Jesus Christ has promised to come again. We know we can trust His promises. After all, didn’t the circumstances of His death and resurrection turn out precisely as He had foretold?
So we need to take Jesus’ promises, instructions, and warnings seriously. He promises He will return soon. He instructs us how to prepare for His imminent return. He warns us to follow Him alone, and not be deceived by false Christs.
Friends, God loves us. We don’t need to be anxious about today, or about the future. All that we need to know has been recorded for us by God in His Word, the Bible. We can take comfort in Jesus’ statement in Mark 13:23: “But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”
How can we recognize the true Jesus? Let’s look first at Jesus’ warnings about false Christs (Mark 13:5-6, 21-23).
Mark 13:5-6 And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.
Mark 13:21-23 “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.”
What can we conclude from these warnings? When Jesus returns, His appearance will not be as a human being who claims to be Christ or who seems to have special powers. Instead, Christ’s return will be so supernatural that there will be no doubt that it is He.
The Return of Christ
The Bible describes what appear to be two separate, distinct events in which Christ returns. These events appear to be quite different in purpose, timing, and appearance.
The first event is commonly called “The Rapture of the Church”. Jesus has promised to come again to take all true believers with Him to heaven (John 14:1-3). In Scripture, this event is described as a dramatic, sudden, catching away of God’s people (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Read the three passages below. How can you recognize Jesus when He returns?
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-52
“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
How will we recognize Jesus? Read the passages again. Then answer these questions:
- What sounds will accompany Jesus’ return?
- How far toward the earth will He descend?
- What happens to believers when He returns?
- Where do believers meet Him?
- What happens to believers’ bodies during this event?
- How fast will this event happen?
- Who will see this event?
Of the Rapture, Christ warns us through many New Testament passages to be ready. No one knows when He will return. He will come in an instant to take those who are faithfully following Him, living a godly life, and watching eagerly for His return.
The second event in which Christ returns is commonly called “The Second Coming”. While the Rapture will be a hidden event, Christ’s Second Coming will be seen by all (Revelation 1:7).
The Second Coming will feature Christ returning to earth to destroy evil and set up His millennial kingdom. When He returns, He is accompanied by His people (one of the indications in Scripture that the Rapture occurs before the Second Coming).
The Rapture is a secret event. No one knows when Christ will come. The timing of the Second Coming, on the other hand, is set precisely in Scripture. Certain events must happen before it occurs. Matthew 24:29 says plainly that the Second Coming will happen immediately after the Tribulation (Matthew 24:29).
Read the Second Coming passages below. How can you recognize Jesus?
“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be…But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10
“For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.”
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
How can you recognize Jesus? Read the passages above again.
In conclusion, both returns of Christ will be so supernatural, there will be no question who the true Jesus is. We should not have a problem being misled by false Christs.
Whatever the timing of the Rapture and the Second Coming, Jesus’ emphasis is “Be ready for My return!”
How can you prepare? Make certain you belong to Jesus. See How Can I Know God?
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