The Second Coming of Christ to Earth is repeatedly mentioned throughout the New Testament writings. It is this glorious promise of Christ that the apostles and the early church embraced. In the upper room where his faithful followers were gathered, Jesus began his farewell remarks by giving them the comforting message, “Let not your hearts be troubled . . . I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also” (John 14:3). Jesus Christ promised that one day he will be back for his people, returning to earth in glory, marking the final triumph. And it was this blessed hope, the personal presence of the Lord, which proved to be the hope of the New Testament believers. They longed for his appearance, to be with him once again.
The coming of the Lord was, in fact, a key doctrine the apostles taught their converts. He was their hope, and his appearing was what they desired and longed for. This attitude was clearly represented by John in the closing words of the Revelation. After seeing visions of heavenly glory and peace, witnessing the new heaven and the new earth wherein righteousness dwelt, the apostle longed for something greater than just these things. Closer to his heart and mind was the return of his Master, and the prayer that concludes his book is the simple, uncomplicated phrase, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
This attitude appears prevalent in all the New Testament churches, in all the assemblies spread throughout the world. Paul received reports that the Thessalonians “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:9–10). The apostle, likewise, lauded the Corinthians as they “wait for the revealing of . . . Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). The Galatians Paul describes as “waiting by faith for the hope of righteousness” (5:5); and he reminds the Philippian believers that their citizenship is in heaven so they are to wait for the coming of the Lord (3:20). Even the epistle to the Hebrews shows a similar attitude in writing that Christ “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (9:28).
Scripture does not tell us when this day will be. What we do know is that no one knows except the Father (Matt. 24:36). Speculation concerning times and dates is clearly avoided in the New Testament (1 Thess. 5:1); the coming will be sudden and unexpected, “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). Paul does, however, teach the Second Coming will take the form of a descent from the heavens with a great shout, heralded by the archangel and the sounds of trumpets. Christians who have already passed will rise, followed by those still living on Earth to meet the Lord in the air where they will escort Christ to Earth so he can execute his triumphal victory, completing the redemption process.
But before all these events come to fruition, all of God’s people must be brought in. During the days of the apostles scoffers were stirring up controversy with believers, mocking the notion of Christ’s imminent return and asking, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet. 3:4). Peter wrote to comfort his Christian readers and to remind them that the Lord is intentionally delaying his return and subsequent judgment on account of the elect, not wishing that any of his people should perish but granting them a chance to repent (3:9; cf. John 6:39).
It will be a tragic day for those who remain impenitent at the time of Christ’s appearing. For this reason, the thought of what is to come should remain at the forefront of our minds, encouraging us always to press on toward our present Christian responsibilities, knowing our labors are not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Our thoughts and prayers, moreover, should constantly be for the realization of the Second Coming. We should live our lives as if it were the last day and should always be prepared for the return of Christ. This biblical attitude toward our present situation will help us overcome our struggles and will give us hope for today. In so doing, we will carry on through our lives with the same attitude as the apostles, “Come, Lord Jesus!”