Picture of Pastor Carlson

Sermon delivered 10/09/04 by Pastor Paul Carlson

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New King James Version, NKJV, unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Is Jesus Really Coming Again?

Acts 1

In his book, New Testament Christianity, J. B. Phillips describes an imaginary conversation between a senior angel and a very young one whom he was showing the universe. The little angel was getting a bit tired and bored of viewing whirling galaxies and blazing suns. Finally the experienced angel showed him the galaxy containing our tiny planetary system. And as they drew near to our sun, the senior angel pointed to a small, rather insignificant sphere turning slowly on its axis. "I want you to watch that one particularly," the older angel commented.

"What's so special about that one?"

"That," replied his senior solemnly, "is the visited planet."

"Visited? You don't mean visited by ?"

"Indeed I do. That ball, which I have no doubt looks to you small and insignificant and not perhaps overclean, has been visited by the Prince of Glory."

We live on the Visited Planet. I like that. What love the Creator has for His created beings! Praise God for how Jesus came to this earth the first time! And praise God there's more it doesn't end there. Today we wait for another visit from the Lamb of God, the One who was crucified for our sins. The psalmist and prophet, David, wrote in Psalm 50:1-3, The Mighty One, God the LORD, Has spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun to its going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent...

Those words inspire hope to us now: "Our God shall come." People have counted over 1,500 prophecies for Jesus' second coming in the Bible. It's been said that for every prophecy of His first coming mentioned in the Old Testament, there are eight predicting His Second Coming. In the New Testament it is mentioned an average of one out of every five verses. And do we ever need to hear and know about Jesus' coming! The world is full of war, crime, murder, hatred and terrorism. Most people feel like they must lock their doors at night because they're afraid of the consequences. Domestic violence is at an all-time high. There are missing children and abused children. Diseases and sickness run rampant in our world. And instinctively we recognize that this is not what life was supposed to be like. Instinctively, we must know that the answer, the only answer, is not in the results of an election, but in the results of Jesus' second.

I invite you to reflect with me on the Bible doctrine of the Second Coming of Jesus, to see the importance of the plans of our Creator, Jesus, to come back soon. It's important because there's deception out there that undermines the distinction between God, the immortal Creator, and us humans, and so it also undermines the importance of Jesus' return. And, there's also deception about the kind of God that we expect to come back. The news about the coming King is only good news if you know and love the God that is revealed in scripture. I can't underscore that any more than it possibly is in reality. Nothing is more important than that statement.

Well, first of all, let's imagine the story of Jesus' last moments with His disciples before He ascended into heaven. That story is found in Acts 1. The Bible says that Jesus appeared to His disciples after His crucifixion over a period of forty days before He ascended. (See Acts 1:3.) The Bible reveals elsewhere that He appeared to several of the close group of disciples and women immediately after His resurrection. And according to 1 Corinthians. 15:6, Jesus appeared to over 500 disciples. But now the time had come for Christ to ascend to His Father's throne. His eleven disciples, and other disciples from the larger group now no longer associated Jesus with the Tomb. Hence, they regarded the Savior as glorified before the entire universe. Jesus had done His work of teaching them about why He died and He explained the Scriptures that predicted His suffering, death and resurrection. Most importantly for me, He had finished His work of demonstrating the truth about God.

And now, with the eleven disciples, Jesus made His way toward the mountain from which He would ascend. They passed through the gates of Jerusalem. I like to imagine this scene: through the same narrow, dirty streets that they had walked before. And I imagine there were upraised hands pointing and eyes squinting in the sunlight to focus on this little group of people making their way past the public market places. "Aren't those the disciples of that man who claimed to be the Messiah, the King of Israel, and was crucified?" "Who is that Man leading them?" Maybe some of the actual rulers who had condemned Jesus saw this little procession and wondered what it was all about. Outside of the city, they climbed to the top of the Mount of Olives. It was on this mountain that Jesus had prayed so often. It's folds had echoed the triumphant shouts of the multitude that had proclaimed Him king. On its sloping descent He had found a home with Lazarus and Mary and Martha at Bethany. In the garden of Gethsemane at its foot He had prayed and agonized alone. And it's from this mountain that Jesus would ascend into heaven. I'm not sure if the disciples really knew that it would be their last conversation with Jesus on earth. Perhaps remembering the triumphant procession that had taken place earlier, they asked the question, "Lord, are you going to restore the Kingdom at this time?" Jesus replied, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." While Jesus was finishing what He was saying, a cloud appeared in the sky and Jesus' feet no longer touched the ground. He was now rising into the air, no longer by their side. The disciples were watching Him steadfastly. Surely, their necks were straining and their eyes were tired of squinting into the sun, but they didn't care. Perhaps sweat rolled down their brows and stinging their eyes, but they didn't care. The minutes must have seemed like hours to them as Jesus ascended out of their view.

Finally He was no longer visible and no longer audible. Surely they must have wondered how soon they would see Him again. Perhaps they wondered if they would still have a close relationship with their Master who was now unseen? And then the angels' voices rang out in answer to their unspoken questions: Acts 1:11, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

Jesus will come back. This same Jesus will come back. He will come visibly and loudly. It will be an " in-your-face" coming back, not invisibly or secretly as some teach. In fact, even the wicked will see him, as Revelation 1:7 says, Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him."

This is a major promise of Scripture, but let's remember one important thing. What makes the promise of Jesus' second coming seem important to us is not that we'll no longer be troubled by all the hassles and inconveniences and problems and crises that we've experienced in this world. All that will be true. But that's not the important thing for us. It's that we know Who will be coming! That's what's the most important thing.

