3.4.15 The promise of Jesus Christ's return

The promise of Jesus Christ's return is a central element of New Testament proclamation. Terms such as the "day of the Lord", the "day of Christ", the "future of our Lord", the "revelation of Christ's glory", the "appearing", or the "return of the Lord" all represent the same event: Christ will come again and take His own unto Himself from among the dead and the living. This event is not the Last Judgement, but rather the rapture of the bride of Christ to the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 7).

There are many biblical references to the promise of Christ's return. They can be found throughout the entire New Testament.

  • To begin with, it is the Lord Himself who said to His Apostles: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14: 3). He admonished His disciples to be watchful and prepared: "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Luke 12: 40). The parables of the coming of the Son of Man (see 3.4.8.6) emphasise that the day of Christ will come suddenly and usher in a separation: some will be accepted and others will remain behind.

  • The angels at Jesus' ascension also promised that He will return (Acts 1: 11).

  • Finally, the letters of the Apostles also reinforce the promise of Christ's return. For example, 1 John 3: 2 provides a concise description of the magnificent future of God's children, who will be like the Lord in their perfection. Apostle James appeals to the believers to be patient until the coming of the Lord, "for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5: 8). The author of the epistle to the Hebrews also admonishes patience: "For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry" (Hebrews 10: 37). When Christ returns for the second time, He will not come on account of sin, but will rather appear "to those who eagerly wait for Him ... for [their] salvation" (Hebrews 9: 28).

  • The second epistle of Peter is directed against all those who deny the fulfilment of the promise of Christ's return. Even the possibility of a delay in the fulfilment of this promise is ruled out (2 Peter 3: 9).

  • Apostle Paul reinforces the promise of Christ's return and repeatedly refers to this event in his epistles. There he makes concrete statements on the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of the living on the day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18). This day will come like "a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5: 2). The Apostle concludes his first epistle to the Corinthians with the greeting "O Lord, come!" which originally appears as "Maranatha!" and can also be interpreted to mean "Our Lord is coming!" (1 Corinthians 16: 22).

  • In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, it is the Son of God who reveals what will shortly come to pass (Revelation 1: 1). The call: "Surely I am coming quickly" is the core message of the Revelation. In response to this call, the Spirit and the bride say: "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22: 12, 20).

The cited Bible passages speak of the return of Christ as an event that is imminent and certain to occur, which will bring salvation and fellowship with Christ and thus comfort in hardship and distress (Romans 8: 17-18). Thus the promise of Christ's return constitutes glad tidings for all mankind. Those who have accepted Christ, who carry His Spirit and life within themselves, and who, despite their sinfulness, hold fast to His words: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1: 27) will experience the fulfilment of this promise upon themselves.

SUMMARY

The promise of Christ's return is a central element of New Testament proclamation. The Last Judgement is not associated with this return of Christ. Rather, Christ will take unto Himself those–from among both the dead and the living–who carry His Spirit and His life within themselves. (3.4.15)

Witnesses for the promise of Christ's return can be found throughout the entire New Testament. It is spoken of as an event which is imminent and which will certainly come to pass. (3.4.15)

See also