What is Christ coming again for?

SOMETIMES the suggestion is made that Christ will return to live humbly among men as he did before, searching men's hearts by the impact of his own character and teaching. Such an idea misunderstands what Christ achieved in his first coming, and bear no relation to the realities of Christ's Second Coming as they are shown in the Bible. Having suffered, the Lord Jesus "entered into his glory" (Luke 24:26), and it is in that glory that he will come again to the earth. The Lord Jesus will accomplish a work just as real and necessary as that of his first coming, but very different in kind.

(1) Christ will raise from the dead and judge those who have heard his message.

Christ repeatedly said regarding the man or woman who heard his message that, "I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:39, 41, 44, etc.). 

But Christ also spoke of two classes coming forth from the graves: "They that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29). This is very like the prophecy of Daniel: "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2). 

Paul says of the day of Christ's coming: "The dead in Christ shall rise" (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:23), but Paul also mentions two categories: "there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust" (Acts 24:15)

Christ links together his judgment and his glory when he says: "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38). "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33). 

Men cannot be ashamed of Christ or deny him unless they have known of him; therefore Christ appears to limits this judgment to a class made responsible by knowledge. This is in harmony with his teaching elsewhere on that which brings men into condemnation: "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light" (John 3:19). "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge you" (John 12:48). "If you were blind you would have no sin" (John 9:41). 

Paul teaches the same when he says: "Sin is not imputed when there is no law" (Rom. 5:13). He is writing to the Church at Corinth, "them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints", when he says: "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:10). And in the parable, it is those to whom their master has "given the money" that are called to render an account before him at his return (Luke 19:11-25). They are judged according to the responsibility entrusted to them. 

These verses appear to exclude the common idea of a universal resurrection and judgment. There is evident justice in the teaching of Bible that those who have not heard the message, though they cannot be rewarded with life as though they had been faithful to it, also will not be condemned as though they had despised it. Like the animals to whom God "gives their meat in due season" (Psalm 104:27), such men enjoy the benefits of this mortal life only then they pass away "like the beasts that perish they shall never see light" (Psalm 49:19-20). "they will not arise" (Isaiah 26:14)

(2) Christ's Kingdom will be an actual kingdom on earth with its capital in Jerusalem.

In Psalm 2, which gives a picture of the raging of the nations at Christ's appearing, God says: "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion (2:6). 

The Bible also says: "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3); "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom" (Isaiah 9:7); "The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever" (Luke 1:32-33).

(3) Christ will defeat by force those nations who try to resist him.

A prophecy about the return of Christ predicts resistance from the nations of the earth: "Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed [his Christ] (Psalm 2:1-2)

But the Psalm continues "Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." (Psalm 2:10-12). 

"The Lord shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake" (Joel 3:16). "The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the LORD.'" (Jeremiah 25:31). 

In his prophecy of the successive phases of human rule under the symbol of wild beasts Daniel has a vision of the divine judgment to come in the time of the fourth beast; and he says: "I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away" (Daniel 7:11-12).

(4) Christ will extend his dominion over the whole earth, and after a reign of a thousand years, during which he will destroy death itself, will hand up the rule of the Kingdom to his Father.

"He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust . . . Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him: all nations shall serve him" (Psa. 72:8-11; Zech. 9:10). 

John, describing his vision in Revelation, says the saints who were "made a kingdom of priests to God" (Revelation 1:7) "on earth" (5:10) "reigned with Christ a thousand years" (20:4). 

As the period of 1,000 years is only mentioned in Revelation it may be symbolic, but Christ reigning for a long period is implied by the words of Paul: 

"Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For "God has put all things in subjection under his feet." But when it says, "all things are put in subjection," it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-18)


NEXT: 3. Signs that the return of Christ is near