Unification News for November 2001

How, Where and When Christ is to Return

Volume 6 * Part 4

Throughout the course of history it appears that God has never used the same person twice to fulfill a certain task. While Moses' mission, for example, was to lead his people into the promised land, once he proved unable to do that, he was not given a second chance. His mission was passed on to Joshua. King Saul also failed and his mission was taken up by David. By the same token, Adam's mission was passed on to Jesus.

In light of Divine Principle, such a pattern is understandable. The Principle teaches that the physical body is created by God to function a certain number of years on earth. Once that period has passed, and once the body has returned to dust, it is not to be reconstituted. Accordingly, if the work a certain person does while on earth is left unfulfilled, its completion must be achieved by a different person at a later time.

In accordance with this pattern, Divine Principle raises the question of whether the Second Advent will be fulfilled by a person other than Jesus of Nazareth. As the late Paul Tillich was apparently fond of pointing out, "Christ", meaning "anointed one," is an office or role, not a person. Two thousand years ago it was the man Jesus of Nazareth who fulfilled the role of Christ. We must ask then if today God could choose another man to continue the same role and complete the work that Jesus began. While such an idea will for many be exceeded in its novelty only by its radicalness, one has nothing to lose by admitting it as a possibility.

Let us look at a prior example of a "second coming." God promised through the prophet Malachi to send Elijah before the Messiah would arrive. We read in Malachi:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." (Mal 4:5)

A literal interpretation of this passage led many people at Jesus' time to anticipate the return of Elijah before the advent of the Messiah. As we have seen in earlier chapters, however, it was John the Baptist who came to fulfill the office of Elijah (Mt 11:24, 17:13). Through the ministry of John the Baptist, then, Elijah "returned". It was not Elijah himself, but another person fulfilling his mission. The mission was the same, but the person was different. Divine Principle teaches that this "second coming" of Elijah may be viewed as a model of how the Second Coming of Christ is to be fulfilled.

Just as God sent not Elijah himself, but some other person in his mission, so with regard to the Second Advent He will send a different personage. Jesus will not return in his original physical body. As with all other men, he lived once on earth and now lives eternally in the spirit world. While he and the Holy Spirit are continuing their work spiritually, in the present day another individual will come on earth to complete Jesus' unfinished mission. Our challenge, like that of the Hebrews two thousand years ago, will be to be sensitive, open-minded and intelligent enough to recognize him.

The Messianic Task

According to the Principle of Creation, God's purpose for Adam and Eve was to be realized through their fulfilling the Three Blessings. They were to perfect themselves as mature individuals, become as true parents the origin of a Godly family and, as God's representatives, they were to rule the creation in love. However, because they fell, Adam and Eve failed in all these works; they never became mature persons, true parents or authentic lords. The history they initiated, far from being the intended one of rejoicing, was a corrupted history of sorrow and suffering.

The Apostle Paul tells us Jesus came as the "last Adam" (1 Cor 15:45). Coming in the position of restored Adam, Jesus was to transform history, ultimately fashioning the ideal world that had been planned at the time of the first parents (Mt 4:17). It was he who was to realize for the first time the Three Blessings. Since he was rejected and crucified, however, he was prevented from doing so. A new messianic figure must therefore still come. In effect, the new Messiah will come as the Third Adam whose mission is to realize fully the long-vacant Blessings of God.

Since the Messiah is to be the example of perfected individuality--a person who in growing to true individual maturity fulfills the first Blessing--he must be born on earth as a substantial physical being. He can only carry out his responsibility in the flesh. Also, since he is to realize the ideal family that God has desired, he is to marry and have children. Beyond his own family, the Messiah is to facilitate healing and wholeness among all races and nations, ultimately producing a harmonious global family.

He is thus to fulfill the second Blessing and become the True Parent of humankind, one who has effected the kind of world Adam was meant to initiate. Finally, as a perfectly matured person, the Messiah is to be a lord who governs the spirit world and physical world in perfect love, fulfilling God's third Blessing. As others become united with him by accepting and assisting him, they in turn will find the way to true maturity and love; they will become persons who themselves come to know the three great joys God intended.

The Kingdom of Heaven on earth which Christ is to build is thus not a kingdom of fantasy. It is to be founded, rather, on the solid accomplishment of the Three Blessings. Rather than being realized by supernatural miracles, the Kingdom is to be established by humankind's fulfilling its original destiny. As by God's grace the Three Blessings are fulfilled by ever expanding numbers of people, we may anticipate the world will be transformed and its problems solved in a practical, realistic way. Then the Kingdom will come.

Two thousand years ago, the mission of Judaism was not only to receive Jesus but also to help him fulfill his task after he came. Likewise, the mission of Christianity, in addition to establishing the worldwide foundation for the Second Coming, is to help the Lord accomplish his mission when he comes.

For Divine Principle, then, Christianity must reexamine its historical focus on salvation, which has tended to center only on the individual. As Walter Rauschenbusch has pointed out, a salvation confined to the soul and its personal interests is an "imperfect and only partly effective salvation." Since God's ideal for the creation is not completed by the perfection of an individual's character, so God's efforts toward healing and wholeness do not end with the individual. Salvation ultimately is to embrace the family, national and worldwide levels. Once this has been fulfilled, the glorious biblical promise of universal redemption will be realized.

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