In this article, we will discover how the glorious appearance of Christ in His Second Coming will affect both the righteous and the wicked before the redeemed begin their long awaited journey to heaven.
When Christ comes the second time, He will come to earth in a cloud, for He is to return in “like manner” as He left the earth. (See Acts 1:9–11.) Sister White describes the great scene with these words: “Soon there appears in the east a small black cloud, about the size of a man’s hand. It is the cloud which surrounds the Saviour and which seems in the distance to be shrouded in darkness. The people of God know this to be the sign of the Son of Man. In solemn silence they gaze upon it as it draws nearer the earth, becoming lighter and more glorious, until it is a great white cloud, its base a glory like consuming fire, and above it the rainbow of the covenant.” The Great Controversy, 640, 641.
How assuring is the promise, given by the angels to the disciples at Jesus’ ascension, that “this same Jesus” would return to take us home with Him. “The disciples had beheld the cloud receive Him. The same Jesus who had walked and talked and prayed with them; who had broken bread with them; who had been with them in their boats on the lake; and who had that very day toiled with them up the ascent of Olivet,— the same Jesus had now gone to share His Father’s throne. And the angels had assured them that the very One whom they had seen go up into heaven, would come again even as He had ascended.” The Desire of Ages, 832.
A Glorified, Triumphant King
There is also an additional factor to recognize. The Savior will be a glorified Christ when He returns. “The glory of Christ’s humanity did not appear when He was upon the earth. He was regarded as a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. We hid as it were our faces from Him. But He was pursuing the path the plan of God had devised. That same humanity now appears as He descends from heaven, robed in glory, triumphant, exalted.” In Heavenly Places, 358.
The glory revealed in the Second Coming will surpass anything that has ever been beheld by mortal eyes. “Christ will come in His own glory, in the glory of His Father, and in the glory of the holy angels. Ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of angels, the beautiful, triumphant sons of God, possessing surpassing loveliness and glory, will escort Him on His way. In the place of a crown of thorns, He will wear a crown of glory—a crown within a crown. In the place of that old purple robe, He will be clothed in a garment of whitest white, ‘so as no fuller on earth can white’ (Mark 9:3). And on His vesture and on His thigh a name will be written, ‘King of kings and Lord of lords.'” Our High Calling, 367. What a majestic description!
Can you imagine seeing countless angels accompany Christ as His glory fills the entire sky? He is no longer to be a man despised. He is now a conquering King! “Jesus rides forth as a mighty conqueror. Not now a ‘Man of sorrows,’ to drink the bitter cup of shame and woe . . . ‘He doth judge and make war.’ And ‘the armies which were in heaven’ (Revelation 19:11, 14) follow Him. With anthems of celestial melody the holy angels, a vast unnumbered throng, attend Him on His way. The firmament seems filled with radiant forms—’ten thousand times ten thousand, thousand and thousands of thousands.’ No human pen can portray the scene; no mortal mind is adequate to conceive its splendor. ‘His glory covers the heavens’ . . . As the living cloud comes still nearer, every eye beholds the Prince of Life. No crown of thorns now mars that sacred head; but a diadem of glory rests on His holy brow. His countenance outshines the dazzling brightness of the noonday sun. ‘And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.'” The Great Controversy, 641.
Who Shall be Able to Stand?
This display of overmastering power will affect both the wicked and the righteous. At first the saints will be apprehensive, while the wicked become terrified. “Before His presence ‘all faces are turned into paleness;’ upon the rejecters of God’s mercy falls the terror of eternal despair. ‘The heart melteth, the knees smite together . . . and the faces of them all gather blackness.’ Jeremiah 30:6, Nahum 2:10.” Ibid., 641. The righteous cry with trembling: ‘Who shall be able to stand?’ The angels’ song is hushed, and there is a period of awful silence. Then the voice of Jesus is heard, saying: ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ The faces of the righteous are lighted up, and joy fills every heart. And the angels strike a note higher and sing again as they draw still nearer to the earth.
