The Return of Christ - What the Bible Actually Teaches

We've heard a lot of hype from a number of people concerning the return of Jesus Christ, most recently claiming that he is returning to "rapture" the "true believers" on May 21, 2011, and then completely destroy the earth on October 21, 2011.

So what does the Bible teach? Are these claims correct? We hope to discover the answers in this short article.

Christ's Return and the Kingdom of God

The central theme of Jesus' teaching was the coming Kingdom of God (Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:14; Luke 4:43; John 3:3). This preaching triggered his disciples to ask the questions:

"Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3).

While the majority of the Mount Olivet prophecy is about the events leading up to AD70, the section at the end is about the return of Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:30-51). Very noticeably Jesus does not give a date or a time of his return, though he does give parables for his followers to work out the "signs of the times".

In the gospel of Mark we have a parallel record of the Mount Olivet prophecy, and in the section pertaining to the Lord's return, we read these words:

"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is." (Mark 13:32-33)

Some have claimed that the translators got it wrong and that the word "son" in this passage refers to "the son of perdition" (either Judas or the devil, depending of who you speak to) rather than "the son of God" (Jesus). The way the phrase is laid out tells us that the translators got it correct; angels of heaven, the Son, the Father. To force an association to the "son of perdition" in this context requires some literary gymnastics. The passage should be read as written.

After his crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, Jesus spent over a month teaching his disciples about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:2). Again, this teaching prompted the disciples to ask, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). His answer was very clear: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." (Acts 1:7) The disciples of the Lord were not to know exactly when Jesus was to return.

So What Do We Know?

The one thing we are to do is prepare ourselves. We need to know exactly what makes up apostles teaching "concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12; 28:31). In this teaching we have indicators that Jesus' return is close, but we do not know exactly when. The apostle Paul when writing to the Thessalonian believers said that they knew the indicators of the events leading to his coming and they needed to pay attention to them so that Jesus' return would not catch them unprepared (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). That is the same warning for us.

Mark 13:34-37 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Written by Matthew Smith