Christ’s Glorious Second Coming to Earth
Christ’s dramatic personal intervention in world history will signal the end of the cataclysmic seven-year Tribulation, and lead directly to the start of His millennial Kingdom. It will herald an era both of judgment and blessing for this world.
Whereas Christ’s pre-Tribulation coming to the air to rapture His Church to Heaven is promised in only a few New Testament Scriptures, His later coming in glory to reign over the earth has been predicted from the time of the Genesis patriarch Enoch (Jude 14-15) to the last chapter of the Old Testament (Malachi 4), and many times in the New Testament also. All the prophets, and the Lord Jesus Himself, spoke or wrote about it as a climax in world history; part of the wider “day of the Lord”.
When Christ comes in glory, there will be complete chaos on earth, and death everywhere. The Beast will be ruling the world from his headquarters in the Middle East, demanding worship as if he were God, on pain of death, in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. The campaign of Armageddon will be at its height, and all nations will be gathered around the remnant of Israel in Jerusalem to annihilate them once and for all. Israel will be on the point of defeat, although God will have supernaturally protected a remnant of Jews in the wilderness of Transjordan for three and a half years.
Morally, conditions among mankind will have become like those in the days of Noah before the Flood judgment, and like the days of Lot in Sodom after that. Spiritually, the Lord Jesus indicated that, when He returns, He will not find faith on earth generally, although many will have believed the witness of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists. Some of these converts will have been martyred by the adherents of Babylon the Great or the Beast. Never will there have been in the history of the world a day darker than this one.
Unlike the Rapture of the Church saints, which will be accomplished very suddenly, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor 15.52), Christ’s glorious appearing will be gradual and comparatively slow, so that all men will see Him descending to earth like the sun rising “with healing in his wings” (Mal 4.2).
Several Scriptures graphically describe the triumphant and awesome return of Christ to this world which so tragically rejected, criminally humiliated and crucified Him, “the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2.8). In Revelation 19.11-16, the apostle John saw a vision of Heaven opened, and the glorified Christ riding down to earth on a white horse ready to judge the world in righteousness and to make war with His enemies. His eyes will be like a flame of fire, there will be many royal diadems on His head, His clothing will be dipped in the blood of His foes, but He will still be recognisable as the Man of Calvary by the wound marks that He bears forever.
John says that He was called by four names, which fully reveal His Person and character: “Faithful and True” describes His witness in His earthly life and ministry; His secret name (“that no man knew”) may refer to some aspect of His deity and relationship with His Father; “The Word of God” describes His function in revelation as the expression of the mind, purposes and character of the triune Godhead; “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” predicts His absolute supremacy in both the earthly realm of the world He made and in the spiritual realm He controls. A sharp sword will come out of His mouth to smite the nations whom He is about to rule with a rod of iron, and He will then tread the winepress of the fierce wrath of Almighty God. John saw that there were vast armies accompanying Him, comprising many holy angels, along with the New Testament Church saints whom He had raptured to Heaven about seven years previously. Creation’s rightful Monarch will be returning to exercise His great power, and reign.
Its Immediate Effects
Christ’s glorious return will have several immediate dramatic effects. First of all, every eye on earth will see Him, and all unbelievers will wail at the prospect of their imminent judgment (Rev 1.7). Secondly, the surviving remnant of Israel will recognise their Deliverer as the Man of Calvary whom they crucified, repent of their grievous sin, mourn deeply for it, and be saved as a nation in a day (Zech 12; Isa 66.8). Thirdly, when the Lord’s feet touch the summit of the Mount of Olives on the east of Jerusalem, from where He ascended to Heaven (according to Acts chapter 1), there will be a great earthquake, and the mountain will divide into two (east to west), creating a great valley through which the survivors of Israel will escape to safety (Zech 14). Fourthly, Christ will immediately defeat the armies of the nations gathered against Him, easily destroy their leaders (the Beast and the False Prophet) with the breath of His mouth, and cast them into the Lake of Fire forever, as its first occupants. There will be great carnage (Rev 19.17-21).
Very soon after His return, Christ will judge all the surviving nations on earth, both Israel and the Gentiles. No unbelievers, either Jewish or Gentile, will be allowed to enter His coming Kingdom of righteousness and peace (Jn 3.3). Israel will be judged in the wilderness near the Promised Land, and there the Lord will purge out from among them the rebels and transgressors (Ezek 20.33-44). The Gentile living nations will be brought before Christ’s throne of glory, and be judged according to how they have treated His brethren (probably the Jewish evangelists of Revelation chapter 7). This will be both the test and proof of their faith in Him, since to help God’s servants during the Tribulation will be very dangerous and costly. Those who fail this test will be sent at once into everlasting punishment (Mt 25.31-46). Isaiah chapters 34 and 63 indicate that, at that time, Edom will be finally judged by Christ as the divine Warrior, because of their particular enmity towards Him and His people Israel.
Immediately after the end of the Tribulation, and just before the beginning of Christ’s reign, two separate resurrections will take place. First, Daniel 12.2 predicts the resurrection of Old Testament saints to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom, rather than the national revival of Israel. Verse 13 of that chapter confirms that Daniel, and thus all Old Testament saints, will be raised from among the dead at the very end of the Tribulation, not with the New Testament Church at the prior Rapture, as some believers think. Secondly, Revelation 20.4-5 predicts that all the martyred Tribulation saints will be resurrected at this point to reign with Christ during His Kingdom. These events will form the final two instalments of the first resurrection of all believers. The unbelieving dead will not be resurrected until after the end of the millennial Kingdom.
Its Lasting Achievements
When Christ returns in glory to reign, He will save His people Israel from imminent annihilation by their enemies, and regenerate a faithful remnant of them to become the chief nation on earth. Also, He will deliver the surviving believers among the Gentiles, so that they enter His Kingdom. He will judge all sinners who oppose Him, and rule the whole world in unprecedented righteousness and peace. The knowledge of His transcendent glory will fill the whole earth and, at first, there will be no dissenting voices among the world’s population.
Its Moral Challenge
What a transformation Christ will make to the fortunes of both believers and unbelievers on the earth when He comes in glory! Are we today looking eagerly, not only for His coming for His Bride, the Church, but also for His subsequent glorious appearing to save, judge, and reign without a rival? Do we love it, as Scripture encourages us to do? There is a crown of righteousness reserved in Heaven for all faithful believers who “love his appearing” (2 Tim 4.8). Who then are ‘the watching, the faithful, the few, prepared for review’; like Paul, serving the Lord in the light of that soon-dawning day of glory?
(To be continued …)