Yes, he’s coming back.
Acts 1.1-11 KWL
- 1 Theófilos: In the first work I made about everything Jesus began to do and teach,
- 2 giving commands to his chosen apostles through the Holy Spirit, till the day he was raptured.
- 3 Jesus also stood before them, alive, after his suffering,
- appearing to them 40 days, speaking about God’s kingdom.
- 4 While together with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem,
- but “wait for the Father’s promise which you heard from me:
- 5 John baptized with water, and after not too many days,
- you’ll all be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
- 6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus:
- “Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?”
- 7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing.
- That, the Father sets by his own free will.
- 8 But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.
- You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”
- 9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured.
- A cloud concealed him from their eyes.
- 10 While they were watching him go up into the sky,
- look!—two men in white clothing stood by them.
- 11 The men said, “Galileans, why’d you stand looking at the sky?
- This Jesus, raptured from you into the sky like this,
- will come back like you saw him go into the sky.”
Hence we Christians expect, once God decides the time is right, Jesus will return to the earth. In person. As the head of an invading army of angels and at least 2 billion newly-resurrected Christians. At that time, it’s to take possession of the earth he created, set up God’s kingdom on earth, and rule it himself as king.
We call this the
The men in white described Jesus’s return as something like Jesus’s rapture. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy apparently got an update on the details from Jesus, and described it to the Thessalonians as a little bit grander:
1 Thessalonians 4.15-18 KWL
- 15 We tell you this message from the Master.
- We who are still alive at the Master’s second coming don’t go ahead of those who’ve died.
- 16 With a commanding shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
- the Master himself will come down from heaven.
- The Christian dead will be resurrected first.
- 17 Then, we who are left, who are still alive,
- will be raptured together with them into the clouds,
- to meet the Master in the air.
- Thus, we’ll be with the Master—always.
- 18 So encourage one another with these words!
Seriously. Two billion Christians.
I went into greater detail about the rapture elsewhere. But the general idea is, at the time the Father chooses for Jesus to invade, all the dead Christians are getting resurrected.
True, a lot of people who identify themselves as “Christian” suck at being Christian, and in some cases aren’t even. This is why people balk whenever I say 2 billion. They figure it’s more like the 20 percent of Christians in our churches who actually participate—so Jesus is only bringing a tenth of 2 billion. That’s 200 million, and since it’s still a substantial number, sometimes they wanna reduce it even further—say, leave out all the denominations they don’t like. But the problem with reducing God’s kingdom is it forgets the kingdom runs on grace. True, Jesus obviously has a problem with people who claim to be Christian yet have the attitudes of antichrists.
Anyway. All these Christians will get raptured into the clouds to meet our Master. There are different theories as to what comes next: Some Christians claim we then go to heaven, and stay there till a 7-year period of tribulation’s finally over. Other Christians claim we stay there permanently, ’cause that’s where the kingdom gets set up, and the rest of the earth goes foom in an orgy of death and fire. Me, I stick with what the prophets and apostles indicated throughout the bible: God’s kingdom will be established on earth. Once raptured to meet with Jesus, we proceed—following Jesus—back to earth as part of his procession. We’re not leaving; we’ve got work to do.
By “resurrection” we mean our bodies get changed into new, improved, immortal bodies. Just like the one Jesus received when he was resurrected.
1 Corinthians 15.50-57 KWL
- 50 Fellow Christians, I say flesh and blood aren’t able to inherit God’s kingdom.
- Nor can decay inherit the indestructible.
- 51 Look, I’m telling you a mystery: Everybody won’t die. Everybody will transform.
- 52 In an instant. In an eyeblink. In the last trumpet:
- He blows the trumpet, and the dead will rise—indestructible.
- We’ll be transformed: 53 This decay has to be clothed with indestructibility.
- This mortality has to be clothed with undying.
- 54 Once this decay is clothed with indestructibility,
- once this mortality is clothed with undying,
- then the written word will happen: “Death is swallowed by victory.”
- “Death, where’s your victory? Death, where’s your prod?”
- 56 Death’s prod is sin. Sin’s power is Law.
- 57 Grace to God, who gave us victory through our master, Christ Jesus.
We don’t have a lot of details about what’ll happen to the earth once Jesus invades it. We definitely have a lot of guesses. My guess, fr’instance: Some world leaders are definitely gonna be resistant. Other world leaders… well, they got raptured along with the rest of us Christians, and are okay with whatever Jesus does. He’s got it all planned out; we just have to trust him with the details.
What we do have in the meanwhile, is how Jesus expects life to be lived in his kingdom. We have his teachings. We have his Sermon on the Mount. We even have his Law from the Old Testament. We know what he’s like; we know his expectations; we know he wants to bring peace and harmony, bring love, kindness, grace, goodness, and forgiveness.
We also know he’s gonna have 2 billion followers helping him implement it. Two billion indestructible followers. Insurgents aren’t gonna know what to do with us: We’re impossible to stop, yet we won’t shoot back! It’s gonna be weird. But the good kind of weird.
The reign of Jesus.
The point of Jesus’s return isn’t to judge the world. That comes way later. It’s to rule the world personally, and rule it right, as opposed to the way we’ve been mucking it up for millennia.
It’s to take a hands-on role in undoing the effects of sin and death. That’s why we Christians are getting resurrected: We’re no longer gonna be affected by either of those things. In Revelation John wrote we’d be priests of God and Christ, and rule with him for a thousand years.
As I said, one of the Christian theories is that when Jesus returns it’s Judgment Day. That idea has seeped into popular culture: People figure when Jesus returns, he’s gonna be pissed, and start smiting people left and right. Blood flowing hip deep. And yes, that imagery is found in the bible,
Luke 6.35-36 KWL
- 35 “In contrast: Love your enemies. Do good. Lend, never expecting payback.
- Your reward will be great, and you’ll be the Most High’s children:
- He’s kind to the ungrateful and evil.
- 36 Be compassionate like your Father is compassionate.”
Jesus isn’t gonna suddenly switch personalities, drop his friendly loving behavior as if it’s an act or disguise, ditch everything he ever taught us, and transform into Angry Vengeful God now that he’s in charge. He’s gonna do as he’s always done: He’s gonna fix what’s wrong. It won’t be Judgment Day yet! That comes at the very end.
Matthew 11.28-30 KWL
- 28 “Everybody who’s tired and burdened: Come to me! I’ll have you stop.
- 29 Lift up my yoke onto you. Learn from me that I’m gentle, humble to the heart.
- You’ll find relaxation for your souls, 30 for my yoke is kind. My burden is insignificant.”
Jesus’s return is not a day to fear! It’s not a day to panic because he’s coming to slay the wicked—and oops, he’s gonna catch us being wicked. It’s a day to rejoice! He’s come to fix things. He’s come to fix us. He’s come to give the pagans another chance to repent and turn to him and be healed. He’s come to demolish the arguments of the nontheists, to make the antichrists look like royal jerks, to demonstrate his love for us in person.
He’s come, just as he’s always wanted, to be our God, and for us to be his people.
Of course, Jesus’s literal presence will force people to deal with both him and his worldview. He’ll no longer be a hypothetical, invisible God who lived long ago and far away. He’ll be here, physically on the planet, living in space and time, breathing air, eating food, giving speeches on
People will judge themselves—and him—based on how they agree with him. Some of them will be hugely annoyed and bitter to find we Christians “were right all along.” Others will be hugely annoyed and bitter because we weren’t right all along, and they were really expecting Jesus to be different, namely more like them. Some are gonna be outraged they didn’t get the Angry Vengeful God they wished for: They were really hoping Jesus would smite people, and are furious he won’t.
Yeah, there are still gonna be problems in the kingdom. ’Cause even though it’ll be full of resurrected Christians, it’ll also be full of people who have yet to make decisions for Christ. People to whom Jesus is giving this huge, last chance: Here he is; follow him. So it won’t be heaven yet. And for Jesus’s haters, it won’t be hell yet either—though it’ll be an awful lot for them to get used to. Some of ’em would rather be dead than see their entire world upended by Christ Jesus.
As for us Christians: If we’re not currently making the effort to help Jesus grow his kingdom, it’ll also be a lot for us to get used to:
- Those who’ve always coveted power and influence will be horrified to find every bit of it rightly seized by Jesus.
- Those who put their hope in democracy, will chafe under an unelected king whom they’ve no hope of overthrowing.
- Those who seek riches will find Jesus unsympathetic to their causes.
- Those who never figured they had to grow spiritually—they assumed everything will magically be made perfect at the End—will struggle mightily with the reality of a kingdom they weren’t all that equipped to enter.
These reasons are why we Christians have to follow Jesus now. We’re not just getting the world ready for his return: We’re getting ourselves ready. We’re praying, “Your kingdom come”
Nope, we don’t know when Jesus will return.
Jesus didn’t know either.
Every generation, starting with Peter’s, has taught and believed Jesus’d return in their lifetimes. Every generation pointed to current events as proof he was coming now—“Things are worse than they’ve ever been!” or “Things are better than they’ve ever been!” or just “Look at all the signs!”
Yet Jesus still hasn’t come back. And he did personally warn us that a lot of these “signs” aren’t really. Life’s usual disasters don’t automatically mean the End has come.
Fearful people point to these and say, “Worry.” Gullible people point to those and say “Panic!” And evil opportunists try get the worried and panicking to buy drums of their freeze-dried food for their End Times bunkers. But we Christians are supposed to trust in Jesus. Not our stockpiles of food, gold coins, and firearms.
The reason God concealed a lot of details about the End behind apocalyptic imagery, is because of what happens when Christians think they know the very second of Jesus’s return. From time to time, some fake prophet convinces a band of Christians that Jesus is coming back on a specific date. And every time they do, these Christians stop working. Other than warning everyone around them that the End is near, they stop making plans for the future, stop being responsible with their resources, stop being generous with the needy, stop demonstrating love for their neighbors, stop doing anything but look at the sky like the first apostles did. Their self-centeredness kicked in. Too many people, when you put ’em in a crisis, do nothing.
It’s not at all consistent with Jesus’s instructions for how we’re supposed to watch for him. He put it this way:
Mark 13.33-37 KWL
- 33 “Look. Stay awake. You don’t know when it’s time.
- 34 It’s like a person abroad, who left his home.
- He empowered his employees to do their jobs—and he ordered the doorman so he’d stay awake.
- 35 So stay awake! You don’t know when the master of the house returns.
- Evening? Midnight? Sunrise? Morning? 36 When he suddenly arrives, don’t let him find you asleep.
- 37 What I tell you, I tell everyone: Stay awake!”
While we’re waiting for Jesus, we’re to keep doing and living as he instructed. Keep loving one another, our neighbors, and our enemies. Keep encouraging one another. Teach as he taught. Preach good news. Cure the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. Be Jesus to other people in his absence.
It’s all practice for how he expects us to reign with him once he returns. So don’t just drop everything, do nothing, and stare at the sky in expectation. Take advantage of his delay. Practice the kingdom.