As the Jews in the Old Testament looked for the coming of the Messiah, so the Christian now looks for the return of Christ. There is no truth more clearly taught in God’s word, no fact more firmly established, no warning more emphatic than the second coming of Christ. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Pet. 3:10). “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:44).
No man knows when the Lord will return, and it is foolish for any man to pretend that he does know. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only…Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:36, 42). We must not pretend to be wiser than the angels and attempt to set a date for the Lord’s return.
At the same time, every believer should be deeply interested in His return. The thought of His return should quicken the heart of every Christian. Many are being deceived in regard to things which will take place when He comes. Theories that are very harmful have been woven around the return of Christ, and many sincere people have been led astray regarding these things.
There was purpose in His first coming, and there is a purpose in His second coming. Christ came the first time to save man. “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). To accomplish this task it was necessary that Christ offer Himself a sacrifice for our sins. It was also necessary that He set up His kingdom, which is the church. While on earth all that Christ did was to carry out the will of the Father. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). In the very shadow of the cross, Christ prayed to the Father, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4).
Christ will not come a second time to offer Himself a sacrifice for man’s sins, but to judge the world.
But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die…so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb. 9:26-28).
Every person who ever lived will appear before Him in judgment. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). After the reign of mercy comes the reign of justice; after the gospel that grants pardon and peace, the law that inflicts punishment and sorrow. There is no doubt about it. Christ will come the second time to judge the world.
Our Lord is coming the second time to raise the dead. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29). Christ did not teach two resurrections, one for the good, and one for the wicked a thousand years later. All will be raised on the same day and at the same hour. This will take place on the last day. Jesus said, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day…And I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).
When Christ returns it will be the last day. It is called “the day of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:10). On this day Christ will not set up His kingdom, but will return the kingdom to the Father.
But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign, til he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:23-26).
This passage forever disputes the theory of a future kingdom and a 1,000 year reign on earth. At His coming, “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10).
Christ’s return will not be a secret appearance. “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7).
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God…Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Pet. 3:11-14).