December 2011 - Vol. 55

Readings from Early Church Fathers on the Twofold Coming of Christ

The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, by Lodovico Carracci 1594-95

The Twofold Coming of Jesus Christ

by Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 AD)

We preach not one coming only of Jesus Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the first. The first revealed the meaning of his patient endurance; the second brings with it the crown of the divine kingdom. 

Generally speaking, everything that concerns our Lord Jesus Christ is twofold. His birth is twofold: one, of God before time began; the other, of the Virgin in the fullness of time. His descent is twofold: one, unperceived like the dew falling on the fleece; the other, before the eyes of all, is yet to happen. 

In his first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger. In his second coming he is clothed with light as with a garment. In his first coming he bore the cross, despising its shame; he will come a second time in glory accompanied by the hosts of angels. 

It is not enough for us, then, to be content with his first coming; we must wait in hope of his second coming. What we said at his first coming, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” (Mark 11:10, Psalm 118:26) we shall repeat at his last coming. Running out with the angels to meet the Master we shall cry out in adoration, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). 

The Savior will come not to be judged again but to call to judgment those who called him to judgment. He who was silent when he was first judged, will indict the malefactors who dared to perpetrate the outrage of the cross, and say, “These things you did and I was silent” (Psalm 50:21). 

He first came in the order of divine providence to teach men by gentle persuasion; but when he comes again they will, whether they wish it or not, be subjected to his kingship. 

The prophet Malachi has something to say about each of these comings. “The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1). That is the first coming. 

Again, of the second coming he says, “And the angel of the covenant whom you seek. Behold, the Lord almighty will come: but who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap; he will sit like a refiners and a purifier” (Malachi 3:2-3). Paul pointed to the two comings when he wrote to Titus, “The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). You see how he has spoken of the first coming, for which he gives thanks, and of the second to which we look forward. 

Hence it is that by the faith we profess, which has just been handed on to you, we believe in him “who ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and his kingdom will have no end” (Mark 16:19, Mark 13:26, 2 Timothy 4:1). 

Our Lord Jesus Christ will, then, come from heaven. He will come in glory at the end of this world on the last day. Then there will be an end to this world, and this created world will be made new. 

Quotes from early church fathers on the Twofold Coming of Christ

» Keep Watch, he is to come again, by Ephrem of Edessa (306-373 AD)
» When Christ comes, God will be seen by men, by Irenaeus of Lyons (115-202 AD)
» Don't resist the first coming, lest you dread the second, by Augustine (354-430 AD)
» The Twofold coming of Jesus Christ, by Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386 AD)

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