I’m reading through portions of N.T. Wright’s new book, Surprised by Scripture, and particularly enjoying chapter five: “Jesus is Coming–Plant a Tree!”. Here are just a couple of the misunderstandings Wright thinks many have concerning the Second Coming of Christ.
1) The Son of Man coming on the clouds is not referring to the Second Coming (Mark 13 and Matthew 24). In the context from where this quote comes, Daniel 7, “‘the one like a son of man’ is ascending, not descending. He is coming up to God, not coming back to earth from heaven.” “[T]hese passages are not at all about the Second Coming of Jesus, but rather about his vindication after suffering.” (97)
2) The “dwelling places” of John 14 refer not to our final resting place, heaven, but “rather a lodging house, a place to stay awhile and rest and be refreshed until it’s time to continue on your journey.” (99) “[W]hat Jesus is apparently saying is that between death and resurrection there is a place prepared, a place of light and peace and rest, where we can wait in the presence of Jesus until the final day.” (99)
3) 1 Thessalonians 4 is not referring to the rapture. “Paul’s picture must not be pressed into the nonbiblical image of the Second Coming according to which Jesus is ‘coming back to take us home’–swooping down, scooping up his people, and zooming back to heaven with them, away from the wicked earth forever. . . . the point is that Jesus will reign on the earth, and at his royal appearing the faithful will go to meet him . . . and escort him back into the world that is rightfully his and that he comes to claim, to judge, to rule with healing and wise sovereignty.” (101-02)
4) Instead of singing “when Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart” we should sing “when Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and heal his world, what joy shall fill my heart.” (102)
5) John 18:36 (My kingdom is not of this world) is best translated “my Kingdom is not from this world.” “It comes from heaven but is destined for earth, or rather for the new heavens and new earth spoken of elsewhere in the New Testament.” (102)
6) 2 Peter 3:10 does not refer to the final destruction of earth. The rendering by the KJV “‘will be burned up’ depends on the variant of a few manuscripts. Most of the best witnesses have heurethesetai, ‘will be found.'” (103) Therefore, “the worldview we glimpse here is not that of the dualist who hopes for creation to be abolished, but of one who, while continuing to believe in the goodness of creation, sees that the only way to the fulfillment of the creator’s longing for a justice and goodness to replace the present evil is for a process of fire not simply to consume but also to purge, to ‘discover’ the deepest truth of the good creation beneath the overlayering of corruption and wickedness.” (104)