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The Second Coming of Christ
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
If there is a subject that has been historically near and dear to the hearts of believers it is the return of Jesus Christ. And without a doubt the return of Christ is going to be an exciting event! However, throughout the years there’s been a lot of debate surrounding it. There’s been false Christ’s, false prophecies, false teachings, and false dates, and they’re all wrong. I guess that’s why they are false.
Some people spend their entire lives trying to find out everything they can about the end times and the second coming of Christ. They’ve got charts and graphs. They can tell you who the two witnesses will be, who the Antichrist is, and where he lives, and what the menu’s going to be at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Just kidding, but I’m sure Angel Food Cake will be served).
I also enjoy reading and studying what the Scriptures say about the return of Christ, because there’s nothing in this world that gives hope to an exhausted heart like the return of Christ. There’s nothing that stirs the soul like knowing that one day we’ll be with Jesus!
So today, I’d like to stir up your anticipation at this most precious of promises, and to get you excited about the second coming.
There are a lot of places in the Bible that speaks about Jesus’s return, but I think Paul’s statement to the Thessalonian Church helps explain it the best. Paul is saying that he wants us to understand the importance of this event. Actually, he says he doesn’t want us to be ignorant about it, but I’m putting a positive spin to his admonition.
In this section Paul is responding to a misunderstanding that has caused a lot of grief to the church in Thessalonica. Paul had taught that Jesus was coming again to gather His people, that is, the church, in order to be with Him forever. It is a wonderful promise that has brought comfort to these Christians who were living in a world that was hostile towards them.
But after some time had past, and Jesus not returning as soon as they hoped He would, a few of them started to die. And so they mourned wondering what was going to happen to their loved ones who had died. Were they going to miss the Second Coming?
It’s clear that they misunderstood what Paul taught, that they should be ready for the Lord’s return at any time, and because of this misunderstanding they worried themselves sick. So you can imagine how Paul must have felt. He was heartbroken. Therefore, he wrote to them in order to bring comfort. So let’s take a moment and read what the Apostle Paul wrote concerning this most precious promise.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Here Paul launches out into one of the great fundamental truths of the Christian faith, the “Second Coming of Jesus Christ.”
When Jesus died on the cross, the vast majority of the Jews and the religious establishment thought they’d seen the last of Him, but those who’d witnessed His resurrection and ascension knew better.
They recalled Jesus’s teaching of His coming kingdom and it became absolutely clear to them that the next event in God’s calendar was Jesus’s Second Coming in great glory. You see, when Jesus ascended into heaven the angelic messengers 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.” (Acts 1:11 NIV)
There could be no doubt. It was a statement of fact still to be realized. It was this hope that sustained them through the many trials they faced. What I would like to do today is to then look at four things Paul says about this wondrous event.
1. The Return
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16a NKJV)
Jesus, in His resurrected body will descend from heaven, and it will be a physical, personal, dramatic, public, and unmistakable.
His first coming was in humility to accomplish for us what we could never hope to accomplish for ourselves, and that is our salvation, and the forgiveness of our sins. This He accomplished when he died upon the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But His return will be full of glory, in might and in power, and everyone will not only hear about it, they will see it as well.
Now there is something that I need everyone to know and to understand, and that is, this world we live in is doomed. The scent of death is upon it. This world is committing suicide and nothing can save it. All the noble efforts of humanity have failed to usher in the paradise they promised.
This can only be accomplished through the Gospel of Jesus and His message of salvation to all who will believe it and its fulfillment will be in the personal return of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ to this earth.
But when will Jesus return? Only God the Father knows. Unfortunately this hasn’t stopped many from trying to fix a date to this event, but all of these dates have come and gone and Jesus has not yet returned.
Later, the Apostle Paul wrote, “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” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Paul was echoing the words of Jesus when He said that nobody knows the day or the hour of the Second Coming, not even Jesus.
“No one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:36 NLT)
God’s timetable of events, which are hidden to us, reveals that the Return of Jesus will come as a surprise to an unbelieving and skeptical world. But there are some things that we do know about His return. There are three that I would like to share with you this morning.
a. A Promised Return
Peter in his second letter wrote, “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:4).
This is almost literally what my brother said to me. “Where is His coming that you keep talking about?”
But just because He hasn’t returned yet doesn’t mean that he won’t. In fact, the promise of His return goes all the way back to Job. He said,
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25-26 NKJV)
The Bible promises over and over the return of Christ. The Bible actually speaks of the two comings of the Messiah. The first time will be as a suffering servant to die for the sins of the people (Isaiah 53). And then the Bible talks about the Messiah’s return to this earth in glory as that conquering king (Revelation 19:16). And so, the Bible over and over again promises that the return of Jesus Christ will be personal, visible, and sudden.
Therefore let’s take Jesus’ words to heart.
“You also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:44 NKJV)
b. A Glorious Return
Jesus speaking of His return said, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). He then said,
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27NKJV)
The return of Christ is going to be glorious! I love the words of Psalm 24 when it says, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:7-10)
What we see from these verses is that the King of glory is none other than Jesus Christ who will come with great glory as the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).
And so on the day of His return Jesus is going to part the sky with power and great glory with His face shining in the brightness of His glory! This may be why Paul wrote how he was looking for that blessed hope, which he said was the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
But besides Christ return being glorious, it is also going to be
c. A Troubling Return
Many people scoff at the thought of Christ’s return as we saw earlier (2 Peter 3:4). And I understand what they are saying. God’s people have been preaching about Jesus coming back for 2000 years. And so some people deny the return, others doubt it, dismiss it, and even debate it, but that doesn’t change the fact that He will return. In Matthew 24, Jesus was talking about His return when He made a comparison.
