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Core Christianity: Tough Questions Answered

Christian, Rejoice at Christ’s Second Coming

by Arie Van Weelden posted November 15, 2022

Our hearts often fill with fear and dread when we think of Jesus’s second coming. It’s easy to see why: Popular Christian literature portrays Christ’s coming alongside a secret rapture and apocalyptic events, while broader culture reinvigorates fascination with the end times with books or films about aliens, worldwide natural disasters, and population-threatening diseases. But God’s word gives us a different picture.

Scripture and Christ’s Second Coming

We might think worrying about Christ’s return is unique to modern Christians. However, Christians had similar fears, even in the first century. In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul focuses on eschatology (the doctrine of the last things). This is because people in the church at Thessalonica were confused and discouraged by the deceptive claim that Christ’s second coming had already happened (2 Thess. 2:1-3).

In these letters, Paul goes to great lengths to show that Christ’s return hasn’t yet occurred and that it should be a comfort to those in Christ, not a source of discouragement and anxiety (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 1:5-7). Paul tells them that there will be a bodily resurrection of all believers at Christ’s return, demonstrating that Christ’s return will be very public, not a secretive and missable event. However, rather than giving elaborate details, what is striking is that Paul comforts them with this reality: “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

I think this is the point. Instead of explaining exactly how the glorious realities of the end times work out, he comforts them with definite gospel truth and asks them to walk forward in faith. 

If Christ Came Back Tomorrow

The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther had a quiet confidence in Christ’s second appearance. When asked what he would do if he knew Christ would return tomorrow, some say that Luther replied, “Even if I knew that the world was going to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.”[1] Instead of preparing something last minute or panicking, he was content to do what he would have done any other day. Luther knew that the precise details and day of Jesus’s second coming are unknown to us and that it is unhelpful to try to predicate. Instead, Luther trusted that God would be faithful to his promise to save those who believe in his Son on the day of judgment, and so he focused on being faithful in his tasks on earth, even the ordinary things.

Similarly, Scripture challenges our assumptions of what life should look like as we wait for Christ’s second coming. We might expect the exhortations in the preceding passage to 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 to be radical. Instead, Paul exhorts them to love their neighbor and to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you” (1 Thess. 4:9-11). These ordinary exhortations in the face of Christ’s second coming remind us that we don’t know either when Christ will return or what the realities of these things will exactly look like. Instead, we are called to be faithful.

Reasons For Comfort

The Westminster Confession of Faith’s final chapter lists practical reasons why this doctrine is a comfort and benefit to Christians, even though we don’t know when Christ will return. One benefit is that knowing the surety of Christ’s second coming and the day of judgment helps us in our holiness. We should be “certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment” so that it may “deter all men from sin.”[2]

The confession elaborates that it is also for the “greater consolation of the godly in their adversity.”[3] This doctrine reminds us that no deed, good or evil, will go unaccounted for because everyone “must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10). This truth gives our anxious hearts a profound consolation when it appears that wicked acts and people go unpunished for their deeds, even against us (2 Thess. 1:5-7, 2 Peter 3:10-14). On the flip side, because of Christ’s perfect obedience, death, and resurrection, we will be “openly acknowledged and acquitted” and “filled with inconceivable joys”[4] on the final day.

Finally, the Confession reminds us that the day of Christ’s return is unknown to us so that we “may shake off all carnal security, and always be watchful.”[5] As Christians, we do not put our trust in comfortable circumstances, but in our faithful covenant-keeping God.

In a restless and hurting world tainted by the curse of sin, we find ourselves longing with an innate sense that things were meant to be different than they are. In Christ’s triumphant return, we know that he will do what our hearts long for: he will make all things new. On that day, he will wipe away every tear, and there will be no more death, mourning, or pain (Rev. 21:4). Far from being dreaded, this hope of Christ’s return should be cherished. Because of this hope, we can eagerly pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).


[1] Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable faith in a radical, restless world (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 207.

[2] Westminster Confession of Faith 33.3

[3] Westminster Confession of Faith 33.3

[4] Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 90

[5] Westminster Confession of Faith 33.3

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Arie Van Weelden

Arie Van Weelden is a book nerd, sports fan, and movie lover from Wisconsin. He’s in his third year at Westminster Seminary pursuing his M.Div. and serves as a pastoral intern for a local church. When he’s not reading theology, he’s actively engaging in his role as the World’s Greatest Uncle.

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