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What comes after this life is a big, but important subject. I’ve been attempting to cover what the Bible says about it, and I’ve been gratified by the interest and response that many of you have given in the form of follow-up questions and requests for reprints. This portion of the series will take on what is probably the most misunderstood and confused sub-topic of the whole series, the second coming of Jesus. Not that Jesus’ return is in dispute by any religious group making any appeal to the Bible; but the many speculations and claims that theologians and their denominations have offered — not on the basis of Bible fact, but often on the basis of what is splashy, exciting, or novel — have muddled Jesus’ and the Holy Spirit’s clear teachings about it, and with their doctrinal confusion have dealt out false hope and deep disappointment to would-be believers from the early centuries down to the present time. So, what does the Bible say about Jesus’ second coming.

No one will know the day or the hour
Jesus said, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Mark 13:32). In case Jesus wasn’t quite clear enough, He and the apostles went on to say that the second coming would be like a thief coming, a surprise with no warning at all (Mt. 24:43; Lk. 12:39; 1 Th. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 3:3; Rev. 16:15). Underscoring this unpredictable nature of His coming, Jesus went on to say that on the day He returns, people will be going about their daily business, as if there were many tomorrows, planting fields, buying and selling things, and building houses (Mt. 24:37-41; Lk. 17:26-30). There will be complete sense of peace and safety, no sense of danger or judgment (1 Th. 5:3), when Jesus comes again. In spite of Jesus’ clear statement of fact, there are still those who will claim to know the day and hour of His return. One recent televangelist explained: when Jesus said this, He really didn’t know; but through the revelations that have been made since Jesus original words, HE (the televangelist) has been able to figure it out. The words to a Pete Seeger song comes to my mind (Where Have All the Flowers Gone?), “When will they ever learn; when will they ever learn?”

The trumpet of angels will suddenly sound
Have you ever been startled by an alarm clock or a ringing phone? It was the combination of the quiet, the secure feeling, and the sudden loudness of the sound. When Jesus comes it will apparently be accompanied with just such a suddenness and startlement — trumpets, shouts, and the voice of the archangel (Mt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Th. 4:16). Once the trumpets have sounded, there will be no time to prepare (Mt. 24:39; Lk. 21:34; Mk. 13:36; 1 Th. 5:3). Heaven will be a prepared place (Jn. 14:2,3) for prepared people; all preparations must occur beforehand (Mt. 25:1-13). It will not be a “developing story” on CNN or FoxNews with news analysts and commentators (Mt. 24:23-26); all men will know and understand at one moment what is happening — “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27). There will be no secret coming, Jesus won’t be slinking back into town. It will be the glorious return of a victorious, conquering king (Mt. 19:28; Mt. 25:31; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Rev. 19:11-16).

The dead in Christ will rise first, followed by an immortal change of all the living
Part of what will make Jesus’ sudden return so clear to all is what will happen at that moment: 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” Beyond the sudden trumpet sound will the immediate rising of all the dead in Christ (and all the rest of the dead, too — Jn. 5:29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:13). This will be immediately accompanied by the “change” of all that are alive at Jesus’ coming — from a mortal body to an immortal body (1 Cor. 15:51,52; 1 Th. 4:17). More detail on these things will follow in later parts of this series.

The present earth will be destroyed in fire
When our mortal bodies no longer need this physical world that we know, God will do away with it, destroying it in fire. 2 Peter 3:7-13 “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire… the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up… the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Some religious groups (e.g., the Jehovah’s Witnesses) find this horrific, but Paul tells us that the creation has been waiting for this day since the moment of the fall of mankind (Rom. 8:19-22). God intends to give us a new kind (kainos in Greek) of heavens and a new kind (kainos in Greek) of earth — immortal, eternal, everlasting — a.k.a., Heaven (1 Pet. 1:4; Col. 1:5).

The judgment will commence and the kingdom handed over to the Father
It is at the Lord’s second coming and after the resurrection that the judgment of all mankind will occur (2 Th. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 5:1-10; Mt. 25:31ff; and others). It is the reason that men will call on hills and rocks to fall on them and cover them up (Rev. 6:12-17); they do not want to face the justice and wrath of God. Finally, at this time, the Lord plans to hand the kingdom, over which He has been reigning, to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-27). Contrary to premillennialists’ teachings, 1 Cor. 15:24ff teaches that at the resurrection (“the last enemy that will be abolished is death”) which is to happen at Jesus’ second coming, Jesus will hand over His kingdom to the Father.

What teachings do I need to ignore about this?
There are a number of religious groups and teachers who don’t teach what the Bible says about the second coming of Jesus. They include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hal Lindsey (author of The Great, Late Planet Earth), The Left Behind series (books and movies by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins), and premillennialists in general. They are joined by a number of denominational preachers (there seems to be a new one every week) eager to fill their church buildings through sensational claims that they know the date of Jesus’ return.

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