The church of all ages has looked with joyous anticipation to the promised future return of Christ. As His first advent secured our redemption, so His second advent is the blessed hope of the church for the full consummation of His kingdom.
The New Testament term most often used to point to Christ's return is the Parousia. The Parousia refers to the "appearing," "manifestation," or "coming" of Jesus in glory at the end of the age. It refers to the church's expectation of the promised Second Coming or Second Advent of Christ.
The Bible teaches that Jesus' coming will be both personal and visible. Though His coming will be with power, it will include more than a visitation of His power. It will include His very person. His coming will be neither secret nor invisible. His appearance will be accompanied by clouds of glory in like manner to His departure at the Ascension. There will be a heavenly fanfare of audible shouting, accompanied by the voice of an archangel.
At the coming of Christ, the church will experience a rapture—being taken up in the air to meet Christ as He comes. The rapture will not be secret but open and manifest. Its purpose will not be to whisk the elect away from the earth for a while until Christ returns for a "second" Second Coming. The purpose of the rapture is to allow the saints to meet Jesus in the air as He returns and be included in His entourage during His triumphal descent from heaven. His coming in this manner will be attended by the general resurrection, the final judgment, and the end of the world.
Christians of every generation are called to be vigilant in their watch for the Parousia in order that His coming will not be a surprise to us, like an unexpected thief in the night. We are also urged to remind ourselves of this marvelous future manifestation as an encouragement in our present labors.
No one knows the day or hour of Christ's return. Many have tried to calculate the time, only to be embarrassed by the failure of their specific predictions to come true. The call of Scripture is to vigilance. We need to keep watch for the signs of His nearness. Though Christ has tarried for centuries, causing the hopes of some to wane, each day that passes brings us closer to His awaited return.