From the Junior Mr. and Mrs. Society of First Church, Grand Rapids, through its secretary, Mrs. Wm. J. Oomkes, I received the following interesting question:
At our last society meeting we had many different views on the following question: “What is the difference in saying, ‘Christ is coming,” or, ‘Christ shall come?’ ”
We as a society made the decision to send this question to the Question Box in the Standard Bearer.
As soon as possible, may we see an answer to our question for further discussion.
A ‘thank you’ in advance from the society.
By the first expression, ‘Christ is coming,’ is meant the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is on the way, or, in the process of coming. This expression refers, therefore, to Jesus’ coming throughout the history of the new dispensation, from the time of His cross and resurrection and exaltation until the final parousia. I can put this no better in a brief statement than by quoting Rev. H. Hoeksema, “Reformed Dogmatics,” page 775: “Always and in all the events of history, of the history of the world and of the history of the church, in connection with the preaching of the gospel, Jesus is coming, and He is coming quickly. To this coming the Lord refers in Matthew 26:64: ‘Jesus saith unto him Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you. Hereafter (better: henceforth, or: from now on, ap’ arti) ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”‘ On page 776, in connection with the opening of the book with its seven seals, Revelation 5, is the following: “In that sense, then, namely, in the sense that Jesus executes the counsel of God in regard to the coming of the kingdom of heaven, He is always coming. He is coming in the preaching of the gospel, in war and rumors of war, in earthquakes and pestilences, in famines and want in death and destruction. And because this is the truth, the Scriptures speak of signs of His coming, signs that clearly and loudly proclaim throughout this dispensation that the Lord is coming again. And He comes quickly. There is no check. There is no restraint. There is no delay. Things develop as quickly as possible, until in the end He comes personally in the parousia, which we believe to be His personal and visible arrival, to close the history of this entire dispensation.”
By the second expression, ‘Christ shall come,’ is meant the future and single event of Christ’s final coming, His arrival, His parousia, His personal and visible coming to close the history of the world. To that coming as the end-event Scripture refers very often. Let me mention just a few passages from I Thessalonians. In 3:13 we read: “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” In 4:15 this coming is spoken of as follows: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” And in 5:23 it is also the final coming that is referred to: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Perhaps part of your difficulty was caused by the fact that we sometimes loosely use the words “is coming” in a future sense. Strictly speaking, they do not denote the future idea, but the idea of process and progress.
The relation between these two aspects of Christ’s coming is, of course, that the latter is the end and the culmination of the former.
In conclusion, I cannot resist the temptation to point out that here is a question on which “Reformed Dogmatics” would be very helpful to any society member. I only quoted snatches of it.