The King’s Return

Matthew  24:27-42

Dear friends:

I pray that the wonder of Christmas fills you with joy in your life of faith as we celebrate the truth that Jesus has come to the world. Jesus has been born to be our Savior!

But I want to remind you today that the same Jesus whose birth we celebrate was born to be our Savior, has promised to return for us someday. Someday the King Jesus Christ will return to establish His kingdom forever. Billy Graham once was quoted as saying “I read the last page of the Bible; it’s going to turn out all right.” Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s Prayer “Thy kingdom come,” so as often as we pray that prayer we’re praying for Jesus to come again, to establish His kingdom. Did you know that there are 380 verses in the Scriptures about Jesus’ second coming? King Jesus is returning to Earth someday to establish His kingdom forever. And the Christian believers living in the world at that moment in time will be raptured, will be called up with Christ in the air! That’s what we read in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. That Jesus, when that trumpet blast happens, will bring with him all the believers who have fallen asleep in the faith through the centuries of time. What a day that will be!

Can you imagine how bewildered the disciples were immediately after Easter? They had just watched their Lord die on a cross, bleeding until He breathed His last. The one they believed to be God (and the Messiah) now died and was laid in the tomb, buried behind a sealed stole. Then they rejoiced that He was raised from the dead, that He conquered death, that He was alive forever; only, on a certain day, to have Jesus float up into the sky out of their midst. And an Angel appears and says “why are you staring at the sky? Jesus, Whom you watched ascend, will come back again!” “When will that be?” No one knows the time or the day – not the Angels, not the Son of God, but only the Father.

When I was a boy I feared the rapture. I worried that I wasn’t good enough, that my faith wasn’t strong enough or sincere enough. I worried that I wasn’t obedient enough and that I would be “left behind” when Christ returns. My faith had not yet fully understood the Gospel promise. I didn’t live with the assurance of salvation – with the joy and peace of knowing that I was forgiven and saved because of what Jesus did. You see, the second coming of Jesus Christ should not be something we fear, it should be an event of great thrill! It will be a day of excitement! The first time, Jesus was born in humility and vulnerability; a little infant, powerless, lying in the manger. He was born to die on a cross to be our redeemer. But the second coming of Jesus Christ… He will come with power and great glory and every eye will see him! He’ll come in victory and triumph. So my hope is that each of us affirms our faith and lives with the assurance of our salvation and peace with God.

So there are some truths I want to unpack with you about the second coming of Jesus. When the King returns the Father has given Him authority to be judge of the world. Not everyone will go to Heaven, not because God wills it, but because they reject His love offered in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ will come as judge not with vengeance as if His patience was exhausted or He was punitive in His judgment or retaliatory. But He knows those who are His. Jesus knows those who believe in Him and those who don’t. So it says in Matthew 24 “one will be taken and one will be left behind”. In Philippians 2 it says “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord.” Some will meet Jesus on that day as their longed-for Savior. But some will meet Jesus that day as their judge. Jesus said some will beat on the door and say “let us in!”, and Jesus will say “sorry, I never knew you.” So Jesus comes as judge because not everyone is a believer in Him and not everyone believes His promises to be true, so not all will go to Heaven.

