"Who Is Jesus?" part 12
The Returning King
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 27, 2010

Who Is Jesus? Since Easter, that’s the one question we’ve been trying to answer. And we’ve come at it from a variety of angles.

We’ve seen that Jesus was a real person who lived a couple thousand years ago, and there’s reliable historic evidence of that fact, despite the suggestion that some skeptics have made that Jesus never even existed. We’ve seen that He did.

We’ve also seen that although He was a man, He was much more than just a man. He was also God. The Creator of the universe entered into His own Creation and lived among us. Jesus was truly God, and He was truly man. That’s how His disciples saw Him, that’s how He described Himself, and that’s who Christians have understood Him to be since the first century.

Of course, being God, you might think that Jesus would demand people to serve at His beck and call. But when Jesus came, He said He came not to be served but to serve and to give up His life for others. He set an example of servanthood for us, and if we want to become more like Him we need to be people that care about the needs of others and put them ahead of ourselves.

And so He served. And we saw how He served. We saw how He performed several miracles… healing people, casting out evil spirits, controlling nature, even raising the dead.

And He taught people, too. Taught about how to love, taught about how to build healthy relationships, taught about the Kingdom of Heaven… and often He would use stories or parables as He taught. And so we talked about Jesus as a storyteller, using the stories to direct people toward God the Father.

We also saw how Jesus described Himself. He described Himself as being the One and only way to God the Father… there is no other way but Him.

And He described Himself as the Good Shepherd… as a shepherd care for, leads, and protects his sheep, Jesus cares for, leads, and protects His people.

And of course we talked about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus… the most important events in all of History. And we saw how these aren’t just statements of faith developed over the years by the Church, but they were actual events that happened in real time and space, and there’s evidence that points to them being authentic historic events. The resurrection of Jesus, as incredible as it sounds, really happened!

Well, as we progress through this series we also examine how Jesus compares to other spiritual and religious figures. We saw what sets Him apart from all the others.

Plus, we examined some of the alternative views and opinions that people today have about Jesus… how some people claim that our concept of Jesus is just a compilation of a variety of pagan beliefs, that Jesus was just some man who achieved enlightenment or God-consciousness, that He might be right for you but not for others, how what you believe about Him doesn’t really matter as long as you follow His teachings… we looked at these different views of Jesus and pinpointed their fatal flaws.

Last week on Father’s Day, we took a bit of a different look at Jesus and saw that Jesus wasn’t really this lovey-duvey sissy baby-kisser that we sometimes make Him out to be, but that there really was a tough side to Him… a side that got angry, even physical, a side that sparred with the religious experts of the day, a side that opposed injustice, a side that calls us to action.

Wow, that’s a lot of terrain, isn’t it? We’ve examined some pretty big issues when it comes to the identity of Jesus. We’ve looked at doctrine, we’ve looked at theology, we’ve looked at history. We’ve looked at how people the saw Him, we’ve looked at how people today see Him, we’ve looked at what Jesus said about Himself. We’ve looked at His miracles, we’ve looked at His teachings, and we’ve looked at His death and resurrection.

And today, as we finish up this series, we’re going to look at something that hasn’t happened yet… the second coming of Jesus.

Before we get to that, though, I want to award a prize. You may or may not know that I keep track of who’s here from week to week, and so I want to give a prize to the person who has been here for the most Sundays during this series. Excluding myself and my family, of course.

And according to my records, we have a tie. The people who have been here the most Sundays during this series are…

Gail, Jim & Lynn

…all with perfect attendance. Some of the rest of you had pretty good records, too, missing only one or two Sundays, but those three were here each and every week.

All right, so we’re talking about the second coming of Jesus. What’s that all about? Well, let me give you a bit of a chronology. God the Son entered into His own Creation, and we know Him as Jesus. Jesus grew up, taught people, healed people, served people, but ultimately His whole purpose in coming was to die for people. So as we just reflected on during Communion, He willingly gave up His life and died on the Cross.

But that wasn’t the end. On the third day… the day we celebrate today as Easter… He rose from the dead. And it wasn’t just a spiritual resurrection; it was a physical resurrection. And He interacted with His followers over the next 40 days. And actually, not just His followers, but He interacted with hundreds or even thousands of people over those 40 days.

And then one day, as He was teaching His followers on the side of the Mount of Olives, He literally began to rise in the air. And He ascended all the way up into the clouds and out of sight. And then He was gone.

But you can imagine His followers. They just stood there, looking up. They couldn’t believe what they had just seen. Where did Jesus go? When would they see Him again? Would they see Him again? And then, as they stood there staring into the sky, this is what we read….

