Second Coming and Last Judgment: Are They the Same?May 17, 2023
Many Christians believe that the Second Coming and the Last Judgment are the same — that when Jesus comes a second time, He will judge the world. But is this what the Bible says? Despite this common belief, the Bible describes these two events as totally separate. They happen at different times, and each has its own appearance and purpose.
Appearance and Purpose
The Bible describes what the Second Coming and Last Judgment will look like, and these descriptions are completely different. The Second Coming and Last Judgment also take place for two different reasons.
The Last Judgment is identified with fire. When God comes to judge the world, he will come with fire and, as the title suggests, judge and punish the world. We can see this in the Old Testament prophecy about the Last Judgment in the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 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 on all people, and many will be those slain by the LORD.
The New Testament describes the Last Judgment in the same way. Jesus, God according to the Trinity, will come to the world in fire to judge and punish those who do not obey the Gospel.
2 Timothy 1:6-10 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 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 glory of his might on the day he comes.
The appearance and purpose of the Last Judgment is clear and consistent in the Old and New Testaments. God comes with fire and judges the world. But the Bible describes the Second Coming in a completely different way.
The Bible says that Jesus comes a second time to gather His elect — the people who will be saved — and that when He appears a second time, He comes on the clouds.
Matthew 24:30-31 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, 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.”
There is no mention of fire or judgment at the time of the Second Coming. This is because the Second Coming takes place before the Last Judgment and they are two totally different events.
The Gospel of Luke clearly indicates that the Second Coming takes place before the Last Judgment.
Luke 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.“
When Jesus comes a second time, in the cloud, the Bible says it is time for believers to lift up their heads because redemption is drawing near. The redemption day is the Last Judgment. Those who are qualified to enter Heaven will be redeemed, and those who are not will be punished. But the Bible says that when Jesus comes a second time, our redemption will only be near — not here. There is a vast difference between “near” and “here.” If Jesus’ Second Coming was the Last Judgment, the Bible would say that when He comes in the clouds, our redemption is here.
Why the Second Coming must take place before the Last Judgment
The Second Coming must take place before the Last Judgment because when Jesus comes a second time, no one has faith worthy of entering Heaven. Jesus Himself revealed this fact to the apostles 2,000 years ago.
Luke 18:8 The Lord said … “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?”
At this time, Jesus was referring to His second coming because he was talking about the future and He had already come the first time. He was not literally asking the apostles if there would be faith at the time of His second coming. He was using a rhetorical question to reveal to His disciples that when He comes a second time, He will not find faith on the earth.
Then, why did Jesus say that there would be no faith at His second coming despite the proliferation of Christianity?
There are currently about 2 billion Christians and 45,000 different denominations. If there is one Bible and one Jesus, shouldn’t there be one true church, one correct way of worshipping and believing in God? Yes. That’s why Jesus said that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter Heaven.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ [you who practice lawlessness (NASB)].”
Jesus clearly said that belief in Him is not enough, we must do the will of God, we must not practice “lawlessness.” In other words, we must practice the law of God. Many Christians would be surprised to hear that much of modern Christian worship would fall in the category of lawlessness since it originated from pagan customs, not God. The new covenant that Jesus established at his first coming, including the Passover and Sabbath worship, was all changed and abolished after the disciples died. That’s why the Bible says that Jesus must come a second time, to teach us, to gather us, to let us know how to worship God correctly and how to prepare for the Last Judgment. This is also prophesied in the Bible.
Micah 4:1-2 In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted 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 temple 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.
In the last day, God’s people will be taught not by a pastor or prophets, but God Himself will teach us His ways. The law of God will go out from Zion, the place where God’s religious festivals are celebrated. (Isa. 33:20)
John 10:16 Jesus said … “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Jesus said that He has other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (the disciples He gathered at His first coming) that He must also bring. The latter sheep are the people He will gather at His second coming when He comes to restore the new covenant law that He established at His first coming.
The Bible clearly testifies that the Second Coming and Last Judgment are two separate events. Jesus comes a second time to restore the law of God and teach His people the way to Heaven. Once the law of God is restored, and His people have been gathered, God will judge the world. Learn more about the Second Coming.