By Christopher VanDusen
Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will eventually come back to earth? This is what the New Testament teaches. If you believe that, do you understand why He’s coming back, and what He’s going to do when He does? The so-called 19th century “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon (who was definitely one of the best English-speaking Bible preachers of the second half of the 1800s), powerfully answers these questions from Scripture in The Second Coming of Christ (published in 1996 by Whitaker House).
Christ is Coming with the Clouds for Everyone to See
In the first chapter, Spurgeon teaches on Revelation 1:7, which says,
“Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” (ESV)
He begins his analysis of this verse by pointing out that Christ’s coming is certain. Then, he describes its vividness for those who will witness it.
Next, Spurgeon draws out implications for readers from the verse. There are four things that people should do about the second coming:
- proclaim it
- habitually remember it
- believe it
- know and understand it
Finally, he describes how people will react when it happens in five ways:
- everyone will know it’s happening
- every kind of person will see it
- Christ’s enemies will see Him
- most of the world will mourn over it
- people won’t expect it.
The Righteous Will Be Rewarded When Christ Comes
The second chapter is an analysis of Matthew 25:31-36, which says,
“31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’” (ESV)
Spurgeon begins by pointing out that Christ’s people will be rewarded fully when He comes, and not until then. Then, he describes the reward that they’ll receive. He explains that they are rewarded because they are at Christ’s “right hand”, the place of honor. Further, he shows that Christ welcomes those whom He rewards.
Next, Spurgeon focuses on the main reward for the righteous — inheriting God’s kingdom. He starts this by describing this great fact of the kingdom. Then, he explains that this kingdom has been prepared by God Himself, who also chose those who will inherit it before He created the universe.
Finally, Spurgeon describes the character of those who inherit the kingdom. He first teaches on the righteousness of the heirs in general. Second, he describes the lifestyle of the heirs. Lastly, he uses these character traits to show how one can know that he or she is an heir of the kingdom, or a true Christian.
The Ascension and the Second Coming
In the third chapter, Spurgeon draws out many lessons from Acts 1:10-11, which reads,
“10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (ESV)
To open his exposition of this passage, he gives an imaginative description of the ascension, and what the disciples did immediately afterward. Then, he deduces many implications for readers from the verses, beginning by pointing out that the chiding from the angels is a gentle one, but is a chiding nonetheless for several reasons:
- the disciples were doing what seemed right
- they were doing what was natural
- they were acting unreasonably
- they were acting uselessly
- they were acting impatiently
- they were acting wrongfully
In the next section, Spurgeon describes the resurrection life of Jesus, using this as a jumping-off point to connect the ascension with the second coming. He begins by pointing out that the very same One who had been with the disciples who saw Him ascend will return to earth. Then, he describes the fact that Jesus is currently in heaven. However, he continues, Jesus will come back in the same way in which He ascended into heaven. Therefore, he finishes the chapter by urging his readers to get ready to meet Jesus when He comes.
Christ’s Judgment of People’s Secrets
In the fourth chapter, Spurgeon does an excellent job of explaining God’s judgment of people as it’s described in Romans 2:16:
“. . . on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
He begins by emphasizing the fact that judgment day is surely coming. Moreover, he enlarges on the fact that people’s secrets will be judged. Third, he explains that the God-man, Christ Jesus, will be the Judge of everyone. Finally, he draws out the teaching that this proclamation about judgment day is “according to” the gospel that Paul proclaimed.
How Christ’s Two Appearings Provide Disciplining Grace
The book’s fifth chapter deals with Titus 2:11-14, which says,
“11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)
The first thing that Spurgeon explains is that Christians live in between the two comings of Christ, so they have both a backward-looking, and a forward-looking perspective. He follows this point with the fact that, as a result of this, the age in which we live is temporary.
Then, Spurgeon explains how the passage describes the discipline that grace brings to people. He points out that, according to the text, only those whom God chooses are disciplined by this grace, and not everyone. Then, he details the results of the discipline that grace brings:
- denying the world and its lusts
- living righteously, godly, and soberly
- looking for the second coming of Christ.
Next, he considers several encouragements that motivate and empower Christians to be disciplined:
- grace is what empowers them to struggle in this life
- the Lord has promised to return
- their Master is alive
- the Lord gave Himself for them.
Finally, Spurgeon applies the passage by explaining that all these encouragements, and the teaching of the passage, should motivate Christians to be “zealous for good works”.