So what do we know about Jesus? What we know is found in the Scriptures. And it reveals some major things about Him. It tells us that Jesus Christ is the Creator, That He is as much God as God the Father is. I invite you to open your Bibles to John 1 as we look at verses 1-3. This statement about Jesus is unequivocal. It doesn't get any clearer than this. John 1:1-3. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (See also Colossians 1:16.)

Verse 14 tells us that this Word is Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Scripture also tells is that the Christ who is fully God also became fully human. The author of Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us in speaking to a group of Jews who weren't quite sure of their appreciation of Jesus for Who He really is, and he says, Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Of course you remember that Scripture also tells us that Christ is not only the Crucified, but also the Risen One. The apostle, Paul, reminds is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

Most importantly for me the Scripture reveals that the Jesus who is coming back is not another Jesus, but the same One who said that the reason He came the first time was to reveal the truth about our loving Father. John 14:9, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father." John 17:3-4 "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do."

We also know that the One who is coming back, as Romans 3:25 tells us, is the same One who died to demonstrate the truth about our God, to demonstrate the righteousness of God. That's what it says. Furthermore, Colossians 1:19, 20 tells us that Jesus came to reconcile all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. In reviewing these Scriptures, the message comes clear and loudly to me that Scripture teaches that Jesus died to demonstrate the truth that our God is not as Satan has made Him out to be: untruthful, arbitrary, severe, unforgiving and vengeful. God is the opposite of all those accusations.

So then what is the coming king going to be like?

As I've already said, the news about the soon coming of Jesus is only good news if you know and love the Jesus and God that is revealed in Scriptures. Matthew 7:22-23 is a very familiar passage to many of us. It describes how, for some people, the second coming of Jesus will not be good news, but will be bad news. It says, "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your nmae, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'

"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

You see, in the Bible, the word to know is used to portray an intimate and close relationship with God. Well, it was the same word that was used describe the relationship between Adam and Eve. So this phrase, as Jesus used it, "I never knew you" means that there never was a close relationship with God. In other words this is telling us, you can't have a relationship with God unless you know what He is like and you love Him and you trust Him.

Besides deception about the kind of God who is coming back, there's also a belief out there that undermines the importance of who God is the immortal Creator and thereby undermines the importance of Jesus' coming and the resurrection. It's the idea that each human being has an immortal soul or spirit that lives after death. This is how, I believe, many people may be deceived in the last days. Revelation talks about many signs and miracles by which people will be deceived. See Revelation 13:13, 14.

The Bible picture, however, is very different. It presents to us only one window to eternity for the righteous who have died before Jesus' return. And that is from Jesus Himself. Salvation can only come from Him--who is Himself the resurrection and the life--and our great hope for life after death is through Jesus' coming again and resurrecting us in the power of the Creator. God should be our focus, not ourselves. Psalm 146:3-6 is a beautiful passage that states where we should put our attention and our trust. Psalm 146:3-6 Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit (Hebrew breath) departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans (some Bibles say: his thoughts) perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever." 1 Timothy 6:13-16. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

These texts tell us that Christ is the great Creator-God. Immortality belongs to Him alone, and the great chance for life after death is at His coming at the last day. Until then, His children sleep.

Here's another question to consider: What will be the last message of mercy be to be given to the world? Revelation 14 predicts that in the last days the emphasis will be upon God's Creatorship. We're commanded to reverence God and worship Him who created all that we see and all that we are. See Revelation 14:6, 7. It's a message that says, Let God be God and not ascribe to humanity any power that belongs only to God. After all, He is the Creator and we are the created. He is immortal and we are mortal. That distinction will always exist. He is the One that we can trust, not ourselves.

But we can't trust a God that we don't know. And so we're also called upon to remember that our Creator is a loving and patient God. For, ultimately, that is the everlasting gospel that the angel of Revelation 14 proclaimed to the earth. As Romans 2:4 tells us, God's kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. This is the One who will come at just the right time as we see from 2 Peter 3:9, which says, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

This Bible text gives us the reason why there seems to be a disconnect when God's people believe that Jesus will come soon and at the same time have preached that message for a long time. However, the very reason why Jesus hasn't come back yet is one of the reasons why we love Him so. God is not willing that any should perish. God is that loving. A loving God values freedom of choice and grants the necessary time for all to make up their minds about Him and the truth so that they can. And so we want Him to come because we love Him for who He is. The answer to the question, "Is Jesus really coming soon?" is, thank God, Jesus is coming soon enough and at the right time.

A father asked one of his three little girls who had just gone to bed if she had said her prayers. She said that she had not. So he asked her if she were not afraid to go to bed without having prayed. And this is what she said: "Not tonight, for it is my turn to sleep in the middle." When telling that story a generation ago, Dr. John Robertson of Scotland said, "Before God, I know that feeling. When I was in the multitude I did not have to lean upon God. "I had great ecclesiastical authorities around me and as far as the church business was concerned, I was an important man. "I was moderator of the Metropolitan Presbytery of the city of Edinburgh, and I did not feel the great need to lean upon God." "I felt that I could do somehow without prayer, for I was in the middle." "But now I need to cry to God, for I am no longer in the middle."

Friends, we are no longer in the middle of this earth's history. We're at the end. And the Bible presents to us the picture of Jesus coming as the next great event. Whenever that may be, the most important thing is that we know and trust and love Him now so that we'll be prepared for the coming deceptions. I would like to place my fullest confidence and trust in Him, wouldn't you?

Hymn of Praise: #594,  Heir of the Kingdom
Scripture:  Acts 1:6-8
Hymn of Response: #214,  We Have Ths Hope

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