The Faith part 6
The Second Coming
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 15, 2009

A while back, I was watching a video on Church Leadership and the speaker started talking about how the church can reach people in our world today. And he said there were three things that people were interested in, so three things we need to preach on to get the attention of our world today.

1.    Sex
2.    The End Times
3.    Is There Sex in the End Times?

Well, today we’re going to talk about the End Times. We’ll have to deal with the topic of sex at some other time, and I don’t know if we’ll ever talk about sex in the End Times. So this morning we’re talking about the End Times. Specifically, one of the main events of the End Times… the Second Coming of Jesus to this planet.

But before we get to that, you need to understand that there’s a whole branch of theology devoted to studying the End Times. It’s called Eschatology (which means the study of last things). And there’s a whole lot that’s discussed and studies and debated about Eschatology that we’re not going to examine in depth this morning. Just to mention a few of the topics… there’s the Rapture, when all Christ-followers will be taken in the twinkling of an eye to be with God forever. There’s what we call the Great Tribulation, a time of great suffering and distress. There’s the millennium, a thousand year period of peace under the rule of Christ.

And there’s all kinds of debate about those three in particular. When will the rapture happen? Will it be pre-tribulation, post-trib, or even mid-trib? Does the millennium lead into the Tribulation or does it follow it? Or could we be living in the millennium right now? Will the rapture and the Second Coming occur at the same time, or are they at opposite ends of the spectrum?

There are people who are completely obsessed with examining these things and putting together timetables and tying prophecies to specific world events and formulating their own beliefs and then promoting them endlessly. And there’s a term we use for people like that… wacky. It’s sad but true. So many of the people who are preoccupied with these things just seem a little off.

Now, do I believe there’s going to be a tribulation… a time of great suffering and hardship and sorrow? I sure do. I think the Bible’s pretty clear that there will be a tribulation, but it’s not so clear on everything that entails. I don’t know if Christ-followers will be taken before the tribulation, after the tribulation or sometime in the middle. If I had to guess, I’d have to say after, but I’m hoping we’ll be taken before.

I also believe there will be a final Judgment. The Bible is very clear that all people – Christians and non-Christians – will someday appear before Jesus to be judged, and those who are followers of Christ will enter into eternity with Him and those who aren’t will enter into eternity separated from Him, which we call Hell.

The Bible also talks about what it calls “the abomination that causes desolation” that will be set up in the Temple. I have my theories, but I don’t know what that is.

And then there’s the AntiChrist… whether that’s one person or a group of people, what they’re going to be like and what they’re going to do…

Actually… I do have a theory about the AntiChrist. In fact, I have a picture of who the AntiChrist may be…

[Show picture of Barney the dinosaur]

Hold on… hear me out. Here’s a verse from Revelation chapter 12…

Revelation 12:9 (NLT)
This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.

All right, I realize that Barney’s a cute purple dinosaur, not a dragon. You’ve got me there. But there’s more:

Let’s start with that… Barney’s a CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR.
Now, when John wrote the book of Revelation, the Romans were in charge. And the Romans didn’t have U’s in their alphabet so we have to change all the U’s to V’s. So now we have this:
Then if you extract all the Roman Numerals you have C V V L D I V.
Convert them into our numbers today and you have 100 5 5 50 500 1 5
Add them together, you get: 666

I know… pretty freaky, isn’t it? We know from Revelation 13 that 666 is the number or the mark of the Beast… So all of that tells me that with a one year old son I have an excuse to never have to watch Barney ever again. So that’s my theory on the AntiChrist.

Look, the Bible talks about the End Times, and talks about all these things that are going to happen, but it doesn’t always tell us how it’s going to happen, or when it’s going to happen… And I think it’s purposefully unclear on some of those details. Because I think our calling for right now is to worship God and to spread His message of hope and forgiveness and love to those around us. I don’t think we should become preoccupied with all this other stuff. The Bible gives us kind of a “heads up” that this stuff is going to happen, so that we can be ready for it and we won’t be blindsided, but we simply don’t need all the details right now. We don’t need to become preoccupied or obsessed with it all.

In fact, there are only a couple things I can say with complete certainty about the End Times:
1.    Bad things are going to happen. I may or may not be here for them, but bad things are going to happen.
2.    In the end, I can be with Jesus.

So that’s all we’re going to say this morning about those kinds of details. What we’re going to focus in on for the rest of our time is the Second Coming of Jesus itself.

Over the past several weeks here at Sunrise we’ve been working our way through a message series based on Chuck Colson’s book “The Faith”, and we’ve been examining the foundational beliefs that have been held by all Christians in all places at all times. And while we debate different theories about all this other stuff, Christians have always been unified in our belief that Jesus will come again.

