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Tuesday
Sep252018

Your Personal End Times: The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Various.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 23, 2018.

We have established earlier that the Bible tells us there is one of two places a person will end up, depending upon our faith in Jesus.  Believers continue in a conscious state as spirits and are in the presence of Jesus at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  However, those who are not in relationship with Jesus continue in a conscious state as spirits, but are in torments in the grave (Hebrew- She’ol, Greek- Hades).  They are held in this spiritual holding place until The Judgment Day.  Thus people are living their lives and going into these two different experiences every day.  Yet, we are told that this will not continue forever.  What happens next?

The Scriptures refer to two very distinct yet related events that will happen next.  The first is that Jesus is going to come back to earth physically, visibly, and from the clouds of the sky (see Acts 1:9-11).  The second is that Jesus will resurrect righteous believers in what is called the Resurrection of Life.  Later we will talk about different views on the timing of these two events.  This resurrection is contrasted with a later Resurrection of Condemnation for the wicked spirits in Hades [note: John 5:29 and Revelation 20].  Most of the views, at least those that take the Bible seriously, agree that the next event on the docket for those spirits in Heaven is the resurrection of the righteous.  In this event believers, both those who have died and those who are still alive on earth, will be instantly transformed into a glorified, physical being.  Those who are spirits will “clothed” with a new body, and those who are still in mortal bodies will have their bodies changed into immortal bodies.

Coming in the air to take believers to heaven
versus Coming to the earth to become its King

Though the Bible continually points to a Second Coming of Jesus, in which the world is judged, and the righteous are resurrected and inherit the government of the earth, we run into passages that give two different pictures.  One picture focuses on Jesus coming in the air to take believers to heaven, whereas the other picture focuses on Jesus coming to the earth to judge the wicked and take governmental control.

This is similar to the way that the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah had two distinct pictures of a Messiah, one who would come as a suffering servant to deal with our sins, and one who would come as a conquering king to take up dominion.  The believers of the centuries leading up to the First Coming of Jesus had many different views on how to interpret these passages and make sense of them.  Of course, now we know that Jesus came the first time to deal with sin as mankind’s greatest enemy, and He will come the second time to deal with Satan and the wicked rulers of this earth.  These two events are separated by a long period of grace, in which God give the nations opportunity to join His side through Jesus.  So, we should approach these issues with some humble caution, recognizing that there is most likely some information that we have not been told.  Let’s look at some of these passages.

In John 14:1-6, Jesus explains that He will be going away to prepare a place for His disciples; verse six makes it clear that this will be in heaven where the Father is.  Yet, Jesus also tells them that He is going to come back in order to take them to this place.  It would be easy to dismiss this as symbolic because we do not see an event in which Jesus literally came back and took his disciples to heaven.  Some feel that they are forced to interpret this as symbolic.  Thus the Lord symbolically comes back to receive each believer to Himself at their physical death.  It is definitely true that each believer is received into heaven with Christ at their death.  Yet, Jesus often spoke to his immediate disciples, who were later called apostles, as representatives of those believers who would later believe.  Also, there are too many other places where Jesus taught His disciples that He was literally coming back, and of course there is the testimony of the angels at His ascension mentioned earlier (Acts 1:9-11).

Some believers don’t see this as symbolic.  Rather, they believe that Jesus was wrong.  He and His disciples thought He was going to come back literally and yet, it didn’t happen.  They have to go through great intellectual gymnastics in order to say on one hand that Jesus was wrong, and yet on the other hand worthy of our devotion.  Most believers have chosen to believe that Jesus was correct that He would come back, but He also made it clear that no one knew when that would be (i.e. how long it would be.  See Matthew 24:36-37.  It was important for those first believers and the believers of every generation that followed to live lives that were expectant of Christ’s return.  This is not a lie.  It is a very clear statement that we do not know when He will return and thus we should always be ready.

Let me summarize this passage by pointing out that it is focused on Jesus coming back for believers to take them to heaven.  Let’s look at another passage.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 we again see language regarding Jesus coming back.  Yet, the focus is upon believers being caught up into the air to be with Jesus.  This passage lacks any sense of coming to earth.  We can allow for that by looking at the context.  The main concern is to assuage the fears of those believers who thought Christians who had passed away were going to miss out on Christ’s coming kingdom.  However, we will keep running into passages that focus on one aspect versus the other.  Let’s look at a passage that is clearly about Christ’s physical return to earth to become its king.

In Revelation 19:11-21 we see Jesus returning from the sky and then capturing the Beast (the earth’s political leader) and his False Prophet (his religious leader).  Next we see that the kings of the earth and their armies, who apparently are trying to oppose His return, will be destroyed and wiped out.  It is important to note that verse 8 of this chapter defines the white linen clothing as symbolic of the righteous acts of the saints.  Also, Jude 1:14 reminds us that the Lord will return with His saints.  This is important in regard to verse 14.  The armies of Christ are described as being clothed in fine linen.  Our first thought would be to see the armies as angelic in nature.  However, from the previous two points I made, we must also include glorified believers in this mix.  In fact, Jesus said that humans in their glorified bodies would be “like the angels in heaven.”  Mark 12:25.  So we have Jesus returning in a powerful way with an immortal army at His back taking over.  His saints are with Him already and ready to rule with Him.  The Beast and his False Prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire.  The next chapter describes Satan being locked up in the Bottomless Pit while the earth goes on to enjoy 1,000 years (a Millennium) of peace under the rule of Christ.  There is no sense in this passage of believers being caught up to meet Christ in the air and go to heaven.

