The tremendous upheavals predicted by the Bible in the end times are often an object of fascination. There will be famines, plagues, earthquakes and horrific wars. The death tolls from these events will be beyond comprehension. In World War II, some estimates of the number of dead are as high as 60 million, which was about 3 percent of the population of the earth at that time. Revelation 9:18 indicates that over 33 percent of all people living in the end times will be killed. Calculating from today's population, that's just over 2.4 billion people, or 40 times the number killed in World War II!
The words of Jesus are clear that all people will see His coming, but Bible prophecy indicates that most will be deceived about His identity.
Given the scale and magnitude of these events, God’s punishment will be evident to the entire world. What about Jesus' coming? Will it be known only to His followers, or will He reveal Himself publicly? How much will people know, and when will they know it?
A glorious appearing and a hostile welcome
Just as the great wrath of God will be seen and experienced by the entire world, Jesus' coming will be a magnificent celestial event that cannot be missed. In Matthew 24:27, Jesus described His coming as "lightning that comes from the east [and] is visible even in the west"—it will light up the whole sky! He continues in Matthew 24:29 to describe the sun being darkened, stars falling to the earth and a great earthquake. After these disturbances, "Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with great power and glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect" (Matthew 24:30-31).
The words of Jesus are clear that all people will see His coming, but Bible prophecy indicates that most will be deceived about His identity. In Revelation 19:19, we find that Jesus is met by an army gathered to fight against Him. This army is under the command of the "beast" and the false prophet, end-time figures described in Revelation 13. Jesus comes prepared for the battle (Revelation 19:11-14), being accompanied by an army of His saints, who are the same "elect" mentioned in Matthew 24:31. The army of this beast will be thoroughly destroyed by Christ and His army (Revelation 19:20-21).
Coming to stay
The word frequently translated as Jesus' "coming" (for example, in Matthew 24:27) is the Greek parousia. In addition to an arrival, parousia conveys a sense of literally entering into someone's physical presence. Jesus’ life in the flesh fulfilled the meaning of His name “Immanuel,” which translates to “God with us” (Matthew 1:23), and the word parousia indicates that He will be coming once again into the presence of man. This is vital to our understanding of what Jesus' future coming entails: He will live on the earth as the King over all mankind! Beginning immediately after His victory over the beast’s army, Jesus and His resurrected saints will begin a 1,000-year period in which they will rule over the entire world (Revelation 20:4).
Jesus will reign from the city of Jerusalem, and people will go there every year during the Feast of Tabernacles to worship Him (Zechariah 14:16). The resurrected saints will be "a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10). The purpose of this righteous kingdom is not merely to rule over the remnant of mankind, but to bring those people into a covenant relationship with God by teaching them His ways (Isaiah 2:3-4). It will be a time of unparalleled peace on the earth, when everyone will know and worship the true God: "They will neither hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
Bringing many sons to glory
The purpose of Jesus' coming is to advance God's ultimate plan, the very reason for human existence: "to bring many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10). Therefore, Jesus' coming will not be a secret, but in fact the beginning of a time when God will be fully revealed to all people, so that all may come to know Him and receive the opportunity of salvation and eternal life.
"No longer will they teach their neighbor or say to one another 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest" (Jeremiah 31:34).