When I studied all of the references that I thought applied to Christ’s second coming and put them together (35 references), I came up with 16 characteristics. As you read through these points notice both the differences and the similarities of His Second Coming to His coming in the rapture. Indeed it is important that we understand the differences so that we will be able to recognize that there is indeed two phases of His coming, with two different purposes. At the same time it is also important to notice the similarities, because of course it will be the same Jesus who comes at two different times.
16 Characteristics of Christ’s Second Coming
1. He will come after the Tribulation and sometime during the battle of Armageddon (Zech. 14:2-3; Matt. 24:29-30). In Matthew’s gospel, it is stated clearly that immediately after the tribulation of those days, Jesus will appear in the sky, and He will come to us on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. What a sight that will be! Also, we read from Zechariah 14 that He will come at a time when all the nations of the earth have come to battle against Israel.
2. Earth dwellers should know the approximate time of His coming, but not the day or the hour (Zech. 14:2-3; Matt. 24:15-21, 29-30; 2 Thess. 2:2-3; Rev. 13:4-5; Matt. 24:42; 25:13). Though unbelievers will be blinded as to the time of His coming, believers should know the approximate time of His coming, for as we have just pointed out (in point one), He will come after the Tribulation and at the end of Armageddon. They should also know, from 2 Thessalonians 2:2-3, that He will come after the apostasy and after the man of lawlessness (the Antichrist) is revealed. And if they have been careful to study the prophetical scriptures (in Matt. 24:15-21 and in Rev. 13:4-5), they should know that he will be revealed at the midpoint of the Tribulation—so anyone should be able to calculate when the end of the Tribulation will occur and thus when He will come.
However, the bible tells us (in Matthew 24:42 and in 25:13) that no one knows the day or the hour of His coming. So apparently, either they won’t be able to tell exactly when the Tribulation will begin or end, or perhaps He will not come on the very day that the Tribulation will end.
3. When He comes He will gather the elect from the four winds (Matt. 24:31; Jn. 5:25-29). On the day of Christ’s coming He will send His angels out to gather all believers from wherever they are. All the Old Testament saints and the Tribulation martyrs will be in their graves; that is, their bodies will be in their graves and their spirits will be with God. So when they are gathered, this would involve their resurrection and glorification. The church I think will also be gathered, but they will already be in their glorified bodies. Thus when the gathering process is completed all the elect will have glorified bodies and will be together with Jesus—ready to follow Him into His kingdom on white horses.
4. He will come with the grand purpose of establishing His kingdom (Dan. 7:14; Zech. 14:8-11). When our Lord comes in the clouds, He will first be led into the presence of the “Ancient One” (His Father), and there He will be given “authority, honor, and royal power over all the nations of the world” (Dan. 7:13, 14, NLT). Thus He will be king over all the earth, and He will do many things to establish His kingdom and to make the earth a wonderful place to live.
5. He will come with fire in His eyes, to judge and make war against all unbelievers. He will gather all nations to a place called Armageddon to do battle, and then He will go out and fight against them (Zech. 14:2-3). He will send His angels out to take unbelievers away to judgment (Matt. 24:40-41), and also to execute them (Jude 14-15). He Himself will judge each of them according to their deeds; that is, to see if their deeds reveal that they are believers (Matt. 16:27). And He will execute many by the sword of His mouth (I think this means that He will kill them just by speaking; Rev. 19:21).
6. When He comes He will separate the believers from the unbelievers and judge them accordingly (Matt. 25:31-46). When the Son of Man comes in His glory, He will gather all the living people on the earth together before Him on His throne. I am not certain when this event takes place, but it seems logical that it will transpire immediately after His judgment of all those who have come to do battle at Armageddon; thus after all those unbelievers that have come to do battle are executed by His angels and also are slain by the sword of His mouth, then all others everywhere in the world will be gathered for this separation and judgment.
And He will put the sheep (believers) on His right, and the goats (unbelievers) on His left. And he will protect the sheep and invite them into his kingdom. But the goats will not be protected from His judgment. They will be executed that day, and 1000 years later, after the millennial kingdom, they will be resurrected, only to be judged again and cast into the lake of fire with the devil and his angels (Rev. 20:11-15).
