10 Key Bible Verses on the Second Coming of Christ

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. Matthew 24:36–44

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Read More

In response to the disciples asking, “when will these things be?” (Matt. 24:3), Jesus says no one knows, not even . . . the Son, but the Father only. In his incarnate life, Jesus learned things as other human beings learn them (cf. Luke 2:52; Heb. 5:8). On the other hand, Jesus was also fully God, and, as God, he had infinite knowledge (cf. John 2:25; 16:30; 21:17). Here he is apparently speaking in terms of his human nature. This is similar to other statements about Jesus which could be true of his human nature only, and not of his divine nature (he grew and became strong, Luke 2:40; increased in stature, Luke 2:52; was about 30 years old, Luke 3:23; was weary, John 4:6; was thirsty, John 19:28; was hungry, Matt. 4:2; was crucified, 1 Cor. 2:8). Taking account of these verses, together with many verses that affirm Christ’s deity, the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451 affirmed that Christ was “perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.” Yet it also affirmed that Jesus was “one Person and one Subsistence.”

With regard to the properties of his human nature and his divine nature, the Chalcedonian Creed affirmed that Christ was to be “acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.” That meant the properties of deity and the properties of humanity were both preserved. How Jesus could have limited knowledge and yet know all things is difficult, and much remains a mystery, for nobody else has ever been both God and man. One possibility is that Jesus regularly lived on the basis of his human knowledge but could at any time call to mind anything from his infinite knowledge.

taken . . . left. The description may indicate that one is taken away to final judgment (cf. Matt. 24:39) while the other remains to experience salvation at Christ’s return. Or possibly the one who is taken is among the elect that the Son of Man will “gather . . . from the four winds” (Mat. 24:31).

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2. Luke 21:25–28

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Read More

Jesus Foretells the Coming of the Son of Man. Having warned of the approaching destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (Luke 21:5–24), Jesus turns now to the more distant future and foretells his second coming.

The Coming of the Son of Man. Jesus turns next to teachings about the consummation of all things and his return. signs in sun and moon and stars. The powers of the heavens will be shaken describes great changes in the skies. they will see. The second coming involves the visible return of the Son of Man from heaven (Acts 1:11), bringing history to its end. These things . . . take place refers to Luke 21:25–27. straighten up and raise your heads. A posture of hope and confidence. Redemption refers to the time of Christ’s return, when mortality puts on immortality (1 Cor. 15:53) and the redemption of the body takes place (Rom. 8:23).

3. John 5:28–29

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. Read More

Jesus reaffirms the resurrection on the last day. Cf. Dan. 12:2. Those who have done good . . . those who have done evil does not imply that people’s deeds in this life are the basis on which judgment is pronounced (for that would contradict John’s strong emphasis on belief in Jesus as the way to gain eternal life: see John 3:16; 5:24–25; etc.). Instead, good works function as evidence of true faith, and if good works are lacking they show an absence of true faith. All those who truly believe will be brought “from death to life” (John 5:24) and as a consequence will do good and will therefore enjoy the resurrection of life.

4. 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Read More

cry of command . . . voice of an archangel . . . trumpet of God. The three noises summon the dead to wake from their slumber. The only “archangel” identified in the Bible is Michael (Jude 9). Trumpets in the OT proclaimed the Lord’s presence (Ex. 19:16; 1 Chron. 16:6; Ps. 47:5; Joel 2:1; Zech. 9:14); in Jewish tradition, the “trumpet” was associated with battle, the day of the Lord, and the resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52). first . . . Then. Dead Christians rise from their graves to the realm of the living, and then the living and the dead together are caught up from the earth into the air to meet Christ. The Greek for “caught up” (harpazō, “to grab or seize suddenly, to snatch, take away”) gives a sense of being forcibly and suddenly lifted upward (see John 6:15; Acts 8:39). together with. The dead Christians would suffer no disadvantage (cf. “we who are alive . . . will not precede,” 1 Thess. 4:15). clouds. Probably not earthly rain clouds but the clouds of glory that surround the presence of God (cf. Ex. 13:21; 33:9–10; 40:38; Num. 12:5; 1 Kings 8:10–11; Ps. 97:2; Dan. 7:13; Matt. 17:5; Mark 13:26; Acts 1:9; Rev. 14:14). to meet. The Greek term apantēsis is often used of an important dignitary’s reception by the inhabitants of a city, who come out to greet and welcome their honored guest with fanfare and celebration, then accompany him into the city (cf. Matt. 25:6; Acts 28:15; a related term hypantēsis is used in Matt. 25:1; John 12:13). It may indicate that the subsequent movement of the saints after meeting Christ “in the air” conforms to Christ’s direction, thus in a downward motion toward the earth. However, some interpreters caution that the vivid symbolism of apocalyptic language must be kept in mind to avoid over-interpretation of the apocalyptic details. in the air. The sky.

