Several weeks ago, I asked for your help in your choice of today’s sermon. Your top choice was “When Will Jesus Return to Earth?” But a little analysis of the results led us to understand that it was really only this early service that asked for this topic. So … in the next couple of services, the sermon will be on “What is the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” I recognize many of you will be studying Matthew 24 in just a few moments during Bible study. So, you will receive a “double-dose” of Jesus’ Second Coming today. But remember, You Asked for It ?.
Judgment Day is Good News
Tom Howard wrote a book some years ago called Chance or the Dance. He says either you have Judgment Day, which many of the religions of the world believe, or you don’t have Judgment Day. If Judgment Day is really true, that means everything means something. Follow the logic with me. If Judgment Day is really true, that means everything means something. Nothing is forgotten. Good deeds, bad deeds … everything means something. Or the other hand, if there is no Judgment Day… …if the planet just dies, if the sun burns out… … then human injustice goes on unpunished and nothing means anything. In essence, you have two choices … you have two views of life. Either everything means something, or nothing means anything. What is it that distinguishes those two views? Judgment Day. Judgment Day is very good news. Judgment Day means you will not be forgotten. God sees. God knows.
What is the Second Coming of Jesus? The New Testament repeatedly announces that Jesus Christ will on day return. Known as the Second Coming of Jesus, Christ’s return marks at least four aspects. Jesus’ Return marks the end of history where He destroys His enemies (Matthew 24:3). Jesus’ Return means He will raise the dead in order to judge the living and the dead (John 5:28-29). Jesus’ Return brings the faithful to their reward (Romans 8:17-18). Jesus’ Return sets in motion the new heavens and new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13).
Now, there are usually two emotions that are sparked when you consider the end times: intrigue and confusion. My hope is to turn down the volume on your confusion while turning up the volume on your intrigue. Today, I want to pull back the curtain on Jesus’ return with you by answering three questions concerning the Second Coming: What is the Second Coming, Why Should I Care about the Second Coming, and When is the Second Coming? To address our questions, I invite you to turn to 1 and 2 Thessalonians. It looks like Paul wrote these letters to believers in the church Thessalonica who were confused about their friends, other believers, who had died when they expected Jesus to return. Essentially, Paul says those who do before Jesus’ return are at no disadvantage from those believers in Christ who are alive at Christ’s return.
1. The Essence of His Coming
What is the Second Coming? The second coming is at its essence, Jesus returning. The angels predicted Jesus’ return (Acts 1:11). The apostles predicted Jesus’ return (Acts 3:20-21). And last by not least, Jesus Himself predicted His return (Matthew 24:30). With all this in our background, look at Paul’s description of the Second Coming in 1 Thessalonians: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)
The Second Coming is referred to as a “meeting in the air” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The word “meeting” is the same word Jesus used to refer to His Second Coming in a parable: “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’” (Matthew 25:6)
1.1 He Comes Personally
“For the Lord himself will descend…” (1 Thessalonians 4:16a) Jesus doesn’t send an angel or an apostle or a pastor, but He comes personally. Why make a big deal about the Second Coming? Because this is a personal coming of Jesus, it is not a deputy of Jesus or representative of Jesus. Instead, we can expect Jesus Himself. Three sounds will mark His arrival: a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God (1 Thessalonians 4:16b). All of this means He’s coming is a really big deal.
1.2 He Raises the Dead at His Return
Since the Jesus who is coming is the Jesus who died and rose again, He will also bring with dead who are now risen. When Jesus comes, we are told the dead will be brought back to life: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). Jesus said on one occasion: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25). “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). Just a Jesus spoke to Lazarus’ tomb after Lazarus had been dead three days when he said, “Lazarus, come out.” (John 11:43-44). Paul assures believers that the resurrection of dead believers precedes the gathering of believers who are still alive.
2. The Timing of His Coming
These early believers in the church at Thessalonica also had questions about when Jesus was going to return.
