How, when and where Jesus Christ will return to earth are often misunderstood. What does the Bible say about the coming King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
The book of Revelation twice describes Jesus as “Lord of lords” and “King of kings” when He returns to earth (Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16). At this time Jesus will be the King ruling over the Kingdom of God here on earth. Yet the details of how Jesus will arrive to assume this role are confusing to many.
When one begins studying the second coming of Jesus to this earth, he or she soon runs into multiple opinions about whether Christ will return before or after the 1,000-year Millennium.
Then there is the common belief that there will be a secret return of Christ to rapture away the saints prior to a return that will be visible to all. Proponents of the rapture theory are divided over when this prophesied event will occur. Some think it will take place prior to the Tribulation, others believe it will happen during the Tribulation, and some say it will occur after the Tribulation.
It all gets quite confusing! So what do the Scriptures actually say?
As we begin this study, let’s note that the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ came in the flesh to die for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Peter 2:24) and “to those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28, emphasis added throughout).
While these scriptures show that Jesus will come to earth twice, there are no additional statements in the Bible saying that Jesus will come “a third time” or “a fourth time” to deal with the world or to conduct other business.
No secret return
Although multiple events are prophesied to occur when Jesus returns, the Bible presents these events as all part of the same return. The supposition that the saints are privately taken to heaven before Christ returns is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the dead in Christ who have been resurrected, verse 15] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
Yet the preceding verse shows that this will not be a secretive event. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (verse 16).
Speaking of the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the change that will take place for faithful saints who are alive at Christ’s return, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 explains: “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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The sounding of a trumpet at Christ’s return will make the gathering of the saints—those who are dead and alive—an event recognizable by all! There is nothing secretive here! For further explanation, read the article “Rapture: Will There Be a Secret Rapture?”
Let’s now look at passages that answer the questions of how, when and where Jesus will return.
How the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will come
Instead of a secret or private return to earth, the Scriptures repeatedly state that Christ’s return will be visible to all. The book of Revelation, which is “the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants” (Revelation 1:1), addresses this very point. “Behold, He [Christ] 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” (verse 7).
Earlier, during His earthly ministry, Jesus had also answered His disciples’ questions about how He would return. In His Olivet Prophecy (recorded for us in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21) He said, “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).
Jesus added: “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” (verse 30).
The Bible also teaches that Jesus’ return will be similar to the way He left the earth. After His resurrection from the grave, Jesus spent 40 days appearing to His disciples (Acts 1:3) and on one occasion to “over five hundred brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:6) before ascending to heaven.
“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’” (Acts 1:9-11).
The principle we see in these passages is that Jesus’ return will be visible to all. Furthermore, as we’ve already noted, His return will be marked by the piercing sound of a trumpet. The return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will not be a quiet, secretive event!
When the King of Kings will come
Through the Old Testament prophet Joel, God revealed that great cosmic disturbances would precede Christ’s return. As the prophet wrote, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31).
Adding to this teaching, Jesus explained: “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” (Matthew 24:29-30).
From these passages, we see that Jesus will come after these heavenly signs appear. Additionally, Jesus said that these signs will occur “immediately after the tribulation.” Thus, Christ’s return will come after the Tribulation.
One of the first things Jesus will do upon His return is to restore the Kingdom of God here on earth.One of the first things Jesus will do upon His return is to restore the Kingdom of God here on earth. Faithful Christians, who will be changed into spirit at Christ’s return, will assist Him in His role as King of Kings and Lord of Lords over the entire earth. Under Jesus, these spirit beings will serve as kings and priests to help humanity learn God’s ways (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10).
The time when Christ assumes authority over all nations is found in the explanation of end-time events in the book of Revelation. “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).
One of God’s annual holy days, the Feast of Trumpets, reminds us of multiple prophecies that will occur upon the return of Jesus Christ to earth. This day pictures the return of Jesus Christ to earth, the resurrection of faithful saints, the change into spirit that faithful Christians who are alive will experience and the beginning of Christ’s rule over the nations in order to bring about peace between all nations and peoples.
The New Testament couples these events with the sound of a trumpet; and thus, they are all part of the return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. These momentous events are truly ones deserving of a great sound of a trumpet to announce their occurrence.
Because the Feast of Trumpets pictures the return of Jesus, some have wondered if He will return on this specific day. While this is certainly possible, Jesus stated regarding His return: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). As such, we must acknowledge that while this holy day pictures Christ’s return, there is no guarantee that Christ will return on this actual day.
For further study about the Feast of Trumpets, see the article: “The Feast of Trumpets: Alarm of War, Announcement of Peace.”
Where the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will come
Occasionally, there are rumors that Jesus Christ has returned to one part of the world or another. While naïve people can become excited about such news, the Bible clearly tells us where Jesus will return.
Speaking of this time when Christ will come to this earth once again, Zechariah prophesied: “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
“Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:1-4).
The location where Jesus will return is the Mount of Olives, a mountain ridge east of the old city of Jerusalem. When He does return, this mountain ridge will be split apart. An authentic report announcing Christ’s return will match this criteria. For more on this, see “Where Will Jesus Return?”
What the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will do
While the technical details of Christ’s return are interesting to study, what He will do once He assumes authority over the entire earth is what will be most exciting for humanity.
Commenting on this wonderful time to come, Isaiah wrote: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
The Bible reveals that Christ will reign upon the earth for 1,000 years—a period of time referred to as the Millennium. His reign as King of Kings will be marked by the healing of diseases, abundant prosperity, universal peace and, most importantly, the opportunity for people to live God’s way of life and have their sins forgiven.
Another biblical festival—the Feast of Tabernacles—pictures this wonderful future. To learn more about this festival and this period of time during which Christ will rule, see the articles “Feast of Tabernacles: A Bountiful Harvest” and “1,000 Years—the Millennium.”