“The King of kings descends upon the cloud, wrapped in flaming fire. The heavens are rolled together as a scroll, the earth trembles before Him, and every mountain and island is moved out of its place. ‘Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people.’ Psalm 50:3, 4.” Ibid., 641, 642.
The difference between the saints and the sinners becomes a reality. While the righteous are filled with joy, the wicked are trying to hide and flee to the mountains, crying for the rocks to fall on them. “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand.” (See Revelation 6:15–17.)
The Wicked Cry to Their God
Today the disobedient seem unaware that Satan is preparing them for this final moment. Billions, in these closing hours, are choosing the pagan worship of “mother earth” rather than the worship of the Creator, as their living God. The following quotation reveals how such people will try in vain to escape, calling on their “nature god” to hide them from their Creator. “When the earth is reeling to and fro like a drunkard, when the heavens are shaking, and the great day of the Lord has come . . . the unsaved utter wild imprecations to dumb nature—their god: ‘Mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne. (Revelation 6:16).'” That I May Know Him, 356.
The wicked will flee to the same caves, in the mountains, which have recently been vacated by the faithful. “The people, who have braved out their rebellion, will fulfill the description given in Revelation 6:15–17. In these very caves and dens they find the very statement of truth in the letters and in the publications as witness against them. The shepherds who led the sheep in false paths will hear the charge made against them, ‘It was you who made light of the truth. It was you who told us that God’s law was abrogated, that it was a yoke of bondage. It was you who voiced the false doctrines when I was convicted that these Seventh-day Adventists had the truth. The blood of our souls is upon your priestly garments. . . . Now, will you pay the ransom for my soul? . . . What shall we do who listened to your garbling of the Scriptures and your turning into a lie the truth which if obeyed would have saved us?’
“When Christ comes to take vengeance on those who have educated and trained the people to trample on God’s Sabbath, to tear down His memorial, and tread down with their feet the feed of His pastures, lamentations will be in vain. . . . Rocks and mountains cannot screen them from the indignation of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Maranatha, 290.
At last, the wicked, beholding the glorified Christ in the clouds of heaven, have awakened to their fate, and their attitudes change. “The derisive jests have ceased. Lying lips are hushed into silence. The clash of arms, the tumult of battle, ‘with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood’ (Isaiah 9:5), is stilled. Nought now is heard but the voice of prayer and the sound of weeping and lamentation. The cry bursts forth from lips so lately scoffing: ‘The great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?'” The Great Controversy, 642. And such is the end of the wicked who are alive when Christ comes, for they are destroyed by the brightness of His coming.
“And They Also Who Pierced Him”
However, we must not overlook another most amazing prophecy. For there are some, among the wicked dead, who must live again to see the living, glorified Christ. Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him.” Did you notice those words, “And they also which pierced Him”? These words refer to those wicked dead who played a part in the rejection and crucifixion of our Lord. These individuals, though dead for two thousand years, are to be raised in a special resurrection to behold the return of Jesus in His glory.
The servant of the Lord describes how these individuals will recall the words of Christ. “With thrilling power come to their minds the Sufferers’ words (speaking of Christ), when, adjured by the high priest, He solemnly declared: ‘Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.’ Mathew 26:64. Now they behold Him in His glory. . .
“Those who derided His claim to be the Son of God are speechless now. There is the haughty Herod who jeered at His royal title and bade the mocking soldiers crown Him king. . . . The men who smote and spit upon the Prince of Life now turn from His piercing gaze and seek to flee from the overpowering glory of His presence. Those who drove the nails through His hands and feet, the soldier who pierced His side, behold these marks with terror and remorse. . . .
“And now there rises a cry of mortal agony. Louder than the shout, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him,’ which rang through the streets of Jerusalem, swells the awful, despairing wail, ‘He is the Son of God! He is the true Messiah!'” The Great Controversy, 643, 644.
These resurrected murderers, who mistreated the Lord, will join with the living wicked in calling for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of Jesus, because “they remember how His love was slighted and His compassion abused. . . . All the insult and despite offered to Christ, all the suffering caused to His disciples, will be as fresh in their recollection as when the Satanic deeds were done.
