The Glorious Return of Christ
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (v. 11).- Acts 1:6–11
Eschatology, the category of systematic theology under which we study the last things, continues to be the subject of much discussion and debate in our day. Much of the discussion is related to such topics as the timing of the millennium, the identity of the Antichrist, the place of the modern state of Israel in prophecy, and other subjects. These arguments might lead us to think that there is no consensus on eschatological matters in the Christian church. However, that would be a wrong conclusion. As evident in the ecumenical creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed, believers from many different theological traditions agree on core eschatological elements. One of these areas of agreement concerns the return of Christ in glory.
When examining the Bible’s teaching on the return of Christ to consummate His kingdom, we must take care to study only those passages that actually deal with the subject. We say this because some of the texts often referenced on the final return of our Savior may not actually address it. For example, it is likely that most, if not all, of the Olivet Discourse recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 20 has to do with Jesus’ judgment on Jerusalem for rejecting Him, which occurred in the Roman destruction of the city and its temple in AD 70. Those texts, therefore, are not the best places to go, at least at first, when we are studying the final return of Christ.
One of the clearest texts on the subject at hand is Acts 1:6–11, which describes the ascension of Christ. This passage gives us three important facts about the second advent. First, the return of Christ will be personal. The angels note that “this Jesus” will return (v. 11). The very same person whom the disciples saw depart that day will come back.
Second, the return of Christ will be visible. Jesus, the angels say, “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (v. 11). The disciples saw the incarnate Jesus ascend into heaven, so if He is coming in the same manner to consummate His kingdom, we will actually see the God-man in the flesh at the time of His final advent.
Finally, the return of Christ will be in glory. We read in verse 9 that a cloud took Jesus out of their sight. That is significant because in the Old Testament, God’s glorious presence often appeared as a cloud (for example, Ex. 40:34). When Jesus comes back to bring the new heaven and earth, He will come in the glory of God.
We do not know exactly when Jesus will return, but we do know that it could be at any moment. Every breath we take could possibly be the last one we breathe before Jesus returns. Knowing the imminence of Christ’s return should spur us to serve the church and engage, as we are able, in the work of making disciples. We do not want to be found idle when Jesus comes back (Matt. 25).
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18