God’s Secret

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, “Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12b).

When St. Paul says that he does not have all the answers to God’s revelation, who am I, or any other human, to think that we do?

The Bible answers many of our questions. Here are a few of these answers:

¥ We are created by God in his image.

¥ We are sinners.

¥ Christ suffered and died for the sins of the world.

¥ Christ will one day return to this earth.

We learn a few more answers in our text:

¥ Jesus is coming back. This is a biblical revelation. We, however, do not know when he will return. That is a secret.

¥ At Jesus’ return, he will judge the living and the dead. Our Lord will gather to himself those who are his own. Beyond these things, we can go no further.

¥ Jesus gives us some strong warnings: Be ready. Beyond these things we cannot go for God has kept the ultimate knowledge to himself.

There are at least responses to this text:

1. Denial

Such a response would come from the atheist or agnostic who would say it is ridiculous. Jesus was simply a man, and men do not return from the dead.

2. Not Interested

This person hears the message but gives it little thought. He was taught in Sunday school as a child that Jesus is coming back, but when he matured in his thinking, he gave up such foolish thinking. The sermon dealing with Jesus’ second coming has low priority in his system of beliefs, but he does not want to disturb other people who do believe it. Therefore, he routinely says that “Christ shall come again to judge the living and the dead,” at that time when the congregation confesses its faith in the word of the Apostles’ Creed.

3. Fear

Let’s say an event gets international attention. This person is heard asking if this is a sign that Jesus is coming soon. “Is He just around the corner? Maybe we will be here when He returns.”

In 1948, the state of Israel had just been established. Jewish people were free to return to their homeland. Some people believed this was a sign that Christ would soon return.

As a Lutheran Christian, I had not been highly schooled in dispensation theology, which teaches more about the how and when of our Lord’s return than had others. These people were far better versed in the books of Daniel and Revelation than I. When I was ordained in June, 1948, the Advent Season, with its teaching on Jesus’ second coming was only six months away. I preached on this text, and several parishioners came with their questions about my understanding of our Lord’s return afterward. They felt the Jewish peoples’ return to the state of Israel had spiritual innuendos.

I told those seeking great knowledge on the subject more detailed information, but I never became interested enough to read in depth on what people thought about Jesus’ return. For me, it was enough to confess that he is coming again and take his admonition to be ready to meet him when he comes seriously.

What did concern me was their fear of his coming. Weren’t these people ready to meet him? We spent a great deal of time on this subject.

4. Anticipation

When Jesus comes to receive us, believers will stand in his presence. All secrets will be revealed. We will live in a place where there is no sorrow, suffering, and death. Words cannot explain it, but we can dream of that blessed day.

The older we get, the more we anticipate that time. What joy it is to sit at the bedside of an older person whose life is over and the doctor has estimated she will have only a few hours left in this world. Then to read that great promise in John 14 where Jesus has gone to prepare a place for all who have died trusting him as their Savior and Lord. Based on God’s Word to whisper into the ear of the loved one who is dying, “Think of it, mother! The earthly life is soon over. Tomorrow you will be with Jesus!” Then to see the smile cross her face as she squeezes your hand.

Yes, at the end of time our Lord will return. We must also realize that he could come to get us in death before he returns to judge the living and the dead. Are we ready? You are only when Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord and lives in your heart. Have you received him? Amen.

“The King is coming, the King is coming

I just heard the trumpet sounding,

And now His face I see;

O, the King is coming, the King is coming!

Praise God, He is coming for me.”