2.1 Impossible to Predict His Return
“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1–4)
He is saying in effect: “I refuse to let you get obsessed with trying to identify the nearness or the farness of Jesus’ return. I don’t want you to do that.” When the Bible says Christ’s return is coming like a thief in the night, it’s saying the date of Jesus’ return is impossible to predict. You cannot possibly know. Thieves in the middle of the night do not come on a schedule.
2.2 The Antichrist
When speaking of the time of Jesus’ return, it’s here Paul mentions the anti-Christ.
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1–5).
Now when you consider the Antichrist, this is one of a few passages of Scriptures that focus on this evil being. The other is located in 1 John 2:18: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The Bible tells us there’s a force or a spirit at work in the world between the 1st & the 2nd comings of Christ, which is what the Bible refers to as the last days. From the first appearing of Christ on earth to the second appearing, there’s a spirit that John talks about. He calls it the spirit of the antichrist. Paul calls it the secret power of lawlessness.
Who is the man of lawlessness? Many people say a political leader. The Bible doesn’t say that. Who is the Antichrist? The most obvious thing is we have no way of identifying this figure. We have no way of identifying who or even what he is.
A Thought Experiment
Go into the Gospels and read every Old Testament prophecy cited by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, or Paul. Again, go into the New Testament and find every Old Testament prophecy of the first coming of Christ. Go see every one of those prophecies and ask yourself, “If I was reading that before Jesus had come, would I have known how he was going to come, what form he was going to come in, and so on?” Some of the Old Testament prophecies came true very literally. Others did not come true very literally at all. In fact, some prophecies, you say, “I would never, ever, ever have understood that as working itself out like that.” Therefore, all prophecies about the second coming of Christ must be received with tremendous humility. Is the Antichrist one person? Is the Antichrist a group of people? Paul tells us that Jesus’ Second Coming will come suddenly when no one expects us but
3. The Purpose of His Coming
Here are three ways Jesus’ Coming Changes Us Now.
3.1 His Coming Humbles Us
“when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Jesus’ Second Coming is rich news to those who are hurting. All the pain and suffering of our lives will not last forever. As one pastor recently said, “The promise of the second coming shows us the ‘good ole days are always ahead of us.”
His Coming Humbles Us
3.2 His Coming Corrects Us
“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–9)
Ecological Balance and Judgment Day
Earlier I said, Judgment Day is very good news. Judgment Day means you will not be forgotten. God sees. God knows. Yet, many of us want to rid the New Testament of bad parts and keep only the good parts. Most zoos and children’s museums teach visitors the need to be careful with the world we live in. For example, if we get rid of predatory or undesirable animals in an area, the balance of that environment may be so upset that the desirable plants and animals are lost — through overbreeding with a limited food supply. The nasty predator that was eliminated actually kept in balance the number of other animals and plants necessary to that particular ecosystem. In the same way, if we play down “bad” or harsh doctrines within the historic Christian faith, we will find, to our shock, that we have gutted all our pleasant and comfortable beliefs, too. There is an ecological balance to Scripture that must not be disturbed. Neglecting the unpleasant doctrines of the historic faith will bring about counterintuitive consequences.
Me: “The Lord is Coming”
Congregation: “And it could be today.”
His Coming Corrects Us
3.3 His Coming Alerts Us
Wouldn’t you live differently if you knew Jesus was coming back tonight? Wouldn’t it make you ask the questions, Am I ready? Am I living today in a way that I’d be happy to see him tonight? You see, the news of His coming should be a source of inspiration and motivation. Maratha means, “The Lord is Coming.” In fact, when I say the “The Lord is Coming,” you say, “And it could be today.”
Me: “The Lord is Coming”
Congregation: “And it could be today.”
We need to be looking for His Coming. We need to be longing for His Coming. We need to be learning about His Coming. And we need to be living for His Coming. We should be ready when Jesus comes again. “We ought to live as though He died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back this afternoon.” Adrain Rogers
His Coming Alerts Us. The Second Coming of Jesus is no afterthought to the basic message of the Gospel. It cannot be relegated to the margins of our thinking or our living. For the Second Coming gives shape and balance to the Bible’s teaching of what the Gospel truly is.