WHAT IS THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST?
Prophecy Series – Part 10
In the middle of the 19th century a farmer named William Miller started a religion he called the “Agreat second advent awakening”. As the title suggests, the defining mark of his religion was the intense belief that Jesus would soon return. Later, he and his followers became known as the Millerite Movement or the Millerites. His preoccupation with Christ’s return eventually led him to setting dates – which he became notorious for doing. His first prediction was that Christ would return sometime between March 21,1842 and March 21, 1843. During that time, the Millerites were to get themselves ready. So, they got ready and waited…and waited…and waited. March 21, 1843 came and went without Christ returning. Thousands abandoned Miller. But he was undaunted. He had simply miscalculated. Going back to the drawing board, he recalculated his figures and set another date – Jesus would come between, October 20th and October 22, 1844. This time Jesus would definitely return.
As the time got closer, a sign was put in a Philadelphia store window: “This shop will be closed in honor of the King of Kings who will appear about the twentieth of October. Get ready friends, to crown Him Lord of all.”
A group of about two hundred Millerites sold or gave away all their possessions and put on white robes and waited and waited and waited and waited for His appearing. October 20th came and went but Jesus was a no show. Five years later, William Miller died. Someone pointed out that the wisest statement the Millerites made was the one they put on Miller’s tombstone, “At the appointed time the end shall be.” They finally got it right! Jesus said, No one knows about the day or hour,. . . when He will return (Matt. 24:36). He will return at the appointed time.
Today, I want to look at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus said He would return. In fact, it has been said this is the most prophesied event in the Bible. Bible scholars estimate that one-tenth of all the verses in the NT refer to this event at the close of history. One commentator remarked if all of the references to Christ’s return were removed, the NT would become virtually unintelligible (Stedman, WEH, p.128). Jesus painted a picture of what the times would look like shortly before His return in Matthew 24-25.
One of the questions people have is what will Jesus return be like? This morning we’re going look at what Jesus Himself said His return would be like. Read Matt. 24:27-31. Jesus gives us a number of key words that vividly describe His return. Let’s look at them six of them.
How Will Jesus Return?
I. He will return personally. Most people are aware that Jesus first coming was a fulfillment of long-awaited prophecies. But what many don’t know is His second coming gets the most ink in the Bible. For every prediction of His first appearance, there are eight for His second. In fact, scholars say there are 1,845 biblical references to His second coming, including 318in the NT. Jesus Himself said He’d return 21 times. His second coming is second only to faith as the dominant subject in the NT.
Jesus of His own return says, For as lightening that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:27). Jesus is not going to send a committee or an advanced party B He’s going to come personally. When Jesus ascended into heaven after He rose from the dead and spent forty days with the disciples giving them many convincing proofs that He was alive, it says in Acts 1:11 two men dressed in white appeared and said to the disciples while they were watching Jesus ascend, Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven (Acts. 1:11). Jesus second coming will have the characteristics as His ascension.
Rev. 19 says a whole army will appear with Him dressed in white robes. These will both be believers and angels – people like you and me as well as God’s mighty angels! (Jude 14&15). Soldiers don’t wear white robes. They wear camouflage and are armed with weapons. Why are we dressed in white robes? It shows we won’t need to be concerned about being in the battle – we’ll just watch. Zechariah, the parallel passage of this, says all of God’s holy ones will be with Jesus (Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him! Zech. 14:5c). In the days of the Civil War civilians used to stand on the sidelines of the battles and watch. In much the same way we all watch, only we already know who’s going to win.
II. He will return bodily. When Jesus returns it will not be spiritual or symbolic as some believe. It will be a physical return. His first appearance was physical in the form of a harmless baby born in Bethlehem. So, His second will be physical as well but in the form of the Sovereign King. At that time the Son of Man will appear in the sky, . . .(Matt. 24:30). John, in the book of Revelation graphically describes Jesus literal return: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and true. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God (Rev. 19:11-13). This is an interesting description of Jesus. Of all the disciples that knew Jesus best, John did. But even John was taken back when Jesus appeared in His glorified heavenly form.
III. He will return visibly. When the Rapture happens, it will probably be a secret. Only those who know Christ will see and hear Him. But in the second coming, at the end of the Tribulation, everyone will see Him and when they do it says, all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and glory (Matt. 24:30). No one is going to say, “He’s in the desert” as though you might miss it if you were in the wrong place. No one will miss it. One commentator suggested that the Earth will rotate so the whole world will be able to see Him. Zech. 12:10-12 says Jews will mourn with intense grief for rejecting their Messiah.
