The Second Coming of Jesus
It is predicted
According to Dr. David Jeremiah, a recognized biblical preacher/teacher, “Scholars have identified 1,845 biblical references to the Second Coming. In the Old Testament, Christ’s return is emphasized in no less than seventeen books, and New Testament authors speak of it in no less than twenty-three of the twenty-seven books. Seven out of every ten chapters in the New Testament mention His return. In other words, one out of every thirty verses in the New Testament teach us about the return of Christ to this earth.” 1
During the final week of his public ministry among the crowds of people who were following him and his disciples, Jesus made a statement about “the end” of all that they as well as those who would come after them would see happening in the world. Among his explanatory words was this personal statement regarding his coming as “the Son of Man” (his favorite title for himself): “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its lights, 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 coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:29–31)
During his very personal discussion with his disciples following his last “supper” with them before his arrest, he tried to prepare them for what they would experience with his departure from them. He told them, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:2–3) After his death on a cross and his resurrection from the tomb where his crucified body had been placed, Jesus spent more time revealing his divine glory to his disciples and other followers and teaching them “about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). At the end of these final “forty days” of further teachings from Jesus, as they were listening to him and “were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’.” (Acts 1:9–11)
Neither Jesus nor any of his disciples during his life time nor any Christian teachers about Jesus since them have been given a date for the second coming of Jesus back to this earth, but that missing detail doesn’t mean that anyone should doubt that this event is going to take place. Jesus is physically coming back to this earth again!
Some general and special events associated with the second coming of Jesus
As indicated previously by Dr. David Jeremiah, various biblical scholars have identified hundreds of biblical passages that refer to the second coming of Jesus in one way or another. But not all of these scholars are in agreement with each other regarding what the particular details in these passages of Scripture are describing and how the various events that are somewhat described in these Scriptures are related to each other.
It should be recognized that it is normal for us human beings to want to know some of the basic details regarding what prophetic teachers among us, even such a one as Jesus, had to say about future events. On one occasion during the last days of Jesus public ministry, his disciples comment to him about “the buildings of the temple” as they were leaving it. He responded to their comment with these words of prophecy predicting its destruction: “Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down”. (Matthew 24:2) And after they had moved over to “the Mount of Olives, the disciples” came to him with their private request to “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close the age?” (Matthew 24:3) This request from the disciples for more detailed information regarding Jesus’ prophecy is the context for a long report by Matthew regarding some of the details regarding “the close of the age” for normal human living that would be experienced prior to the subsequent second coming of Jesus as “the Son of Man”, and the establishment of “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 25:1) that Matthew describes in chapters 24 and 25 of his Gospel.
There are a lot of different details given regarding particular events that are associated with this general subject of biblical prophecy in Jesus’ teachings in these chapters of Matthew. These details include the following: “wars and rumors of wars” (Mt. 24:6), “famines and earthquakes in various places” (Mt. 24:7), “tribulation” and “death” for many Christians (Mt. 24:9), while others “fall away” (vs. 10) from their faith in Christ, and “many false prophets will arise” (vs. 11), “lawlessness will be increased” (vs. 12), but “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Mt. 24:14). There will be a period of “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21), as described “by the prophet Daniel” (Mt. 24:15), and the teachings of Jesus regarding some of the details of this event are recorded by Matthew in verses 15–28 of Matthew 24. Some of the details regarding the second coming of Jesus as “the Son of Man” (Mt. 24:30) are disclosed by Jesus in his teaching to his disciples and recorded by Matthew in verses 29–51 of chapter 24. It should be noted that Jesus urges his disciples and those who would seek to be “faithful” and “wise” (vs. 45) in their service to God “the Father” to be doing what God has instructed him or her to do when he returns, because “the day and hour” (vs. 36) for his return will not be known or widely expected.
In the 25th chapter of his gospel Matthew records some of the details regarding the establishment of “the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 25:1) by the Lord with a couple of stories about “ten virgins” (vss. 1–13) and three “servants” (vss. 13–30), and some details regarding the final judgment of “the Son of Man” (vss. 31–46) over all human beings. It is clear from the details in these teachings from Jesus that there will some serious judgments associated with his second coming, so it will be wise to recognize that this event is going to take place and to be prepared for it even though some of the details regarding it and its time cannot be clearly known.
