this millennial period, a thousand-year period where Jesus reigns on earth:

“And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

Significantly, this millennium period would coincide with the third day of Christ after His first advent on the fourth day after Creation, in which it also would coincide with the seventh day after Creation, when God rested from His creative work. This association firmly supports the association made in Chapter 1 regarding the reason that Jesus waited until Lazarus had been dead four days before resurrecting him. It may also impart a meaning to Jesus’ words in John 5:15-17 that is not generally appreciated:

“The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done those things on the sabbath day.

“But Jesus answered them, My Father worked hitherto, and I work.”

There is yet another passage in Scripture that firmly supports associations of days with millennia. In another suggestion that Jesus will return for His bride, the Church, on the third day after His resurrection, Bible scholar Dr. Scott Hahn has discovered that the first two Chapters of John’s Gospel speak of just that connection.

On page 34 of his book Hail, Holy Queen, Dr. Hahn notes that the Gospel of John begins with the Prologue, verses 1-18 of Chapter One, and a discussion regarding the identity of John the Baptist. Immediately following that, John opens the scene where Jesus meets the Baptist with the words “The next day . . .” If one takes the initial topic of the discussion as the first day, Dr. Hahn mused, then this passage in John 1:29 would speak of the second day reminiscent of the seven-day Creation period. Then verse 1:35 starts with “Again the next day . . .”, implying that this day where Jesus chooses Apostles represents the third day. Again in verse 1:43 John begins with the words “The day following . . .” suggesting that on this fourth day Jesus continues with his pick of Apostles, with Philip and Nathanael. Chapter One ends with that discussion.

Chapter 2 of John’s Gospel starts immediately with the words “And the third day . . .”, and proceeds to describe Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He changed water into wine. The entire episode suggests the importance of this event in foretelling Jesus’ own marriage to His Church, as Paul declared in Ephesians 5:31 and 32. Dr. Hahn notes that after John wrote of this event, he stopped mentioning days. Dr. Hahn also notes that John couldn’t have been speaking of the third day, because the third day had already come and gone in John’s narrative. He reasoned that John was talking about the third day after the fourth day, which would have been the seventh day. This meshes perfectly with the accounts in Scripture (e.g. Revelation 19 through 21) where Jesus returns to earth with His bride, the Church, for a thousand-year of period of peace. This would be the seventh millennium of human history.

In Mark 9, Jesus told His disciples that there would be some who would see the kingdom of God come with power before they died, obviously referring to His second coming. The passage then goes on to describe Jesus’ transfiguration, which was a preview of that great event to come. Interestingly, verse 2 begins with “And after six days”. This, too, in connection with Jesus’ transfiguration, is an obvious reference to the end of six millennia of human history, the beginning of the millennium spoken of in revelation.

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