The Return of Christ to Save
“Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.“- Hebrews 9:27–28
Eastern religions tend to teach a cyclical view of history in which events are not moving toward a final point. Some Hindus, for example, believe that the cycle of history moves from creation through continuation to destruction. After the destruction, the cycle starts all over again, and this happens again and again in an infinite loop of creation, destruction, and re-creation that never ends.
Biblical religion is far different, for it teaches that everything is moving to a final climax in which Christ will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father and dwell with His people forever (1 Cor. 15:20–28; Rev. 21). History will not repeat itself infinitely. Integral to this climactic moment is the death and resurrection of Christ, which secures His kingdom and enables men and women to become its citizens. But there is a separation in time between the events of Christ’s death and resurrection and the full arrival of God’s kingdom. This is evident from texts such as Hebrews 9:26–28. Hebrews 9:26 informs us that Christ appears at the end of the ages to offer His sacrifice, and yet it is clear that there is more to come. As we see in today’s passage, Jesus is coming back “to save those who are eagerly awaiting him” (vv. 27–28).
Another way that the Bible talks about this is to say that the coming of Jesus inaugurated the last days, the final era of human history in which God will bring all His salvific promises to completion (Acts 2:14–26). Salvation is a comprehensive act of God that is secured by Christ in His atonement, resurrection, and ascension and then applied by His Spirit to His people, culminating in their glorification. Since Jesus has come and done the work necessary to save us, the salvation of His people is absolutely secure. But we are waiting for the resurrection and the new heavens and earth, when all the benefits of Christ’s work will be true in our experience (Rev. 21). And these benefits are sure to come. Just as it is a certainty that human beings die once and then face God’s judgment, so is it certain that Jesus is coming back to complete what He started. We look forward to that return with eager anticipation, knowing that all the benefits of our redemption will then be completed (Heb. 9:27–28).
Because of the superiority of Christ’s priesthood, explained in Hebrews 7–10, these benefits cannot fail to arrive. Knowing this, trusting in the second coming can steady our souls in all trials.
John Owen, in his commentary on today’s passage, says that the second coming is a fundamental principle of our faith and that faith in this coming is enough to steady us in all the storms of life. The second coming is no afterthought that lacks practical relevance. Remembering that it is coming encourages us to persevere through trial and temptation, knowing that we can endure the worst of things here because the best is yet to come.
Passages for Further Study