Now, earlier in this series we talked about the first coming of Jesus. We know it today as the Incarnation or as Christmas. Because on that first Christmas, over 2000 years ago, God entered into His own creation as the baby Jesus, He grew up and lived among us, He taught us, performed miracles, proclaimed the Kingdom of God, He was then arrested and falsely accused, was sentenced to be executed, and He died a very painful death on a cross… all to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God… all to pay the price for our sinfulness. We couldn’t pay the price on our own; Jesus had to do it for us. So Jesus died for me and for you.

And then He rose from the dead, declaring victory over death and the grave, and over the next 40 days he spent time with his followers, and he appeared before more than 500 people all at the same time. Which means the disciples weren’t hallucinating; there were hundreds of witnesses who confirmed it. And then the day came when Jesus was on the Mount of Olives with His followers, and He was speaking with them, and when He was finished He ascended into Heaven.

And that was the end of the first coming of Jesus, which spanned a period of about 33 years. God became flesh and was born as a baby, He grew up, was crucified on a cross, rose from the dead, and then ascended into Heaven. And after He was gone, his followers just stood there on the hillside looking up into the sky straining to see Jesus and trying to figure out, “What just happened here? I mean, Jesus was just talking to us and all of a sudden…”

[cue Superman music]

Can you imagine what that would have been like? When the first Superman movie came out in 1978, the caption on the poster said, “You’ll believe a man can fly!” Well, about 2000 years earlier the followers of Jesus witnessed it firsthand! Jesus rose into the sky before their very eyes. I know that sounds like science fiction, but it really happened. We’ve talked before about the compelling evidence for the resurrection, and we’ve seen how Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after the resurrection, and it was all capped off with this ascension into Heaven. Incredible stuff.

So the people with Jesus saw Him ascend, and as they stood there just kind of staring in wonder, this is what we’re told happened…

Acts 1:10-11 (NLT)
As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Jesus came the first time, and He will come a second time. So for the rest of our time this morning, we’re going to address three of the main questions about that Second Coming.

Three Questions about Jesus’ Second Coming

1. Why will Jesus come again?

To bring judgment and reward.

1 Corinthians 4:5 (NLT)
So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

The New Testament is filled with mentions of Jesus’ return to judge. And Jesus Himself makes many references to His role as Judge. He will judge men’s actions and their hearts.

Now, the problem… and we’ve talked about this before… is that God doesn’t grade us on a curve. He doesn’t look at us and say, “Well, you’re better than he is, so you pass and he fails.” No, He will judge us based on His own standard of holiness. And against that standard, we all fail miserably. I don’t care how good you are and how many nice things you do for others, you’ll still fail when measured by God’s perfect standard of holiness.

But there is a way for us to pass. Let me tell you what it is… When Jesus died on the cross, He was paying the penalty for all of your wrongs… all of your sinfulness. Essentially washing them away. And what He asks you to do in return is confess your sin to Him, turn away from living that way, and follow Him from this point forward. And if you do that, then His sacrifice on the cross is credited toward your sinfulness and you can be made right before God. You can’t earn it, but you can receive it through faith.

And for those of us who are Christ-followers and have a relationship with Him, we’ve experienced that. And when He returns, that will be a great day.

John 14:2-3 (NLT)
“There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

Hebrews 9:27-28 (NLT)
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

That’s the reward for those who are Christ-followers and who pass the test.

But there’s the flip side of that, too. Because for those who do not know Jesus, that will be a terrible day. Because they will be judged and found guilty and will enter into an eternity apart from God in Hell.

Talking about people who are not Christ-followers and do not serve Him, Jesus said…

Matthew 25:46 (NLT)
“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

And that right there is why there’s an urgency for us to let others know about what Jesus has done for them. We can’t force anyone to place their faith in Him, but we can let them know so they can make their own decision.

And remember, if not for the grace of God, there would be no hope for any of us. We’re no better than anyone else, except we’ve experienced the grace of God. And we need to extend that same grace to others, not in a proud boastful way, but in a humble compassionate way so they can experience it, too. Before it’s too late.

Let’s go on to the next question…

2. When will Jesus come again?

You know what? People from the time of the apostles have tried to figure out when Jesus will return. People from Ignatius to Martin Luther to Christopher Columbus have all thought the end was near, and many people have even tried to predict specific dates when Jesus would return.

I remember this one. There was a man named Edgar Whisenant who was a former NASA employee who thought he had it all figured out based on mathematics and historical events. So when I was in high school, he wrote a book, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture will Occur in 1988.” But here we are 21 years later.

So let me take a shot at it. Let me give you my very best answer to the question of when Jesus will come again. There’s a blank in your notes where you can write the answer in, so get ready to write this in. Okay? Here it is:

I Don’t Know.

Pretty profound, isn’t it? Well, let me show you one of the main passages people look to when it comes to describing and understand the events leading up to the Second Coming…

Matthew 24:6-22,30 (NLT)
“And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.
“The day is coming when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about—the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack. A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones. …
“And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

So people look at passages like this and they say, “Well, that certainly describes today! We’re definitely heading in that direction. We must be close.” And you know what? We may be. I just don’t know.