Several other major events associated with the second coming of Jesus
In 605 B.C. a young man by the name of Daniel was taken captive along with other youth from the Israelite tribe of Judah by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar whose army destroyed Jerusalem. He and three other outstanding young men were selected out from the numerous captives that had been moved to the capital of Babylon and they were given special training in “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4) through which they would be expected to help the king to advance the pagan idolatrous culture of Babylon by serving in his special corps of “wise” consultants. It soon became evident to Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel and his friends were “ten times better” (Dan. 1:20) “in every matter of wisdom and understanding” (vs. 20) that they had been taught “than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (vs. 20), and God had also given Daniel a special level of “understanding in all visions and dreams” (Dan 1:17). Daniel was able to use this special divine gift to not only interpret a troubling dream that Nebuchadnezzar had, but to accept the challenge of the king to tell him what he had dreamt without the king having to tell him its details. Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed by Daniel’s personal knowledge of his dream and his thorough interpretation of its details that he gave him “high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). The details of this episode between Daniel and his friends and King Nebuchadnezzar are reported by Daniel in chapter 2 verses 1–49 of his book in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Daniel and his three young friends had some other impressive demonstrations of God’s power and wisdom in their lives before King Nebuchadnezzar and his son King Belshazzar and King Darius the Mede and King Cyrus the Persian that are reported in chapters 3–6 of his book. In chapters 7–8 Daniel reports the details of a series of visions that he had that were represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dream that foretold the rise of the Median empire and that of the Persians over Babylon as well as the subsequent rise of the Greek and Roman empires in the world.
In chapter 9 of his report Daniel turns his attention back to his homeland, the territory of Israel and its capital city of Jerusalem. He offered a prayer of “confession” (Dan. 9:4) to God acknowledging the sins of his people, the Israelites, that led to their captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar and asking God “for mercy” and for him to make his “face to shine” upon Jerusalem and its “sanctuary” (the temple) (Dan. 9:17) that was now in ruins. In response to his prayer he received a visit from the angel “Gabriel” (vs. 21) who gave him a very special “word” (vs. 23) of “insight and understanding” (vs. 22) regarding God’s plans for Jerusalem and the people of Israel (the details of this “word” are recorded in Daniel 9:24–27). It is these details of “weeks” (vss. 24, 25, 26) and “week” (vs. 27) that various biblical scholars and teachers cite in their different interpretations regarding the time and sequence of these events in regard to God’s ultimate restoration of Israel and its temple. The timing and sequence of these events by various interpreters include references to the Messiah (Jesus) as the one who is “cut off” (vs. 26) after 70 years of captivity in Babylon and 483 years of history. And they cite the death of Jesus and his resurrection and ascension as the beginning of the “church age” that is somewhat of an interruption in God’s time line to deal with the sins and restoration of the Israelites. And this passage of Scripture in Daniel 9:27 with its reference to “the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate” is the context (cited in Mt. 24:15) for Jesus’ prophetic teaching to the disciples regarding the severe time of “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21) that he indicates will occur throughout the world before his second coming as “the Son of Man” (Mt. 24:30). (See Matthew 24:9–31 for the citation of these events.) We would be wise to note that God did not give either Jesus or Daniel a specific interpretative time line of events to enable either of them or any of their followers to clearly understand the time of these events in the history of Israel and the Church of Christians.
When Paul got news of some concerns among the Christians in Thessalonica, where he had established a church, he addressed their concern in a letter to these Thessalonians. One of their concerns had to do with the fate of dead Christians, particularly what would be the nature of their relationship with Jesus at the time of “the coming of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15), which they were all anticipating would soon take place, an imminent event. So Paul addresses their concern with a brief explanation regarding the return of Jesus that is recorded in this letter (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18) which states that Jesus is going to “descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (vss. 16–17). These passages of Scripture are referred to as the biblical doctrine of The Rapture when Jesus comes for his Church and when he will change the bodies of all of the “brothers” (vs. 13) from their physical presence in the world as he physically manifests himself again to the world. Note that although Paul does indicate that these transformed “brothers” will be with the Lord” (vs. 17), he does not indicate exactly where they will all go at this time.
Jesus in his reference to his return as “the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27) as recorded by Matthew in Matthew 24:3-51 indicated “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, but the Father only” (Mt. 24:36). Jesus went on in his teaching regarding this matter to indicate that “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (vs. 44). These events as described by Jesus and recorded by Matthew in chapters 24 and 25 of his gospel are not interpreted by various biblical scholars and teachers to be the same series of events to which Paul is referring in his teaching to the Thessalonians regarding The Rapture of the Church. These events are understood to be referring to the time when Jesus will return as “Christ” (Mt. 24:23) the “anointed” and authoritative agent of God to administer ”the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 25:1) as “the bridegroom” (Mt. 25:1) of God’s chosen “bride” for his Son (Jesus) who is also the “master” of God’s “servants” (see Mt. 24:14–30 for references to these figures) and who is ultimately “the King” (Mt. 25:34, 40) who will administer the Final Judgments of God over the people from all of the nations of the world through all of human history (see Mt. 25:31–46 for an account of this event). It is probably well to recognize that there is no specific connection between the events that Paul cites regarding Christians in the Church in his letter to the Thessalonians and the events and people that Jesus cites in his teachings that are recorded by Matthew in the gospels. But such “connections” have been cited by various biblical scholars and teachers in their efforts to understand and to interpret these Scriptures and to apply them in the daily lives of those who live in this world. But it is well to remember that according to Jesus no one knows “that day and hour” (Mt. 24:36) when most of these events are going to take place.
