Preaching the second coming of Christ often requires a fiery sermon. But for the Christian the second coming of Christ is the single shining ray of hope in this dark world. What a great thing it is to think on Christ’s return! What a blessing for the child of God to anticipate the day of the Lord.
Unfortunately, some have confused the completion of Jesus’s earthly ministry with the completion of all his actions. Jesus has fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning his church, he has purchased his church with his own blood, he has programmed the church with his own authority, and he promised to return to bring his church home. The idea of realized eschatology, that the present kingdom is all there is for the Christian, is far from the truth. Jesus promised to return to bring the redeemed of all ages home. This future return is certainly within view as Jesus said, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38)
The angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). While it is a danger of being so heavenly minded that we become no earthly good, it is a much greater danger to become so earthly minded that heaven becomes no good to us. While the disciples needed to be reminded to get ready for ministry in Acts 1:11, we need to be reminded to long for Jesus’s return.
Jesus said, “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake” (Mark 13:35-37). Contemplating the return of Christ has routinely devolved into discussions and attempts to decipher when the Lord’s return shall be. These discussions have given rise to several religious groups and greatly increased the popularity of the Scofield Reference Bible. But when the Bible is examined, one thing is clear, no one knows when Jesus will return.
Jesus explicitly said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). In fact, the Bible says the return of Christ will be unexpected rather than decipherable. Paul wrote, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”
Instead of searching for clues as to when Jesus will come again, let us be diligent to show ourselves approved before God (2 Timothy 2:15). That is the constant plea of God’s Word—prepare to meet your God. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace will all men, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” It is far better be prepared for the moment which will inevitably find you rather than searching in vain for the moment you will never find.
What We Do Know
While we do not know the time of Jesus return, we are briefly told what the return will be like. The descriptions we find in the Bible are not exhaustive but do provide a brief outline of moment Jesus returns to bring his people to Heaven and present them to the Father. While we must embrace these outlines and the hope they provide, we should not be overly determined to outline the specific details of the Day. Instead we should be constantly preparing for the day and anticipating the reward of seeing Jesus. As Job said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my skin has thus been destroyed yet in my flesh I shall see God whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27).
Jesus gave the simplest description of his return in Mark 13:24-27. The Lord said, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:26-27). This is the prelude to the great judgment pictured in Revelation 20:11-15.
John’s record of Jesus’s words in John 14 also add to the Lord’s description of that moment. Jesus said he must leave (crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension) so that he may return to bring the saints to where he had gone. Note that Jesus did not say he was returning to establish a kingdom. Rather he returns to deliver the kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). Jesus promised to bring his people to the place he had gone to prepare with the Father (John 14:2-3).
The return of Christ is also presented as a time of judgment. For the righteous, this will be a time of vindication. The life of faith in God will be rewarded by the sight of God. Job’s faith in that vindication is presented in one of the most inspiring texts of Scripture: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27). Christians should long for that day of blessed reward and pray “Come, Lord Jesus.”
However, for those outside of grace it will be the beginning of eternal punishment. Jesus said, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 24:46). Just as the rich man died and lifted up his eyes in Torments (Luke 16:23), many will hear the dreaded words “depart from me I you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). Paul wrote: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).
Following the judgment of all, the Bible presents two eternal destinations (Matthew 25:46). Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). Then God’s people will be vindicated by being in God’s presence. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4).
“Come Lord Jesus.”