The awaiting of Jesus’ second coming and Jesus return to earth are synonymous. (Of course, just like some false teachers taught in the first century, some believe Jesus has already returned.) Our emphasis here is the “to earth” specifically. This is the unchallenged position of many Christians today. It’s part of and foundational to a much broader belief around Jesus’ second coming – also known as end times doctrine or eschatology. In addition to Jesus’ return to earth, other popularly believed aspects of His second coming include an establishment of an earthly kingdom while sitting on the throne of David for a literal thousand years. In spite of the popularity of these beliefs or the notoriety and enthusiasm of those religious leaders that teach them, what does the Bible actually say about Jesus’ return and His presence on earth?
How Scripture answers "Will Jesus return…to earth?"
Scripture has a lot to say about Jesus’ second coming – what’s next – but it never says that Jesus will return to earth. In fact, it says that believers, both dead and alive1 at that time, will meet Him in the air/clouds1,6,7,8 (specifically, not on earth).
We have other passages where Jesus talks of His own return2,3,4,6,7 (and John8). In these, never is it said He will return to earth. He does speak of His throne2,3,4 which some may infer “throne on earth.” One2, in particular, may tempt someone to make a literal, physical, earthly throne interpretation. However, unless Jesus is contradicting Himself in the immediate context2 and other places4, we can understand that He’s speaking metaphorically and simply means that all believers will conquer and become glorious upon His return4.
Finally, there is one passage of prophecy that is plucked from its context to sometimes justify Jesus’ return to earth5. Surely His feet standing “on the Mount of Olives” proves His return to earth, right? Except, we see from the context5 – something too often ignored in Bible study but especially end times doctrine – this is a metaphor for judgement and the “dividing” that will happen between the righteous and the unrighteous1,3,4.
Answer built on scripture-blocks below
Regarding the second coming of Jesus, Paul explicitly states a meeting “in the air.” There is no mention of Jesus coming to earth.
Given the full exchange and all of what Jesus says (not just vs 28), “thrones” and “judging” are used metaphorically to illustrate a reward. A reward that is not only for His apostles but for all that believe and live by faith.
Jesus is returning to judge all and will sit on His throne. It does not say “on earth” or give any indication of location. However, given the other throne passages2,4, we can understand He is coming triumphant and will reign with the saints.
We see that believers that live by faith (“the one who conquers”) will not only share Jesus’ throne (triumph/glory) but will receive many other things as described in the context. A particularly poignant and urgent message for those believers suffering persecution or sorrow in this life.
!! scripture-block context extra important here !!
A literal meaning of this verse is taking it out of both the immediate and broader context of Zechariah.
!! scripture-block context extra important here !!
Understanding this as a metaphor for the final judgment is consistent with the rest of Scripture. The dividing that will happen just as is spoken of in different ways in 1 Thessalonians 41, Matthew 253, and Revelation 34. Further, the “on that day” introduction is consistent with the many other “on/in that day” statements chronicled in the scripture-block.
Jesus does not speak about returning to earth, but rather sending His angels forth to gather the saints (to meet Him in the clouds).
Jesus will return “on the clouds” for final judgment1.
John describes Jesus’ return as “coming with the clouds”.
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One of the great tragedies in “christianity” is the human attempt to intellectualize the mind and messages of God. The passage from First Thessalonians is one of the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and falsely taught messages because people reject what God teaches and instead rely on the natural to understand the supernatural. More than 90% of common “christians” believe the folly that in First Thessalonians, Paul is referring to a pre-trib rapture. It is a word that does not appear in Scripture once, nor is it taught. No person, “christian” or otherwise even heard of a rapture until 1830 AD. This brings us to a second grossly flawed “christian” practice of using language and words God does not use and teaching doctrines Jesus and the Apostles never even mention. A third “christian” practice of isolating words, verses, and passages, and failing to “rightly divide” (cut straight), properly discern through the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 2:10-11) and apply the entire counsel of God (1 Corinthians 2:13) solidifies the atrocious “christian” approach to properly understanding God. It is also common that the uneducated “christian” will rely on human voices and believe religious spokespersons who say God says what He doesn’t say, rather than believe what God says Himself. Since when does God need seminary cadets to do His speaking? In christianity there is this mindless exchange of the revealed Gospel (Galatians 1:11-12) for gossip. Since “christians” refuse to follow God’s road map, they instead isolate a few verses in First Corinthians and dispose of volumes of other pertinent Scripture, In First Thessalonians 4, among other concerns, Paul is addressing 1)proper regard for the resurrection of Christ; 2) the saved believer has the same dependence on God for his resurrection that Christ did; 3) Christ’s resurrection is an argument for ours; 4) those that “sleep in Christ” are those that have died in the strictest communion with Him; 5) It is through Jesus that believers fall asleep; it is Christ who changes the nature of death, from which they will awaken to eternal life; 6) the death and resurrection of the Messiah is connected with the resurrection of the saints; 7) Paul teaches the power of God. “Christians” need to stop making Scripture about them and stop seeing themselves in what they read from God. This “christian” phenomena stems from the church exalting humans and indoctrinating people too lazy to study Scripture with the doctrine of self-esteem which is 100% oppositional to what Christ teaches. “Christians would be wise to educate themselves by reading Romans 6- Jeremiah 14 and 23 and what God says about spokespersons at pulpits and those who put words in His mouth, assure peace, and deny tribulation; and also, what God says about “following the crowd” in Exodus 23. Let’s make no mistake- going to church and hearkening to soothing voices is “following the multitudes”. Who dares to deny it?
Thanks for your comment. You have really packed a lot in there!! We have not yet dealt with the whole “pre-trib” rapture (or any other special “rapture circumstance)….yet, but you are right. Regarding your most of your other points, we have addressed in some other posts. In fact, we just posted Does Bible interpretation require special training? which uses 1 Corinthians 2. We share the concern that much of Christianity today is relying on obtaining God’s wisdom through man’s intellect or their own heart (Should you follow your heart?).