Jesus Our Coming King
This week is the fourth part of the Four-fold Gospel. A.B. Simpson, who was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance taught how Jesus is our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King, making the fourfold Gospel the foundation of the Alliance’s belief. In fact, the Christian and Missionary Alliance does not have a very long Statement of Faith like most denominations. Originally the Alliance's Statement of Faith could fit on a 3x5 index card. Currently the Alliance Statement of Faith is about 2 pages long (https://cmalliance.org/who-we-are/our-faith-and-mission/statement-of-faith/). Why so short? The Alliance does not take a stand on many secondary theological issues. Pastors within the Alliance are both Reformed or Calvinistic and Arminian. Pastors within the Alliance differ on many secondary issues, but we all agree on the fact that it is all about Jesus.
This week, we want to look at Jesus our coming king, which is represented by the crown in the Alliance logo.
The New Testament is clear that Jesus will return. In Acts 1, as Jesus was ascending into heaven, the disciples were standing there, looking up into the sky, probably wondering what happened to Jesus because he disappeared (1:9). Two men came and stood next to them and said, “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” (1:11). Jesus is going to physically come again. Paul says that Jesus’ second coming is the believer’s blessed hope (Titus 2:13). When will Jesus return and what will this look like have been some questions the church has asked since Jesus’ ascension. But even though the Bible does not tell us the exact day or hour of Jesus’ return, we are given some signs of what to look for as the time of Jesus’ return draws close.
In Matthew 24:8, Jesus calls these signs the beginning of sorrows (NKJV) or birth pains (ESV). Just as a woman does not know the exact day or hour of when she will enter labor and her child will be born, she does recognize the signs that her body gives to indicate that the time is close and to get ready for the child to come. This is how Jesus and the New Testament writers treat Jesus’ second coming. They give us signs to look for so that we know that the time of Jesus' return is getting closer and closer. Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica that they “are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake [them] as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4). We are to be ready and watching for Jesus’ return. We are to be looking forward to that day when we will see our Lord and Savior face to face.
When will Jesus’ return take place? What will this look like? In order to answer these questions, I want to use the book of Revelation to give an overview of what those days will look like as the time gets closer to when Jesus will physically return again.
After John sees Jesus and writes down His message to the seven churches in Asia Minor, he then is called up into heaven in order for God to show John events that must take place (Revelation 4:2). John then sees God the Father on His throne and Jesus the Lamb who is the only one in all of heaven and earth to receive the scroll and to open its seals (Revelation 5:9). As Jesus begins to break the seven seals, events begin to take place upon the earth, such as earthquakes, wars, famines, and widespread starvation just to name a few. When we compare these events of the seven seals with the events Jesus talks about in Matthew 24 and 25, we see remarkable similarities. Again, these seals are the initial birth pains that Jesus’ return is getting closer and closer and it is time for the church to perk up and pay attention.
After the events of the seven seals, John then sees more plagues that come against the earth. These plagues are signaled by seven angels that blow seven trumpets. Also, at this time, we have two individuals come to power. The first individual is described in Revelation 13:1-10. This individual will cause the entire world to worship him. He will be empowered by Satan. So will the second individual in Revelation 13:11-18. This second individual will cause the entire world to go after the first individual, to serve that individual and to worship that individual. This individual is the one that we call the Antichrist or as Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2 “the man of lawlessness.” When this person comes to power, the entire world is physically marked in two ways. First, God tells us in Revelation 7, that He will seal His children. Secondly, those who are not children of God will receive the mark of the beast. This mark equals worshipping the beast. As these events take place the entire world’s population has been either sealed by God or has taken the mark of the beast. But things continue as God sends more and more plagues upon the earth.
