Welcome to the eighth lesson in the “Bible Prophecy and You” series.
The late Paul Harvey, on his long-time News and Commentary radio program, used to say that the story he would most like to report on would be the second coming of Jesus Christ. It will indeed be the greatest event in all history—the climactic turning point for planet earth!
Lesson 6 in this prophecy series focused on Christ’s first coming—His birth, life, death and resurrection—when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). As we saw, the Bible contains many prophecies of His first coming. But the Bible has almost three times as many prophecies of His second coming!
Until Christ’s death and resurrection, it was commonly assumed that the Messiah would come only once—that the messianic prophecies were about only one set of events instead of two (though some reasoned there would be two or three messiah figures to fulfill the different passages). Since most believers in the Scriptures were expecting the Messiah of King David’s lineage to be a conquering king, they didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
Today many people are making a similar but opposite mistake in thinking that Jesus Christ came only once and that He will not return. But how can anyone profess to believe the Bible and not believe the many, many prophecies and promises that Christ will return to set up His Kingdom on earth?
As we saw in the last lesson, Jesus Himself promised, “I will come again.” But at the time of His return, most people will be so deceived and confused by counterfeit teachings that they will reject Him. May that not be true of you!
Perhaps no other study is as exciting as the subject of the return of Christ! The truth of all that will happen at that time is more spectacular than any fictional tale.
An American volunteer working in Jordan shares his perspective: “During the past year, while living and working in Jordan, I’ve been continually reminded of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Most of the people living in Jordan are Palestinian and are not shy about sharing their strong beliefs and angry feelings about the ‘Zionists.’
“I’ve met so many wonderful people in Jordan—hospitable, caring people who would give you anything they had. So it always surprises me, scares me and deeply saddens me to witness the hatred that a group of people can have for another group of people. That perspective and passion is passed down from one generation to the next. I see here in this land the legacy of ancient conflict going back to the time of Isaac and Ishmael. I see how extremely difficult it is for people to forgive and reconcile and love their neighbors.
“I know that this conflict will never be over until Christ returns to the earth and sets up His Kingdom—until the hearts of all people are changed and their eyes are set on God. It will be marvelous to see people and nations learning to live, work and play together in peace under the rule of God’s Kingdom—when the law of love is taught to all peoples and it prevails over all lands. I long to see the day when all people will have the understanding and hope from the Word of God that I am blessed to have!”
Bible prophecy gives understanding
Bible prophecies are important because they are revelations from God. “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
God inspired many prophets and apostles to write down prophecies of a coming glorious Messiah and “Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).
The earlier biblical prophets didn’t have full understanding of how their prophecies would be fulfilled. Many questions in their minds went unanswered. Even the angels longed to better understand! (1 Peter 1:10-12). It has been through Jesus Christ, His apostles and the Church that human beings and angels can at last understand the “mystery” of the overall plan of God and the central role of Jesus Christ in that plan through both His first and second comings (Ephesians 3:8-10).
Referring to the spiritual understanding available to us through the Bible, Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:16-17).
Keep in mind that knowledge is only valuable when it’s used and applied. Also keep in mind that many end-time events and people are connected with the return of Christ that will not be discussed in this short lesson. Many will be covered in other lessons.
Let’s now take note of several important prophecies and their fulfillments.
Did Jesus promise He would return “with power and great glory”?
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-30).
He said He would return after the Great Tribulation and after heavenly signs. He also said that “the tribes of the earth will mourn” rather than welcoming Him!
What message did Jesus and the apostles regularly preach?
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God . . .” (Mark 1:14).
His message was “the gospel of the kingdom of God.” The focus of the New Testament is on the exciting anticipation of the coming Kingdom of God (or, as often called in the book of Matthew, “the kingdom of heaven”) and how we may be a part of that Kingdom. The Greek word translated “gospel” means good news. And the message of that Kingdom and how we can enter it truly is the best news possible!
What is the Kingdom of God? It is the direct reign of God over the entire earth, which the Bible shows will begin with Jesus Christ’s return as King of Kings! Therefore, every Bible prophecy of future peaceful, utopian conditions is based on the sure promise that Christ will return to bring about those conditions! (More will be explained in other lessons about the Kingdom of God and its first 1,000 years, often called the Millennium.)
What were most of Jesus’ parables about?
“He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given . . .’”
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside . . .”
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field . . .’”
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field . . .’”
“Another parable He spoke to them: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened . . .’”
“The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one . . .”
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness . . .”
“Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls . . .”
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind . . .”
“Then He said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old’” (Matthew 13:11; Matthew 13:19, Matthew 13:24; Matthew 13:31; Matthew 13:33; Matthew 13:38; Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:43-45; Matthew 13:47; Matthew 13:52).
Most of Jesus’ parables were “kingdom parables”—giving numerous insights into the Kingdom of God. Such parables about “a man traveling to a far country” who later returns (Matthew 25:14) and about “a certain nobleman [who] went into a far country” and later returns (Luke 19:12) are clearly referring to Jesus going to heaven and later returning to the earth.
What will be one of Christ’s first acts as He is returning?
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
He will resurrect (bring back to life) the dead saints and change the living saints to immortal life! (In the Bible, the word saint refers to any true follower of Christ, one who is led by the Holy Spirit.) As the shout, voice and trumpet in this passage show, there won’t be anything secret about Christ’s return. As other scriptures also show, it will be a spectacular display! (See also 1 Corinthians 15 for a more thorough discussion of the resurrection.)
We are told to “watch” for Christ’s coming. What does that mean?
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.
“But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:42-51).
To “watch” means we need to stay spiritually awake and vigilant concerning our spiritual condition and events signaling the Lord’s coming because we don’t know when He will return. It means to stay close to God—ready to meet our Maker at anytime—since the end of this life comes at death or when Christ returns, whichever comes first.
It means to be busy about our Father’s business—obeying and serving Him and serving our fellow man. It means to watch for events signaling His coming with hope and eager anticipation. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
How does the apostle John describe the return of Christ to the earth?
“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he [an angel] said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” . . .
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
“Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:6-16).
Here is the vision that Jesus Christ gave to John of what His second coming will be like—majestic, spectacular and awe-inspiring! The saints, then made kings and priests, will “reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10)—with Christ, under God the Father, reigning supreme over all!
Does the book of Revelation begin and end with emphasis on Christ’s return?
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7).
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book . . .
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work . . .”
“And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely . . .”
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:12; Revelation 22:17; Revelation 22:20).
Yes! The last quote of Jesus Christ in the Bible is Him telling us, “Surely I am coming quickly.” And then John adds, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Truly, God’s people should be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
In Jesus’ outline of things to pray about (often called “the Lord’s prayer”) in Matthew 6:9-13 and in Luke 11:2-4, one of the things we are to daily pray to God is “Your kingdom come.” This means to pray that Jesus Christ will soon return to establish God’s Kingdom on earth so we will at last have worldwide peace, purity and plenty. It also means to pray that we will be spiritually ready and that we’ll be a light to others to influence them to be ready.
Give this some deep thought. And before the day is over, tell God some of the reasons you long for His Kingdom to come.
To learn more about what this coming Kingdom will be like, be sure to download or request your free copy of our study guide The Gospel of the Kingdom.