5. Revelation 1:7

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Read More

Announcement of the Coming King. coming with the clouds. Jesus will come as the Son of Man with universal dominion (cf. Dan. 7:13–14), though his subjects pierced him (Zech. 12:10). wail. Most scholars think the wailing is a reaction to judgment instead of the kind of grief that leads to salvation. The coming one is the Lord God, Alpha and Omega (first and last letters of the Gk. alphabet) (see Rev. 1:17; 22:13). Jesus is the beginning of all history (the Creator) and also the goal for whom all things are made (all history is moving toward glorifying him).

6. Hebrews 9:27–28

And 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. Read More

appointed . . . to die once. Every person has but a single life before eternal judgment. This repudiates reincarnation and any idea that there will be a second chance to believe after death, since immediately after the reference to the fact of death comes the phrase “and after that comes judgment,” with no hint of any intervening opportunity for change of status. The final judgment will take place when Christ comes again—he died once as an offering for the sins of many, and he will appear a second time in judgment, when he will save his followers. those who are eagerly waiting for him. This clear anticipation of Christ’s return (see Heb. 10:25; cf. Rom. 8:19, Rom. 8:23, Rom. 8:25; 1 Cor. 1:7; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20) calls all who hope for salvation to expectant perseverance.

7. Matthew 24:26–31

“So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Read More

Look, he is in the wilderness . . . Look, he is in the inner rooms. The Messiah will not come secretly to a select group and stay hidden from public view. Rather, he will appear like a flash of lightning—sudden and visible to all.

Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. It seems best not to “over-interpret” this striking proverbial expression. It probably means simply that, just as people from far away can see vultures circling high in the air, Christ’s return in judgment will be visible and predictable. A similar view is that the vultures suggest the widespread death that will accompany the return of Christ to judge those who have rejected his kingdom. In either case, it will be impossible for people not to see and recognize the return of Christ.

sun . . . moon . . . stars . . . powers. It is possible that this is entirely literal language (with “stars” perhaps referring to a large meteor shower). Others take it as a mixture of literal and figurative language, and still others take it as entirely figurative, pointing to political judgment on nations and governments. The argument in favor of a figurative interpretation is that this verse echoes possibly figurative language about heavenly disturbances in the OT prophets, such as Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10; and Amos 8:9. Those arguing for a literal interpretation point to biblical accounts of actual darkness: cf. Ex. 10:21–23 and Matt. 27:45. The idea of the stars falling and the heavens being rolled up is mentioned elsewhere in the NT as well (see Heb. 1:12; 2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 12; Rev. 6:13–14). Whether these events are to be understood as being primarily literal or primarily figurative, it is clear that these will be “earth-shattering” events, through which all creation will be radically transformed at the return of Christ. (Regarding the “new heavens and the new earth,” see Isa. 65:17; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1.)

sign of the Son of Man. Some suggest that this is a type of heavenly standard or banner that unfurls in the heavens as Christ returns in “power and great glory,” while others understand it to be the arrival of the Son of Man himself as the sign of the end-time consummation of the age (cf. Matt. 16:27; Matt. 26:64). mourn. Either a sorrow that produces repentance, or a great sadness of regret in light of coming judgment. they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. This most clearly is end-time language that recalls Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 7:13–14) and points to Jesus’ return at the end of the age (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7–10; Rev. 19:11–16). with power and great glory. Christ will be revealed as the eternal ruler of the kingdom of God, designated by the Ancient of Days to receive worship and to exercise dominion over the earth and all of its inhabitants (cf. Dan. 7:13–14). The return of Christ is a literal event, in which Christ “will come in the same way” that the disciples “saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

