The Glorious Appearing of Jesus Christ
December 1, 2009 - With good reason, the Apostle Paul encouraged Christians to look forward to Jesus’ appearing in glory: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4). Hidden away in Hebrews 9:24-28 is a remarkable three-fold summary of the Christian Gospel:
- Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
- Christ has entered into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
- Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time.
In His incarnation, Christ appeared on Earth to be a sacrifice for our sins. Following His ascension He appeared in Heaven to be our intercessor. But in the future “this same Jesus” (Acts 1:11) is going to appear in majesty and glory! Those who love Christ now as the Savior who first appeared to die for their sins and who now appears in Heaven to intercede, look forward lovingly to His final appearing. Are you one of them?
All kinds of questions come to mind. But perhaps the most important question is: Do you “love the Christ who will appear” (2 Timothy 4:8)? Keeping your heart focused on Jesus Himself is more important than trying to puzzle out the details surrounding His return. For the Bible’s teaching is not given to us to make us theological detectives but to increase our sense of His greatness, glory, majesty and His worthiness to be worshiped—and to call us to unreserved devotion to Him.
Perhaps that is why the Bible’s answer to “When will Jesus appear again?” is, in essence, “No one knows.” Jesus said that not even He knows the time (Mark 13:32). He was speaking here of His human knowledge as the incarnate Son, which, as the early church recognized, was never confused with His divine knowledge. So, His return will take place unexpectedly, like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2). Those who love the Lord will, therefore, learn to live expecting the unexpected.
From our point of view, Jesus’ coming seems to be delayed. Yet this mystery also has meaning, for this delay in His appearance has created the opportunity for our repentance (2 Peter 3:1-10). Perhaps if Jesus had returned earlier, you would now be in the outer darkness, in hell. Unless He had delayed, you would not have experienced His saving grace!
Presumably God could simply wind down the world without Jesus returning. Why, then, will Jesus return? Jesus explains in His “last will and testament” in John 17:24. He wants those who have been with Him, who have seen Him “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3), to see Him in the glory the Father gave Him from before the foundation of the world.
Sportsmen celebrate triumphs with the families who have seen their hard work. Jesus wants those who have shared His humiliation to see Him crowned in triumph and majesty as the Lord and Savior of His people. But there is much more to it than this.
Jesus will come to raise the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), to judge the world (2 Timothy 4:1) and to transform the created order, which at present “groans” as it waits for the sons of God to experience the redemption of their bodies (Romans 8:18-23).
In 1 Corinthians 15:22-28, Paul walks us through what will happen when the Lord returns.
First, Jesus will raise the dead. The trumpet will sound to mark the final Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-13). Jesus will raise the dead simply by commanding “Come forth!” just as when He called “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43). Some Christians have said that if He had not specifically named Lazarus, all the dead would have been raised there and then!
Next, Jesus will put all His enemies under His feet. Paul speaks about the Lord Jesus simply blowing away the man of sin by “the breath of His mouth” (2 Thessalonians 2:8)!
Finally, Jesus will lovingly present the Kingdom to His Father. When everything has been subjected to Him, “then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
What can Paul possibly mean? Simply this: Jesus came into this world as the Last Adam and the Second Man (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), to bear God’s judgment against Adam’s sin; to undo the effects of Adam’s sin; and to do what Adam failed to do—that is, to extend God’s Kingdom over all the Earth (Genesis 1:26-28).
Jesus will return as the One who has accomplished all this. And so, says Paul, as Last Adam, Jesus brings us all into the presence of the Father, saying: “Father, I have finished the work You gave me to do on their behalf—this world is now our present to You.”
Then, as our King, clothed in our humanity, He will lead us all in bowing before the Father in love.
What a moment that will be!