This study was originally presented over a five day period in July 1998 as a series of radio talks by Pastor Keith Graham. The material will be more profitable if digested in its five separate sessions, of which this is the fifth.
In this series of messages we first looked at the death which Jesus died on behalf of sinners, to pay the debt which they owed. Then we considered that His life under the law of God, which law He upheld and fulfilled, provides the spiritual clothing of righteousness which His people need in order to appear before God. His resurrection was studied in our third session, that great historical event which demonstrates the acceptance of His perfect sacrifice of Himself by God. Our previous session dealt with the work Jesus is doing for His own even now, from His exalted place at God's right hand...preparing a place for His people, sending them the Holy Spirit to teach and comfort, ruling over all things for their good, interceding for them before the Father. This fifth session will consider that great event yet to come, that is the visible and public, personal and bodily return of Christ, when He will fully consummate history and restore all things.
The Lord Jesus Himself emphasized that He would return with great glory and power, in body, and publicly. "The Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works", He said. And in another place, "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory". The angels who spoke to the disciples who watched Him ascend said: "this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." Yet even though it will be the same Jesus, it will not be in the same state of lowliness that characterized His first coming. Jesus first came as a Lamb, when He returns it will be as a Lion.
Much is spoken and written about the return of Christ which focuses on WHEN it will happen. Yet, Jesus Himself made some very pertinent comments to those curious about the question of when He would come. To the disciples in Jerusalem after His resurrection and just before His ascension to the Father's right hand, He said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power." Explaining that the ordinary affairs of human life will be going on when He returns to earth, He said, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come", and "for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man comes."
Rather than offer yet another supposed schedule of events for the end times, and make predictions about when the Lord will return, in this study we will ask and answer the question WHAT. That is, what will the Lord Jesus do when He returns? He has finished His work on earth, He is working now in heaven, what WILL His work be when He returns to earth?
The return of Christ is the cosmic, final event of history which will bring the world as we know it to a sudden end. The brightness of the appearance of the Son of God will make the sun in the sky pale into insignificance, and the earth itself will begin to disintegrate. With Him will be an innumerable company of those spirit beings called angels. They minister in the world even now, unseen. On that day they will be visible as well, forming a part of the splendor of the court of the King of the universe. With Him also will be His saints from all of history, for the Bible says both that He is coming WITH His saints and FOR His saints. Those souls who have died in the Lord will be with Him when He comes, now to receive their bodies by way of resurrection. Those bodies, whether sleeping now in the earth or sea, decomposed into the elements of dust, or even if they've been scattered to the winds, will rise to meet the blessed dead in Christ. Thus souls of the saved who have physically died will be reunited with their bodies forever. And those saints alive on earth on that day will be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, to a glorified state. They will rise to meet their Lord and their brethren in the air. Every human eye will see Jesus when He returns in this transcendant glory, which is presently not even conceivable to our sinful and limited minds. The return of Christ will NOT be something done in secret. He Himself said, "...if they shall say to you, `behold, he is in the desert'; go not forth: `behold, he is in the secret chambers'; believe it not. For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even to the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."
Four Biblical purposes which the Lord Jesus has revealed for His glorious return to earth will now be presented. The first is the General Resurrection of all mankind, about which some things have already been said. At John 5:28, Jesus said, "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the 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." Then in chapter 6 of John, He says, "...this is the Father's will which has sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." Three more times in that passage, the Son of God repeats the identical phrase about the one who believes on Him: that He would raise him up at the last day. It is obvious then, according to Scripture, that a bodily resurrection of every human being who has ever lived, both the righteous and the wicked, occurs in conjunction with the Lord's return. Such a mighty, supernatual occurence defies description. Yet, the Almighty power of God will bring it about, just as Jesus said. Every human being who has ever lived and died, suddenly will be brought back to life in the body to stand before his or her Creator. This is the purpose for the General Resurrection.
The second purpose which the Lord has revealed for His return is to take His people to be with Himself forever. In His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus prayed, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou has given Me: for Thou loved Me before the foundation of the world." In our previous session we saw that Jesus is now preparing a place for His saints. Moreover, He is the Judge Who separates the righteous and the wicked like sheep and goats. When He pronounces the righteous blessed by His Father, He will bid them to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. So their eternal kingdom is already planned. Jesus prayed while He was in the flesh on earth that they woud inherit it. Now He lives above, part of His work in heaven being that of preparing an actual place for His people. Soon He Who cannot lie has promised to come and personally receive them to Himself. How much more certainty could God give His people that they will be with Him forever!
The third purpose revealed by the Lord for His return is to judge the wicked, and consign them to their place of everlasting torment, away from His presence. Paul wrote of it to the Thessalonians, "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; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." O the astonishment, terror, weeping, and gnashing of teeth there will be for them! Although a formal judgment before all the rational universe will take place for them, they will know in their own consciences, at the moment of their resurrection, that they are utterly without hope for all the agonizing eternity that lies before them.
It is apparent that the assembling of the resurrected saints to be with the Lord forever (along with those alive when He returns) as well as the judgment of the wicked occur in conjunction with the general resurrection. It would appear that these are all aspects of one great event called the last day.
The fourth purpose which the Lord has in store for His return is the renovation of the entire universe. The apostle Peter describes it: "...the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
We have considered what Jesus did on earth 2,000 years ago, what He is doing now in heaven, and what He will do when He returns to earth. The most important issue before each of us is whether we are partakers of the unspeakably wonderful blessings which the works of Christ provide. God says that to be a partaker, we must call upon Him. We call upon Him in simple faith, asking Him to forgive us our sins and cleanse us, and thus receive His free gift of salvation. Look unto Him, call upon Him, come to Him and be eternally safe!
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