One of the Bible's great declarations is that Jesus Christ is coming soon! The message of the first century church was Jesus crucified, risen again and coming again. Since we are about to celebrate His first coming (Christmas), let's consider His second coming.
In Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica, he gives us this glorious announcement in chapter 4, verses 13-18.
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For 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 word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until 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 one another with these words."
What can we learn from this?
1. Jesus is Coming Again: This is the Fact of His Return.
He declared in John 14:3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." At Jesus' ascension into heaven, the angels announced to the disciples (Acts 1:11), "'Men of Galilee,' they said, '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.'"
Time has gone by but those statements are as true today as they were the day they were made. The Bible is clear: Jesus is coming again!
2. Jesus is Coming Soon: This is the Imminence of His Return.
The word "imminence" refers to something that will happen soon. For example, the parking lot here at Honolulu Assembly of God was stripped and repaved last week on the day before Thanksgiving. On the day before work began, two large paving vehicles were parked in the parking lot. That let everyone know something was going to happen here very soon!
Paul tells the Thessalonians that "the Dead in Christ will rise first." Then we who Remain "will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." What a glorious day that will be!
The Bible calls the return of Jesus Christ our Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13). Because of that assurance, we "do not grieve like the rest...who have no hope." We know this world is not the end and that we will be reunited in heaven with Jesus.
In August 2017 my mother passed away. It was hard to see her go but we knew her physical body was failing and it was just a matter of time before she would be gone. At our Thanksgiving dinner this year, her presence was noticeably absent. But Mom loved the Lord so I know she is enjoying heaven with Him. And I look forward to seeing her again. What a glorious reunion it will be!
For those who don't have this hope in Jesus and His resurrection, what a tragedy death is! To them, the grave is the end. There is no promise of a joyful reunion. I don't know how I could face Mom's passing or any other funeral without the blessed assurance of an eternity with Jesus in heaven.
Jesus is coming soon!
3. Because His Coming is Imminent, we must be Ready Always! This is the Relevance of His Return.
Jesus could Return at any Time. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15:50-52), "Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed."
Are you ready for that trumpet call? It will happen in the "twinkling of an eye." How fast is that! Too fast to try to wait to get ready when the trumpet sounds. (Plus, if you are not listening for the trumpet, you might not be able to hear the trumpet!)
Young person, don’t wait until you get older or are on your death bed to commit your life to Jesus. You may miss your opportunity and you will have wasted your life.
The Bible tells us there are two very different destinations that await us at Christ's return. Heaven is a place of unimaginable Beauty. Hell is a place of unimaginable Horror. Both are real places. Jesus talked about both of them.
Don't be distracted or preoccupied with the things of this world. We must be ready always!
Sin must be judged. The question is "When will your sin be judged?" If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, if your name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, your sin will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment and your destination will be Hell (Revelation 20)! But if you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior and your name has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life, your sin was judged 2000 years ago when Jesus died in your place on the Cross. He paid the penalty you owed but could never pay. He died the death you deserved to die. With His last breath on the cross He declared, "It is finished!" The ransom for your freedom was paid in full! And you can spend eternity in heaven rejoicing and worshiping Him.
Where will you spend eternity? I know I want to be with Jesus forever in heaven. Are you ready?
Author Max Lucado asks this thoughtful question: "If you knew Jesus was coming tomorrow, what would you do today? Then do it!" Let's do it!
Note: The Bible appears to describe the return of Jesus in two very different ways.
In Matthew 24, for example, His return is portrayed as a secret known only to those who are looking for Him. Verses 40-44 state: "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
On the other hand, Revelation 1:7, quoting Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, declares “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him...."
Because of this difference in description, many Bible scholars have come to the conclusion that Christ's return will be in two parts. 1 Thessalonians 4 describes His "catching up" or "rapture" of His church. Revelation 19 describes His triumphant return on a white horse to judge the nations.
We may not know all the details but we know one thing for certain. Jesus is coming soon!