Several Old Testament prophets refer to a particular judgmental action of God in the world as “the day of the Lord” (see Joel 2:1-11, and Malachi 4:1-5), which means that this day of the Lord is another event that needs to be considered in this list of particular judgmental actions of God. In some passages of Scripture this event is just referred to as the day, but it is described as the “the sixth seal” of God’s judgment in Revelation 6:12-17.
The special Revelation to John
About 95–6 A.D. Jesus and his angels gave the apostle John an apocalyptic prophetic statement in a series of symbolic graphic visions and accounts of real people that described a series of events that would mark the End–Times history of the world with its nations and their people in regard to their relationship with God and the destiny of Satan with all of his associated enemies of God. John recorded this message in its specific details about events in heaven and in earth in a manuscript that has been preserved in the Bible as the Revelation to John. This book is recognized as “one of the most complex books in the Bible. The overall genre (form) is prophecy (22:19). Like biblical prophecy generally, the actual medium is visionary writing; the book unfolds as a pageant of visions, much like modern cinematic effects. Furthermore, the way in which real persons and events are actually portrayed is the way of imagination, with unlifelike details. The title of the book indicates that it belongs to the genre of apocalyptic writing. Additionally, at every turn the author uses the resources of poetry–imagery, metaphor, simile, and allusion.”2
An “angel” described the physical return of Jesus to earth to John in a dramatic set of images of Jesus, other beings from heaven and various human beings that are recorded by John in Revelation 19:9–21. Jesus is portrayed as one sitting on “a white horse” who will be called “Faithful and True” (vs 11) who will judge and make war. He will also be called “The Word of God” (vs. 13) and his “name” will be “King of kings and Lord of lords” (vs. 16). He is not described as coming alone, because “the armies of heaven” will be “following him on white horses” (vs, 14). And this angel further described the destructive judgments that this “King of kings” (Jesus) would render against “the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies” (vs. 19), and this “beast” (Satan) and “the false prophet” would be “thrown alive into the lake of fire” (vs. 20). This is the prophetic vision of Jesus’ Victorious Return and Immediate Judgments Over His Enemies that was given to John.
These apocalyptic prophetic statements of these visions to John continue in Revelation with descriptions of these major End–Times events: the Removable of Satan from the world (Rev. 20:2-4), the Millennial Reign of Jesus on Earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4–6), the Final Battle for Jerusalem and the Final Judgment of Satan and the False Prophet (Rev. 20:7–10, the Judgment of the Dead by Jesus from his “great white throne” (Rev. 20:11–15), and God’s creation of A New Heaven and a New Earth (Rev. 21:1), and the Installation of the New Jerusalem containing a lot of special blessings from God (Rev. 21:2–22:5).
Chapters 1–3 of John’s Revelation serve as an introduction to the visions that he received, containing his words of greeting to the Christians in the seven churches with whom his document would initially be shared. In chapters 4–18 John records in various images and symbols and titles and figures the series of dramatic events that he and other “servants” (Rev. 1:1) of God should recognize as being part of God’s rule over the world and heaven, particularly since the time of God’s manifested presence in the world in the person of his Son, Jesus. This part of his message includes a variety of references to various “thrones”, the strange appearance of different “creatures”, messages on various scrolls that were each fastened with “seals” that could only be opened by the “worthy” agent of God who was identified as “the Lamb”, and a series of disastrous events in the world that would affect the elements of nature and all the inhabitants on earth at the sound of “trumpets” being blown by “angels” with “a third of mankind” being “killed” (as reported in Rev. 9:18). It describes the appointment of “two witnesses” who would “prophesy” in the world for 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3). It describes a war in heaven and earth between God and Satan (the “dragon”) (Rev. 12:3–17), the emergence of “a beast” who had amazing influential powers to “utter blasphemies against God” (Rev. 13:6) and to “make war” on the “saints” (vs. 7), the emergence of another “beast” (Rev. 13:11) who had the number “666” (vs. 18) attached to him, and the emergence of a choir of “144,000” (Rev. 14:3) who praised “the Lamb” (vs. 4). It cites an announcement of judgments against “Babylon” (Rev. 14:6–11), and a “harvest” of humanity (Rev. 14:14–20). It goes on to describe the affliction of “seven plagues” (Rev. 15:1–8) upon the inhabitants of earth, the pouring out of “the wrath of God” (Rev. 16:1–11), and the assembling of the enemies of God and the Israelites for the Battle at Armageddon (vss. 12–16). It describes a great earthquake that would split Jerusalem and caused many “cities of the nations” (vs. 19) to be destroyed and a hail storm with “hailstones, about one hundred pounds each” that would fall “on people” (Rev. 16:21). Finally this section of John’s message that he received gives an account of God’s judgment against “the great prostitute” (Rev. 17:1) and her center of “sexual immorality” (vs. 2) and pagan materialistic influence throughout the world (Rev. 17:1–18:24).
Conclusion regarding the second coming of Jesus
In this statement I have sought to briefly describe the event in which Jesus physically returns to earth from various passages of Scripture that refer to it. Jesus himself promised his disciples that he would come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). This particular event is described by the apostle John in chapter 19:9–21 in his document of the Revelation that he received in a series of visions from Jesus and his angels. According to the teachings of various prophets and other writers of God’s revelations, there are other particular events that are associated with this glorious second coming of Jesus. These events are the following: the day of the Lord as cited in Joel 2:1-11 and Malachai 4:1-3 and John in his Revelation 6:12-17, God’s Ultimate Restoration of Israel and Its Temple as described by Daniel in chapter 9:24–27, a period of Great Tribulation in the world as described by Jesus in Matthew 24:15–28, The Rapture as described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 (includes all who are “in Christ” from all of the 12 tribes of Israel and from the gentile adopted “children of God”), the Millennial Reign of Jesus on Earth from Jerusalem for a thousand years as described in Revelation 20:4–6, a great Battle for Jerusalem at Armageddon as described in Revelation 16:12–16 and Revelation 20:7–9, the Final Judgment of Satan and the False Prophet as described to John in Revelation 20:10, the Judgment of the Dead by Jesus as described in Revelation 20:11-15, God’s creation of A New Heaven and a New Earth as cited in Revelation 21:1, and the Installation of the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21:2-22:5. There are other severe natural disasters and wars and judgments of God that will occur in association with these events, along with the rise of “many false prophets” (Matthew 24:11), much “lawlessness” (Mt. 24:12), but the “gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Mt. 24:14) according to Jesus. Although these events will mark a major change in life on earth and in God’s kingdom, the time for “the day and hour” (Matthew 24:36) for their occurrence is not known by anyone except God, the Father. The prophecies of Daniel address some concerns regarding the status of the Israelites and Jerusalem in God’s ongoing dealings with these parts of his created world, but there is no clear timeline regarding the events that he describes, although it is recognized that they are related to the accounts of the other writers of God’s prophecies.
Our best perspective on this matter of The Second Coming of Jesus is probably to give our attention to what is happening with God’s people in Israel and their temple, because major changes there will mark the end of the Church Age in God’s order of history, to just rejoice with Jesus’ promise to return, and to declare with John “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20), as he did at the close of his reported visions. For a very detailed and complete explanation of these prophetic events as cited in the Bible I invite interested viewers to go to Tracking Bible Prophecy by Amy Van Gerpen.
(Update, August 2017) After further study of the Scriptures and other resources, including the articles by Amy Van Gerpen, I have reached a conclusion that the Pre-Tribulation perspective regarding the Rapture, as described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is the most biblically correct one regarding this event. This means that Jesus will appear in the clouds to call all of his redeemed individuals from their places on this earth, both living and dead whom he acknowledges are members of his Church, to join him in the clouds in their resurrected bodies to return to him to heaven. This removal of the Church from the earth will occur prior to the seven years of Tribulation that God is going to inflict upon the remaining living inhabitants, including the people of Israel, for their sins before Jesus returns physically to the earth to estabish his Millennial Kingdom over all of the world. The Rapture of the Church will occur without any specific advanced warning or signs, but conditions in this world are apparently moving to a point in God’s work to redeem this world from the corruping influences of sin that make such drastic actions by Jesus necessary.
1. Dr. David Jeremiah, Agents of the Apocalypse A Riveting Look at the Key Players of the End Times, (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014) p. 197.
2. “Introduction to the Revelation to John”, ESV Study Bible English Standard Version. (Copyright © 2008 by Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois), p. 2455.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV Study Bible English Standard Version. (ESV®), copyright © 2008 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.