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!”

Now, Jesus had actually promised His disciples that same thing earlier, but these angels restated it to them. Jesus was gone for now, but He would be coming again.

No time frame was given; just the fact that He would be returning. And today, that’s the same promise that Christ-followers around the world continue to look to. He hasn’t returned yet… although there have been plenty of people who have claimed to be Jesus… but He will someday return, and there won’t be any mistaking Him then.

So that’s what we’re talking about when we talk about the Second Coming. Exactly how it’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen and what else is going to happen before and after is a hot topic of debate and has been for nearly 2000 years, but the one thing we know and can place our hope in is the promise that Jesus will be coming again.

So in your notes, I’m going to give you a few facts about the Second Coming and that’s the first one…

1.    Jesus promised His followers that He will be returning.

We already read what the angels said to the disciples; let’s look at one of the times that Jesus promises His disciples that He’d be leaving them for a time and then coming again.

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.”

Now the truth is, those disciples had no clue what Jesus was talking about there. Where was He going? How would He get there? When would He be back? They couldn’t fully comprehend at the time that He was talking about His crucifixion and resurrection, about His ascension into Heaven, and His eventual return. They couldn’t grasp it at the time, but as the events began to unfold they began to understand what Jesus meant.

So right from that time… right from that ascension on the side of the Mount of Olives... those early Christians were convinced that Jesus was going to return. Now, they didn’t know how long they would have to wait. In fact, they thought it was going to happen during their lifetimes. Obviously it didn’t. But from the first century all the way up to now, Christ-followers have believed that Jesus could return at any time.

In fact, if you go to some of our literature on the Information Table or visit our website, you can find our statements of belief here at Sunrise and in the Wesleyan Church. And here’s one of them…

“We believe in the imminent and visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ who will take His Church worldwide to its final home in Heaven.”

What does that mean? It means we believe Jesus is literally… physically… going to come back. Imminent means it’s going to happen and could happen at any time. It could happen before we take our next breathe. It’s imminent. It’s close at hand. We don’t know how close, but it’s close.

And we really don’t have a lot of doubt about that. It’s one of the clearest promises in the Bible. In fact, I’ve read that for every verse prophesying about the first coming of Jesus, there are eight prophesying about His Second Coming.

Jesus is coming again. If you believe the Scriptures, if you believe Jesus, and if you believe He was telling the truth, then you can be sure He is going to come again.

Well, there may be no doubt about that. But there is a lot of doubt about when. So that’s the second fact…

2.    No one knows when Jesus will come again. That means no one.

I emphasize that because there’s always someone who thinks they know something the rest of us don’t. But the Bible tells us that no one knows. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure it out.

Listen to this… As early as the year 110, one of the early Church theologians Ignatius wrote that…

“The last days are upon us. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible.”
~ Ignatius

In 236 A.D., Hippolytus, wrote Jesus would be returning by 500 A.D.

In the year 375 A.D., another Christian (Martin) wrote about how the Antichrist had probably already been born, and the arrival of the Antichrist is connected to the second coming of Jesus.

As you might expect, there was a lot of speculation the year 1000 A.D. That era was filled with speculation and predictions about the return of Jesus. In fact, the expectation level rose to the point where Christians didn’t even plant crops for the next year, buildings weren’t repaired, and the details of daily life were ignored. After all, soon it wouldn’t matter anyway. But Jesus didn’t return then.

So in the 1500’s, Martin Luther wrote…

“We have reached the time of the white horse of the Apocalypse. This world will not last any longer… than another hundred years.”
~ Martin Luther

About that same time, Christopher Columbus weighed in. Along with being an explorer, Columbus was also a student of biblical prophecy. And he actually wrote a book called “The Book Of Prophecies,” in which he predicted that the world would end in the year 1656.

Didn’t happen, but then the year 1666 saw an explosion in End Times speculation. One pastor wrote in his journal that every time a storm hit that year, his people would go to the church building to await Christ’s Second Coming.

In the 1800s, a man named William Miller offered his own best guess. He suggested Jesus would return sometime between March of 1842 and March of 1843. In fact, there was a whole group of people called Millerites who were convinced it was going to happen then. And they were devastated when it didn’t. But they weren’t about to give up hope. So in 1844, in New Hampshire, one of the Millerites stood up and declared that the return of Jesus would be in the seventh month of the current Jewish year. October 22.
These Millerites set out to warn the world, some of them closed their stores, many moved out of the cities into the countryside. But the day came and went, and no return. So they moved on to set another date five years later.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is actually a cult, started about that time to offer dates of their own. And every time, they’ve been wrong.

