If we are going to restore New Testament Christianity, then I believe we need to restore a biblical emphasis on the Return of our King. As Christians, the Return of Jesus is our hope. It is what we should be longing for (2 Timothy 4:8). But many of us don’t long for His appearing, because we don’t understand the pivotal role the Return plays in the Christian story. Here are a few things we can expect when Jesus comes back.
Resurrection of the Dead
Most Christians I talk to simply seem to believe we go to heaven when we die. They believe that when this life is over, we immediately go to our eternal dwelling place and that’s it. The story is over. But that’s really not a biblical concept.
The Bible actually says very little about what existence is like for God’s people when they die. Here are a few details we can piece together:
- Jesus simply described it as being at “Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22).
- Paul said that it was “gain” and was “far better” to “depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:21-23).
- The Spirit said it is a “blessed” state of “rest” (Revelation 14:13).
But these are only a few minor footnotes in the biblical story. The real story is about the dead waiting to be raised to life again. When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised and transformed, receiving brand new glorious bodies.
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
In the biblical story, death is a curse that has fallen over the whole earth because of our rebellion against God. Like characters in a fairytale, mankind has lived under this curse for millennia, anxiously waiting for someone to come and break the spell. The Good News is, Jesus has already broken the curse. And when He comes again, the curse will be lifted once and for all. No more death!
Jesus will call us forth from the realm of the dead, transform our bodies into immortal bodies, and from the moment we meet Him in the air, “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
While we wait for Jesus to return, we are to live in obedience to the Gospel. In other words, we are to live in obedience to Jesus’ Kingship. We are to be His faithful servants, believing He is the King of the world who broke the curse, believing He is coming back, and believing He will reward our love, loyalty, and devotion.
Jesus is calling His entire creation to receive this Good News, to receive Him as King, to bow their knees in humble allegiance to Him. Sadly, the majority of mankind continues to rebel. They continue to choose the way of darkness, the way of death. For them, the Return will not be celebratory reunion.
Jesus will return with “mighty angels.” He will come in “flaming fire.” As for those who are not living in obedience to the gospel:
“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
Neither the living nor the dead, who reject the grace and mercy of God, will escape this fate. The dead who do not belong to the Lord will be raised to face this judgement. But God wants to spare as many as possible from this fate. He is giving mankind ample opportunity to stop rebelling and repent (2 Peter 3:9).
The Destruction of the Earth
Peter compares the Day of the Lord to the days of Noah, when the earth was destroyed by water. In those days, God destroyed the wicked world with a flood and gave Noah a brand new place to dwell. The Bible tells us that we are headed toward a second destruction of the world.
“The heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:5-7).
Everything in the world is under the curse and it will all be destroyed by fire. But it seems creation itself is waiting for this cleansing fire, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
After the heavens pass away with a roar, after the heavenly bodies are burned up and dissolved, after the earth and the works that are done on it are exposed, then God’s people will be like Noah’s family when they stepped off the ark. We will have a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
The Bottom Line
The fire is coming, but those who are in Christ have NOTHING to fear. We don’t know what our new bodies will be like except that they will be new, glorious, and imperishable. We don’t know what our new home will be like, except that we will always be with the Lord. And for me, that’s all that matters.
Because of His grace, I get to be with my Lord and His people for all eternity. Which is why I desperately long for His return!
I love you and God loves you,