The Return of Jesus Refs
Although Christian denominations are divided on what will happen when Jesus Christ returns to the earth, the Bible is extremely clear. The Bible describes how he will return, what he will do when he returns, even where he will be on earth. But it doesn’t tell us when he will return.

Acts 1:6-14

One of the most graphic scenes in the Bible is depicted in Acts 1. Jesus and his disciples had walked from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. As Jesus lifted up his hands and blessed them, he started rising. The disciples watched awe-struck as Jesus ascended to heaven, disappearing from sight in a cloud. Suddenly, they saw two men “dressed in white” beside them. These angels explained that Jesus would return.

1. Jesus knew he had to depart. How did he know?
2. Did the disciples know beforehand that Jesus was going to be taken to heaven, and some time later to return?
3. Angels told the disciples that Jesus would come back in the same way they had seen him go. What did this mean?

Why is he coming?
The purpose of Jesus’ return is to accomplish the remaining things promised in both Old and New Testament prophecies. He will finish the work he began when he was first on earth. Hebrews explains

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)

It will be a time of great excitement for his followers who have been waiting for his return for nearly 2000 years. It will also be a time of extraordinary change as this world of sin and violence has to learn to live in peace and righteousness.

When is he coming?
In the passage above, we read that Jesus will come back to dwell on earth just as surely as his disciples saw him go. He will return at a time determined by his Father.

Before Jesus died, the disciples asked him when he would come.

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us”, they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)

Jesus answered

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. . . So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36,44)

So we don’t know exactly when Jesus will return.

However, God has given us some signs which suggest that Jesus’ return will be soon. For example:

• he said that Israel would return to their land and re-establish their nation before the kingdom (e.g. Ezekiel 37);
See Chapter 3. Prophecy concerning Israel.

• we are warned that before Jesus returns there will be a time of great immorality (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
What other signs of Jesus’ near return are there?

What will happen?
Further on in Matthew 24 we read that at the time of his appearing his arrival will be as obvious as lightning ?ashes which are seen “from the east . . . to the west”. This means his return will be highly visible.

However, we also read of a widespread rejection of Jesus at his return.

. . . this will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

We also read of nations prepared to go to war against him.

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. (Psalm 2:1-2)

This creates an extraordinary situation: his return has all the appearance of a supernatural occurrence and yet a seemingly large proportion of the world’s population either ignore, misunderstand or fight against it.
Why won’t some people recognize him?

Promises of Jesus’ return
Matthew 16:27; 25:31; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11; 3:20-21; 1 Thes­salonians 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Titus 2:13; Revelation 22:20.
The purpose of Jesus’ return
Hebrews 9:28.
War when Jesus returns:
Psalm 2:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.
The judgement seat of Christ
Matthew 25:31-46; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Romans 2:6-8,16; 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 4:5.
Being ready for Jesus’ return
Matthew 24:36-44; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:34-36; 1 Thes­salonians 5:2-3; Revelation 16:15.
Signs of Jesus’ return
Ezekiel 37; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 16:2-3; Luke 17:20-24; 21:24-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:1-4.

Jesus: the judge
One of Jesus’ first tasks when he returns will be to judge the world. This is when the faithful are given immortality. Paul

For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
See Chapter 44. Judgement.

He also wrote:

God “will give to each person according to what he has done”. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger . . . This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ. (Romans 2:6-8,16)

Being ready for Jesus’ return
Jesus and the writers of the New Testament letters warned people frequently that they should stay alert looking for his return. They emphasised the need for everyone to be careful not to be distracted by the cares of this life and to watch and eagerly wait for Jesus to come back.

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:42-44)

Jesus will return:
• in the same way he ascended into heaven;
• at a time appointed by God;
• in a manner which will be widely witnessed, but possibly equally widely misunderstood;
• with a company of angels;
• to fulfil his role as judge;
• to establish God’s Kingdom;
• to rule over the Kingdom.

1. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Many people think this passage teaches that the kingdom will be in heaven (“in the air”). But this would contradict all the other clear Bible teaching we have seen. So what is the passage teaching? Can you find any other passages which talk about people being taken away when Jesus returns?
2. Jesus taught us to pray for the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). Does this mean our prayers will alter the timing of Jesus’ return?
3. Why is it dangerous to try to predict the time of Christ’s return?

1. Read Matthew 24:32-51.

(a) What facts about Jesus’ return are certain, and what matters are left uncertain?
(b) What does it mean to keep watch? What are we meant to be watching?
(c) How are the days before the Lord’s return similar to the days of Noah and Lot? Are there similarities with the present day?

2. Jesus was taken up just outside Jerusalem (Acts 1). Is there any reference in the Bible indicating where he will return to earth? Is Zechariah 14:4 applicable?

• Thine is the kingdom by Peter Southgate (published by the Dawn Book Supply, second ed., 1997). Chapter 11 “The coming of the king”. 34 pages.
• The Christadelphians: what they believe and preach by Harry Tennant (published by The Christadelphian, 1986), Chapter 26 “Signs of Christ’s return”. 12 pages.
• Planet earth’s last hope by Alan Hayward (published by Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1973). This 128 page book shows that the return of Jesus is the only hope for saving our planet.

31. Jesus as Messiah
39. What is Jesus doing now?
44. Judgement
45. The kingdom of God