In Revelation 10:4-7, we have a scene where seven thunders utter their voices. John is about to write down what these seven thunders said, but God steps in and tells him not to write down what the seven thunders said (Revelation 10:4). God says to John instead that the end has come, that there should not be a delay anymore (Revelation 10:6). Jesus refers to this shortened time of tribulation as well. Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 24:22 that, “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.” Jesus says that when these events start to take place, signally that His return is at hand, understand that there will be much pain, suffering, and destruction that will take place. In fact, all the people living on the planet would be killed because of these events, but these events will be shortened because of the elect who are still upon the earth. The obvious question is “Who are the elect?” If God is going to shorten this time because of them, we need to figure out the identity of “the elect.” Throughout the New Testament, this word is used for God’s children or believers in Jesus. This means that because of believers still being here on the earth, Jesus says that God will shorten this period of time. God reveals the same to John in the book of Revelation. John hears the seven thunders and God says, “do not write this down. The end of the world has come.” This is exactly what happens next in Revelation.
After the seven trumpets, we now have seven bowls of wrath being poured out upon the earth and the destruction begins to increase greatly, but only upon those who have taken the mark of the beast (Revelation 16:2). Those who have been sealed by God, are still upon this earth as well (Revelation 14:1-5), but God begins to make a distinction between His children and those who have taken the mark of the beast, which again means that they are worshipping the beast. This is not the first time we see in the Bible God pouring out plagues and making a distinction between His children and unbelievers.
In Exodus, God sends Moses and Aaron to rescue His people, the nation of Israel, from being enslaved to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. God uses ten plagues to show Pharaoh and the Egyptians that He is the LORD (Exodus 7:16). The first three plagues (water to blood, frogs and lice) affected the entire nation of Egypt. But beginning with the fourth plague, flies, God says that He will begin to set apart the land of Goshen, in which God’s people dwelt (Exodus 8:22). The rest of the plagues did not affect the nation of Israel. The only exception to this was the last plague, death of the firstborn son. This plague affected everyone who did not obey God’s instructions and did not apply the blood of the lamb to their doorposts. But even in this last plague, God made a distinction between those who trusted in God’s word by obeying God’s Word and those that did not trust in God. This is exactly what we find as the seven bowls, God’s final judgment, are poured out.
After that last bowl is poured out, the moment believers have been waiting for will take place. Jesus comes again! Revelation 19:11-16 describes Jesus at a mighty, victorious, conquering king coming with the armies of heaven. Paul also describes this event in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. Paul says that “...the Lord himself will descend from heaven...the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds...” (Revelation 4:16-17). The understanding of “caught up” in this verse is where we get the concept of the Rapture. The ones who are dead, will be resurrected, and will meet Jesus in the air. Those of us who are alive when Jesus returns will be raptured to meet Jesus in the air. Paul talks about these events in 1 Corinthians 15 as well. There he tells us that this will happen in a twinkling of an eye. This transformation of our decaying physical bodies into an everlasting body will happen very quickly, as quickly as one blink of an eye.
It amazes me that the order of these events that I just laid out has been highly debated in the church. Many people see the events of 1 Thessalonians happening sometime before the seals, the trumpets and the bowls in Revelation. But if this is true, then what are we to do with 2 Thessalonians? In 1 Thessalonians 5:1, Paul says, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need I should write to you.” But when the church in Thessalonica received Paul's first letter, some of the believers began to sell their houses and quit their jobs. Why? Because some of them thought that they had missed Jesus’ return, while others thought that Jesus’ return could happen any day and they used Jesus’ return as an excuse for them to be lazy. Paul then writes another letter (our 2 Thessalonians) to them to explain just when these events will take place.
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the [Day] of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)
Paul says, that these events he describes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 will happen after the son of perdition, or the antichrist, or the beasts of Revelation 13 come to power. When Jesus comes as that conquering king in Revelation 19, the dead in Christ will be resurrected and the believers who are still alive will be caught up or raptured to meet Jesus in the air.
