TRA 29th July, 2001
The End Times.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
What would be the biggest story tomorrow's newspaper could report of the end of this Millennium? It would be an account of the end of the world as we know it, and the return of the Lord Jesus. Newspapers have always been fascinated by the thought of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. At a national conference of USA newspaper editors, there was a competition to write the greatest headline. The winner wrote simply: "Jesus Christ Returns to Earth". Years ago, while in a newspaper office to improve my skills at writing a regular newspaper column, I learned in the printing trade, the largest print type that can be used on a front page headline is called Second Coming Type.
Four days before John F. Kennedy's Inauguration as President of USA, he asked Dr. Billy Graham to see him: "Billy, will you tell me about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ - I don't know enough about it." Billy Graham went over the scriptures. Four years later John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At his funeral Billy Graham read the same scripture he read to the President previously: 1 Thess 4:13-18 We do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. The Apostle Paul mentions the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in almost every Epistle, making 318 allusions to it in 260 New Testament chapters. When early Christians died they looked not to a gap in a grave on earth but a gap in clouds in the skies! They looked not to an undertaker but an upper-taker!
1. The Christian lives in hope
The Bible Proclaims Hope. The Bible is a remarkable unity round a theme. There is purpose behind history. The opening chapters speak about Creation, then the next books of the Bible speak about the Covenants, especially the Covenant between the Jews and God based upon their obedience to the Law given on Mt Sinai; then the next four books or Gospels speak of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, who brings a new covenant between God and all people based upon faith as seen in the death of Jesus on Mt Calvary; the next books of the Bible deal with His believing followers who are the Church; and finally the last book of the Bible deals with the Consummation of all things, the New Creation of heaven and earth under the reign of King Jesus. The Bible proclaims hope!
Christians look forward to Jesus' return. We count on the angels' promise given to Christ's disciples at His ascension: 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
The Old Testament implies the second coming. It portrays Israel's Messiah both as a suffering Saviour Isa. 53 and as a mighty ruler, who establishes peace and justice on earth. Just as prophecies about Christ's suffering were fulfilled when Jesus lived on earth, prophecies that focus on His power and rule will be fulfilled when Jesus comes back again. For example Zechariah seems to indicate a second coming of Jesus: Zech 14:4-5 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, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. .. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
Jesus Proclaims Hope. There is Good News! There is forgiveness! There will be a new order! There is the possibility of reconciliation! 2 Cor. 1:20 Jesus is the 'YES' to all of God's promises. Jesus taught the Kingdom of God meant salvation for individuals and society. The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated but it is still to come. The Kingdom on earth is God's climax of creation. We live now in grace, but then we will live in glory. Jesus teaches us to hope: Rev 22:12 Behold , I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
Christians Proclaim Hope. Christians are optimistic. Not blindly optimistic placing our hope in what men achieve, but optimistic because of what God will do. So we pray: Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven! So John says Rev 1:7 He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.
Once I was having a quiet breakfast with Dr Billy Graham in San Jose, California. I asked Billy about the secret of his personal serenity. He replied with a question: Gordon - do you believe Jesus is coming today? I was taken aback and mumbled: I believe that Jesus is coming again, but I wasn't thinking it would be today. Billy fixed me with those deep blue eyes and said: Why not? There was the secret of serenity. He has believed and proclaimed that hope always!
2. Central to our hope is the coming King
General Douglas McArthur on March 11 1942 left the Phillipines in P.T. boat. His last words were: I shall return. On October 20 1944, he landed back on the Phillipines and proclaimed: I have returned. So Jesus said: John 14:3 I go and prepare a place for you, and I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. His first coming was in poverty, weakness and silence. But His second coming will be in glory, power and acknowledgment.
The Signs Of His Return. We do not know the time of His coming but we do know the signs. In Matthew 24 Jesus speaks of the destruction of Temple in Jerusalem v1-2; the signs of the end of the age v3-14; and the signs of the coming of Son of God v15-51. The second coming is clearly and explicitly taught in the New Testament. Matt. 19:28; 23:39; 24; Mark 13:24-37; Luke 12:35-48; 17:22-37; 21:25-28; Rom. 11:25-27; 1 Cor. 11:26; 15:51-58; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2 Peter 3:10-12; Rev. 16:15; 19:11-21 These passages associate a number of events Jesus' second coming: a terrible tribulation; an gathering of the saved; a judgment on ungodliness linked with war, false messiahs, famine, earthquakes, and persecution; an evil empire established; the earth ending in consuming flames; and finally, the return of Jews to their homeland, an event that took place only in 1948. Only since 1948 have all signs been present at one time! As is common in prophecy, there is no clear ordering of the events associated with Jesus' return. Nor is the time span over which they occur spelled out.
The Manner Of His Return. When Jesus comes again, His appearance will be PERSONAL: I will come again He said. Acts 1:10-11 VISIBLE: Acts 1:11 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. PUBLIC: Matt 25:31-32 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another. Matt 24:27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. UNIVERSAL: Matt 24:30-31 At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, 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. GLORIOUS: Matt 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done. TRIUMPHANT: 2 Thess 1:7-10 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 majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. SUDDEN: 1 Thess 5:1-6 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled." The hymn writer sums it up well:
"When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,
To take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
and there proclaim, my God how great Thou art!"
The Purpose Of His Return. Jesus will come again with set purpose to vindicate the triumph of God; to raise believers to eternal life; to judge the nations on their deeds; to gather the faithful in Heaven; to destroy Stan and evil and to renew the world, 1 Cor 15:20-26, Rev. 20:7-10, 2 Pet 3:10-15, Rev. 21:1-5 Live in hope! The King is coming!
The Time of His return. The question most Christians wonder about is: When will Jesus come again? Jesus himself said, No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Matt. 24:36 Jesus went on to note only that His return will be sudden and unexpected.
Therefore keep watch because you do not know on what day your Lord will come... So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. Matt. 24:42-44 Throughout the centuries Christians have taken these words to heart. We do not know when Jesus will come, but God has fixed an hour and you and I are to remain ready. He can come at any moment, and we can look forward to the possibility that Jesus may return soon.
Once I was rung by the Australian Government to tell me the King and Queen of Tonga wanted to spend the weekend with the Tongans of Wesley Mission. We had only a few days to make arrangements. Our Tongan Congregation were overjoyed. They soon had the feast ready, the pigs roasted, the watermelon cut and the dancing prepared. It is customary in a village, when the King comes, for a special house to be built for him. How could we build a special house in the auditorium? It was done overnight. Green palm branches were brought in, and layer upon layer of Tapa cloth arrived and covered the floor. The big wide stool was set in the centre for the coming of the King. The Australian police arrived, the security men, the Governor General's Rolls Royce arrived, and the King and Queen entered as our guests. I puzzled about how the auditorium and the Theatre were able to be transformed instantly for the coming of the King. I found out from the people: We keep special mats locked away at home waiting for the day when the King would come. We have always been prepared! What a lesson! We must be prepared for the coming of the King! Jesus will return. And we who believe need to be ready for His coming. Rejoice. The King is coming!
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