What is the Second Coming?
(These are the comments from the first day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 301)
The Course's understanding of the Second Coming differs drastically from the teaching of most orthodox Christian churches. Traditionally the term refers to a second physical appearance by Jesus, returning (usually in a supernatural way, "in clouds of glory") to be judge and ruler of the world. This section of the Workbook redefines the term completely. (The Course is notable for the way it redefines and gives new content to nearly every major Christian term it uses.) Here, the Second Coming is:
1. The correction of mistakes (1:1)
Instead of being a cataclysmic event that overthrows the devil in the battle of Armageddon, the Second Coming is a gentle correction of our mistaken beliefs in the reality of sin and separation. The old view of the Second Coming saw evil as a real force with a terrible energy of its own, a will in opposition to God, a will which had to be combatted and overcome. The Course, in seeing the Second Coming as the correction of mistakes, does not see evil as a real force. Darkness is not a thing , a substance, it is merely the absence of light. So evil, in the thought of the Course, is not an opposite to God, but merely a mistake, merely the incorrect idea that an opposite to God could exist. The Second Coming, then, is simply the correction of that mistaken idea. Nothing needs to be overcome or overthrown. The Second Coming simply "restores the never lost, and re-establishes what is forever and forever true" (1:2).
2. The return of sanity (1:1)
All minds that have harbored the insane notion of separation from God will be healed of their delusions. The Second Coming, in the terminology of the Course, is a corporate event at the end of time. It is the moment when each aspect of the mind of God's Son, which has, in insanity, believed itself to be a separate being, is fully restored to its awareness of oneness with all the other aspects of the one mind. This corporate aspect is shown by phrases later in this section: "the time in which all minds are given to the hands of Christ" (3:2); "the Sons of God acknowledge that they all are one" (4:3) (my emphasis). As long as any part of the one mind is not healed, Christ's wholeness is not manifest. The "return to sanity" speaks of the entire Sonship being restored to the awareness of Its oneness.
This "wholeness" aspect of the message of the Course is the motivation for each of us to reach out in healing to the world. Without our brothers we cannot fully know our Identity, for they all are part of It. My brother's healing is my own. No one can be excluded from the Circle of Atonement. No one is excluded.
"You are God's Son, one Self, with one Creator and one goal: to bring awareness of this oneness to all minds, that true creation may extend the Allness and the Unity of God" (W-pI.95.12:2).
(These are the comments from the second day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 302)
"It is the invitation to God's Word to take illusion's place; the willingness to let forgiveness rest upon all things without exception and without reserve."
(Continuing from Part 1 the list of descriptions of the Second Coming)
3. The invitation to God's Word to take illusion's place.
This is the Course's vision of how the world and time end. The real world precedes the Second Coming. Individually and collectively our perception is purified, so that we see Heaven's reflection. When all our minds have come into agreement on this perception, that is the Second Coming. This is "part of the condition that restores the never lost" (1:2). The purification of our perception, and the joining of our minds in that perception, "is the invitation to God's Word to take illusion's place" (1:3). Our mistaken perceptions have been corrected; our minds have united in sanity. Now the way is open for God to take His last step.
4. Willingness for total forgiveness
Of what does this united perception consist? "...the willingness to let forgiveness rest upon all things without exception and without reserve" (1:3). In other words, a willingness to not see sin, but to see the perfect creation of God everywhere. Note that all four of these definitions refer to the undoing of mistakes our minds have made, not to outward change. If the mind is healed, of course, the world will change, since it is only the mirror of our state of mind.
The forgiveness spoken of here is the final state of mind in which we have forgiven:
-- all things - every person, every condition, God, ourselves
-- without exception - nothing and no one whatsoever excluded
-- and without reserve - whole-heartedly, exuberantly, joyously
The Second Coming is the event in time when forgiveness becomes total. No condemnation and no judgment remains in any mind.
(These are the comments from the third day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 303)
The Second Coming of Christ is "all-inclusive" (2:1). All minds are healed together. This is what "permits" or allows it to "embrace the world and hold you safe within its gentle advent, which encompasses all living things with you" (2:1). If someone or something were excluded from forgiveness, how could there be perfect peace? Conflict would still exist. Because the Second Coming "encompasses all living things" (2:1), we are all, together, safe. Forgiveness is total and universal, from all things to all things.
"There is no end to the release the Second Coming brings, as God's creation must be limitless" (2:2). No end; it does not stop short of including anything. All bondage, all sense of enslavement, all sense of limits is gone. How else could it be, if God's creation must be without limitation? This is the end we hold in our sight as we do our little part, forgiving those brought to us in our daily relationships. The day will come when my mind and yours will no longer hold a single grievance against anyone or anything, and when no one or nothing holds any grievance against us. All guilt will be gone; all anger will be gone. "God Himself will wipe away all tears" (Lesson 301). Where we once saw darkness, we will see only light (Lesson 302). What pure and unadulterated joy that day will bring! Then will the Will of God for us, our perfect happiness, be realized and known, and our hearts will overflow with eternal thanksgiving and gratitude, as we join our voices once again in the forgotten song of Love that fills the universe.
(These are the comments from the fourth day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 304)
5. The Recognition of Perfect Oneness
The Second Coming is the recognition of our perfect oneness: "Forgiveness lights the Second Coming's way, because it shines on everything as one. And thus is oneness recognized at last" (2:3-4). With perfect forgiveness all barriers, all apparent reasons for separation, vanish, and our oneness can be "recognized at last."
Every unforgiveness is a reason for separation, a justification for holding ourselves apart. Conversely, every reason for holding ourselves apart is an unforgiveness, a judgment against another. In order to prepare the way for the Second Coming of Christ, which is the recognition of oneness, forgiveness must first become complete. Many of us may remember the song from the musical, Godspell, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," if we don't remember it from the Bible as the message of John the Baptist prior to the commencement of Jesus' ministry. Well, forgiveness is how we prepare the way of the Lord, in regard to the Second Coming of Christ. Forgiveness "lights the Second Coming's way." It removes the barriers to our awareness of oneness.
(These are the comments from the fifth day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 305)
"The Second Coming ends the lessons that the Holy Spirit teaches, making way for the Last Judgment, in which learning ends in one last summary that will extend beyond itself, and reaches up to God."
The sequence the Course sees as ending the world, then, starts with our individual minds going through the process of perception correction, or forgiveness, until forgiveness has embraced the entire world. Each of us comes, more and more, to see the real world, until all minds have been restored to sanity, which is the Second Coming. This re-establishes the condition in which reality can again be recognized. The lessons are over. The Second Coming makes way for the Last Judgment (which is the subject of the next "what is" section, starting with Lesson 311). This sentence gives a little preview of what the Last Judgment is, in the Course's understanding.
The Text has already discussed the Last Judgment at some length (T-2.VIII and T-3.VI); we'll touch on those passages with that next "what is" section. This single sentence, however, gives a couple of interesting previews. The Last Judgment is called "one last summary" that is the capstone of all learning. To the Course, the Last Judgment is something the Sonship does, not God. Perhaps the best description of it is in a passage in which the phrase, "Last Judgment," does not even occur. It comes in the section, "The Forgiven World" (T-17.II), which speaks of how the real world will appear to us, and then talks of the last evaluation of the world that the united Sonship will undertake, guided by the Holy Spirit:
"The real world is attained simply by complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness. The Great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world, and uncover to you the seeming reasons for your making it. In the light of the real reason that He brings, as you follow Him, He will show you that there is no reason here at all. Each spot His reason touches grows alive with beauty, and what seemed ugly in the darkness of your lack of reason is suddenly released to loveliness" (T-17.II.5:1-4).
This is the time when, at last, the nagging question we all ask--"Why did we make this world in the first place?"--will be fully answered, and we will see "there is no reason here at all." Under His gentle tutelage, we will carefully search out "the seeming reasons for your making it." We will at last be ready to look at that "terrible" moment of the original thought of separation. What seemed irredeemably ugly to us, in our fear, will grow alive with beauty, and the loveliness of our united mind will be restored and released to our awareness. The primal guilt will finally be undone, and we will once again KNOW our innocence.
The Last Judgment, which follows the Second Coming, will be one last, great summary lesson of forgiveness. This lesson will "extend beyond itself" for it will finally and decisively remove the last barrier of guilt, our collective guilt at having tried to usurp the throne of God. It will reach "up to God," for it will completely restore the memory of God to our united mind. The way will be fully open for God to reach down and once again to gather us into His arms, home at last.
