14. The Second Coming of Christ
Although the majority of Muslims believe in Jesus’ actual coming, Ahmadis insist that Islam does not support the belief that the dead are ever raised and returned to this world. They believe that the prospects of Jesus returning to this world in person are unreal. The hub of their problem is that in the Qur’an there is no definite teaching on the second coming of Christ. It is only the traditions that develop one Qur’anic reference into the story of his second coming (Surah 43:61). Sahih Bukhari, treated as the most authentic collection of traditions, reports Jesus’ descent but does not record his descent from heaven or sky. Thus the Ahmadiyya argue that his coming was to be like that of any other human being.
Such a situation has aroused some discomfort and while some orthodox Muslims insist that the doctrine of Jesus’ coming back has its foundation in the Qur’an,1 others insist that the traditions are the only basis of his second coming.2 In contrast, Christians are fortunate to find a major part of the New Testament directly concerned with Christ’s second coming. In fact, every New Testament writer refers to the return of Christ.
Jesus made a firm promise: "I will come again" (John 14:23). He said that his second coming would bring eternal life to those who believed in him and eternal destruction to those who rejected him (Matthew 24:30-31; 25:31-34). He spoke many times about his return; even after his ascension, he reminded his disciples about it through the angels and through revelation. The reassuring news and the final reminder is found in the last chapter of Revelation, the last book of the Bible: "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Revelation 22:12).
His identity on his return
How are we going to know about his coming? Ahmadiyya believe that the second coming of Christ is a spiritual one. Both Ahmadiyya and the Bahai adherents believe that their founders were the second coming of Christ. However there are other groups in the world like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe Jesus came back at the turn of this century and took the elect with him. Whatever people may believe, the truth remains that his second coming will not be a secret one. Neither will it be like his first coming. The Scriptures reject such ideas. When the apostles saw Jesus ascending into heaven, the angels told them: "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
Most Muslims believe in his physical descent. Some believe he will land on the Ka’ba, others claim he will land on the minaret of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, yet others think he will descend in Jerusalem. Most prominent traditions state that in the event of Jesus’ descent from heaven, two angels will deposit Jesus on top of the Eastern Minaret of the Mosque in Damascus. Then people will put up a ladder for him to climb down. It is somehow strange to think that angels bring him down but leave him on the minaret and let people bring him down to the ground via a ladder.
Whether coming to Jerusalem, Damascus or Mecca, one has to think carefully where he is coming from. If he is coming from heaven, then this coming will not be an ordinary one, with an ordinary body like you or I have. The Bible declares that he is coming in heavenly splendour. He will come in all his glory and power (2 Thessalonians 1:7). Jesus said: "as lightning that comes from the East is visible even in the West", so will be his coming. In simple words his coming will be visible to everyone (Matthew 24:27). His first coming took place in obscurity, but his second coming will be universally visible. He will come "with the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:9,11). His coming will be so dramatic, no-one will fail to recognise him.
The Purpose of his coming: The Islamic view
Muslims believe in a Jesus who is to descend as an ordinary man but with the power of God and his permission to spread Islam through battles; he will then marry, have children, die and be buried next to Muhammad.
Maududi, the founder leader of Jamat-e-Islami draws a scenario of what will happen when Jesus arrives. In his opinion before the coming of Jesus, Anti-Christ Dajjal will arise among the nation of Jews and will impose himself as the Christ. He will gather Jews from all over the world and assemble them in Palestine. He will create a mighty Jewish empire. Muslims will suffer colossal hardship. His army will move towards neighbouring Muslim countries and will expand their borders. He will penetrate into Syria with 70,000 Jewish troops and will take position before Damascus. At this moment of crisis Jesus will descend in the eastern quarter of Damascus near a white minaret. After the morning prayer he will advance with the Muslims to fight against Dajjal. Jesus with the Muslim army will pursue and "A great slaughter of the Jews will ensue and every one of them will be annihilated. The nation of Jews will be exterminated." 3
Another Muslim writer, Kassim, thinks the 70,000 will be Jews and Christians, and Jesus, before going on the offensive, will give the world a chance to convert to Islam or be ready for extermination. Then his army will engage at a battlefield called Armageddon in the Bible. He will capture Dajjal at Lydda, the airport to Tel Aviv. All the followers of Dajjal will be exterminated.4
Both writers follow the same popular route stating that no other religion will be in a position to challenge Islam because the followers of them including Christianity will renounce their former allegiance to form the only brotherhood of Islam.5
On the one hand Jesus is expected to convert everybody by force or they would be exterminated, and yet on the other hand, according to the popular Hadith, Muslims think of Jesus coming back as a "just leader and a benevolent sovereign" ruler who will establish universal peace and brotherhood under a Muslim state head.6 He will rid this world of hatred and malice and establish peace. After all the efforts even that peace will last for only a few years and then will be the judgment day.
The biblical view
The Bible however tells us that at his first coming Jesus became like us in every respect, to deliver us from the power of Satan (John 1:18; Hebrews 2:14-17). He came to conquer sin and rise from the dead to gain victory and triumph. At his second coming, we in fact are going to see him as he really is (1 John 3:2). We should not assume the second coming will be a repeat of the first. However this coming is linked with the mission he left to the Church to perform and proclaim to the world his Gospel. At his coming the mission that began with Pentecost will terminate.
His coming will be a decisive one (1Corinthians 15:24). The destruction of the heavens and the earth, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment will take place (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 2 Peter 3:10,12; Matthew 7:1-27; 5:21-30; John 5:28-29). Not only those who have not accepted him but Christians too will stand before Christ, to receive what is due to them (2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
Jesus gave many striking illustrations of the suddenness of his coming and the result. He said:
Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left (Matthew 24:40-41).
Elsewhere we are told:
We will all be changed - in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed (1Corinthians 15:51-52).
He is not coming to establish peace for a time but to establish eternal peace. Although it is right to campaign for social justice and peace to improve society, the Bible makes it clear that we will never be able to perfect it. Only Christ at his second coming will uproot evil and enthrone righteousness forever.
The time of his coming
The Bible speaks clearly about the unexpectedness of his return. When Jesus was asked by his disciples about the day of his return, he advised them not to speculate because no one knows the date but God (Mark 13:32). Therefore any speculation about the date is futile. Peter points out that God’s time-scale is different from ours (2 Peter 3:8). All that Christians have to do is to be ready and prepared for his return - at any time. Jesus said that he would come when people did not expect him. So often critics consider the idea of Jesus’ second coming as naïve and gullible:
"Where is this ’coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:4).
Jesus has answers to such ridicule. He will come unexpectedly as a thief in the night. He said his coming would be as unexpected as the flood in the time of Noah (Matthew 24:37-41). People were told about it but they did not believe it until it arrived and then it was too late. Today everyone has the opportunity to believe in Christ now and act as he has commanded (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 2:37-38). At his arrival this chance will have been withdrawn; it will be too late.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. (Hebrews 4:7)
Notes on Chapter 14:
- Nadwi, A.H; Qadianism: A Critical Study, p.39
- Maududi, A.A; Finality of Prophethood, p.61
- ibid., p.69
- Kassim, H.M; Time for the appearance of Imam Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus to earth draws close, The Muslim Digest, May/June 87. pp.201-202.
- Maududi, p.69
- ibid., p.58.