And still today, people are trying to figure it out. I remember in 1988 when a man named Edgar Whisenant sold 4.3 million copies of his book detailing why Christ would come in 1988. And I remember hearing about students at Bethany Bible College who called their friends and relatives who were far from God warning them and pleading with them to get ready before it was too late. But December 31 came and went and no Second Coming.

Whisenant went one to write another book explaining why Jesus would come in 1989. But this time he only sold 30,000 copies.

In 1992 Harold Camping released a book titled "1994" about the return of Jesus. In 1993, he wrote another book called, "Much More Evidence That 1994 Could Be The End Of The World." But 1994 came and went.

But I’m sure that won’t be the last attempt. In fact, I’m sure if you went to bookstores today you could find plenty of predictions still being offered. Problem is, these kinds of predictions are exactly what Jesus was trying to prevent! Take a look…

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

I don’t know how many times I’ve had people ask me, “So… do you think we’re living in the last days? When do you think Jesus is coming back?” Let me answer that for you: I don’t know.

No one knows when He will return. However, we are given some signs. And I think this is where people get into trouble. Because the Bible does mention that there are signs that His return is getting close. So people have been looking for these signs and they’ve been using these signs as a way to predict the date.

But again, Jesus didn’t give us these signs in order to get us to waste our time guessing when He’s coming. He gave them to remind us that He is coming.

And there’s a whole slew of these signs mentioned in places like Matthew 24. We’re not going through them all this morning, but there are signs like an increase in the number of false Messiahs. And we’ve had our share in the past few decades.

Like Jim Jones in Jonestown. Or David Koresh in Waco. Every once in a while 60 Minutes and other news magazine shows like that will do a feature on someone somewhere claiming to be the Messiah. Apparently, there’s a Psychiatric Hospital in Jerusalem that treats over 50 false Messiahs every year. So that’s a sign.

There’s also supposed to be an increase in the number of natural disasters. And how many have we heard about in just the past six months?

On March 27th, 1964 there was a massive earthquake that hit Alaska, measuring 8.4 on the Richter scale. Since then, there have been as many major earthquakes recorded as there were in the previous 2000 years!

And there’s going to be an increase in violence and war. Well, the 20th century was unparalleled in the amount of human misery created by other humans. The Red Cross has estimated that over 100 million people were killed in wars during the 20th century. And that doesn’t include the genocides that took place outside of wartime conditions and in communist states and dictatorships.

Of course, there were a couple of World Wars in there. But even since the end of World War II,  the death toll in armed conflicts has topped 23 million.

So there are some pretty negative signs that the Second Coming is on its way. But there is a positive sign mentioned in Matthew 24, too. Jesus tells us there that the news about who Jesus is will spread to every nation before He comes again.

Now, that’s probably not referring to actual countries but to people groups. So before Jesus comes again, every people group in the world will hear about Him. Does that mean every person in each people group or is just one person enough? I don’t know.

But I do know that since the late 1800s, there’s been a surge in world missions. There are missionaries that have gone to pretty much every country in the world. We are getting closer and closer to the time that the news about Jesus has spread everywhere.

And this is really a great thing and it reflects His heart. Jesus wants to wait until everyone has a chance to hear about Him and respond. And you see that expressed in 2 Peter 3:9…

2 Peter 3:9-10 (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. But the day of the Lord will come…

So we don’t know when He’s coming back, but we do know that there are some signs that are supposed to happen first. And it certainly seems like those signs are being fulfilled. But still, I can’t tell you if He’s coming next Tuesday at 5:00 or in another thousand years.

Because you know what? Even with these signs, I don’t think Jesus wants us to be wasting our time and embarrassing ourselves making these bold predictions that just don’t come true. Here’s what I believe… I believe He wants us to know that someday He will be returning even though we don’t know when. I believe He told us these signs to encourage us to trust Him and keep watching for Him. I believe He wants us to live like He could come at any moment while accepting that He might not come in our lifetimes.

And that’s number three…

3.    I should live like He could return at any moment.

Not that He will return at any moment, because we don’t know that. But that He could return.

But here’s a question: Why don’t we know when? Why can’t we know? Why shouldn’t we know?

Well, let me try to answer that question this way. Do you know how many times when I was in college I would be up half the night finishing a project that was due the next morning? It happened a lot more than it should have.

Do you know how many times during the last week of April I’ve frantically searched through my house for all my receipts and financial papers so I could get my taxes in on time? (For those reading online, In Canada our tax returns are due April 30.)

Do you know how many times I’ve had to get up early to madly clean the house the morning my in-laws are coming to visit?

