Predictions Provoke Key Question: Do We Face Second Coming Or A Manifestation?
By Michael H. Brown
If Christ were to come, what would it be like? In particular, what might be meant by a "manifestation"?
We're prompted to pose those questions due to the flurry of prophecies during the past twenty years and recent predictions that Jesus will soon manifest or even formally return.
In our minds the key question: Which is likeliest -- a manifestation or His actual Second Coming?
To manifest means to make clear or evident, to show, exhibit, or display, to declare. It means to show itself, to appear to the senses. Thus, if it is a manifestation, it could be just about anything. When we think of the word "manifestation," we think of images that weep, healings that occur at particular spots, miraculous dreams, inexplicable physical phenomena, visions, locutions, unusual lights, and miraculous photos right up to full-scale apparitions.
Right now such manifestations are mainly associated with the Blessed Mother. Will they soon be predominately associated with Christ Himself? Will the day come when an image of Christ will miraculously appear (in the same way as the famed image of Guadalupe) or will He appear in the same way that Mary has appeared at places such as Lourdes, Medjugorje, and Fatima -- in apparition?
For centuries there have been those who've claimed that they have had experiences with Jesus and in some cases even visions or apparitions of Him, but these have either been fleeting, intensely private, or associated with situations that have not been fully substantiated. At Fatima the Lord was seen for a brief period during the closing miracle on October 13, 1917, and at places such as Medjugorje there have been times when He has been seen in the arms of His mother. In Rwanda -- where apparitions of the Blessed Mother have met with rare Church approval -- a pagan boy named Emmanuel Segatashya claimed he saw Christ as a man in a tunic surrounded by light and hinting at a coming "judgment."
Might this be what will happen? Will Christ soon appear to people in various parts of the world as He did for those forty days following His Resurrection?
We wonder because already there are reports of Muslims receiving dreams of Jesus, and at another Church-approved site, in Venezuela, at Betania (which means Bethany), seer Maria Esperanza has recently predicted that Jesus will come in a way that is "very different" than many conceive. "People will realize that He is among us little by little," she recently asserted. "He will disappear for some days and appear again He will bilocate, He will multiply Himself, to assist everyone, in their homes. He will come and knock on every door. He will let Himself be seen for a little while and then will disappear until God decrees what has to be done. And then people will understand what is happening and begin preparing themselves."
This reminds us of the biblical admonition that He will come as a "thief in the night" -- and again hints, perhaps, more at a series of supernatural manifestations than the Final Coming -- contrary to many evangelical beliefs that He will come as an actual flesh-and-blood messiah to literally rule the earth for a thousand years.
That conception is rejected by the Catholic Church -- which teaches that use of the term "a thousand years" in the Book of Revelation is not meant to be taken literally but as a manner of speech. The Church believes that when Christ returns -- that is, when He returns in His formal Second Coming -- it will be in glory after Israel has accepted Jesus and the Church has gone through its final tribulation. The Vatican rejects millenarianism (the belief that Christ will establish a one-thousand year reign of the saints on earth and supernatural peace and abundance here on earth before the Last Judgment) and what it calls the "intrinsically perverse" notion of "secular messianism" -- Christ coming as a bodily leader. Moreover, the Church says that Christ's Final Coming will spell the end of the world -- which can certainly happen but has not been foreseen by any major apparitions. At Medjugorje the Madonna allegedly told seers on January 8, 1984: "Do not think that Jesus is going to manifest Himself again in the manger; friends, He is born in your hearts."
Does this hint at a Eucharistic manifestation, a spiritual renewal, which is also prophesied (as beginning shortly) by Maria Esperanza? "The same way He resurrected -- that is how God is going to appear to you, to me, in that way, as an apparition," asserts the famous mystic, although we are left to discern if this is a formal coming or, again, a manifestation.
At Kibeho, seer Vestine Salina said we are "to prepare for the coming of the One Who will come unexpectedly, and do not leave Him standing at the front door! He has a power that surpasses your intelligence." This is strikingly similar to what Esperanza said about Christ appearing in a way we won't expect and that He will "knock on every door."
According to a third Kibeho seer, Agnes Kamagaju, that return is close at hand, but the issue becomes complicated because only three of seven Kibeho seers were included in the formal Church approval of the apparitions, and neither Agnes, Emmanuel, nor Vestine were among them -- although another, Alphonsine Mumureke, who was mentioned in the Vatican-approved declaration, has also said the Blessed Mother came to Kibeho in order to prepare "for the coming of her son" (according to Father Gabriel Maindron, a priest who has studied the situation).
But it still begs the question: if a manifestation is ready to occur, how might it happen? In what way? How will Jesus "knock" on our doors? Will we dream dreams, as Muslims are doing now? Will there be a multiplication of His alleged apparitions? Will there be an enhanced power (as well as miracles) associated with the Blessed Sacrament?
It might be all of the above. Or it might be a single spectacular manifestation. What we know from Scripture is that if it is His formal coming, it will be immediately after an extremely stressful period for the world, a time in which the sun will be darkened and the moon will not shed her light. "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the clans of the earth will strike their breasts as they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory," states Matthew 24.
This evokes images from Medjugorje -- where the Blessed Mother is currently described as coming on a cloud.
Meanwhile, we wonder if we have been granted a preview of what may be manifestations. In February of 1995 right there at Betania itself, more than two dozens competent observers allegedly watched an apparition of a male figure they took to be Jesus. They saw the figure with a pulsing red heart and a sword that seemed to symbolize justice. It was observed in the rain forest from somewhat of a distance through what they could only describe as a "screen" or "window." We take this into consideration because Betania formally has been declared "sacred ground" by the Church. We also take it seriously because that reputed appearance of Jesus or a Jesus-like figure occurred just before a huge disasters in which unrelenting rains caused entire hillsides in the vicinity of the nearest city, Caracas, to collapse, killing up to 30,000 in Venezuela's worst-ever disaster.
It may be a flurry of similar events -- manifestations -- that we are approaching. Esperanza, who was the first to see Mary at Betania, and who foresaw the 1995 manifestation, believes that within what she guesses will be the next ten to twenty years Jesus will manifest "in glory with rays of light." There is the belief that Betania will play a role in the coming events. The same may be true for Medjugorje. At some apparition sites is the claim that a permanent sign will be left, and we are made to wonder if such a sign may bear some relation to the type of image we now see on the side of an office building in Clearwater, Florida -- an image that can not really be touched, nor explained, but that anyone can see.
Is something like this -- but on a larger scale -- about to occur?
If the Second Coming is in the secrets of Medjugorje, it can't be in any of the secrets for which they have been given dates. They can't know the time and date. But a manifestation -- or great sign -- is something different. The manifestation may well be preceded or followed by such an event. After the great trials of the Church, after an evil upheaval, said Pope Pius IX, "there will come a great wonder which will fill the world with astonishment."
We must be mindful that in every period have been prophecies about the nearness of the Second Coming. In Thessalonians 4:15 Paul indicates the coming of Jesus and in James 5:8 it says that Christ's return is "at hand."
What it really means is that we must always be ready -- for as the Catechism itself reminds us, Christ can arrive or manifest in any way at any minute.
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