7. Jesus has given us many signs of His coming (Matt. 24:3-14). When Jesus was asked by His disciples, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age,” He gave them these eight signs: (1) false Christ’s and prophets will come and mislead many; (2) they will hear of wars and rumors of wars; (3) nations will rise against nations; (4) there will be famines and earthquakes in various places; (5) all believers (especially Jewish believers) will be hated, persecuted, and killed; (6) many weak believers will fall away and will betray one another; (7) rebellion and lawlessness will increase; and (8) the gospel will continue to be preached to the whole world right up to the end—when He comes.
8. His coming will be a great surprise (shock) to all unbelievers (Matt. 24:37-39; 25:44; Lu. 17:26-30). The day of His coming will be just like the days of Noah; that is, many will be going about their normal, daily business, when suddenly, and surprisingly, He will appear in the sky. And they will be even more surprised to discover that He will not accept them into His kingdom and that He will say to them, “Depart from Me, accursed ones.” They will not understand God’s judgment on them, for they will be so blinded in their evil ways that they will not know the truth when they see it. Indeed, they will be totally unprepared for His coming! Many will point to all their good works. Others will probably say that they thought the idea of His coming was just fairy tales and foolishness.
9. His coming will be preceded by mocking (2 Pt. 3:3-4; Jude 18). In the last days, especially during the Tribulation, people will be extremely worldly and lustful—looking out for only themselves. And they will have nothing good to say to anyone who is a believer. Indeed, they will curse God for their suffering (Rev. 16:9, 11, 21), and they will mock all believers who insist that He is coming soon. But unknowingly, they will be providing believers with great hope; for their mocking is a definite sign of His coming.
10. His coming will be sudden and unexpected (Matt. 24:37-51; 1 Thess. 5:3). The bible tells us that He will come suddenly, like birth pangs upon a pregnant woman; and He will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Thus he will come on a day when people will be quite unprepared for Him, just as those in Noah’s day were unprepared for the flood—even though Noah had been warning them through his preaching (2 Pt. 2:5).
11. His coming will be glorious and dramatic (Matt. 16:27; 24:27-30; 26:64; Lu. 9:26; 2 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 1:7; 16:18-21; 19:11-12). Unlike the first phase of His coming, which will be quite silent and mysterious, the second phase will be just the opposite. Just before He appears, Matthew’s gospel (in Matt. 24:29) tells us…
But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (NASU)
John, in Revelation 16:18, 20-21, gives much more detail to Christ’s introduction—which God gave him in a vision. He writes…
18 And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe. (NASU)
Clearly we see from these passages that even before He appears God will shake up the heavens and the earth in an effort to let all people know that Christ His Son is coming and that He is angry!
And then, when He has the world’s attention, He will appear in the sky with power and great glory! John tells us, according to his vision (in Rev. 19:11-12)…
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. (NASU)
Oh what a sight!
Now one more things needs to be emphasized about the dramatics of His coming. When He comes, people will not only see Him coming, they will deeply feel and experience His coming. Matthew 24:27 tells us that His coming will be “just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west.” The word “coming” here is literally, “His presence.” So I take it that when He comes, not only will we see Him with our eyes, but His presence will be felt and will radiate through our bones like lightning and thunder. And so, as lightning sometimes flashes from the eastern horizon to the western horizon and lights up the whole sky, His appearing and presence will be felt and gloriously displayed to all. It will be a dazzling and glorious display.
12. His coming will be preceded by a series of or preludes (Matt. 24:28-29; Rev. 16:17-21; 19:17-18). As was previously pointed out, the second phase of His coming will be much different than the first phase. Whereas the first phase will be without dramatics or visibility, the second phase will be quite visible and with many signs and warnings. In reading over the scriptures listed above, I observed three preludes—or we could also call them introductions—to His coming. And the fact that there are a series of preludes (three in a row) builds up the climax of His coming; it gets those on the earth ready and on the edge of their seats, even standing before Him in great anticipation.