Maybe you don’t have this problem, but I tend to procrastinate. I’ll put off ‘til tomorrow what I should be doing today. Now, I’m getting better. But it’s my natural tendency.

So what am I saying? I’m saying that if Jesus gave us a specific date when He’d be coming back, in all likelihood we’d put off what we should be doing today. There’d be no urgency to tell other people about Jesus, there’d be no necessity for us to make spiritual growth a priority. We’d ignore issues of character development. We’d start rationalizing that it’s okay to give in to temptation and indulge ourselves and live sinful lives for a while because we have this much time before we have to get right with God.

So you see, it’s actually good that we don’t know how long we’ve got before Jesus comes again. And it really could be at any given moment. So we should take every moment of every day and live in such a way that if Jesus returned at that moment that He would be pleased with how He finds us spending our time.

Back in World War II, a German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer became famous for his opposition to Hitler. In fact, his opposition ended up getting him imprisoned and eventually executed. But despite the danger, Bonhoeffer continued his own participation in the resistance movement and urged other Christ-followers to do the same. One group of Christians, believing that Hitler was the Antichrist, asked Bonhoeffer, “Why do you expose yourself to all this danger? Jesus will return any day, and all your work and suffering will be for nothing.”

You get that they were saying? They were saying, “Jesus is coming soon anyway, so don’t put yourself in any unnecessary danger. It’s pointless.” But see how Bonhoeffer replied to them…

“If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I’ll rest from my labour. But today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until it’s finished.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
(Daily Bread, November 10, 1991)

And Bonhoeffer was right. We don’t know when Jesus is coming again, whether it’s today or centuries from now. Either way, it shouldn’t make any difference. We need to be living each day in ways that honour Him and that live up to His standards of holiness.

Matthew 24:42-44 (NLT)
“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

I want you to underline two phrases: “Keep watch” and “Be ready.” Think about this… Jesus says His Second Coming will be like a burglar or like a thief in the night. How does a thief come to your house? Suddenly and unannounced, right? After all, if you knew when a robber was coming, you’d be ready for him, wouldn’t you? But thieves rarely call and make appointments in advance. So we need to keep watch and be ready.

Now, about that… about keeping watch and being ready… you know that I don’t use high-pressure techniques or scare tactics to get you to do what I want. I don’t think I do that with anything. Like tithing. I don’t put pressure on because I don’t want you to give because you’re pressured. I’d much rather you gave because you love Jesus and you believe in the mission of our Church.

Or about serving… I don’t try to guilt you into volunteering to serve in our ministries. I’d rather you serve because you love Jesus and you love people.

And I don’t want you scare you into getting ready for the second coming, either. I mean, I believe there’s an urgency and I believe the consequences of not being ready are… well, they’re fatal. But rather than dealing in fear, I’d rather you get ready by choosing to follow Jesus because you know it’s the right thing to do. I’d rather you choose to believe that what He did on the cross He did for you. I’d rather you follow Him because you love Him.

But without trying to scare you, I do need to remind you of a couple things.
First, you really have no idea how much longer you’ve got. None of us do. Our lives could be cut short in an instant. It’s not likely to happen, but it could. So making up your mind about what to do with Jesus is not something you want to put off indefinitely.

You have no idea how much longer you’ve got. And the other thing is, you have no idea when Jesus is going to return. It could be as early as today. And you’ve got to be ready for Him before He comes. Afterward will be too late.

If you’re a M*A*S*H fan, you may remember one episode when Hawkeye had to go to the front lines because they were short of doctors there, and while he was there the North Koreans attacked his position. So while the battle raged on, Hawkeye found a piece of paper and started to write his last will and testament.

Well, he kept writing in between bombings through most of the episode, until finally another doctor arrived and Hawkeye was able to go back to the good ol’ 4077. Well, when he got there, it was late and he was exhausted, but he sat down to finish his will, anyway.

Klinger came in, saw him working on something, and told Hawkeye, “Go to bed… no paperwork is so important it can’t wait until tomorrow.”

Hawkeye stops writing, looks up at him thoughtfully, and says, “I use to think that way too, but not anymore.”

So are you ready? Or are you putting it off? Look, I understand the importance of thinking about it and investigating the facts so you can make up your mind. But at some point, you’ve got to stop putting it off. Let me encourage you this morning to get ready.

Get Ready! by Guy Caley
Be Prepared by Scott Weber
Are We Really Living in the End Times? by John Stensrud
Ready or Not Here I Come by Steven Pace
Will Jesus Come Again? by Brian Bill
Ready or Not, Here He Comes by Alan Smith



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca