‘I Will Return’
A look at why Jesus must—and will—come to Earth again
Following a 2020 Democratic presidential debate, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) approached Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who reached out his hand to shake hers. She did not reciprocate. Instead, she made an accusation that accidentally was caught on a hot mic: “I think you called me a liar on national TV.”
Sanders replied, “What?”
Warren repeated her claim. Sanders tried to brush it off but then added, “You called me a liar.”
Most people would agree that politicians from all parties lie. One politician accusing another of not telling the truth seems the height of irony.
However, no one can call Jesus a liar. Jesus always told the truth (Jn. 8:45). He came into this world to bear witness to the truth (18:37) and was, in fact, truth incarnate (14:6). So, when He told His disciples, “I go away” (16:5) but also said, “I will come again” (14:3), He was stating fact.
Although 2,000 years have passed since Jesus ascended to heaven, He is coming back. And He’s coming back soon (Rev. 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). We refer to this event as the Second Coming or Second Advent.
Why did Jesus say He will return? And what did He say He will do when He arrives? He will rule the world, and He will judge it.
He Must Return to Rule
When Adam sinned, he forfeited mankind’s stewardship over this world. That authority passed to God’s adversary, Satan, whom Jesus called “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 14:30). But Jesus also said, “The ruler of this world is judged” (16:11) and “will be cast out” (12:31).
When Christ returns, Satan will be imprisoned for 1,000 years in what the Bible calls “the bottomless pit” (Rev. 20:1–3). Jesus—the righteous, rightful Ruler—will take His place on His throne.
Since His ascension, He has been sitting at the right hand of His Father’s throne in heaven, waiting to occupy His own throne on Earth (Heb. 8:1; Rev. 3:21). Then He will exercise supreme power, as He said in Matthew 28:18: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus also promised to delegate authority to His 12 apostles (excluding Judas and probably including Paul) and clarified that this event will take place “in the regeneration.” The word regeneration in this context means “the renewing of the world in the time of the Messiah.” The apostle Peter described this future renewal as “times of refreshing” ushered in by Christ, “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:19, 21).
This time of regeneration, refreshing, and restoration will include the reestablishment of God’s Kingdom on Earth, the redemption of believers’ bodies, and the rejuvenation of all creation (Zech. 14.9; Rom. 8:18–25).
Even though Earth today languishes under the rule of a usurper, someday “the Son of Man [will sit] on the throne of His glory” (Mt. 19:28; cf. 25:31) in “Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King” (5:35). That Son of Man, the true King, is the Lord Jesus.
He Must Return to Judge
In Genesis, when God prepared to destroy everyone in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (18:25). When Jesus returns, He will be that righteous Judge of all the earth. He declared the Father “has committed all judgment to the Son” (Jn. 5:22).
Jesus will not make the same mistake His generation made when it judged Him. He told the people, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (7:24). All of Jesus’ judgments will be completely righteous, well deserved, and in accord with the Father: “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (5:30).
Jesus also asserted that the Father has “given Him authority to execute judgment” (v. 27), which He will do when He returns: “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (Mt. 16:27; cf. Rev. 22:12).
Who will Jesus judge? He will judge Israel, as well as all the Gentile nations. The prophet Ezekiel foresaw Israel’s judgment when God told the Israelites, “I will rule over you. I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face” (Ezek. 20:33, 35).
Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38).
He also will judge the Gentiles: “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Mt. 25:32). He will judge them according to how they treated Israel, specifically during the seven-year Tribulation when Jewish people will be severely persecuted.
Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you did it [gave help] to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (v. 40). The nations’ treatment of Israel will indicate whether they are in a right or wrong relationship with the Savior.
Part of Jesus’ role as Judge will be to decide who gains entrance into His future, earthly Kingdom. That decision will hinge on whether or not an individual trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life: “Do not marvel at this,” Jesus said, “for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear [My] voice and come forth—those who have done good [believers, as evidenced by their good deeds] to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil [unbelievers, as evidenced by their evil deeds] to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:28–29). Jesus’ parables of the separation of the tares from the wheat and the bad fish from the good fish also illustrate this truth (Mt. 13:24–30, 36–43, 47–50; cf. 24:37–41).
Those admitted to the Kingdom will be rewarded: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (19:29). Those excluded from the Millennial Kingdom will ultimately be judged at the Great White Throne, along with all unbelievers through the ages (Rev. 20:11–15).
The world has seen its share of corrupt judges throughout history. But Jesus will return to judge every person righteously.
He is No Politician
Jesus’ Second Coming is one of the most important doctrines in all of Scripture. It has always been considered a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. If Jesus were not to return, hundreds of verses that speak of God’s future plans for us and for this earth would be lies.
But Jesus will never lie. He is no politician. Indeed, “All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor. 1:20). In fact, Jesus vowed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mt. 24:35). The simplest reason why Jesus must return is to validate His eternal promises.
God is always faithful and true to His Word. Jesus will come back to Earth at the exact moment God the Father wants Him to come (Ps. 110:1). As we wait, let us not be like the Lord’s detractors, whom He once asked, “If I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jn. 8:46).
Instead, let us be like the apostle Paul and confess with great assurance, “I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:25, NASB).