The first prelude of His coming will consist of all of what is poured out of the seventh bowl of wrath (Rev. 16:17-21). There will be lightning and thunder and a great earthquake, which will be by far the greatest in the history of the earth. It will shake the entire world. Cities will crumble, islands and mountains will disappear, and there will be hail weighing approximately 100 pounds each.
The second prelude features birds (or vultures)—millions of them. They will be called by an angel to come and feed on the flesh of all the dead, or those who will die, at Armageddon. But they will also serve to signal (or introduce) the soon coming King.
The third prelude will showcase the powers of the heavens. Indeed, as is indicated by the words “and then” in Matthew 24:30, the astronomical events of Matthew 24:29, will come right before He appears. These phenomenal events—the darkening of the sky and the falling of stars—though it seems to be a separate event, I think could be tied to the great earthquake (in the first prelude). Nonetheless, this mysterious darkness will come just before He appears in the sky.
13. He will come out of heaven riding on a white horse (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 19:11). In John’s vision he saw heaven open up and Jesus sitting on a white horse. Matthew’s gospel doesn’t mention a white horse, but it says that all the tribes of the earth will “see the Son of Man COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.” So, putting it together, we must conclude that He will come out of heaven riding on a white horse, on the clouds, toward earth. What a sight! What a vision of grandeur and victory!
14. Jesus will have a powerful, glorious, holy, wrathful and warlike appearance (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 19:11-13). When He comes, riding His horse across the sky on the clouds, He will appear with great power and glory. And He will also appear as righteous and faithful, for two of His names are “Word of God,” and “Faithful and True”; thus all of His words have been and are absolutely true and righteous. And in righteousness He comes to judge the world and to wage war against the world. His eyes will appear as a flame of fire and His robe will be bloody. He will come with a holy vengeance to slay all who are against Him.
15. All eyes will see Him and mourn (Zech. 12:10-14; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Rev. 1:7). When He appears in the sky, no one will miss seeing Him. All eyes will be looking upward, magnetized by His glory and brilliance and power. And His holiness and majesty will be so convicting and piercing that it will cause all to mourn over Him. Many, especially Jews, will mourn over their sins against Him and for their rejection of Him. Their crying will not so much be a public display, but a private sorrow and repentance, brought to them by the Holy Spirit. And they will be saved—given new, spiritual life. Indeed, all living Jews at that time will be saved (Rom. 11:26-27).
But most people will not repent. They will be sorry for a wasted life, and will sense their coming judgment, yet they will have no thought of repentance.
16. He will descend to the same place where He ascended (Zech. 14:3-11; Acts 1:9-11). After Jesus comes in the sky and all eyes see Him, He will signal His angels, with a loud trumpet blast, to go and gather all the elect “from the four winds” (Matt. 24:31). Hence, at the sound of the trumpet, all the saints who have died (the Old Testament and Tribulation saints) will be resurrected and gathered by the angels, together with the glorified bride of Christ.
And we will all be gathered around Him; and then we all will follow Him on white horses—and all the angels will be in the parade too. Oh what a sight!
Our first stop, I think, will be the Mount of Olives, which will fulfill the prophecy by the angels to Jesus’ disciples, that He “will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
And besides fulfilling this great prophecy, this touchdown has at least one other purpose. It will allow mortal believers at that time to escape from the terror of the antichrist; for when His feet touches down on the Mount, it will be split from east to west, creating a large valley through which they will flee to the east, into the mountains (probably the mountains in Jordan east of the Dead Sea).
Another purpose for His touch down may be to set off a series of miraculous events that will alter the earth’s topography, described in Zechariah 14:6-11 (and it may be in some way connected to the great earthquake of Revelation 16:18-21). We don’t know exactly how these land changes will take place, nonetheless we know what the end result will be.
All the land in that area of the world (in Israel) will be changed—leveled off “into a plain from Geba to Rimmon South of Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:10). Most importantly, we know that Jesus our Lord will begin to reign as King over all the earth; and we will all reign with Him. And those believers who have come out of the Tribulation, they will also be very blessed, for there will be no more curse upon the earth (Zech. 14:11).