“The voice which they heard so often in entreaty and persuasion will again sound in their ears. Every tone of gracious selection will vibrate as distinctly in their ears as when the Saviour spoke in the synagogues and on the street. Then those who pierced Him will call on the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” The Last Day Events, 275.
The Second Coming and the Righteous
We have looked at how the Second Coming will affect the wicked. Now let us consider how the appearance of Christ, in all His glory, will affect the righteous living and the righteous who have died through past ages. First we will consider the righteous who are raised when the trumpet of God sounds.
Inspiration describes the scene like this: “Amid the reeling of the earth, the flash of lightening, the roar of thunder, the voice of the Son of God calls forth the sleeping saints. He looks upon the graves of the righteous, then, raising His hand to heaven, He cries, ‘Awake, awake, awake, Ye that sleep in the dust, and arise!’ Throughout the length and the breadth of the earth the dead shall hear that voice, and they that hear shall live. And the whole earth shall ring with the tread of an exceeding great army of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. From the prison house of death they come, clothed with immortal glory, crying ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?’ 1 Corinthians 15:55. And the living righteous and the risen saints unite their voice in a long, glad shout of victory.” The Great Controversy, 644.
What takes place in the truly born-again individual that makes the resurrection possible? Consider these words carefully with me, for they contain the secret to eternal life. “By the power of the Savior that dwelt in them while living and because they were partakers of the divine nature, they were brought forth from the dead.” Sons and Daughters of God, 359.
What a divine truth to contemplate. Should some of us be laid to rest before He comes, let us so live that we are daily partakers of this divine nature which is so freely offered to all of God’s obedient children. For we read, “The victory of the sleeping saints will be glorious on the morning of the resurrection. . . . The Lifegiver will crown with immortality all who come forth from the grave.” Ibid.
“When our friends go into the grave, they are beautiful to us. It may be our father or our mother that we laid away: when they come forth those wrinkles are all gone but the figure is there, and we know them. . .
“We want to be prepared to meet these dear friends as they come forth in the resurrection morning. Shall we lay hold upon the hope set before us in the gospel that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is?” In Heavenly Places, 353.
Such assurance is given to all who have been faithful. “The precious dead, from Adam down to the last saint who dies, will hear the voice of the Son of God, and will come forth from the grave to immortal life.” The Desire of Ages, 606.
My heart throbs as I read these precious promises. “For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” Hebrews 10:37. Don’t you feel like saying, “Praise God”? “The child of God will be terror-stricken at the first sight of the majesty of Jesus Christ. He feels that he cannot live in His holy presence. But the word comes to him as to John, ‘Fear not.’ Jesus laid His right hand upon John; He raised Him up from his prostrate position. So will He do unto His loyal, trusting, ones.” That I May Know Him, 360.
Again, I must re-emphasize the important truth that it is only because we become joined with Christ here on earth, that when we die we will come forth from the grave when He calls. This is stated clearly in Maranatha, 302. “Christ became one flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him. It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave—not merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because through faith, His life has become ours. Those who see Christ in His true character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. It is through the spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the spirit of God, received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of life eternal.” Is that not amazing? Here is the gospel in its fullness.
The Condition of the Resurrected Righteous
Have you ever wondered what the appearance and size of the righteous dead will be like when they are resurrected? That answer is found in inspiration also. “All come forth from their graves the same in stature as when they entered the tomb. Adam, who stands among the risen throng, is of lofty height and majestic form, in stature but little below the Son of God. He presents a marked contrast to the people of later generations; in this one respect is shown the great degeneracy of the race. But all arise with the freshness and the vigor of eternal youth. . . . All blemishes and deformities are left in the grave. Restored to the tree of life in the long-lost Eden, the redeemed will ‘grow up’ (Malachi 4:2) to the full stature of the race in its primeval glory.” The Great Controversy, 644, 645.
“When Christ comes, . . .we shall then be gifted with a higher nature. The bodies of all who purify their souls by obeying the truth shall be glorified. They will have fully received and believed in Jesus Christ.” Selected Messages, vol. 3, 427.
