He came to earth once, and when Jesus returns it will be different. He came to earth the first time on a mission. When Jesus returns a second time, there won’t be a literal thousand year reign nor will He even come all the way down to earth.

How Scripture answers "What happens when Jesus returns?"

When Jesus returns, He will come on His throne12 with angels1,4 and a trumpet7 to judge all people1,4,9,13 – the great and final “day of the Lord“. All the saints, specifically all believers that remain blameless5,9 (or, are found “eagerly waiting for Him”8,13), will be saved8,13 and gathered to Him11 in the air/clouds12. Saints will not only see Him as He is, but they will be like Him10, raised in “incorruptible” bodies7, and glorified with Him3. This includes the living as well as those passed on6,7,9. God’s work of setting apart the Christian and perfecting them in holiness (2 Corinthians 7:1) by the indwelling of His Spirit will be complete2,5,10, Satan’s rule will end6, and Jesus will deliver the kingdom back to the Father6.

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

When Jesus comes in His glory, accompanied by angels, He will sit on His throne. In front of Him will be gathered all people, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

This chapter, along with the previous (chapter 24), constitute a discussion between Jesus and his disciples sometimes referred to as the “Olivet Discourse.” Matthew is the only gospel writer to record the second half in chapter 25, while shorter versions of the first half can be found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36.

Upon leaving the temple, Jesus comments on its destruction (24:2).  Subsequently, they wanted to know about three things from Jesus: 1) the timing of the temple’s destruction, 2) the sign of His coming, and 3) the end of the age (24:3). Jesus begins His answer, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.” (24:4-5)

Taking this backdrop and chapters 24 & 25 together it is clear Jesus is addressing God’s judgment on both the nation of Israel and His final judgment on all mankind. We can further contextualize this discussion by looking at other instances when God, through a prophet, would pronounce judgment on a nation. When we read Amos or Hosea regarding Israel’s judgment, Isaiah or Jeremiah regarding Judah’s judgment, or Obadiah regarding Edom’s judgment, we read about not only God’s judgment on the that nation (a near-term “day of the Lord”) but also His eventual judgment on all mankind (a longer-term final “day of the Lord”). In fact, often the prophet will go back and forth between near-term judgment events and long-term judgment events.

This is the same with Jesus and how He speaks about God’s judgment, particularly in chapter 24. Remember, the disciples had asked about both the timing of the destruction of the temple and His return (vs 3)? Jesus shares events (vss 15-28) that will take place in their generation (vs 34) regarding the destruction of the temple (in fact, taking place about forty years later in 70AD).  He then speaks primarily about what will happen “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (vs 29), namely His return (vss 29-44), before concluding with three parables and describing what the final “day of the Lord” will look like.

Detail of the sequencing of Jesus’ prophecy re: a near-term “day of the Lord” and the final “day of the Lord”:

  • 24:4-14 – A broad review of events during the ‘end times’ (both near-term and long-term) when “lawlessness is increased”.
  • 24:15-28 – A near-term description of events that they would experience relating to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Something that in fact, would happen about forty years later (70AD).
  • 24:29-31 – A long-term description of the events of the second coming, the final judgment.
  • vss 32-34 – The near-term timing that He relates and explains with a parable about the fig tree for how they would identify the occurrence of “these things” (vs 33) and says, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (vs 34).
  • 24:35-44 – The long-term timing, transitioned by contrasting things that will and won’t pass away (vs 34-35) and with “But…” (vs 36). This timing “no one knows” – not even Himself (vs 36).
  • 24:45-25:30 – Three parables about the being ready for His coming because we don’t know when it will be:
    • 24:45-51 – The “faithful and wise servant”
    • 25:1-13 – The “ten virgins”
    • 25:14-30 – The “talents”
  • 25:31-46 – Description of how it will be on that final “day of the Lord”.
Scripture-block application to this question

Together with the angels, Jesus will come on his throne and judge all people, separating them.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

I [Paul] am sure that He [God] whoGoG began a good work in you will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ.

In Paul’s introduction to the church at Philippi, he commends the for their “partnership in the gospel” (vs 5) leading to this prayer that he has for them.

Scripture-block application to this question

God will complete the work that He started in us when Jesus returns.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ appears, in whom you have life, you also will appear with Him in glory.

Paul is encouraging the Colossians to “keep seeking the things above” (vs 1)  and imploring them to “put off” (vs 8) the sins of the world. He continues to give specific “in the Lord” behavioral instructions for wives (vs 18), husbands (vs 19), children (vs 20), fathers (vs 21), and slaves (vs 22).

Scripture-block application to this question

When Jesus appears, saints will be glorified with Him.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

This [persecution] is evidence of God’s righteous judgment, deeming you worthy of God’s kingdom for which you are suffering.  It’s a truth that God considers it just to repay tribulation on those persecutors, and to give you relief together with us in Jesus’ return from heaven together with His mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting repayment on all those who do not know God, not obeying the gospel of Christ.

Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica, encouraging them regarding their present “persecution and afflictions” (vs 2).
Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus will appear with His angels1 in fire to exact judgment on all that have disobeyed His word (the gospel).

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, may the God of peace Himself perfect you and may you keep your whole being without blame at the final coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The closing admonitions of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

Scripture-block application to this question

For those that remain “blameless”, their sanctification will be completed when Jesus returns.

But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

But in this order: first [was] Christ’s resurrection, then the resurrection of those that belong to Him when He comes [again].  Finally, the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed every rule, authority and power.  Because of this, He must reign until He has put all of His enemies under His feet.

Paul is making a great defense for the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for the Christian’s faith.  Without Jesus being raised, their faith would be “in vain” (vs 14), they’d still be in their sins (vs 17), the dead “in Christ” would have truly perished (vs 18) and everyone else “in Christ” should be “most pitied” (vs 19).  He then shifts to highlight an order of things that begins in verse 20 and continues through 28.
Scripture-block application to this question

Those that belong to Christ will be raised at His coming, at which time will be the end when He delivers the kingdom back to God.

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Pay attention! I [Paul] am telling you a mystery. We shall not all die, but we all will be changed in an instant at the last trumpet.  For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will become alive and changed forever.

Paul is making his great defense of the resurrection of Christ.  Some were denying the bodily resurrection from the dead (vss 12-19) which Paul refutes based on the fact that Jesus was raised in the body to live again.

Scripture-block application to this question

A trumpet will sound at His coming, when the faithful will be “raised imperishable” (e.g. unable to die or decay) and “changed”.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Just as man’s appointment is to die and then face judgment, so also Christ has already been offered to bear the sins of many and will appear a second time not to deal with sin but to save those still waiting for His return.

The Hebrews writer is in the midst of his argument about why Jesus and the new covenant are better than the old – here specifically arguing about His superiority as a High Priest.

Scripture-block application to this question

After death comes judgment – when Christ appears a second time to save those waiting for Him.

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Don’t be surprised or shocked at what I’m saying, for a time is coming when all the dead will come out of their tombs at the sound of His voice.  Those that have done good will be raised to eternal life, and those that have done evil will be raised to eternal judgment.

Jesus is in Jerusalem and healing on the Sabbath day and stating that He was the son of God. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (vs 18)

Jesus has just said that the dead “will hear the voice of the Son of God” and live (vs 25).  A shocking statement that He further clarifies in the passage.

Scripture-block application to this question

The dead will be raised at the sound of His voice – some to life eternal and others to condemnation.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Brethern, we are now children of God, and what we will become has not yet manifested until he returns again, when we will be like Him and see Him as He is.

The Apostle John’s letter to the “twelve tribes of the dispersion” (vs 1) – twelve tribes clearly figuratively as the letter addresses Christians as a whole (not just Jewish Christians). John is stating the case for fellow believers to continue in the love of God, here reminding them of the contrast between those that practice sin and those that have accepted Jesus and been cleansed of their sin.
Scripture-block application to this question

We will see Jesus and be like Him upon His return.

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

Regarding the return of Jesus Christ and our being gathered together with Him, we [apostles] ask you, brothers [saints at Thessalonica], to not be alarmed or disheartened by any teaching not coming from us – in particular, teaching that the day of the Lord has already come.

Paul’s second letter to the church at Thessalonica sometime before for the First Jewish-Roman War when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.  He is assuring them that “the day of the Lord” has not come yet (vs 2), and won’t before two things happen: “the rebellion” and the revealing of the “man of lawlessness” (vs 3). This seems to be an abbreviated explanation since Paul had already told them about “these things” in person (vs 5).

Scripture-block application to this question

When Jesus returns all the saints will be gathered to Him.

Jesus said to him, You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.
Jesus told him [the high priest] that the next time that he sees the Son of Man [Jesus], He will be seated on His throne at the right hand of Power [God] returning on the clouds.

The night (or early, next morning) of Jesus’ trial and the first of His interrogations in front of “the chief priests and the whole council” (vs 59). Mark (14:53-65), Luke (22:66-71), and John (18:12-13, 19-24) are parallel accounts.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus will return on His throne “on the clouds of heaven”.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
I [Paul] have successfully fought the good fight, finished the race, and remained faithful to the end. As a result, my reward is awaiting which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me and all those who eagerly await His return on that Day.

The closing comments of Paul’s second letter to the young evangelist Timothy. He feels that his death is imminent (vss 6) but is hopeful to see Timothy again (vs 9).

Scripture-block application to this question

On “that Day” of Jesus’ return, Paul understands that he will receive his reward for remaining faithful along with the rest of the faithful.

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