Question: Many are confused about the manner of Jesus Christ’s return. How will we know when He returns to Earth?
Answer: Before His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus Christ promised, "I will come again" (John 14:3). But many who call themselves Christians differ widely in their beliefs about the manner of Christ’s return. Some think that He will come secretly; others believe that He will return twice—secretly at first, then later visibly. A few think that He has already returned to Earth. What is the truth?
Only moments after Christ ascended into a cloud (Acts 1:9), the Apostles were startled by the appearance of two divine messengers, who assured them: "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven" (vv. 10–11). These angels confirmed Jesus’ promise that He would come again, and they explained the manner of His return. Notice what else Scripture reveals about the manner of Jesus’ return.
Although the Bible does not tell us exactly when Christ will return (Matthew 25:13; 24:36), we are told that He will come unexpectedly—just as a "thief" in the night comes unexpectedly, without prior notice (Revelation 16:15; Matthew 24:42–44). Jesus compared His coming to that of a thief, because of the element of surprise.
Christ’s return to Earth will not be clandestine or secretive. The Bible pictures His return as a very dramatic event (Matthew 24:29–30). There will be a tremendous trumpet blast heard worldwide (v. 31), as well as a great shout, signaling Jesus’ imminent return and the resurrection of the dead in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
We are also told that when Jesus Christ returns, He will be clearly visible to everyone: "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:27). The Greek word astrape, used in verse 27, can mean "lightning" or any brilliant illumination. Verse 30 further describes Jesus’ dramatic return: "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven… and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." The glorified and risen Christ does not appear like any mortal human being, but is "like the sun shining in its strength" (Revelation 1:16). So the Bible plainly describes the visible, loud, unmistakable return of our Savior!
Jesus Christ is prophesied to return to the same Mount of Olives near Jerusalem from which He ascended to heaven more than 1,900 years ago (Zechariah 14:3–4). But Christ will not return alone. He will bring with Him all the resurrected "saints."
The Bible plainly states that the resurrected saints will be "caught up" to meet Christ as He descends to Earth from the clouds. The resurrected dead in Christ, along with living Christians then made immortal, will rise to meet the returning Christ in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17), before coming down with Him soon thereafter to the Mount of Olives.
Will anyone else come with Christ at His dramatic return? Scripture shows that an army of angels will accompany Him from heaven, in the glory of His Father (Mark 8:38; Revelation 19:14)!
When Jesus Christ comes again, He will return as "King of kings and Lord of lords" to establish the ruling Kingdom of God on Earth (Revelation 19:16). He and the resurrected saints will then begin to rule and teach the nations the way that will produce true happiness, joy and peace (Revelation 20:6; 5:10).
Jesus Christ will indeed come again—this time with great power and glory—and all mankind will witness His return! It will truly be the greatest, and most dramatic and momentous, event in the history of the world!