His own people, at the time of his first coming, didn’t recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy because he was of such low birth. How could a carpenter – and the son of a carpenter, at that – be the Messiah? The Israelites had built up in their minds a vision of the Messiah as a great military leader who would overthrow the Roman invaders and fortify the borders of the Promised Land, keeping them safe from their enemies for all time. But Jesus had no intention of instigating a military coup. His kingdom, as he told his followers repeatedly, is a spiritual realm that is not of this world. Those who refused to accept him as Messiah had misinterpreted prophetic scripture because they had hardened their hearts to the truth. In other words, they believed a lie.
Many Christians today also suffer from the same false expectations, and for the same reason. They’ve built up in their minds a vision of end-time scenarios that must unfold, and in so doing have hardened their hearts to everything but the latest popular interpretations of prophetic scripture. Can it be that the exact same worldly misinterpretation of scripture that prevented his own people (the Israelites) from recognizing Jesus as “the one who was to come” is again playing out today for Jesus’ second coming, and again with Jesus’ own people (the Christians)?
Just like 2,000 years ago, people are expecting Jesus to set up a worldly kingdom based on superior (or even supernatural) military strength. I guess the Devil thinks if his lie worked so well the first time around, it will work again, and he’s right. Many have fallen for the same old shtick. And they’ve fallen for it because they’ve hardened their hearts to the truth and read scripture (if they read it at all) through the eyes of the world rather than through the eyes of God’s Holy Spirit.
I have written before about how the lie of Jesus coming back to set up a worldly kingdom is a relatively new misinterpretation of scripture, and how it dovetails nicely with the likewise relatively new misinterpretation of Jesus being God. At the same time, other worldly belief systems are expecting a great leader to establish a powerful earthly kingdom; some even expect that leader to be called “Jesus”. For Christians, scripture had to be slickly “reinterpreted” so that their end-time beliefs align with those of other worldly religions. Considering that most Christians today do actually believe that Jesus is coming back to set up a worldly kingdom, I would say “mission accomplished” to everyone who propagated the lie.
Jesus tells us explicitly to look at Daniel’s prophecy of end times. There is no mention of a benign Messiah setting up a worldly kingdom in the book of Daniel. What we see instead is a series of worldly kingdoms, each one worse than the one before, culminating in a thoroughly evil kingdom that overthrows all others and whose chief accomplishment is the persecution and purging of God’s people. This final kingdom is led by a “vile person” who sets himself up as God and is eventually overthrown. After his demise comes a time of great trouble, followed by the annihilation of the planet.
There is no mention in Daniel of a 1,000-year worldly kingdom led by a Messiah. There are, however, two passages about a kingdom that will be set up in the midst of the other kingdoms, but this kingdom will smash down the others and last forever. Jesus told us to read Daniel. He also told us many times that his kingdom is not of this world. If you read Daniel’s prophecies of the end times and of the kingdom that has no end, and if you take Jesus at his word that his kingdom is a spiritual realm that is not of this world, you will have no choice but to accept that Jesus is not coming back to set up a worldly kingdom.
Jesus himself tells us that he’s coming back in glory – not in a mortal body, but in a heavenly one – and that all eyes will see him when he does come back. He makes zero mention of setting up a kingdom upon his return. What he does say is that he’ll be sending his angels to the four corners of the earth to gather the last of his faithful followers. Paul says that at that time our bodies will change “in an instant” from mortal to immortal (that is, from earthly to glorified). This is what many call the “rapture”, although that phrase doesn’t exist in the Bible. Rapture is just another word for a collective ascension.
The second coming will be in glory and with trumpets blaring, and all eyes will see Jesus, just as all souls, whether believers or not, will know in an instant and beyond a doubt who he is. Those who love and follow him will be gathered by his angels and whisked home to Heaven, while those who hate and reject him will be left behind in a God-less world soon to be destroyed, and mourning forever what they’ve lost.
Read Daniel. Read the gospels. There is no 1,000-year worldly kingdom led by a Messiah in those scriptures. But there is in Daniel a kingdom led by someone posing as God just before the final destruction of the world, and there is in the gospels reminders from Jesus that his kingdom is a spiritual realm and warnings that we should read Daniel about end-time prophecy so that we’re not led astray.
In the end, what you choose to believe is up to you. We all have God-given free will. With my free will, I choose to believe Jesus and to follow his guidance in everything I do, including what I believe about end-time scenarios. I do not believe that Jesus is coming back to Earth to set up a worldly kingdom because Jesus and the Bible tell me he’s not going to do that. If you find a source that says something different and has higher authority than God, Jesus, and Holy Scripture, please let me know.