(These are the comments from the sixth day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 306)
"The Second Coming is the time in which all minds are given to the hands of Christ, to be returned to spirit in the name of true creation and the Will of God."
The Second Coming is the giving of all minds to Christ (3:2)
The Second Coming is a corporate event, in which every mind participates. One by one, in an accelerating profusion, minds enter the realm of true perception and perceive the real world, shown by forgiveness. Each newly restored mind draws all those around it to join in the circle of Atonement until every last fragment of mind has been re-joined to the Whole (or more correctly, each fragment recognizes its place as part of the Whole). "Salvation...restores to your awareness the wholeness of the fragments you perceive as broken off and separate" (M-19.4:1-2). The Second Coming is the culmination of this process.
(These are the comments from the seventh day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 307)
"The Second Coming is the one event in time which time itself can not affect" (4:1). This is true because the Second Coming is merely the remembrance of what is eternal, and can never change. It is an "event in time," that is, it still takes place within the context of time, although it brings an end to time itself. The Second Coming affects time, but time cannot affect it.
"For every one who ever came to die, or yet will come or who is present now, is equally released from what he made" (4:2). When we say that in the Second Coming all minds are "given to the hands of Christ," the "all" has to include not only the people alive now, but those who lived before and those still yet to come. The Second Coming therefore, although it occurs within time, transcends time. It reaches back into the past to release those who lived before, as well as including those "alive" in bodies at the time. It is a trans-temporal event. No one is excluded. The Text says that miracles "...undo the past in the present, and thus release the future" (T-1.I.13:3). The idea that we can literally "undo" the past is astounding, and very reassuring. We are told that the Holy Spirit can "undo all the consequences of [our] wrong decision if [we] will let Him" (T-5.VII.6:10). The Second Coming is the ultimate expression of that, in which everyone, even those in the past, are "released from what [they] made," or freed from the illusions they set up.
I don't know how this will happen. When the Course tells us that the Holy Spirit is not limited by time (T-15.I.2:3-5), I can't say that I understand how He can reach back in time and heal things that have already happened from our perspective. Yet the Course is quite clear that He can do so. In the Second Coming, every false perception from the beginning of time to the end of it will be healed. No condemnation, and no guilt, will remain in any mind, any where, any when.
(These are the comments from the eighth day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 308)
Everyone, past, present and future, is "equally released from what he made" (4:2) in the Second Coming, which is "the willingness to let forgiveness rest upon all things without exception and without reserve" (1:3). The words, "In this equality..." (4:3), refer to that equality of forgiveness, that equality of release from guilt and condemnation.
"In this equality is Christ restored as one Identity, in Which the Sons of God acknowledge that they all are one" (4:3). We may say we want oneness, but do we want the means for oneness? Forgiveness is the means that restores oneness. There is a section of the Text that talks about the fact that we pretend to want a certain goal, and yet we reject the means for reaching that goal. It says that if we hesitate over the means, it really proves we are afraid of the goal. We may say we want oneness, and yet hesitate to offer complete forgiveness; we may complain that total forgiveness is too difficult, too much to ask. The real problem, according to this passage, is that we are afraid of the oneness that forgiveness would bring:
"To obtain the goal the Holy Spirit indeed asks little. He asks no more to give the means as well. The means are second to the goal. And when you hesitate, it is because the purpose frightens you, and not the means. Remember this, for otherwise you will make the error of believing the means are difficult" (T-20.VII.3:1-5).
Am I willing to acknowledge that I am one with "that person" in my life? If I have a problem with forgiveness it is not because forgiveness is too difficult; it is because I do not want the oneness it would bring. "Ask only, 'Do I really wish to see him sinless?' And as you ask, forget not that his sinlessness is your escape from fear" (T-20.VII.9:2-3). Each time I reach that willingness, the Second Coming grows closer.
"And God the Father smiles upon His Son, His one creation and His only joy" (4:4). When we are willing to see one another as sinless, and to recognize our oneness, God the Father once again sees His Son and smiles. We are His one creation and His only joy, and only as we lay down the barriers of "sin" and guilt, and forgive one another, is that oneness seen, and the Father's joy expressed in and through us.
(These are the comments from the ninth day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 309)
What are we to do about the Second Coming?