Just a few verses later, this is what Jesus Himself said…

Matthew 24:36 (NLT)
“However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

I don’t know, and I won’t know. And since Jesus Himself has left it up to the Father, I think it’s a little presumptuous and a whole lot arrogant for me to tell Jesus that I’ve figured it out.

All I can say for sure is that it will happen. I don’t know when, but it will. It might quite a ways off still, or… and catch this… it could be today.

Luke 12:40 (NLT)
“You must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

It could be today. It might be next week. It may not happen for another 100 years, it may not happen for another 1000 years. We simply don’t know.

Now, you may wonder why it’s taken this long. I mean, Jesus promised to return. But nearly 2000 years have passed. What’s the hold up?

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

I think the main reason Jesus hasn’t returned yet is because God is waiting for as many as possible to come to faith in Christ. But when He does come, you’ll know it. You won’t read about it in The Guardian the next day or see it on CNN that night.

Isaiah 40:5 (NLT)
“Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!”

Make no mistake – Jesus will return someday, visibly. And no one will miss it. And I don’t know when it will happen… nobody does. But it could be any time. Which leads us to the third question…

3. What should I do to prepare?

If it could be at any time, how do I get ready? How do I prepare for the Second Coming?

A.    Get to know Jesus personally.

I think many… perhaps most… of you have done this already. You already know Jesus personally. So you’ve already taken the most important step in getting ready for the Second Coming.

Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Keywords: “I never knew you.”

This is important: you can’t be good enough to get into heaven. There’s no amount of good and noble deeds you can do that will earn you a ticket to Heaven. Because it’s not based on anything you’ve done or ever will do; it’s based solely on what Jesus did for you on the cross. It’s not about who you are and what you’ve done… it’s about who Jesus is and what He’s done. Do you know Jesus personally?

If He were to come today, would He recognize you as one of His followers? If not, why not get ready right now? Even at this moment, in the solitude of your heart, you can ask Jesus to forgive you for the times you have hurt Him and rebelled against Him. Apologize for the wrongs you have done. And even if you don’t fully understand it, you can accept the gift He has offered of a new life on earth and a home in Heaven. There’s no secret incantation you have to use; just in your attitudes and in your thoughts express that desire to Him right now.

If you have more questions about that or if you need help, talk with me when we’re done here this morning, or talk to a friend that’s a Christ-follower who you know and respect.

But the first and most important step in being ready for the Second Coming is to know Jesus personally. After that, then the next part of being prepared for Jesus’ return is to…

B.     Do a good job serving Him.

Now, as we’ve already discovered, doing good things doesn’t earn our way into Heaven. It’s our relationship with Jesus that matters. However, once that relationship is established, our actions become the evidence of that relationship. If you know Jesus, it’s going to affect the way you live.

Matthew 24:46 (NLT)
“If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.”

If we do a good job then we’ll receive a reward. What should we be doing a good job at?

Matthew 28:19-20 (NLT)
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

We are to go into our world introducing more and more people to Jesus. And we are to disciple them. That means to help them grow spiritually so that they become more like Jesus in their attitudes, in their character, and in their conduct. We are to do a good job of bringing people to Him.

And we are to do a good job of just doing good things.

Matthew 25:31,34-36,40 (NLT)
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne…
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’…
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

So you need to know Jesus, personally, and then you need to do a good job doing good things. And you need to…

C.    Stay ready.

Matthew 25:13 (NLT)
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”

Now, if I’m at home and I’m anticipating someone coming to pick me up, I put my coat on and get me shoes on and make sure I’ve got my wallet and my cell phone and everything else I’ll need so that I’m ready when they arrive.

Jesus could come back any moment. And Jesus mentioned that we should be waiting in anticipation, looking forward to His coming. We need to be ready.

There’s a song I used to listen to as a teenager that said:

If you believe He’s coming back tomorrow,
Then live like He is coming back today.
~ from If You Believe on Virtues by Allies

I’m going to ask you to close your eyes and I want to give you a chance to respond this morning. First of all, if you’re ready and waiting for Jesus to come again, if you know Him personally and have everything squared away with Him, then I just want to encourage you to relax. When the End Time comes and Jesus returns, there’s not a thing you can do to stop it, change it, or slow it down. So don’t get caught up in figuring out what Jesus clearly told us we wouldn’t understand. Just rest secure in the knowledge that because of God’s grace responding to your faith you have a wonderful future in store for yourself in Heaven.

But perhaps you’re here this morning and you aren’t ready. Perhaps you’ve never even heard this kind of stuff before. Perhaps you’ve never begun your own personal relationship with Jesus and you sense within yourself a need to do that today. If that’s where you’re at, you can begin that relationship right now. I’m not going to mention you by name or embarrass you in any way, but I want to pray for you. So if that’s where you’re at this morning, would you acknowledge that by raising your hand?




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