In the last blog, we identified that God’s Word makes it clear that Christ will return again. In this blog, I want to dive into how God has given us things to watch for that signify and point to His return and how we should think about His return. I want to show you how our view of God can shape our thoughts about His return. In other words, how we think about Christ’s return says a lot, not just about our view of eschatology, but also much about our view of theology.
First, we are not waiting on Christ’s return just so we can live in heaven, worry-free and to glory in our riches. I remember an old cartoon called DuckTales, where Scrooge used to go into his vault and dive into the treasures he had stored away. He was content in his vault, all alone with his gold. I believe that some people picture heaven this way, where they will be diving alone in their vaults filled with treasure, worry-free, and it wouldn’t matter to them if Christ was there or not. In talking to people about the coming of Christ, I often ask them, “Would it matter to you if when you got to heaven if Christ was not there?” Think about that question for a moment, because it is an important one that will help us really see where our hearts are.
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
So how should we think about His return? First, the gospel of Jesus does not start in the New Testament. It starts with His deity, His oneness with God, His eternal being, which is why John 1:1 points us back to the beginning of creation. The gospel also covers Christ’s kingdom reign, which was prophesized in 2 Samuel 7:12-13 where David was told that a descendant of his would reign forever on the throne (Also see Psalm 89:4).
2 Samuel 7:12–13 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
The fulfillment of this prophecy is what the people of Israel were waiting for. They eagerly awaited the reign of the Messiah forever, where they would be His people, forever in the presence of their King. As we move forward to the New Testament, we see that this is what they were looking for as the disciples kept inquiring as to when Jesus would establish His Kingdom. Then notice in Revelation 21:1-4 that the focus of the passage is that God will be with humanity and that they will be with Him.
Revelation 21:1–4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
The highlight of the passage is that God has been reunited with His bride, which is the church. This is what we are to have our hearts fixed upon. Notice in the passage that it says that we will be His people and He will be our God. Forever Jesus will reign upon the throne, and as His people, we should be looking for the coming of His kingdom, His reign, and to be in His presence. If I was to ask the question again, ““Would it matter to you if when you got to heaven if Christ was not there?” Our response should be that a place without Christ would be more like hell to us than heaven. Our great desire should be to be in His presence, to be able to gaze upon our Savior, our Redeemer, and to do as we see the elders, the angels, and all of creation doing in Revelation 5:11-14, worshipping the Lamb who was slain!
Revelation 5:11–14 | Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Oh, what a day that will be! A day where we get to be His people and to be in His Kingdom. Yes, we praise God for the many other things that He promises us, but our greatest treasure is Him. So, the way in which we are anticipating His return says a whole lot about our view of God, and in turn, our theology. And I don’t know about you, but I pray often that He would be magnified in my own heart and that I would love Him more than anything or anyone else and be eagerly awaiting to be in His presence.
As we eagerly wait, what is it that we are watching for that indicates to us that God’s Word is being fulfilled and that we are that much closer? As I mentioned in my last blog, God is not a God of confusion, and He has told us that there are signs that we should watch for. Even though we won’t know the day or hour, we have been given signs to look for.
In His Word, Jesus lays out a sequence of events, and particularly, He calls out three periods that we can know are coming. The first period is what He calls the birth pangs (Matthew 24:8). This period occurs before the seven-year tribulation period will begin, where trials will take place, where suffering will occur, and where many will come saying they are Christ to lead many astray (Matthew 24:5). I believe we are in this period now and that while we are in this period, Christ is sitting at the right-hand side of the Father awaiting the time in which He will be given the throne in the kingdom that will come, which I will discuss in future blogs.
Hebrews 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
And while we wait for that time, many have already come claiming to be Him as Jesus said would happen.
There other signs that are also written as part of the birth pangs you can study, but to move on, another milestone that must be accomplished before we move into the seven-year tribulation period is the gospel has to be preached to all nations and as Jesus says, “then the end will come.”
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Once this takes place, we will enter the tribulation period. This timing would be very hard to pinpoint, and honestly, we shouldn’t try, because Jesus has already told us that only the Father knows the exact timing. However, there are people trying to keep track of this within organizations like the Joshua Project, but I believe they are doing it for the right reasons, not trying to calculate His return, but instead to help us identify where the gospel needs to be preached to fulfill the great commission.
Now let’s discuss how the tribulation period that Jesus mentioned is broken down. Above I mentioned that we would move into the seven-year tribulation period, but in reality, that period is broken into two parts. The first half, Jesus calls the tribulation and the second half He calls the great tribulation. We also see these time periods spoken of in Revelation 11:2-3, and in Revelation 12:6.
Revelation 11:2–3 but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
In Matthew 24:9 He goes on to say that they would be delivered over to the tribulation and then in verse 21, after listing out many more signs, He says they will be delivered over to the great tribulation period. The great tribulation then is a three-and-a-half-year period after the tribulation period which is also a three-and-a-half-year period. The two periods together equal the seven-year period that many normally reference as the tribulation period. According to Jesus’ teachings, after the abomination of desolation is standing in the holy place, we will then be in the great tribulation period.
Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
Many believe the abomination of desolations is the antichrist, sitting in the temple, which means that the temple would have to be rebuilt in Jerusalem first if that is a correct view. This does make sense since for the first three and a half years, the antichrist will deceive the people of Israel and then at the three-and-a-half-year mark, begin claiming to be God. I also want to note that many talk about earthquakes and destruction taking place, and then claim we are in the last times meaning the tribulation period. However, those things are also listed in the birth pangs. The difference is that Jesus says that the earthquakes we will have in the great tribulation period are far worse than anything else we have seen.
Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.
It is at this point, when the great tribulation begins that in the scriptures, we see Christ coming to rapture up His people. I will pick up here in our next blog explaining where we see the rapture in God’s Word and describe the differences between this appearance of Christ where He calls up His people and His actual second coming where He will come down to earth and reign forever. Please keep this in mind, that when He raptures His church that I do not believe that is technically His second coming, because He doesn’t fully come down to earth, but it is His return as described in Acts. In the next blog, we will get into those details. So, stay tuned!
Let’s finish here, thinking about how glorious it will be to be in His presence when we meet Him. As we look forward to this time and as we think about the many signs we have been given, let’s remember that as His children, we are praying that His kingdom would come, and participating in His kingdom work until He comes, eagerly waiting to be with our Savior. This is why studying the book of Revelation is a wonderful thing to do, because it sets our minds on the time where Christ will take His place on the throne and when we will be with Him! What a beautiful thing to study and to think about.