When Christ returns to set up the Kingdom of God, will He return visibly and bodily?
This seems to be a relatively simple matter to determine from the Bible, but there are myriads of different ideas that exist about this question. Let us look at some basic Scriptures.
In Matthew 24:26-30, Jesus Himself said:
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
This passage clearly states that the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, will be seen by “all the tribes of the earth” at His return. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries state that they will “gaze – that is with wide open eyes as at something remarkable.” Indeed, it will be remarkable–a truly unique situation–when Christ returns to this earth just in time to save man from self-annihilation (compare Matthew 24:21-22), and He will be seen by “all the tribes of the earth” at that time.
We read in Acts 1:9-11: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.'”
One commentator made these observations: “Notice that this says ‘the same manner,’ not the same body. What was the ‘manner’ of his ascent? As verse 9 shows, he disappeared from view, his departure being observed only by his disciples. The world in general was not aware of what happened. The same would be true of Christ’s return.”
However, the flaws in these arguments or understanding are that while the world may not have been aware of this event at the time of Christ’s ascension, the world, being on the brink of cosmocide at the very end of this age, will be facing a time when Christ has to return to save us from ourselves. He will be seen as the course of action described in the book of Revelation takes place. He won’t be doing this invisibly!
In addition, since Christ ascended visibly as He did, it therefore follows that He will return in like manner, that is, visibly, so that He can be seen by “all the tribes of the earth.” Exactly how this will be done is open to conjecture, but as Scripture says that it will happen, we believe what the Word of God says.
This same commentator went on to say that “If Christ were to appear visibly in the heavens, it is obvious that not ‘every eye’ would see Him. If He appeared over Australia, for example, He would not be visible in Europe, Africa and the Americas, would He?”
The Bible says that He WILL appear visibly. It is possible that Christ will circle the earth so that all tribes can see Him. Christ declared: “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27; compare also Luke 17:24). It is also possible that television cameras and other electronic equipment will show and broadcast His appearance all over the world–as the peoples and nations will see the dead bodies of the two witnesses for three-and-a-half days, apparently via electronic transmissions of some kind (compare Revelation 11:9).
We need to understand, however, that even though Christ will return visibly–not secretly–He will not appear with the same physical BODY which He had before His death. Christ is now a SPIRIT being, and He has a SPIRITUAL body. But He can, of course, manifest Himself AS a physical being, even with bones and flesh. For a full discussion of this sometimes misunderstood concept, see our Q&A on the question, “Do you teach a resurrection of the physical body?”
The angels said that Jesus will return in the same manner as He left. Let us note that Jesus, after His crucifixion, appeared visibly to His apostles and others on many occasions, and that He ascended to heaven “visibly.” Jesus appeared to:
— Mary Magdalene shortly after His resurrection (Mark 16:9; John 20:14-17);
— the women who held Him by the feet (Matthew 28:9);
— the two disciples “as they walked and went into the country” on their way to Emmaus (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13-31);
— Cephas or Peter and then to the twelve (1 Corinthians 15:5);
— the original apostles (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-20, 24-28);
— the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-25);
— over 500 brethren (1 Corinthians 15:6);
— the eleven disciples, giving them the commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18);
— the disciples at the time of His ascension (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:4-9).
Please also note that after Christ’s resurrection, He “presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being SEEN by them DURING FORTY DAYS and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
This is a considerable body of Scriptural evidence proving that Jesus, after His crucifixion and resurrection, showed Himself visibly to hundreds of people, manifesting Himself as a human being. He will manifest Himself visibly at His Second Coming, in great glory and power! It should be noted that we must take Scripture for what it says; not what we think it says or how we think something may happen.
In Revelation 1:7, there is further proof: “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.” We read that EVERY eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. This is referring to the Jewish race and mankind in general whose sins necessitated Christ’s death on our behalf.
In Zechariah 14:4, we read: “And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east.” This is talking about the Day of the Lord when Christ returns visibly to this earth. He said that He would return to this earth to set up the Kingdom of God; that He will rule from Jerusalem; and that the saints will rule and reign with Him on the earth (Revelation 5:10).
Many strange ideas exist about Christ’s return–including the belief that Christ would be returning as a physical Man–being born again from a woman. Some believe that Christ will rule with the saints from heaven. Others believe that Christ has already returned to this earth!
The rapture is another wrong theory that we covered briefly in Update 54, where it was stated: “The bible is very consistent in describing Christ’s Second Coming as one and the same event. When He visibly returns, He will gather His elect – not before then (Matthew 24:27-31).” A thorough discussion of the wrong concept of the “rapture” can be found in our Q&A on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and in our free booklet, “Is That in the Bible?–The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,” on pages 52 to 54.
If we believe what the Scriptures clearly reveal, we understand that Jesus Christ will visibly return to this earth. His Second Coming will be witnessed by everyone on earth alive at that time.
Lead Writer: Brian Gale