How to Prepare for the Second Coming
In the sixth chapter, Spurgeon teaches on 1 John 2:28, which says,
“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (ESV)
To begin his explanation of this verse, Spurgeon defines and describes what it means to “abide in Christ”. He presents several ways in which Christians do this:
- by being faithful to Christ’s teachings
- by trusting Christ at all times
- by constantly living to know Christ
- by persevering in obeying Christ
- by receiving spiritual life from Christ
- by following Christ’s directions
- by being obsessed with Christ
- by being at home with Christ
- by staying with Christ
- by relying on the Holy Spirit’s power.
In the second section, Spurgeon points out a few facts about those who abide in Christ. First, they’re “little children” of the Father. Second, they’re dependent on the Father. Third, every single Christian is like a little child to God.
In the last section, Spurgeon describes the proper motivations for abiding in Christ. The first one is so important that I’ll quote it at length:
“Notice, further, that the motive is one drawn from Jesus. John did not drive believers with the lash of the law, but he drew them with the cords of love (Hosea 11:4). I never like to see God’s children whipped with rods gathered from the thorny sides of Sinai. We have not come to Mount Sinai but to Mount Zion. When a man tries to pommel me to my duty by the law, I kick like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. Rightly so should I, because “we are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:15). The motive which sways a freeborn heir of heaven is fetched from grace, not from law; from Jesus, not from Moses. Christ is our example and our motive also. Blessed be His name! ¹
Then, Spurgeon provides a couple more reasons for abiding in Christ:
- because Christians will see Him when He comes
- so they’ll have confidence when He comes.
Lastly, he urges his readers to live so they won’t be ashamed when He comes, and to always be ready for it.
How to Watch for the Lord’s Coming
In the seventh and final chapter, Spurgeon outlines how Christians ought to watch for Christ’s return based on Luke 12:37-38, which says,
“37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants!” (ESV)
He begins his teaching on this passage by emphasizing that Jesus could come at any moment, so it’s as if He’s already on His way. In addition, he demonstrates that the very fact that redemption was accomplished by Christ necessitates that He come again to claim those whom He has redeemed.
In the next section, Spurgeon addresses the subject of when Christ will return. In so doing, he recounts a conversation he had with one of his friends on this subject. In this recollection, he reveals his view of the end times, including his position on the thousand-year reign of Christ, and Israel’s role. Following this section, Spurgeon teaches that beliefs about Christ delaying His coming can be harmful, basing his teaching on the rest of the parable found in Luke 12.
In the most important section of this chapter, Spurgeon describes six ways in which Christians should eagerly await Christ’s return:
- by being heavenly-minded
- by being ready to serve
- by being lights in the world
- by imitating Him
- by being vigilant in expecting Him
- by being ready to welcome Him.
To conclude this chapter, Spurgeon explains how those who watch for Christ’s return are blessed both now, and when He comes.
Writing Quality and Helpfulness
Although originally written in the 1800s, the edition published by Whitaker House was edited to make it more understandable for modern people. So, although it still sounds old-fashioned at times, it’s very easy to understand. Besides that, Spurgeon is well-known for his vivid expressions and mastery of the English language. It’s definitely not a dry read, but is very interesting, and moving at times. For the Christian, Spurgeon’s teaching of Scripture is usually very helpful, and is extremely practical. However, this book shouldn’t be used as an exhaustive guide on the second coming, but as a devotional book to either introduce or remind someone of the essential teaching about Christ’s return. As is the case with any book that teaches Scripture, one should make absolutely certain that what Spurgeon claims about Scripture is consistent with the teaching of Scripture. As a warning to anyone who’s planning on reading this book, Spurgeon does teach a few unbiblical things about the end times in this book. Despite this, he gets the essential teachings right by beautifully and compellingly describing them, and then applying them to how one should live. For these reasons, I’d recommend this book to anyone who wants to start or add to a study of Scripture’s teaching on the second coming.
It’s available for about $10 (US) new on Amazon.
What about you? Are you ready for the Lord Jesus to come to earth to judge everyone perfectly and punish His enemies? If you haven’t already changed your mind about Him and trusted in Him as your God, King, and Savior from God’s wrath, then you’re one of His enemies, and will be punished forever for your sins against Him if you don’t repent and trust in Him. Why are you supposed to trust Him? Because God sent Him, His divine Son, to earth to become a man, to live the perfect life, and then to be nailed to a cross and suffer death by being forsaken by God for our rebellion against Him. Then, God raised Him from the dead and took Him into heaven to control the entire universe as our King. He commands everyone to change their minds and trust in Him as their King and Savior because He’s going to judge everyone perfectly, and punish all His enemies in a lake of fire. Please make sure you’ve obeyed God’s command to repent and trust in Christ alone to receive His forgiveness and peace with Him, and to be saved from His wrath.
¹ p. 132, The Second Coming of Christ.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the:
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.