Chapter 50: THE
CHURCH ANXIOUSLY AWAITS THE RETURN OF JESUS
by Guy V. Caskey
A mature Christian man said to
me: "I wish Jesus would come down in our midst now and take us back to heaven
with him." This frank, sincere statement arrested my attention. This was not a
sudden, impulsive, irresponsible utterance of a man who despaired of life, who
had grown weary of insoluble problems and so depressed with life's unfavorable
circumstances it no longer held for him any attraction or meaning. It was,
rather, an expression which disclosed his faith in the promise of the Lord to
return, and revealed bright expectancy of his heart of a future life far better
than this one on earth.
This statement of an unusual
man prompted me to search the Scriptures for the promise that Jesus is coming
again. I wanted to know the "how" and the "when" along with "what" would attend
this most significant event. All of the answers to the questions people ask
concerning this momentous occasion are not easily obtained. The reason for this,
doubtless, is that God did not choose to divulge some things to us about the
second coming of Christ. There are some matters, however, regarding this
occurrence about which the Bible is very plain.
JESUS IS COMING BACK
The promise of his coming again
is frequently stated in the New Testament. There are as many as fifty passages
that deal with his return, and most of them are clearly, un- mistakably,
understood. Let us observe a sampling: "This same Jesus, who is taken up from
you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into
heaven" (Acts 1:11). "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again,
and receive you into myself that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3).
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and
remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are
asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven. . ." (1 Thessalonians
4:15-16). "Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great
God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13). "But we know that, when he shall
appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as his is" (1 John 3:2).
There is no doubt about it, our Lord is coming back. Are we anxiously awaiting
THE PURPOSE OF HIS RETURN
The reason for Jesus' return is
put in very simple terms in the Bible - to reward the righteous and to punish
the wicked. In describing the judgment scene, the Lord said: 'And these (the
wicked) shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life
eternal" (Matt. 25:46). And Paul, in later years, said that God would
"recompense tribulation to them that trouble you," but that he would give rest
to you who are troubled, "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with
his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished
with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory
of his power" (2 Thess. 1:6:9). "Then shall the wicked be revealed, whom the
Lord will consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the
brightness of his coming" (2 Thess. 2:8). "Henceforth there is laid up for me a
crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give to me at
that day: and not to me only, but unto all of them also that love his appearing"
(2 Tim. 4:8).
Edward Gibbon, the English
historian, who wrote the Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire, gave several
reasons for the rapid growth and strength of the church in the first century.
Among these reasons was the belief in immortality: 'When the promise of eternal
happiness was proposed to mankind on the condition of adopting the faith and of
observing the precepts of the gospel, it is no wonder that so advantageous an
offer should have been accepted by great numbers of every religion, of every
rank, and of every province in the Roman empire." But he further stated that
"the most dreadful calamities were denounced against an unbelieving world." The
Christian looks with happy anticipation to his return, for then shall the
righteous (both those who are alive at his coming and those who are asleep) be
caught up "to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord"
(1 Thess. 4:17).
WHAT WILL TRANSPIRE AT HIS
There are a number of things
that will take place when Jesus comes again:
1. The resurrection of the
dead. "But every man in his own order: Christ the first- fruits; afterwards they
that are Christ's at his coming" (1Cor. 15:23).
2. The body of the Christian
will be changed. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump:
for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
shall be changed. For this corruption must put on incorruption, and this mortal
must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:52-53).
3. All men will be judged. "For
we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ" (Rom. 14:10). ". . . the
word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (Jno. 12:48).
"For the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear
his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection
of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation" (Jno.
5:28-29). Look at the judgment scene in Matthew 25:41-46.
4. The end will come. " . . .
afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he
shall have delivered up the kingdom of God, even the Father, when he shall have
put down all rule and all authority and power" (1 Cor. 15:23-24).
5. Christians will be taken to
heaven. (See 1 Thess. 4:17; Jno. 14: 2-3).
6. Death will be destroyed.
There will be no more death. "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death where is
thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor 15:54-55).
With this promise of the
occurrence of all these wonderful events at his coming, we should look forward
to that day with great joy.
WILL HIS KINGDOM BE
There are many theories taught
in our time to the effect that when Jesus returns, he will set up his kingdom in
Palestine and rule over the earth for a period of a thousand years. This
doctrine, or any variation of it, is nowhere taught in the Bible. It is
difficult to know how fictitious and fatuous ideas get started. Gibbon remarked
upon this subject. "When the edifice of the church was almost completed the
temporary support was laid aside" and the doctrine of Christ's reign on the
earth was rejected by the church.
The theory of a thousand years'
reign of Christ on earth after his second coming makes the church a spiritual
contingent, or accident (not planned, happened by chance), deprecates the Son of
God, lessens the value of the church, reflects upon the intelligence of God and
belittles the price Jesus paid for our sins (Acts 20:28). It is a failure to
understand or a refusal to accept that the church is a kingdom, that Christ is
now King, that Christians are citizens in that kingdom and that the New
Testament is that official register and guide for our lives.\
There is no doubt about it,
Jesus Christ is now King. He is King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15).
Jesus himself affirmed that during the period of regeneration (when men are born
again), "when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, ye (twelve
apostles) also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of
Israel" (Matt. 19:28). Paul declared that when Jesus comes again, he will
deliver the kingdom up to God (1 Cor. 15:24). Instead of "taking up" rule and
authority and power, he will "put down" all of these. Then Paul makes the very
strong statement: "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his
feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:25-26). There
are two evident truths worthy of our consideration in these passages: (1) "He
shall reign till. . . " The word "reign" in this passage means "to be king."
Paul is saying, "Christ will be King till. . . " (2) The extent of that reign
will reach to the resurrection, or until death is destroyed. But in this chapter
Paul declares that death will be destroyed by the resurrection (verse 54). So,
Christ is now King and will continue to be King until the resurrection. Jesus
has all the attributes of a full-crowned king: (1) He has all authority (Matt.
28:18). (2) Everything is made subject to him (Eph. 1:22-23). (3) He has a name
that is above every name (Eph. 1:21; Phil. 3:9-10). (4) He exercises the power
to deliver men from darkness and translate them into his kingdom (Col. 1:13).
(5) He is highly exalted "far above all principality, and power, and might, and
dominion" (Eph. 1:21). He will continue in this position until he comes back to
judge the world.
WHEN WILL HE RETURN?
No man knows. No prophecy
indicates that time. No passage reveals that day. It is pure speculation to name
a day, and one who presumes to do so is a false prophet. Peter informs us, with
reference to it, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night" (1
Pet. 3:10). It will be the last day (Jno. 6:44). It will be the end of time (1
Cor. 15:24). We are admonished to "watch and be ready," to make that preparation
to meet him in joy and peace at his coming. "For what is our hope, or joy, or
crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at
his coming? (1 Thess. 2:19).
How can we be sure Jesus is
In simple terms, what is the
reason for Christ's return?
Name six things that will
transpire when Jesus returns.
When was (or will) Christ's
kingdom be established?
What are the attributes of a
king which Jesus possesses?
Just when will the Lord return?