June 18, 2017 (KSYC) • Download this article (PDF)
Since Christ ascended into heaven, there have been countless people who have predicted his return. During Paul’s time, some teachers in the church in Thessalonica already taught that the endtime resurrection had already occurred. So Paul had to warn them of these false prophets. In 150 A.D., about 50 years after the apostle John died, a man named Montanus taught that Jesus would return in his day and in his city in Phyrigia, present-day Turkey.
Throughout the centuries till today, many false prophecies have come and gone. The most notable was when a farmer named William Miller calculated the end of the world twice in 1844. In recent times, a teacher named Harold Camping predicted the end of the world three times: one in 1994, and twice in 2011.
All over the New Testament, the Second Coming of Christ is clearly taught. Christ himself taught it, for example, in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself..” In Acts 1:11, after Christ ascended into heaven, angels declared that he will return in the same way as he ascended into heaven. Paul taught it repeatedly, for example, in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, he says, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven.” In Titus 2:13, Paul says that we “[wait] for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The writer of Hebrews also says, “[Christ]… will appear a second time” (Heb 9:28).
But there are many misunderstandings and false teachings about the Second Coming of Christ. What then are the basic teachings of the Bible about the Second Coming?
First, no one knows when he will return. Since God is not constrained by time, Christ’s coming is always near (Heb 10:25; Jas 5:9; 1 Pet 4:5), but Christ himself told his disciples, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt 24:36).
Second, his return is not imminent, not any moment now. Why? Because the Bible teaches that several great events will precede his Second Coming. These are:
a. The gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all nations. Jesus taught in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” This means that Jesus will return only when all whom God has chosen before the creation of the world are saved.
b. The full number of the elect or chosen Jews is completed. Paul wrote in Romans 11:25, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” This means that Jesus will return only when a great number of Jews, whom God has chosen, believe in Christ as their Messiah and Savior.
c. There will be a great apostasy and a great tribulation because of the coming of the Antichrist. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” This man is also known as the Antichrist, who will persecute God’s people. Because of this persecution, there will be many professing Christians who will renounce their faith and rebel against God. Jesus also taught in Matthew 24:5-8 that in the short time before he returns, there will be an increase in sufferings and persecution. But Jesus says that these are just the beginning of birth pains, which would increase in intensity and frequency until he returns.
Third, the “signs of the times” are present in this world from his first coming 2,000 years ago to the Second Coming. This means that the signs that Jesus mentions in Matthew 24:5-8—wickedness, false teachers, wars and rumors of war, and natural disasters such as famines and earthquakes—will be present throughout this age. He cautions, “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” These signs will intensify and become more frequent as the world nears its end, just like birth pains before the baby is actually born.
Fourth, the “end times” or “last days” is not just a 7-year-period leading up to a “secret” Rapture. The “last days” begun 2,000 years ago when Christ first came. Don’t believe it? Read Peter’s own words in Acts 2:16-17 (“last days”) and the clear assertions in 1 Corinthians 10:11 (“end of the ages”); 1 Timothy 4:1 (“latter times”); 2 Timothy 3:1 (“last days”); Hebrews 1:1-2 (“last days”), 9:26 (“end of the ages”); 1 Peter 1:20-21 (“last times”); 1 John 2:18 (“last hour”); Jude 18 (“last time”). And these last days will end on the “last day” when Christ returns and raises all believers (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54).
Fifth, he will return physically, not spiritually. He will come visibly in a cloud of glory (Matt 24:30; 26:64). Revelation 1:7 also says, “he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.”
Sixth, far from being “secret,” the Second Coming will be really, really loud. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” The voice of God is loud and fearful, as when Israel heard “a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled” (Exo 19:16). The voice of God is heard by his heavenly army, “The LORD utters his voice before his army” (Joel 2:11). There will be “a loud trumpet call” (Matt 24:31; 1Cor 15:52).
Seventh, the world will continue its “normal” existence until Christ returns. Therefore, they will be caught unaware, as when a thief breaks in when everyone is asleep (1Thess 5:2). Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:37-39, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” What was the world like in Noah’s day? It was full of wickedness. While Noah and his family were preparing for the flood, the world ignored Noah’s preaching about the coming judgment. This is exactly what the world is like today.
Eighth, only true Christians will be watching and waiting for Christ’s return. This is the encouragement by all New Testament writers to Christians. Jesus says believers should watch and wait and be ready for his coming because no one knows when he would come (Matt 24:42; 1 Thess 5:1–11; 1 Pet 4:7; 2 Pet 3:2–18).
Ninth, for the unbelieving world, the day of Christ’s return is an unimaginably fearful and terrifying day. In Revelation 6:15-17, John describes the horror of unbelievers when Christ appears: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, `Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” All unbelievers will face the full fury of God’s wrath on the day of his coming, which is also day of judgment. Revelation 1:7 says, “all tribes of the earth will mourn on account of him.”
Tenth, because of this terror, there will be no physical Battle of Armageddon. Many people teach that there will be World War III, a war between God’s army and the armies of the world in the plain of Megiddo, north of Jerusalem (Rev 16:16). Armageddon actually means “Mount of Assembly,” which represents the unbelieving nations of the world. This “Mount of Assembly” will make a final assault against Mount Zion, representing God’s people, to destroy it once for all. Persecution and martyrdom of Christians are intensifying in all the nations. But then Christ appears from heaven in a glorious cloud, and all the inhabitants of the world, including kings, generals and armies, will be in terror because they know that Judgment Day and God’s Day of Vengeance has come (Rev 6:15-17).
Eleventh, Christ’s Second Coming will be a glorious and triumphant coming. He will return in a cloud of glory with all the angels in heaven and all his people (Matt 25:31; 26:64; Luke 21:27). He will then destroy God’s enemies and the enemies of Christians once for all (2 Thess 2:8; Rev 19:14-16, 19-21).
Twelfth, Jews will not have a special place in heaven. According to some, Jews will be first-class citizens in heaven, enjoying special blessings over non-Jews. But in the new heavenly city, all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, will be enjoying the same heavenly blessings. The Bride of Christ, “the holy city Jerusalem” (Rev 21:9-10), will be inhabited by the Old Testament church represented by the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev 21:12) and the New Testament church represented by the 12 apostles (Rev 21:14). This fulfills God’s promise to Abraham that he will have innumerable children (Gen 17:5-6; Gal 3:29) all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him (Gen 12:2-3).
Thirteenth, and finally, all endtime events will be completed at the Second Coming. There will be no Secret Coming and then a final Second Coming.
a. There will be no 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. Jesus prophesied, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt 24:29-30). The Second Coming is immediately after the present tribulation, and all the inhabitants of the world will see him coming.
b. There will be only one day when everyone will be raised from the grave: believers to heaven, and unbelievers to hell; no 1,000 years in between (Dan 12:2; Matt 25:46; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Rev 20:12).
c. There will be one Judgment Day after this resurrection (see above references).
d. And after all these, God will usher in the new Heaven and new earth for eternity. He will dwell with all his people forever (Rev 21:1-4).
True Christians are the only ones who believe and teach
these things. that Jesus will return bodily in power, that there will be a bodily resurrection of all, that there will be a Judgment Day, and that there will be new heaven and new earth. If you don’t believe, and even scoff, at this doctrine of the last things, I encourage you to read, meditate, study diligently the Bible and what it says about Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings.