Unification News for October, 2001

The Divine Principle

Volume 6 * Part 2

Because of the prophecy in the 26th chapter of Matthew, the historic position of the Christian Church is that Jesus' return will be effected spectacularly: he will arrive on the clouds of heaven, accompanied by myriads of angels trumpeting his momentous arrival. At that moment, all true disciples—both dead and alive—will be caught up to him in the heavens and be taken away to dwell with him eternally in joyous bliss.

For Divine Principle, as for much of modern scholarship, such a scenario is improbable in the extreme. As prior volumes have indicated, the Messiah is the one who comes to restore the lost ideal of God and fulfill the original purpose of God's creation. Since this divine ideal is to be fulfilled on earth, it is inevitable that the Messiah will do his work with his feet on solid ground.

The Second Coming will therefore take place much as the first coming. The Lord will arrive not announced by angelic trumpets, but born of woman on earth. He will establish a kingdom which, in the words of Jesus, is coming not with wondrous signs to be observed (Lk 17:01), but which is to be an earthly reality founded among the peoples, races and nations of the world.

Supernatural arrival

Regardless of such logic, the supernatural arrival of Christ is still the expectation of many conservative faithful today. Many are the stories of the fundamentalist believers who wake every morning with their eyes toward heaven, anticipating that this might be the day.

It can hardly hurt us to be aware that this was also the anticipation of many Jews at the time of Jesus. The cause of their assumption was a prophecy in the Book of Daniel: I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man. (Dan. 7:13)

As we know, Jesus did not arrive on the clouds. Not only did literalistic interpretations of the prophecy in Daniel thus not prove helpful, they actually had the opposite effect. Influenced to expect a supernatural manifestation of the long-awaited Son of Man, pious Jews rejected the actual Messiah who came in a much more terrestrial manner.

Less dramatic prophecies

It is interesting to note that there were other, less dramatic Old Testament prophecies concerning how the Messiah would arrive. Given the apocalyptic atmosphere of the times, however, they were perhaps not so appealing. One such prophecy is that of Micah, where we learn that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem—on earth. Micah writes: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient days. (Mic. 5:2)

Regardless of the manner of the first coming, not a few people today still insist that the prophecy of Daniel 7:13 should still be taken literally—but only with reference to the Second Coming. We are told that the author of Daniel was looking beyond the first advent to the second, and this is the one which will take place on the clouds.

While such a line of argumentation is somewhat ingenious, it collapses quickly under serious consideration. Prior to the advent of Jesus, no one even thought of a second coming. Indeed, the Gospels tell us that Jesus himself mentions it only at the end of his ministry. No Israelite at the time of Jesus would have thought that Daniel's prophecy applied to anything other than the advent of the Messiah. As Jesus indicated (Mt. 11:13), all the prophecy of the period prior to him was to be fulfilled through him.

A symbolic expression

That the writer of the Book of Daniel had the vision he described is not in question. However, Divine Principle advocates that such a vision be understood as a symbolic expression of spiritual reality. As we have mentioned previously, heaven is frequently used as a metaphor to connote great value, sacredness or goodness. Representing and embodying these qualities, we may say the messiah would come on the "clouds of heaven" or, in other words, with the power and presence of God.

Contemporary research on dreams and visions is pertinent to all of this. Whereas Freud understood dreams as cloaked expressions of human drives and instincts, many thinkers since him, including his disciple Carl Jung, see both dreams and visions as efforts of the subconscious to communicate with the conscious ego, using its own language—the language of visual symbols.

The key to understanding the meaning of these spiritual, psychic events is to understand the symbolism that their various images possess. The inner meaning of a dream or a vision, whether it be from the subconscious or from God Himself, is thus carried in its visual symbols. Its significance is often not to be gained without thoughtful reflection.

When Jesus came two thousand years ago, it seems there was great faith—of a sort—among the Jewish people. Some prayed day and night in the temple. Many memorized the Mosaic Law. Most made honest efforts to keep the commandments and laws which had been handed down to them. In addition, they honored fast days and offered tithes. In all these behaviors they demonstrated sincere faith in God.

Yet in some critical way the devotion of the Israelites went askew. When the Messiah came, he went unrecognized. Because many of the chosen people anticipated that the Messiah would arrive supernaturally, they failed to recognize Jesus as the Promised Deliverer.

By relying on this same apocalyptic expectation, conservative Christians today may make the same mistake. When the Lord comes again, he will appear as a man on earth, not a divine figure descending from the skies. Such an awareness is critically important for, as the philosopher George Santayana has said, if we do not know our history, we may be doomed to repeat it.

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