The Return of the Lord
“For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (v. 16).- 1 Thessalonians 4
A large part of the New Testament is concerned with prophecy. Not only did Jesus fulfill all kinds of prophecies found in the Old Testament, but both He and His apostles made other prophecies and predictions concerning the future.
Much of New Testament prediction focuses on an event that was to occur within the lifetimes of many people then alive. Jesus predicted that the nation of the Jews as a whole would continue to reject the Good News, and that Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed by God’s wrath. After describing this coming judgment in Matthew 23:1–24:33, using both literal predictions and symbolism, Jesus said that the generation listening to His voice would not pass away before all these things had happened.
The judgment upon Jerusalem—upon the old covenant—is a “down payment” on fulfilled prophecy. What Jesus predicted about Jerusalem did indeed come to pass in a.d. 70, and this leads us to believe that what He said about His future return will also come to pass. Jesus’ judgment upon Jerusalem was not only because she put Him to death but also because she continued to persecute His witnesses after Pentecost. This judgment proves His ascension to the Father’s right hand, His present position as King, and that He will someday come to judge all men and all nations.
Liberal theologians note that the New Testament writers frequently say that Jesus will return soon, that His coming is near. Since Jesus did not return in the first century, say the liberals, the New Testament writers were wrong. What the liberals fail to see, however, is that these passages have either partial or full reference to Jesus’ judging Jerusalem in a.d. 70, and thus were literally fulfilled.
Centuries come and go, and Jesus has not returned, but we should not be surprised. After describing the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus told the disciples that it might well be a “long time” before His final return (see Matthew 24:36, 48; 25:5, 19). While we will surely rejoice at His coming, we can also rejoice that He has postponed it, giving time for the full number of His elect to be gathered into the kingdom.
Sometimes modern Christians are so enamored with the Second Coming that they overlook the ways Jesus comes to us today. The Bible says that Christ comes each Lord’s Day (Day of the Lord) to judge and restore His people. Consider how you can better prepare for each Lord’s Day worship as an anticipation of His Second coming.
Passages for Further Study
2 Peter 3:11–12a