I have discovered another gift that will be bestowed upon the saints of God when He comes. “When Christ comes, we shall then be gifted with a higher nature. The bodies of all who purify their souls by obeying the truth shall be glorified. They will have fully received and believed in Jesus Christ.” Selected Messages, book 3, 427.
It is no wonder that the apostle exclaimed in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Let these words of inspiration from 1 Corinthians15:53 be riveted in our mind: “This corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.”
Ellen White emphasizes these word in The Great Controversy, 645. “The living righteous are changed ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.’ At the voice of God they were glorified; now they are made immortal and with the risen saints are caught up to meet their Lord in the air.” “There are the columns of angels on either side . . . then the angelic choir strike the note of victory and the angels in two columns take up the song and the redeemed host join as though they had been singing the song on the earth, and they have been. Oh, what music! There is not an inharmonious note. Every voice proclaims, ‘Worthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” Sons and Daughters of God, 359. I get so thrilled when I read about the coming wonders that I can hardly wait. My heart cry is, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
Picture with me the reunion of God’s saints. “Angels ‘gather together His elect from the four winds; from one end of heaven to the other.’ Little children are borne by holy angels to their mother’s arms. Friends long separated by death are united, nevermore to part. . . .” The Great Controversy, 645. (If you are interested in reading more about children in heaven, see Selected Messages, vol. 2, 260 and Early Writings, 19.)
A Big Reunion
We shall know our friends even as the disciples knew Jesus. They may have been deformed, diseased or disfigured in this mortal life, but they will rise in perfect health and symmetry. Yet, in the glorified body, their identity will be perfectly preserved. “Then shall we know, even as also we are known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12.
“He [Jesus] will come to honor those who have loved Him and kept His commandments and to take them to Himself. He has not forgotten them or His promise. There will be a relinking of the family chain.” The Desire of Ages, 632.
What about those we have led to Jesus? “The redeemed will meet and recognize those whose attention they have directed to the uplifted Saviour. What blessed converse they have with these souls! ‘I was a sinner,’ it was said, ‘without God and without hope in the world, and you came to me and drew my attention to the precious Saviour as my only hope.’ . . . Others will say, ‘I was a heathen in heathen lands. You… came to teach me how to find Jesus and believe in Him as the only true God. I demolished my idols and I worshiped God, and now I see Him face to face. I am saved, eternally saved, ever to behold Him whom I love.’..
“Others will express their gratitude to those who fed the hungry and clothed the naked. ‘When despair bound my soul in unbelief, the Lord sent you to me,’ they say, ‘to speak words of hope and comfort, . . . so that I could grasp the hand of Christ that was reached out to save me. . . . You read to me the precious promises of God’s word. You inspired in me the faith that He would save me. My heart was softened, subdued, broken, as I contemplated the sacrifice which Christ had made for me…’
“What rejoicing there will be as these redeemed ones meet and greet those who have had a burden in their behalf! And those who have lived, not to please themselves, but to be a blessing to the unfortunate who have so few blessings—how their hearts will thrill with satisfaction.” My Life Today, 353.
As I recall these wonderful statements, beloved, we must be there. We must be there! Please contemplate this mighty appeal of the Holy Spirit found in Early Writings, 110. “Then only those who are holy, those who have followed fully the meek Pattern, will with rapturous joy exclaim as they behold Him, ‘Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us.’ And they will be changed ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.’—that trump that wakes the sleeping saints, and calls them forth from their dusty beds, clothed with glorious immortality, and shouting, ‘Victory! Victory over death and the grave.’ The changed saints are then caught up together with the angels to meet the Lord in the air, nevermore to be separated from the object of their love.
“With such a prospect as this before us, such a glorious hope, such a redemption that Christ has purchased for us by His own blood, shall we hold our peace? Shall we not praise God even with a loud voice, as did the disciples when Jesus rode into Jerusalem? Is not our prospect far more glorious than was theirs? Who dare then forbid us glorifying God, even with a loud voice, when we have such a hope, big with immortality, and full of glory? We have tasted of the powers of the world to come, and long for more. My whole heart cries out after the living God, and I shall not be satisfied until I am filled with all His fullness.”