IV. He will return suddenly. When the newspaper wants to grab a reader’s attention it uses a print called the, “Second Coming type.” It’s a style of lettering that jumps off the page, grabs the reader by the shirt collar and demands – Read me! The Second Coming type has been used to announce major events like when the Allies gained victory over Hitler, or the end of WWII. Even secular journalists call it the Second Coming type. Why don’t they call it, “Big News type” or “Major Event type”? Why? Because there is no bigger event than the Second Coming of Jesus Christ! But when Jesus actually returns the Second Coming type will not be used because there will literally be no time to tell everyone! For as lightening that comes from the east and is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (Matt. 24:27). It will not take a long time. It will be instant. That’s part of what makes it unexpected. There will be no warning. It will happen at the end of the Great Tribulation.
V. He will return dramatically. …the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken (Matt. 24:29). It will be so cataclysmic that no one will miss it. It will be unparalleled in history. Zechariah says, On that day, his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, . . . On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime C a day known to the Lord (Zech. 14:4, 6-7).
On July 11, 1927 there was an earthquake which shook Palestine from the Sea of Galilee to the border of Egypt and, after the tremors, geologists discovered a geological fault beneath Mt. Olivet, running from east to west – Just like the Bible says. Holiday Inn wanted to build there once but it wasn’t allowed to because geologists affirmed there is a fault line there. All that stands there today is a tall monument marking the traditional place of His ascension.
I remember years ago standing on top of Mt. Olivet in the very place Jesus ascended. A feeling of intense excitement filled my heart as we spent time there. Zechariah says when Jesus’ feet touch the mountain, the fault will split this celebrated mountain East and West, from Jerusalem to Jericho. In describing this event, prophecy expert Dr. Timothy LaHaye writes, There will be a Steller Event. Celestial. Cosmic. Greater than earth. Greater than the heavens. And it will suck the air out of humanity’s lungs and send men and women and kings and presidents and tyrants to their knees. It will have no need of spotlights, fog machines, amplified music, synthesizers, or special effects. It will be real.
VI. He will return triumphantly. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and will 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 Christ (2 Thess. 1:6-8). Revelation 19 says Jesus will gather all of the kings of the earth and the Anti-Christ and the False Prophet will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20). All of this will happen rapidly. There will be no great clash of arms. Jesus will merely speak, and it will all be over. The sweeping terror of His arrival will make all the dread they reeked on earth look like child’s play. But what most don’t understand is that it will happen in four quick successive campaigns that will cover about 200 miles. We’ll look at this later.
But here’s what I want you to see. Jesus weapon will be His spoken Word. There’s no struggle. He will overthrow evil by the breath of his mouth (2 Thess. 2:8). He’ll simply say, “You’re finished!”
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 25:31-32, when He returns in His glory, all of the angels will be with Him and He will take His rightful place of dominion over all of the Earth the rightful King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At that time, He will gather all of the nation’s together to judge them. As King of Kings and Lord of Lords He will have no term limits. There will be no more elections. Jesus cannot be voted into office or out of office. Nor can He be impeached. He is our eternal King! For the first time in history, there will be complete and perfect peace and justice.
When Jesus returns, all the nations will be gathered to before Him. Everyone will come before Him in one of two places: they must meet Him at the cross as their Savior, or they must meet Him as their Judge. Those who place their trust in Him as their Savior will not need to fear His judgment or condemnation (Rom. 8:1). But for those who reject Him, have no alternative but to face Him as Judge. Jesus said, Heaven and Earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away (Matt. 24:35). Jesus will return. It’s going to happen. Is He your Savior or your Judge? Only you can make that choice. No one can make it for you. Which will you choose?
There are 318 prophecies in the NT alone that tell us Jesus is coming back: personally, literally, visibly, suddenly, dramatically, and triumphantly. There are five times Even though every generation before us has believed Jesus would return in their day, at no other time in history has that seemed like a reality until the twenty-first century. But, that’s not a guarantee He will. He may return later than we expect, or He may be earlier. The real question is what do we do with our lives between now and the time He returns? How should we wait?
Over Sunday dinner, a family was discussing the message of the morning, “The Second Coming of Christ.” The teenager said that he still had a lot of questions about the Lord’s return. The father tried his best to answer him, but after a while concluded saying, “We don’t have all the answers we might like, but we do have all we need to know. The best preparation is simply to live each day as if it were your last.” “I tried that once,” the boy chimed in, “and you grounded me for a month!” Three down-to-earth truths of how to wait: 1) Be faithful, 2) Be pure, and 3) Be alert.