A trumpet call is associated in Jewish end-time thought (Isa. 18:3; Isa. 27:13) and also in Christian writings (1 Cor. 15:51–52; 1 Thess. 4:16) with the appearance of the Messiah. his angels . . . will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. The involvement of angels probably indicates that, when Jesus returns, he will not only gather to himself all believers alive on the earth but will also bring with him all the redeemed who are in heaven (cf. 1 Thess. 4:14; Rev. 19:11–16).

8. 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. Read More

These verses are closely linked to 1 Thess. 4:13–18: both offer reassurance concerning the fate of Christians at the second coming, and 1 Thess. 5:9–10 alludes back to 1 Thess. 4:13–18. It seems that the Thessalonians either were worried that they might not be prepared for the day of the Lord or were insecure about their status on that day in view of the recent unexpected deaths.

Now concerning. Paul may be responding to a question from the Thessalonians communicated by Timothy. the times and the seasons. That is, when the day of the Lord will occur (cf. Acts 1:7). The Thessalonians’ question likely arose more from anxiety than idle curiosity, since Paul’s answer reassures rather than rebukes them and seems concerned with both the “how” and the “when” of the day of the Lord. you have no need to have anything written to you. In spite of what the Thessalonians apparently think, there is no real need for Paul to write them on this matter.

The phrase day of the Lord is common in the OT Prophets (see note on Amos 5:18–20). It refers to the great and terrible day when Yahweh will intervene to punish the disobedient (e.g., Isa. 13:6–16; Joel 1:13–15; 2:1–11; Obad. 15–20; Mal. 4:5) and to save the faithful (e.g., Isa. 27:2–13; Jer. 30:8–9; Joel 2:31–32; Obad. 21). In Paul’s letters it is equated with the second coming. like a thief in the night. Throughout the NT, the thief simile suggests unexpectedness and unwelcomeness (Matt. 24:43–44; Luke 12:39–40; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; Rev. 16:15). The negative aspect is clearly present in 1 Thess. 5:4, and there is no reason to think that it is absent here. However, although some have wondered whether Paul is threatening the Thessalonians with the prospect of final judgment, it seems more likely, in view of 1 Thess. 5:4 and 1 Thess 5:9, that he is actually reassuring believers who are insecure, perhaps as a result of the recent deaths in their midst. people. That is, unbelievers. peace and security. Possibly an allusion to imperial Roman propaganda or (perhaps more likely) to Jer. 6:14 (or Jer. 8:11), where similar language is used of a delusional sense of immunity from divine wrath. labor pains. An analogy referring to the judgment and destruction on the day of the Lord. Cf. Isa. 13:8; Jer. 6:24.

9. 1 Corinthians 15:51–52

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. Read More

mystery. Christians who are alive at the time of the resurrection will be transformed so that their bodies become spiritual and immortal like the bodies of those who are resurrected from the dead. (See 1 Thess. 4:13–18.)

10. John 14:1–3

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Read More

Believe in God is translated as an imperative (or command), but the Greek could also be rendered as a statement, “You believe in God.” The imperative is probably better in light of the previous sentence. What troubles the disciples is Jesus’ imminent departure (see 13:36). “Believe,” in keeping with OT usage (e.g., Isa. 28:16), denotes personal, relational trust.

In light of the context (Jesus going to the Father; John 13:1, 3; John 14:28), it is best to understand my Father’s house as referring to heaven. In keeping with this image, the many rooms (or “dwelling places,” Gk. monē) are places to live within that large house. The translation “rooms” is not meant to convey the idea of small spaces, but only to keep consistency in the metaphor of heaven as God’s “house.” In a similar passage, Jesus speaks of his followers being received into the “eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9; cf. 1 Cor. 2:9).

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