Chapter 21: The Second Coming

Down the Rabbit HoleCompanion to this point above is the idea of the Second Coming. Traditional Christians believe that Jesus, as the ultimate judge and authority, will return some day to reward the saints and to punish the sinners. Although Christians vary in their beliefs regarding the manner in which Jesus will return, they all basically agree that there is a day of judgment. A good number of them believe that Jesus will someday in the future walk the earth or come visibly in the sky to judge humankind. Once again, this interpretation is driven by the faith of the masses and lives as a concept outside the realm of existential human experience.

A metaphorical viewpoint reveals this idea in a very different light. The Day of Judgment is today! The message of Jesus resounds everyday and can be embraced now. The dead can awaken now. In John 5:25, Jesus says: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this. For the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." We read beginning with Mark 13:21: "And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory."

These are the days of darkness and tribulation that may happen in the external world, but the more important and earth-shaking reference here is to the internal world. It is an internal catastrophe or crisis, that very thing that is needed to bring about a real transformation in consciousness. This is an inner tribulation, a self-examination or self-purification that leads to the emptying or dissolution of the concept or idea as reality. Anyone who has had this experience speaks of it in very powerful terms. Artists and poets experience this struggle regularly. The Christ is to be found within and yet many are led astray by spiritual figures or self-righteous ideas that deflect focus outwardly. As mentioned previously, the teachings of Jesus suggest that if anyone puts faith in any specific person - even in Jesus as a physical person - that believer is being led astray. Rather, the Christ is an internal and timeless Presence. In Luke 17:20, the passage reads: "Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, "Look, here it is!" or "There!" for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.'" In passage 69 of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas Jesus says, "Praise to those who have been persecuted in their hearts: they are the ones who have truly come to know the Father." Jesus here is speaking of an internal struggle or a suffering, and the force or power of this struggle can only be expressed through potent language or imagery. Listening to Beethoven's 5th or 9th Symphony, for example, one would think that Beethoven was describing through music a violent and mighty clash or war among gods. Beethoven's outward life was not filled with this type of drama; however we know that Beethoven struggled with himself internally and especially with his illnesses and deafness as a composer. The music in those symphonies is a metaphor for his struggle. The music represents Beethoven's footprints on an inward journey. Likewise, Jesus uses the most powerful imagery to express an internal struggle. In the end though, just as our math student mentioned earlier endures and finally overcomes the challenge of the math problem, the one who has endured this journey, the sage, has no choice in the end but to emerge in affirmation of the journey.

And so, in a flash of extreme clarity, the sage can metaphorically "see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory." The sage has “endured to the end” by abandoning preconceived ideas. He has connected, in a moment, to the process. It is this connection through abandonment that brings with it clarity of vision or perception. Reading these passages in this context, the wisdom of Jesus and the power of the words of Jesus pierce through the sage's consciousness like a fiery sword and he joyfully and overwhelmingly affirms the experience. The sage bears the same scars on his journey. He now finds great comfort in the awesome realization that others have walked in the same footsteps and that he is united with them in a moment that cuts out time and space. The journey is ever-present and he passes through it as a temporary visitor like others before him. Now he understands, beyond any spatial or temporal reference. Moreover, he rejoices in this mystery and he sees the glory of the Son of Man. The passage mentioned above, Mark 13:26, is expressed a bit differently in Luke 17:24 where Jesus says: "For as the lightning, that illuminates one part under heaven, shines unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day." Jesus here speaks of light, of illumination, of enlightenment not as a concept but as an ever-present, dynamic, living process. It is a gut-wrenching affirmation or conviction of perception. In the same way, reading Gibran's works for me affirmed and illuminated my experience in an instant and united me with him across decades. Time and space and death no longer separated us. We are, on a certain plane, intimately joined in thought and emotion. In the same way, those who can affirm the message of Jesus are united with him in that perception. And these sages, in their flash of epiphany or realization, can only describe this experience through powerful language, beyond dualities and the rational mind.

In summary, the Second Coming is not an event in time but a simultaneous shattering and creative realization. It represents an inner breakthrough or transformation in those who have a personal understanding of the message and unification with the Perception. In theological terms, the First Coming of Christ is the introduction, when the sage-to-be first hears the message by ear and accepts it by faith. An example is the moment when the Virgin Mary hears from the Archangel of Jesus’ conception. The Second Coming is an internalization of the message where faith turns into experience and the word becomes flesh. The First Coming presents us with a downtrodden, crucified, vulnerable and bleeding Jesus who was scourged and rejected by the authority, by society, and by the ruling ideology of the times. Here we are presented with a symbol, the meaning of which escapes us at first. But we accept the symbol for what it may potentially reveal and explore it. Those who open up to the First Coming with fervent faith will eventually reach beyond and find a treasure of an experience beyond the blood and the wounds and the crown of thorns. And therein lies the significance of the Second Coming. It is a very personal inner realization and has little significance as an event in the outside world. In some sense, the world we have created is already dead much like the hair on your head. The human world is the concretization of ideas already conceived.

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