I. Be faithful. Jesus told a parable driving home the importance of being faithful until he returns (Read: Lk.19:11-27). The king gave each servant a mina. That was a lot of money – roughly a hundred days wages. The king said, Put this money to work, he said, until I come back (Luke 19:13).
Other translations say, Do business with this until I come back (NAS). The point couldn’t be clearer. Jesus is the King and we’re His servants waiting for His return.
When the King finally returned, which had been a longer period of time than they thought it would be, he wanted to know how they used the money he’d given them. Some of them had done “business” well. They’d lived responsibly, invested in the King’s interests, remained diligent. Others though, had done nothing.
Jesus is saying that someday there will be an accounting of how we lived our lives for Him. What’s He going to look for? Did we obey His marching orders in the Great Commandment and the Great Commission? Did we put Him first in our lives? Did we invest our lives in helping others come to know Christ and be like Christ? Living a life of faith is risky business. It is uncomfortable. It has the tendency to stretch you. You’re learning curve goes vertical. God has called us to tell others about Christ. We immediately shrink from that feeling inadequate – which we are. But the Christian life is supernatural life. It’s one we live in dependence on the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let me give you a few encouraging words about being faithful. Read the instruction manual – get into God’s Word on regular basis. Journal what you hear God saying. Spend time with your Heavenly Father talking to Him. Intentionally get to know people who don’t know Christ. Jesus said be in the world but not of the world. Make non-Christian friends. Pray for them. Invite them to one of our Life Groups, to church. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal. 6:9).
II. Be pure. For the grace of God has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No, to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright godly lives in this present age, while we wait for our blessed hope B the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).
You can’t live an expectant life of Christ’s return without striving to live a pure life. The two go hand in hand. Make sure that if you’re going to tell someone that Jesus is coming again that your life reflects what you believe. We can be excited about prophecy and should be. But if our lives don’t live up to what we say, people won’t take our Christianity seriously.
Late renowned prophecy expert J. Dwight Pentecost once noted, A short time ago, I took the occasion to go through the New Testament to mark each reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and to observe the use made of that teaching about His coming. I was struck anew with the fact that almost without exception, when the coming of Christ is mentioned in the New Testament, it is followed by an exhortation to godliness and holy living. While the study of prophecy will give us proof of the authority of the Word of God, will reveal the purpose of God and the power of God, and will give us the peace and assurance of God, we have missed the whole purpose of the study of prophecy if it does not conform us to the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily living (J. Dwight Pentecost, Prophecy for Today, p. 10).
God never tells us the future just to get excited, to give us a quiver in our liver. But to live a holy life. How do you do that? I don’t want to sound like I’m being overly simple here, but there is no exception to spending time reading God’s Word and praying. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit speaks to us through consistent time with God. And here’s the great part – God does the changing. He makes us aware of some area in our lives like gossip, or overspending, or a bad attitude that needs to change. We say, “God I need your help here. Help me to change.” And God begins showing you when you mess up. When He does, you turn to Him each time and ask Him to help you overcome. At first it’s hard, painful, humbling. But after a while, you begin to recognize gossip or spending what you don’t have or a bad attitude doesn’t control you and drag you down any more. You start living with a greater measure of closeness to God and confidence. Finally,
III. Be alert. Around the dial of a clock in a church in Strasburg, Germany, are these words: “One of these hours the Lord is coming.” Jesus said, Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come (Mark13:33). Pastor Thornton Jansma; we knew him as “Pastor J,” was the president of our small Bible College, a seasoned veteran of over fifty years front-line ministry. He used to comment about life’s seeming humdrum days. “Life gets tedious,” he’d say. There is something wearing about everyday life that can dull our senses and steal our need for expectant living. It’s easy spend our days and never give a single thought to Christ’s return. Isn’t that strange? But the more we spend time in God’s Word and listen to His voice – the more we begin to think about His Second coming. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night… But you, brethren, are not in the darkness, that day will not overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day… so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober (1 Thess. 5:2,4-5,6). In fact, Paul tells us there is a crown of righteousness that will be awarded those who lived their lives anticipating Christ=s return (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
For seventeen years whenever I pulled into our driveway or walked into our home, I could count on something happening like clock-work. Our dog, Bosko, would instantly be there wagging his tale with a smile in his eyes to greet me. He was constantly alert, expecting me to return home at any time. He would hear other cars go by and he wouldn’t stir. But the moment he heard ours, he’d be there. In a very real way, that’s what Jesus is saying to us – live expecting Me to come at anytime. Know the sound of My coming. The Bible tells us that when Jesus comes no one will be expecting it.