1. Pray for it (5:1)
Ask that it be soon. Desire it, yearn for it, be quietly impatient for its coming.
2. Give ourselves to it wholly
"It needs your eyes and ears and hands and feet. It needs your voice. And most of all it needs your willingness." (5:2-4)
We are the means by which the Second Coming will happen. Let us give our eyes to see love everywhere, and give them no longer to find fault or to see guilt. Let us give our ears to hear only the Voice for God and to hear and answer every call for love around us. Let us give our hands to take the hands of those beside us and lead them home. Let us give our feet to go to those in need, and give our voice to speak the words of healing, of forgiveness and of release. Most of all, let us give our willingness to join in the great crusade to correct the mad error of sin and guilt wherever we encounter it.
In other words, we are those who will bring Him back. He has never left, in reality; the return is a return to our consciousness, the return of the memory of our Identity. The work I do on myself is the most potent way to invite the Second Coming. The way in which I affirm my brothers' identity with me and with the Christ, through forgiveness, through true perception, is how the Second Coming comes.
Each of us has a vital part in this. "My part is essential to God's plan for salvation" (W-pI.100). The little shift that occurs in your mind as you practice the Course each day, the seemingly insignificant change of mind that lets you forgive the person who cuts you off in traffic or the friend or relative who acts unlovingly, each little act of kindness, each moment in which you choose to see a call for love rather than an attack, is contributing to the awakening of this Great Mind, the One Being that we are. It is not just you that is awakening, it is The Christ. He is coming again. He is coming again in you.
"And as you let yourself be healed, you see all those around you, or who cross your mind, or whom you touch or those who seem to have no contact with you, healed along with you. Perhaps you will not recognize them all, nor realize how great your offering to all the world, when you let healing come to you. But you are never healed alone. And legions upon legions will receive the gift that you receive when you are healed" (W-pI.137.10:4).
"Each time you practice, awareness is brought a little nearer at least; sometimes a thousand years or more are saved....The Holy Spirit will be glad to take five minutes of each hour from your hands, and carry them around this aching world where pain and misery appear to rule. He will not overlook one open mind that will accept the healing gifts they bring, and He will lay them everywhere He knows they will be welcome. And they will increase in healing power each time someone accepts them as his thoughts, and uses them to heal.
"Thus will each gift to Him be multiplied a thousand-fold and tens of thousands more. And when it is returned to you, it will surpass in might the little gift you gave as much as does the radiance of the sun outshine the tiny gleam a firefly makes an uncertain moment and goes out. The steady brilliance of this light remains and leads you out of darkness, nor will you be able to forget the way again" (W-pI.97.5,6).
That is what is happening today. Down through the centuries a few people have remembered. Their light has shown, and apparently, in many cases, gone out. But it has never gone out. Each flash of light impacted every mind in the world, shifted it that little bit closer to Truth, until today, in our lifetimes, we can see the beginnings of a "steady brilliance," a light that is too bright to ever again become obscured. We are seeing the snowball effect of enlightenment. The snowball has become far too big to be ignored. Victor Hugo said, "Nothing is so powerful as an idea whose time has come," and the time for this idea has come. It is here, and we are part of it.
(These are the comments from the tenth day's portion of the "What is the Second Coming" section - Lesson 310)
The third thing we can do in the light of what the Second Coming is, is to become part of the Atonement ourselves, having received it.
"Let us rejoice that we can do God's Will, and join together in its holy light. Behold, the Son of God is one in us, and we can reach our Father's Love through Him" (5:5-6).
God's Will is Love. God's Will for us is perfect happiness. God's Will is never-ending extension of the radiance of His Being. We can "do" that because He created us to be that. We can reach our Father's Love through His Son. It is our choice to join together in that oneness of the Son that is the fulfillment of God's Will. Here, in our relationships within time, we are beginning the process that culminates in the Second Coming, the restoration of the single Identity of Christ. As we join in common purpose, to forgive and to be forgiven, to love and to be loved, we shorten the time until the Sonship is fully one in expression. As we give our relationships to the Holy Spirit, to be used only for His purpose, to be transformed into holy relationships through forgiveness, we are joining together in the fulfillment of God's Will.
It is through one another that we reach God's Love. It is in one another that we find God. "The whole reality of your relationship with Him lies in our relationship to one another" (T-17.IV.16:7).