Most Christians think that the day of the Last Judgment is the day when Jesus, who came as the Savior 2,000 years ago, comes to this earth again.
They commonly imagine the scene where Jesus comes on the clouds floating in the sky and execute judgment by fire immediately and the saved people enter the kingdom of heaven. However, the Bible does not teach that.
Jesus’ coming in clouds and His coming in blazing fire
The appearance of Jesus who comes on the clouds is different from that of Jesus who appears in blazing fire. So, the time and purpose of His first coming is also different from those of His second coming.
Mt 24:30-31 “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
Lk 21:27-28 『“At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”』
The time when Jesus comes on the clouds is not the day when the wicked are judged and God’s people enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is to come in clouds before judging the wicked. The purpose of Jesus’ coming in clouds is not to judge and punish the world. As Jesus has told us to prepare for salvation because the kingdom of heaven is near, the purpose of His coming in clouds is to give His elect the opportunity for salvation. After this, He will come in blazing fire as the Judge and execute His punishment.
Isa 66:15-16 See, the LORD is coming with fire, and his chariots are like a whirlwind; he will bring down his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For with fire and with his sword the LORD will execute judgment upon all men, and many will be those slain by the LORD.
2 Th 1:7-10 . . . and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes . . .
The reason why Jesus comes in clouds before the Last Judgment
If Jesus only comes as the Judge, there is no one in this world who can be saved.
Lk 18:8 “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
“Will he find faith on the earth?” By saying this, Jesus means that He will not find anyone who has faith when He comes again. It is because there is no one who has true faith worthy enough to be saved even though so many people claim to believe in Jesus.
Faith is an absolute condition for salvation. If God immediately executes His judgment upon the world where there is no faith, who on earth will be able to be saved?
2,000 years ago, Jesus established the truth of the new covenant, and after His ascension the devil sowed weeds [lawlessness] among the wheat. In this world filled with the weeds, no one can realize the truth by himself or have faith worthy enough to be saved (Mt 13:24-43; Da 7:25). So, to restore the truth of the new covenant which was destroyed during the Dark Ages and to gather God’s people so that they can have true faith which leads to salvation, Jesus must come as the Savior first before He comes as the Judge.
Jesus’ coming in the flesh again
Jesus is prophesied to come in the clouds. Here the clouds represent flesh. In the Bible, the people living in this world are likened to the waters, and the human society consisting of people from many different backgrounds are likened to the sea (Rev 17:15). Especially, the clouds which are formed by condensed water vapor refer to those who are born again by the Holy Spirit, among all people who have the flesh.
Clouds give water to every living creature on the earth; water is necessary for the survival of all living organisms. The prophecy that Jesus will come in the clouds means that He will come in the flesh, which is represented as clouds, and will give rain [the water of life] to His elect (Rev 22:17). Through the prophecy about Jesus who came 2,000 years ago, we can confirm the fact that the clouds which Jesus comes on represent flesh.
Da 7:13-14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power [a kingdom, KJV]; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Jesus came to this earth in the flesh and preached the truth of life. He fulfilled all the prophecies about the Son of Man described in the book of Daniel by coming in the flesh and receiving authority, glory and sovereign power [a kingdom], which belong only to God (Mt 28:18; Jn 17:10; Lk 22:29).
The main reason why the Jews failed to receive Jesus who came according to the prophecies of the Bible was that Jesus Christ was far different from the Messiah of their own imagination; they expected that the magnificent kingdom of God would be established before their eyes right away when Christ came. However, Jesus came as a humble man just like one of them and taught them about the invisible kingdom of God and spiritual salvation.
The sense of betrayal which they created by themselves made them reject and hate Jesus and even commit the sin of crucifying Him on the cross without hesitation.
Today, Christians have the same kind of expectations for the second coming of Jesus as the Jewish people had. Just as the Bible prophesied that Jesus would come in clouds at His second coming, He came again in the flesh before the Last Judgment to give us the water of life. However, many people view Jesus just from a physical standpoint, and they are still only looking at the clouds in the sky, turning their faces away from Jesus even though He already came in the flesh.
Jesus’ coming to Zion at His second coming
When Christ comes with fire, there is no more opportunity to repent and turn back to God to be saved, because salvation is already determined. So, when Jesus comes in the flesh a second time and gathers His elect, we must receive Him and learn the truth of salvation that Christ personally teaches us.
Mic 4:1-2 In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The LORD’s temple which peoples stream to in the last days refers to Zion where the temple of God is built. Zion is the Church that keeps the feasts of God (Isa 33:20). Before the Last Judgment, Jesus is to come to Zion in the flesh again to personally lead His people to the way of truth. Only those who are led by Him can have enough faith to be saved when God is revealed from heaven in blazing fire as the Judge at the last day.
It is obviously wrong to think that the world will be judged immediately when Jesus comes a second time. We want everyone to come to salvation by realizing the Biblical teaching which shows that Jesus’ second coming is different from His coming at the Last Judgment and receiving Jesus who has come to Zion in the flesh again in the last days.