The Return of the Lord
Jesus is coming back.
He promised us:
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:3, KJV)
The belief that Jesus is coming again is central to the teaching and faith of all Christians. However, how and when this will occur is not agreed upon. That He is coming is not in doubt. How He is coming is not clearly understood. This can be explained by looking at how the Jews of the Old Testament interpreted the promises of His coming.
The Old Testament prophets promised that a Messiah, a Savior, would come. Many details were given. He was to be born of a virgin. He was to be of the line of David. He was to be born in Bethlehem. He was to save His people from their sins. Along with these promises, there were promises for the Gentiles. He was to be a light for the nations, and a Savior for all peoples. In addition, there were promises for the kingdom of Israel: promises of a restored nation and a kingdom.
As the people anticipated His coming, they understood only ONE coming. They thought the Messiah would come and restore all things all at once. They did not envision a process or more than one coming, certainly not a second coming. In the paragraph above, I have described three separate promises: the Incarnation, the salvation of the Nations and the Kingdom of Israel.
The people who had only the Old Testament had trouble understanding both His sufferings and the glories to follow in the context of one coming. They did not separate the promises for the nation of Israel from the promises for the nations. They did not separate the promises of salvation for all peoples from promises for the kingdom of Israel.
We are no different. We have trouble discerning what the Spirit is saying to us.
For example, the Kingdom of God is not of this world. The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom and God reigns as King in our hearts. This has always been true. Jesus taught that God seeks worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Abraham was such a man, and he worshiped God before there was any nation of Israel. The same is true of Noah and Enoch. However, this truth does not negate or nullify the promises God made to Israel and to David of a lasting kingdom and throne. And yet, many, based upon the truth of the spiritual kingdom, teach that the Church has replaced Israel. This is an error and it leads to errors in regards to our understanding of the times and seasons of Jesus' return.
The importance of the issue is addressed in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 where the Spirit says:
Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us. (NLT)
If one teaches that the Kingdom that is promised is now and that it is a spiritual kingdom and that the teaching of Revelation 20 regarding the Millennium is symbolic, then one must also teach that the day of the Lord has already begun or at least leave open the possibility, which, according to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2, is impossible.
The reason a clear understanding is important is given: to prevent us from being shaken or alarmed.
It is easy for us to be shaken or alarmed. Let's consider what the Bible has to say about the world we live in.
Psalms 2:1-2 says:
Why are the nations so angry?
Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
the rulers plot together
against the LORD
and against his anointed one. (NLT)
This has long been the attitude of the world toward God, our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have all heard of the Antichrist and his coming. Daniel 9:26 describes him as "the prince who is to come" and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 describes him as the "man of lawlessness." In the book of Revelation, he is called "the beast." However, 1 John 4:3 tells us:
...every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (ESV)
Jesus warned us:
If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. (John 15:18, NLT)
And, the Apostle John added to this when he said:
So don't be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
1 John 3:13, NLT
When 26 believers are killed on a Sunday morning in a church just outside of San Antonio, we are shaken to the core. However, we should realize that the spirit of the Antichrist is at work in the world. Throughout the world, Christians die for their faith every day.
The spirit of the Antichrist has long been at work in the world. Things that happen may cause us to think the day of the Lord has come. However, the day of the Lord has not yet begun. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 makes it clear that the man of lawlessness, the beast, must first be revealed, and 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 makes it clear that he cannot be revealed until the restrainer is removed.
And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, NASB)
The One who holds him back is the Holy Spirit present in the Church, the Body of Christ. The removal of this Restrainer will occur with the rapture of the Church. This will complete the age of the Gentiles where God has been working to fulfill His promise to bring salvation to the Nations.
However, in relation to the Lord's return, at the rapture we are described as meeting the Lord in the air. Jesus is not described as setting His feet on the ground. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 says:
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (NASB)
Once this occurs, the man of lawlessness will be revealed, the seventieth week of Daniel 9 will begin, and so will the day of the Lord. This will complete the 70 weeks decreed for the nation of Israel and be the period known as the great tribulation. This has to do with God's promises to the nation of Israel.
At the end of this tribulation period, the Lord Himself will fight against the Beast and his army. This is what is described in Revelation 19:19-21.
19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted the mark of the beast and who worshiped his statue. Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies.
This battle is also foretold in Zechariah 14:3-4, which says:
Then the LORD will go out to fight against those nations, as he has fought in times past. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will split apart, making a wide valley running from east to west. Half the mountain will move toward the north and half toward the south. (NLT)
This describes a coming of the Lord not understood by those who did not foresee the church age and/or perceive the separate promise of God to bring salvation to the nations.
This second coming described by Revelation 19 and Zechariah 14 will precede the Millennial Kingdom. While Isaiah, Ezekiel and other passages refer to the Millennial Kingdom, Revelation 20 describes it in very clear language:
1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the bottomless pit and a heavy chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon—that old serpent, who is the devil, Satan—and bound him in chains for a thousand years. 3 The angel threw him into the bottomless pit, which he then shut and locked so Satan could not deceive the nations anymore until the thousand years were finished. Afterward he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and the people sitting on them had been given the authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his statue, nor accepted his mark on their forehead or their hands. They all came to life again, and they reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-4, NLT)
At the time of His incarnation, Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He bore our sins. He bore our sorrows. By His wounds, we are healed. God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53) However, look at how He is described in Revelation 19:11-13:
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.
This is the Jesus who was born in a manger to a young virgin named Mary. This is the same Jesus who allowed Himself to be beaten, stripped and spit upon. This is the same Jesus who died to save us from our sins. However, this time He is coming to judge the nations. A great spiritual truth will be demonstrated before the eyes of all the earth. John 3:36 says:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (ESV)
These things are coming. Jesus will come, first for His Church and then to judge the nations. Are you ready?
I do not want believers in Christ to be shaken, thinking the day of the Lord has already begun. But, I do want us all to be shaken if we are serving anything or anyone besides the Lord. We are so busy. Life is full of challenges, adventures and pleasures. Our appetite for these things can easily become our god. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (ESV)
We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23) The Lord promises, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Come and accept Jesus as your Savior today.
If you, for some reason, choose not to accept Jesus now and one day find that all the believers have disappeared, remember this message. Seven horrible, terrible, very bad years are decreed and then the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will appear. At any time during those seven years, you can save your eternal soul by calling on the name of the Lord to be saved. It will be better for you though if you just do it now.
Jesus is coming and:
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:16, ESV)