Category: return of Christ

John’s testimony from Patmos – part 2

In the previous post, we looked at several passages from the Book of Revelation that address the return of Jesus. In this post, we complete our study by examining passages from the last chapter of Revelation. In addition, we offer a brief summary of posts from November and December regarding the second coming of Jesus.

Revelation 22:7 – “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” 

Three times in the epilogue of Revelation, Jesus declares, “I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). This accentuates the urgency of Christ’s return and affirms his previous promises in the Gospels and the Book of Revelation. His repeated statement also validates what John has seen and heard on Patmos, and what the apostles have written about in their eyewitness accounts and epistles.

Jesus attaches a blessing to the promise of his imminent return: “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” This is the sixth of seven blessing statements, or beatitudes, in Revelation. [The seven beatitudes of Revelation may be found at Rev. 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7, 14.] While we wait expectantly for the Lord’s return, our lives should reflect the truth of Scripture. When we conduct ourselves in this way, we find ourselves happy.

We may not fully understand the details surrounding the Day of the Lord, but the New Testament writers make several truths plain: (1) Jesus is returning one day – physically, visibly, in power and great glory; (2) we do not know the day or the hour of his return; (3) we should live in view of his imminent return; (4) when he comes, all people will know it; (5) Jesus will judge all people personally, rewarding believers according to their faithfulness and punishing unbelievers in varying degrees according to their evil deeds; (6) he will create new heavens and a new earth, setting everything right; and (7) the glory of eternity with Christ will cause the “former things” of this world to fade away.

Eternity may seem far off to us. Yet if we keep the prophecies of Revelation in front of us, we learn to live more comfortably in the tension between the already and not-yet.

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John’s testimony from Patmos

In the visions the apostle John receives while exiled on the Isle of Patmos, he often records the words of Jesus foretelling his return. John may have recorded these visions as early as the AD 60s or as late as the AD 90s. In any case, Jesus assures his followers – and warns his opponents – that his return is certain. 

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

God the Father most likely makes this statement, although some English translations cast these words in red and ascribe them to Jesus. It seems best to understand this verse as the Father putting his divine signature on the prophecy of the second coming in verse 7: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him.”

Jesus repeats the Father’s self-description as “the Alpha and the Omega” and applies it to himself in Revelation 22:13. Further, Jesus refers to himself as “Lord” in the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 12:8; John 13:13-14), and eyewitnesses of Jesus ascribe to him the same title (e.g., John 20:28; Acts 2:36). Jesus and the New Testament writers also affirm the deity of Christ, which includes his transcendence and omnipotence. Thus, both the Father and the Son may rightly lay claim to being “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

While this verse is not an explicit promise of Jesus’ return, it places the Father’s stamp of approval on Old Testament prophecies of the second coming. And it ties together the redemptive work of the triune Godhead to be completed when Jesus returns.

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The Son of Man and the return of Jesus

Many of Jesus’ teachings on the second coming revolve around his favorite self-designation: Son of Man. In fact, Jesus uses the title Son of Man roughly eighty times in the Gospels to refer to himself. While Jesus prefers to use this title rather than Son of God or Messiah to identify himself, it shouldn’t be assumed he has any doubts about his identity or wishes to be coy with his followers. His use of Son of Man is purposeful.

Jesus clearly reveals his deity at strategic times. For example, he applies the divine name I AM to himself (John 8:58). He claims equality with the Father (John 10:30). He receives worship (John 20:28). He forgives sins (Mark 2:1-12). He teaches with divine authority (Mark 1:21-22). He affirms in advance what the apostles write concerning his deity (John 1:1-3, 14; cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-16; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-4). And he fulfills the attributes unique to God (Matt. 28:18-20; John 1:1; 5:22; 16:30; Heb. 1:8; 13:8).

It seems the term Son of Man accomplishes two primary goals. First, it illustrates that Jesus shares humanity with us. In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul spells out the humble manner in which the eternal Son of God adds sinless humanity to his deity. But a second goal is of equal importance. In calling himself Son of Man, especially in front of Israel’s religious elite, he reveals himself as the divine being of Daniel 7:13-14:

I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed (emphasis added).

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Two statements about the return of Jesus in John’s Gospel

In the previous column, we examined Jesus’ bold statement, “I will come again.” Now, let’s look at two of Jesus’ other statements about his return as recorded in the Gospel of John. Then, we’ll explore other passages in which Jesus expresses the certainty of his return.

John 14:1-6

“Don’t let your heart 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 am going to prepare a place for you? If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.”

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus prepares his disciples for his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. They don’t understand who the betrayer is or where Jesus is going. Jesus tells them, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (John 13:33). 

Peter asks, “Lord, where are you going?” (13:36).

Jesus replies, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later” (13:36).

Peter insists, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (13:37).

Jesus then predicts Peter’s thrice-denial of his Lord (13:38).

Sensing the rising angst in the upper room, Jesus offers assurance: “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (14:1).

Jesus then goes on to explain that his imminent departure is for their good. In fact, a little later, he assures his followers that it’s to their advantage that he goes away so that he may send the Holy Spirit as the agent of the triune God’s work of redemption throughout the church age (John 16:7).

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“I will come again …”

On March 11, 1942, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur escaped the island fortress of Corregidor under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. After a harrowing thirty-five-hour boat ride through rough seas laced with Japanese mines, MacArthur flew in a B-17 Flying Fortress to Australia to begin planning the liberation of his beloved Philippines. 

The agony of leaving troops under his command trapped in the islands prompted him to issue the now-famous statement to the press, “I shall return.” It was a mantra he repeated often in public appearances over the next two and a half years, promising neither to forget nor abandon American soldiers and the people of the Philippines.

Commanding limited forces, MacArthur launched a major offensive in New Guinea, winning a string of victories. Then, gaining support from the U.S. Joint Chiefs and  Admiral Chester Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet, MacArthur turned his attention to an invasion of the Philippines. On October 20, 1944, a few hours after his troops landed, MacArthur waded ashore on the island of Leyte. In a radio announcement later that day, the general declared, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!” 

It would take months to recapture Corregidor, and even longer to take Manila. By the time the Philippines were fully liberated, only one-third of the men MacArthur had been forced to leave behind survived to see his return. “I’m a little late,” he told them, “but we finally came.” [“General MacArthur leaves Corregidor,” https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/macarthur-leaves-corregidor.]

MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valiant defense of the Philippines. He is remembered not only for his bold promise to return, but for his steely determination make good on it. In a very real sense, MacArthur helped set things right in the Pacific Theater. And on September 2, 1945, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, MacArthur received the Japanese surrender on behalf of the U.S. and its allies.

MacArthur’s promise to return, and his fulfillment of that promise, serve as pinnacles in a storied military career featuring many peaks and valleys. They also cast a long shadow backwards in history to an intimate dinner in a borrowed upper room. In the hours leading up to his passion, Jesus gathers with his apostles and prepares them for his departure – first to the cross and then, after his resurrection, into heaven. But he makes a bold prediction: “I will come again” (John 14:3). 

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