Second, when the King returns it says in the scripture it’ll be like the days of Noah. Noah was a preacher of righteousness. But imagine what it was like when he began to build that big honkin’ boat (the ark) in the middle of a grassy meadow, and people would come up and ask him “why are you building a boat in the middle of this meadow?” And he, the preacher of righteousness, would say “because God is going to judge the world with a flood. But it is still a day for you to come back to God, to ask for His mercy and affirm faith.” In the days of Noah it will be a time of anarchy and violence. There will be no respect for life. Life will be cheap. We know that throughout history there are wars, but in our time period there’s terrorism – the senseless slaughter of lives of innocent people designed to induce fear in all the culture. There are more abortions committed today than ever before and it’s a tragedy in our cultured world. Life is cheap; violence is perpetrated throughout the world through human trafficking. Life is cheap; great violence, if you listen only to the news and were not a believer in Jesus as the Lord of history you’d be a pessimist. But as in the days of Noah it’ll also be a time of great apostasy. Many people falling away from the faith. Many people denying the Jesus is God. Many people abandoning the church and forsaking their faith. Worse than that, becoming mockers of our faith. It says in the time of Noah in Genesis 6:5 “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was so great on Earth that the intent or imaginations of human hearts were for evil continually.” It wasn’t just the people were weak and falling into sin, but that they were creative in their evil; that their imaginations led to crafty immorality and wickedness. The days of Noah were also times of apathy to spiritual life. The Holy Spirit calls and calls but people turn a deaf ear to the invitations of God to come and receive His love. Scoffers reject the love of Jesus Christ totally and live as their own masters. Time passes, even centuries, and the doubt grows. “Where is this Jesus you say is coming?” Many are seduced into unfaithfulness and unbelief. I remind you what it says in 2 Peter 3:8-9: “For God, a thousand years is as a day and a day as a thousand years.” You see, God is not slow. Rather God is patient, not wishing anyone to perish but hoping and longing that all would repent. It’s like Jesus’ parable of the waiting father in Luke 15: “with open arms he searches the horizon longing for his prodigals to come home.”

Third, when the King returns, when Jesus comes again, scripture says it will be suddenly, like lightning flashes across the sky. It’ll be so fast you will not be able to get yourself ready in the moment. One of the favorite lies of the devil is “you have plenty of time.” I say today is a day to come back to God. We need to live ready, trusting in the promises that Jesus offers us. So I ask you, if Jesus returned today are you ready? Are you living ready with faith in Him? I love the simple prayer that Pastor Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha Series teaches us. It has three parts to it: first “Jesus I thank you for dying on the cross for my sins.” Second, “I am sorry for my sins and rebellion and I ask you to forgive me.” Third, “come into my heart and life by your Holy Spirit and be my leader and my Lord.” The truth is that when Jesus came that first Christmas He came and accomplished our redemption. He did go to the cross! He did rise from the dead! He has completed the work of our salvation. Jesus has already made us ready. Like the words of the old hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”:

When Christ shall come with trumpets sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Clothed in His righteousness alone
Redeemed to stand before His throne

When the King returns, when Jesus comes again, for Christians it is a thrilling day of great victory! He returns in power and glory, and His reign of love and peace will be forever! He will give life to all His people. Christ’s light and power will dispel all darkness. No more sin, no more sickness nor sorrow, no more death nor grief, no more hatred nor killing. Jesus will transform everything and make it beautiful. He will heal all that is broken; not only the world but the individual hearts and souls of people. It will be like a wedding day – a day of joy when we who are the bride of Christ will be united forever with Jesus the Lord, our King, our Bridegroom. What day that will be!

When I was a freshman in college at Wheaton College outside of Chicago, Illinois, my girlfriend Denise (who is now my wife) rode the train to downtown Chicago train station and this Iowa boy from the rural areas drove to downtown metro Chicago to meet her at the Chicago train station. I remember what joy was in my heart as I saw her get off the train and embraced her in love! I might’ve even given her a kiss. It reminds me of a story told by preacher Adrian Rogers who told of an old preacher who went down to the train station and saw a parable of life. As the train pulled into the station and the people began to get off the train from the travels, there were loved ones they are to greet them with hugs and kisses, and it was a time of rejoicing. But in the same moment, the preacher saw another man handcuffed to a law enforcement officer. The man was soon to be departing for prison. This prisoner was also hugging his wife and children, but he was weeping in sadness because they would soon be separated permanently. Wonder of wonders – the same train which brought such joy and happiness to one group brought great sorrow and separation to another. That’s what it will be like when the King returns. When Jesus comes again, it’ll be just like that. For we who believe it will be a moment of great joy! But for those who have renounced Christ or lived as if God does not exist it’ll be a day of great sorrow, when the truth of His coming will be revealed. I ask you: are you at peace with God? Jesus has come and accomplished our salvation. Jesus was born to be our Savior and someday He’s going to come again to pour His mercy and grace out to all believers. Today is a wonderful day to ask Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and with assurance still more sure to affirm that your faith believes in Jesus Christ as your Savior and your God. So together we pray amen! Come, Lord Jesus!

 

Pastor Lee Laaveg