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37 NKJV)
I think it must have been a sad day when God flooded the earth. Noah had been warning people for years to no avail. Jesus said they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage (Matthew 24:38). In other words, they went on with life as though nothing was wrong, probably saying what many are saying today, “We don’t want to hear all that doom and gloom stuff! There’s too much life to live.” But when the flood came it was too late. They’d been given a chance, but when God shut that door to the Ark, it was shut.
In Jesus’s Parable of the 10 Virgins it says that when the five who were ready and who went with the Bridegroom into the wedding banquet, the door was shut, and when the five who weren’t ready came they found the door shut and asked for it to be opened, and the Lord said, “I don’t know you.” (Matthew 25:1-13)
And so, what we see about the return of Christ is that it is going to be personal, visible, and sudden. It is also a promised, glorious, and troubling return.
2. The Resurrection
“And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16b NKJV)
Christianity is essentially a religion of resurrection, and it began with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is such a resurrection that is our hope as well. When a Christian dies, it’s not the end. It’s true the body is laid to rest in the grave, but the soul and spirit live on.
To the Corinthian church Paul said, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)
The thief crucified with Jesus was assured of being with Him immediately when his life ended. Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
For the believer, death is the gateway into the very presence of God. The Apostle Paul testified: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Here was real hope for those who have died as Christians. They aren’t going to miss out. In fact they were getting priority treatment in the order of events in the Second Coming. Paul tells us that: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus was the first, and then all believers who have died will be the next to be resurrected.
At Jesus’s return, those who have died, as believers, their souls and spirits, which are in heaven, will be joined to their resurrected bodies, now free from the frailties and pains of their earthly existence.
None of us know if our earthly life will end before Christ comes again, but if that is the case, we have the wonderful assurance that Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth: “The dead will be raised imperishable … for the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Cointhians 15:52,53).
Now, the resurrection is just the first part of this third ‘R’ of Jesus’ Second Coming
3. The Rapture
“Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17a NKJV)
The word “Rapture” isn’t found in Scripture, which is why many discount this aspect of Jesus’s return. But while the English word isn’t found, it is there along with the concept. What’s important to understand is that the word is derived from the Greek word Paul uses for “caught up.” It is the word “harpazo.” Now when the Bible was translated into Latin, the word they used was “raptus,” which is where we get the English word, “Rapture.”
The word expresses suddenness and violence, a snatching away as it were. In the Greek it means “To steal, carry off, to snatch away by force with no resistance offered.”
The teaching of the Rapture is found in many places throughout the Bible, and it would take at least one sitting to run through this doctrine. But the place where it is best described is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church. He said,
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 NKJV)
Now, as part of the Second Coming of Christ, it is believed that the Rapture will come prior to the time when Jesus steps down upon this earth. Therefore, like the Second Coming, no one knows the day or the hour of the Rapture as well. But it hasn’t stopped people speculating and building doctrines around this event.
• Pre-tribulation theory: This teaches that the Rapture can occur at any time prior to the seven years of tribulation.
• Pre-wrath theory: this teaches that the Rapture will occur prior to the wrath of God being poured out, which many believe is prior to the trumpet judgments.
• Mid-tribulation theory: this teaches that believers will be removed halfway through the tribulation.
• Post-tribulation theory: this teaches that the rapture will occur either prior to the vial judgments of God, or right when Jesus returns after the seven year tribulation is up.
Now, there are Scriptural evidences for each of these, and each has both their strong and weak points. But when Jesus said that no one knows the hour or the day, and that it will come like a thief in the night, we must be ready for it to happen at any time. And when it happens it will be marvelous. Therefore I subscribe to my own tribulation theory, and that is the “Pan-tribulation theory,” which says that it will all pan out in the end.
4. The Reunion
“And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17b NKJV)
This is the climax and the Christian hope. There, in the presence of the Lord, we will be beyond the reach of evil, pain, and suffering. Heaven will be the place of the greatest reunion of all time, with people “from every tribe, tongue, kindred, and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
That’s the glorious prospect for the future, but we don’t know when it will be, and so we need to get back to the present and get ourselves ready, living our lives knowing that Jesus can return at any moment.
And so the question is: “Are You Ready?”
I heard about a small country church that was holding a revival. It was so crowded that they had to put chairs right up to the pulpit. The evangelist was preaching about the second coming of Christ. He was one of those fire and brimstone kind of preachers that marched up and down the stage. At one point of his sermon he leaned over toward the audience and shouted out Jesus’ promise: “I am coming soon!”
He marched up and down the stage some more and then leaned out again over the edge of the stage and cried out, “I am coming soon!”
Several minutes went by and again he leaned over and shouted out, “I am coming soon!” But this time, he got tangled up in the microphone cord and lost his balance. Tumbling off the stage, he landed right on the lap of a couple sitting in the front row. The husband looked at his wife and said, “Well, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. He warned us three times!”
I know people have been preaching the return of Christ for 2,000 years. But we shouldn’t let that keep us from believing it to be true. Time means nothing to God. He promised in His Word that He’s coming back: personally, visibly, and suddenly, and I want to say is that when He returns it’s going to be one of two things for every person. It’s either going to be a glorious event, or it’s going to be a troubling event, and it’s up to each person to choose which one.
We are called upon to live our daily lives in constant readiness for our Lord’s return. No one but God knows if it will be in our lifetime. Our present task is to work for the kingdom of God right here and now, and then be ready for his return at any time, even tonight!
Let me end with Jesus last words spoken in the Bible
“Surely I am coming quickly.
And to this we add our voices to the Apostle John’s
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20 NKJV)
What more can be said “Maranatha,” which means our Lord is coming, therefore “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”
Wednesday Evening Bible Study