What Is the Second Coming of Christ?

By:
David Finkbeiner  and J. Brian Tucker
Perspective:
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Christians are a people of hope (Heb. 11:1; 1 Cor. 13:13; 15:58), and for good reason. We look forward to the Second Coming of Christ—His bodily return to earth in glory and triumph. When He returns, Christ will complete His grand work of redemption, mete out final justice, restore all creation, dwell forever in fellowship with His renewed people, and more. No wonder Paul declares that the growing Christian waits eagerly “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 ESV). When Christians lose sight of this gloriously sure future, they lose heart or become foolishly distracted by the allures of this world. The wise Christian, then, will frequently reflect on this wonderful future.

“Christ’s second coming involves a complex series of events and their aftermath.”

What will Christ’s return be like? He is going to come back personally (John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16), physically (Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7), and visibly (Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:30–31). Even though there will be signs anticipating His return (Matt. 24), His coming will be sudden and unexpected in the world (Matt. 24:37; 25:1–13; 1 Thess. 5:2–3; 2 Peter 3:3–4). It is of no use to try to set dates for His return—as far too many have tried to do—because no one knows when He will return except God Himself (Matt. 24:36; 25:13; Mark 13:32–33). In fact, we should always be watching and ready for His return, because His return is imminent—it could happen at any time (Matt. 24:42–44, 50; Luke 12:40; James 5:7–9; Rev. 1:3; 22:7).

Christ’s second coming involves a complex series of events and their aftermath. This complexity leads to a variety of theological positions regarding His return. But Protestant evangelicals do agree on some basic realities about His return. We agree that Christ will return literally to the earth and that as a result He will finally vanquish all the forces of evil, fully realize His kingdom reign, raise our bodies from the dead, effect final judgment, and usher in the eternal states of the believer and nonbeliever.

Still, there are significant differences as well. We disagree about whether Christ’s second coming will be a single event, or whether it will occur in two phases, a rapture and then His return to earth. We disagree over the nature of Christ’s kingdom reign, the millennium. We disagree over whether the nation of Israel has a specific role in His kingdom reign. We disagree over whether there will be a great tribulation—a time of unprecedented evil and judgment—prior to the realization of Christ’s reign on the earth. We disagree over the timing of the resurrection and judgment. So too does the matter of heaven and hell, the eternal states of the believer and nonbeliever. Let’s look more closely at these issues, and in so doing, better understand the second coming of Christ.

For Further Reading:

50 Most Important Theological Terms

by J. Brian Tucker and David Finkbeiner

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book cover for 50 Most Important Theological Terms