We could go on and on through all the passages of the Bible that refer to the Second Coming of Christ, and the Resurrection of the Righteous, and we will find this continual tension between meeting Him in the air to go to heaven, and coming with Him to the earth to rule.  Many theologians and lay people have struggled with these passages trying to make sense of these events.  In fact, it has become popular within some Christian circles to toss the prophecies aside as irrelevant to our life because they are so hard to harmonize.  However, this is the position of skeptical unbelievers.  When we realize that believers had similar trouble understanding all the prophecies of the first coming, we can see that God does not give us prophecies so that we will have perfect clarity.  He has clearly left a lot of information out on purpose.  Yes we lack an ability to perfectly know how all these things tie together, but we have enough to encourage our faith in Christ no matter what comes against us and no matter how long it takes for Christ to come back.

Here is a list of some important differences that we commonly see in these passages.

  • Meeting in the air to go to heaven, versus Coming to earth with Jesus to rule.
  • Believers are delivered, versus the Wicked are judged.
  • Jesus comes for the Church, versus Jesus comes with the Church.
  • His coming is an imminent event that could happen at any time, versus His coming will come after some very specific events that must happen first.

The timing of the resurrection of believers has some difficulties that have led to various views.  Let’s summarize those different views.

Views on the timing of the resurrection of the righteous

Before we get into these, I would say that it is more important that we believe in the resurrection of believers and the physical return of Christ to earth than it is that we have the timing all figured out.  The timing of prophecy is important, but it is not necessary for our salvation.  Salvation is about a relationship with Christ and His people.  That said, let’s take a look at the main views regarding the timing of the Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ.

The Pre-Tribulation View.  Some people believe that the resurrection of believers happens some time before the 7 year period of difficulty that happens at the end of the age.  God removes believers from the earth through resurrection and ascension into heaven as immortal beings with glorified, or heavenly, bodies.  Typically the term “rapture” is applied to this view.  However, we really are talking about the resurrection of the righteous.  Now it is important to note that just because two people agree about the timing of the resurrection of the righteous, it is not guaranteed that they will agree on all other aspects of biblical prophecy.  Thus there are many variations of the “pre-trib” view.

The Mid-Tribulation View.  Other people believe that the resurrection does not happen until the middle of the tribulation.  This would be right before the world enters the final 3.5 year period called “The Great Tribulation.”  Several passages state that believers will be delivered from the wrath of God.  Here are a couple of them.  1 Thessalonians 1:14, “[we] wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  Also, 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Lastly, Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”  It is clear that the beast’s rise to power starts out peaceful and seductive.  However, at some point, he turns his colors and become extremely despotic.  It is in this 2nd half of the tribulation that we see God’s wrath being poured out.  Thus the mid-trib view focuses on believers being removed right before God’s wrath is poured out.

The Pre-Wrath View. Some people have made a further distinction that the resurrection occurs much closer to the end of the tribulation.  They don’t see the wrath of God beginning until the 7 bowl judgments are poured out.  Views vary, but involve a time period that is well past the middle of the tribulation.  All of these three views involve a period of time in which believers have glorified bodies and stay in heaven with Christ for a period of time.  The next view does not accept that there is a time interval.

The Post-tribulation View.  Some people believe that the resurrection happens at the same time that Christ is coming back.  Thus believers are caught up to Christ in the air, but instead of going to heaven, they come back down to earth with Christ to help set up a millennial kingdom.

If you take time to work through the passages of the Bible in light of each view, you will find that they all have their strengths and weaknesses along with the many variations under each view.  However, regardless of what view you hold, your experience will still be the same.  After being with Christ in spirit form, the day will come when your spirit is united with a glorified body.  Either the resurrection will occur at an amount of time before the Second Coming or at the same time as it.  Yes, these views do make a difference in whether one will go through the Great Tribulation or not.  However, Christians have always faced tribulation in this world.  Too many times people who hole to one view will ridicule those who hold another.  People will chide the pre-tribulation view for trying to avoid persecution.  This is an utterly ridiculous slam.  However, it is easy to ridicule the post-tribulation view by stating that it is ludicrous for us to fly up into the sky only to come back down again.  These slights do no good for convincing people and have nothing to do with what the Bible actually says.  Many sincere and smart theologians have disagreed through the years.  Regardless of which of these views you gravitate towards, the real questions are these.  Are you ready for your physical death?  Have you made your peace with God and put your faith in His Son Jesus?  If you haven’t then do so today before it becomes too late.

Personal End Times Second Coming Audio