68. When, how, and why will Christ return to this world?
Christ’s return will be final, personal, physical, visible, sudden, glorious, and conclusive.
Christ’s second coming is given a number of different names in the Bible.
- Apokalupsis (ἀποκάλυψις) means revelation or unveiling. There will be a removal of what presently obscures our vision of Christ (1 Cor.1:7; 2 Thess. 1:7, 10; 1 Pet.1:7, 13; 4:13).183
- Epiphaneia (from φαίνω) means appearance or manifestation. It describes something becoming visible by piercing through what hides it (Matt. 24:30; 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; Tit. 2:13).
- Parousia (παρουσία) means presence and is used to describe the formal visitation of a ruler or prominent person (Matt. 24:3, 27, 37; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23).
Whatever name we give it, Christ will return (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Heb. 9:28).
…will be final…
Dispensationalists see at least two future comings of Christ (although they may describe them as two aspects of the one coming), separate by years and with a different purpose. The parousia (coming for the saints) results in a rapture of the saints and can occur at any moment with no preceding warnings. Christ does not come all the way to earth, but waits in the upper air while dead and living saints are raised and transfigured to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15, 16). This is followed by 7 years during which the world is evangelized (Mat. 24:14), Israel converted (Rom. 11:26), the great tribulation (Mat. 24:21, 22), and the Antichrist is revealed (2 Thess. 2:8-10). The revelation/day of the Lord (coming with his saints) is seven years after the parousia. Christ comes all the way to earth to judge the living nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and usher in the millennial kingdom.
We do not believe that Scripture teaches two further comings.
- The terms parousia and day of the Lord are used interchangeably (2 Thess. 2:1; 2 Peter 3:4).
- The revelation and the parousia are the same event (Matt. 24:37, 39; 1 Cor 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:7, 13)
- The coming of Christ to destroy the Antichrist (the revelation) synchronizes with the parousia (2 Thess. 2:8)
- Matt. 24:29-31 presents the coming of the Lord at which the elect are gathered together as following immediately after the great tribulation.
- The Apostle’s Creed simply speaks of Christ’s return to judge the quick and the dead, which marks the close of redemptive history.
- Christ’s return will signal the inauguration of God’s eternal kingdom and the full redemption of His people (Matt. 24:33; Luke 21:27-28, 31)
…will be personal (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16)…
The person of Jesus was leaving them and the person of Jesus would return (Acts 1:11). He returns Himself, not through another like the Holy Spirit.
…will be physical (Acts 1:11; 3:20, 21; Heb. 9:28; Rev.1:7)…
Jesus will return to earth in the body. This is more than his spiritual coming at Pentecost which the Bible does speak of (Mat.16:28; Jn.14:18,23). The Epistles refer to the second coming as an event still future (Phil.3:20; 1 Thess 3:13; 4:15,16; 2 Thess.1:7-10). This is more than his coming to the individual by way of personal renewal (Gal.1:16). None of these “comings” can be identified with the second coming of Christ. The Greek words apokalupsis, epiphaneia, and phanerosis point to a coming that can be seen.
…will be visible (Matt. 24:27, 30; 26:64; Mk. 13:26; Lk. 21:27; 2 Thess. 2:8; 2 Pet.3:4; Rev. 1:7)…
The dispensationalists speak of a secret first return. However, Matt. 24:27 especially emphasizes the public character of Christ’s return. When Christ comes there can be no deception because there will be no concealment.
…will be sudden (Matt. 24:37-44; 25:1-12; Mk.13:33-37; 1 Thess. 5:2, 3)…
Though preceded by predicted events it will be unexpected and surprising. It will not be gradual or phased Consider the thief in the night language (Matt. 24:43-44; Rev. 16:15; 1 Thess. 5:2). The fact that there will be precursory signs does not contradict the unexpected nature of the second coming. The predicted signs do not designate the exact time. Old Testament prophets pointed to many signs that would precede the first coming, yet few were ready. One things is sure, every human attempt to predict it will be unsuccessful (see Venema 41-49; Hoekema 112-128)
…will be glorious…
He will not return in humiliation but in a glorified body and in royal apparel (Heb. 9:28). This return will publicly display his splendor, honor and authority. The clouds of heaven will be his chariot (Mat.24:30); the angels his bodyguard (Matt.16:27; 2 Thess. 1:7); the archangels his heralds (1 Thess. 4:16); the saints of God his glorious retinue (1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Thess 1:10; Rev. 19:11-14). He will come as king of kings and Lord of Lords, triumphant over all the forces of evil (1 Cor.15:25; Rev.19:11-16)
…will be conclusive.
Premillennialists say the purpose of Christ’s return is to start another chapter or two, to establish the visible reign of Christ and His saints on earth, and inaugurate the real day of salvation for the world. Other resurrections and judgments follow at various intervals. The last resurrection and final judgment are separated from the 2nd coming by 1000 years.
This is wrong. Christ is not coming to write another chapter but to conclude the book. The Lord synchronizes the two events (Mat.24:29-31, 35-44). Peter and John speak of the two coinciding (1 Cor. 15:23-24; 2 Pet. 3:4-10). A study of what will accompany Christ’s return shows that this coincides with the end of the world. The resurrection of the saints will occur then and it will also be on the last day (Jn. 6:39, 40, 44, 54). Christ’s coming will coincide with the judgment of the world and the judgment of the wicked (Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Thess. 1:7-10). It will result in the restoration of all things (Acts 3:20, 21) – The restoration of all things to their former condition (which will not occur in the premillennial millennium – sin and death will continue in that period). Our response to the second coming of Christ:
- We should eagerly long for Christ’s return (Rev. 22:20)
- We await (Phil. 3:20)
- We hope (Titus 2:12-13)
- We hasten (2 Pet. 3:12)
- We pray (1 Cor. 16:22)
- We get ready – Involves doing our daily duties and work God has given us
- We get holy (Rom. 13:12-14; Titus 2:11-13; 1 Peter 1:13-15; 2 Pet. 3:11-12)