The Second Coming of Christ is one of the major themes of Revelation. Surprisingly, most of what it says has to do with the effect of the Second Coming on those who do not believe.
In Revelation 6 there is a description of the signs that take place just before Jesus comes: “The sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the moon became like blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind” Revelation 6:12.
These are the same signs that were described by Jesus in Matthew 24:29: “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”.
Revelation gives an additional detail: there will be “a great earthquake” that will be so powerful that “every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:14). The same earthquake is described in chapter 16, and there it adds that “great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent (about 70 pounds!) (Revelation 16:18-21). Finally, “the sky (will) recede as a scroll when it is rolled up” (Revelation 6:14).
The unbelievers will be terrified, but not just because of these fearsome signs. As the sky rolls up they will see God on his throne and Jesus the Lamb coming to this earth: “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves 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 who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:15,16).
Revelation 19, which also describes the Second Coming, shows why unbelievers are so afraid. Jesus is pictured in chapter 19 as a rider on a white horse . Again the focus is on unbelievers: “In righteousness he judges and makes war… out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations… He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wreath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:11,15).
The focus of His wrath is on the same ones who called for the rocks to hide them in chapter 6: “The kings of the earth… captains… mighty men… all people, free and slave, both small and great”. But here we see that they are not just passive victims of arbitrary wrath. They have been following “the Beast”: “And I saw the Beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army“ (Revelation 19:19). “His army“ includes the angels, but primarily refers to the “army” of believers who have refused to submit to the demands of the Beast.
In Revelation 13 we learned that Babylon will impose economic sanctions (“no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name”) and will threaten “as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:15-17). This is not an idle threat: In chapter 17 John saw the harlot of Babylon “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the Martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6). Thus the Second Coming is a rescue mission for the followers of Jesus who are in danger of annihilation by the forces of Babylon.
Revelation uses two grusome images to portray the fate of the wicked at the Second Coming: the trampling of the grapes and the supper of the birds. In chapter 14 their fate at the Second Coming is portrayed as an angel with a sharp sickle who is told to “gather the clusters of the vine of the earth, for her grapes are fully ripe’. So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress…” (Revelation 14:18-20).
In chapter 19 John saw an angel that called “to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, ‘Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great… and (they) were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:17,18,21).
For a description of the reward of the righteous at the Second Coming we are dependent on other books of the Bible such as 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 and 1 Corinthians 15:22,23,51-54. The basic picture is that the righteous dead will be resurrected, and together with the living righteous they will meet the Lord in the air.
This is referred to in Revelation 20:4 , “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years”.
We do learn from Revelation 1:7 that everyone living will see Him coming, including those who participated in putting Him to death (who apparently will be raised in a mini-resurrection): “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”.
For more information and scriptures regarding the Second Coming see section 19:11-13 Christ on a White Horse and the sections that follow in The Book.