As we continue to use Revelation as an outline of how the events of Jesus’ coming are going to look like, we recognize that after Jesus’ second coming as that conquering king, the next event to take place is Jesus reigning with believers on this earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-6). An angel comes and binds Satan for 1,000 years and casts him into a bottom less pit (Revelation 20:2-3). This means that Satan no longer has control over this world and no longer can deceive people any more (Revelation 20:3). Jesus then comes, with believers and they reign upon this earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4). The Bible doesn’t give us too much detail about what the millennial reign of Christ will look like. But we do know that believers will experience a little “heaven on earth.” John also tells us that those who experience this resurrection are blessed because they will not experience the second death that happens in Revelation 21.
So often a term that is used when referring to the timing of Jesus’ second coming is the word "imminent." Usually when this term is applied to Jesus’ return it means that Jesus’ return can happen at any time. But we cannot say that Jesus can return at any moment because there are some very clear verses in the Bible that teach that certain things must take place before Jesus’ return. If we cannot say that Jesus' return can happen at any moment, then how are we to understand the word “imminence” regarding Jesus’ second coming? When we look at the Bible and see the words that the Bible uses to describe Jesus’ second coming, it tells us that Jesus’ return is “near” (Hebrews 10:25 and Romans 13:11). The word “imminent” is defined as “happening soon, ready to take place." Jesus’ return is going to happen soon, and every day that passes is another day closer to when Jesus’ return will take place, but we see that God’s not slow is fulfilling this promise of Jesus’ return but that it is delayed because He desires everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
Jesus, himself stated in Matthew 24:14 that “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Jesus also told his disciples that they were to “…make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). As we wait in anticipation for Jesus’ return, the Bible makes it clear that we, as followers of Jesus, are to take this news about Jesus to the entire world. Jesus also seems to indicate that we have a role in bringing Him back. We need to be diligent in telling the world about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; about this great gift of salvation that God has given to us because of His great mercy. In Acts 1:8, Jesus tells his disciples that they “…shall be [His] witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When Jesus told this to them, they were outside of Jerusalem and after Jesus ascended, they returned to Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. But God’s plan was for them to start in Jerusalem, to then go to the area of Judea, then to the neighboring areas of Judea and then to keep on going until they ran out of people to tell about Jesus and this is exactly what the early church did. They took the Gospel of Jesus to the entire known world. How is it possible that two thousand years later there still are people in the world that have never heard the Gospel of Jesus? Jesus will not return until the Gospel is preached to all the nations.
The more I read and study the Bible, the more I echo the words of John in Revelation 22:20. After John sees all these events that must take place; regarding all the events that will happen just prior to Jesus’ return, then Jesus’ return, Jesus’ Millennial reign, how this present heavens and earth are utterly destroyed, and how God will create a new heavens and earth where He will dwell with His children, Jesus tells John, “Surely I am coming soon.” John then responds by saying “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” John was in exile, John saw all the horrible things that were to happen as the time of Jesus’ return came closer, but John also saw the end result were God will dwell with His children; where the curse of this world will be no more (Revelation 22:3). All of creation will be restored. I believe that John saw that end result and yearned for that day. Even though the events leading up to that time were painful and had much tribulation especially for believers, those who did not worship the beast and take his mark, the hope of living with God in that perfect heavens and earth out way everything. The New Testament writers tell us to live our lives now with eternity in view. We are not citizens of this world, but our true citizenship is in heaven. Our lives are to match the priorities of the Kingdom of Heaven and not the kingdom of this world.
Another way Jesus’ return should affect all believers lives is found in Romans 13. Paul uses Jesus’ return to encourage believers to live a godly life. Paul tells us in verse 11 that our “salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” This reference of salvation is referring to Jesus return. Paul says that Jesus’ return is nearer now than we first believed and in light of this truth, we are to cast off works of darkness (Romans 13:12). All throughout the Bible, we see this image of darkness and light. God and things of God are associated with the image of light and darkness is associated with sin and wickedness. We are to get rid of the sin in our lives; we are to live holy lives that are honoring and pleasing to God. Paul tells believers that we are to use Jesus’ return as motivation to live a holy life. I long for that day when I will see Jesus face to face. These words from a song written by Jim Hill flood my mind every time I think about Jesus’ return:
What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The one who saved me by His grace,
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.