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Return of Christ

25th May 2008, mgh

 

1) The Return of Christ, Bringing Justice

It might be asked, when in the last six thousand years of history has there been a ruler, king or government that has ruled with justice and equity, and, in peace? Search the pages of history and it is impossible to find that people have been able to live in this world without the threat of wars or invaders, tyrannical rulers and dictators, the greed of kings and lords or inept politicians. Today the world is still faced by civil wars, international war and tension, famine and poverty, nationalism, religious strife, terrorism and economic disaster. The list could go on and on.

God has a plan for peace on this earth and it relies on the return of His son Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, to the earth to establish a righteous and just Government and finally world peace.

The idea of a Messiah coming is not new. The Jewish people since their captivity by the Babylonians in approximately 600BC have been awaiting the coming of a Messiah (a Hebrew word meaning 'anointed' or king), who would bring justice and peace. Since the early years of Christianity many devout people awaited the coming of Christ (Greek for Messiah/Anointed). These expectations became general in the year 1000AD and recently in 2000AD, due to understandings of prophetic time periods.

2) The Bible says Jesus will Return

When Jesus ascended into heaven, it was clearly stated to the disciples that he would return to the earth. Jesus' disciples wanted to know if the restoration of Israel's kingdom, which had been taken over by the Romans, would soon occur.

The disciples were not given this information, but were given the commission to spread the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ's return to the earth to all people. The result of their dedicated work was the amazing growth and spread of Christianity. This is the record in the Bible

When they (the disciples) therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, “Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
And he said unto them, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. "
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven”. (Acts 1:6-11)

It was made clear to the disciples at this time that Jesus would return in the same way as the disciples had seen him go into heaven, that is a visible return to the earth.

Many people thought Jesus was just a prophet. The apostle Peter affirmed that he truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God, and therefore the Messiah (or Christ).

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. And Jesus answered and said unto him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. " (Matthew 16:16-17)

Following this discussion, Jesus then told his disciples the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem. He would be crucified, but he would be raised from the dead and ultimately establish the Kingdom of God. He clearly states that he would 'come in the glory of his Father' and with power from heaven, at which time his servants would receive their reward.

"For 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. (Matthew 16:27)

The final prophecy of the Bible, Revelation, contains the words of Jesus which says that when Jesus returns is the time when the faithful will receive their reward.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:12-14)

Jesus used parables to explain to his followers aspects of his work in God's plan of salvation. He used the parable of the nobleman who went into a distant country, to receive a kingdom, and who later returned to reward his faithful servants, who had carried on his work in his absence. This parable was given because the disciples were under the impression that the kingdom would soon be established. Jesus' purpose was to explain that although he would leave them, he would return.

he added and spoke a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. " (Luke 19:11-12)

3) Israel & Jerusalem as a Sign of the Return

The gospel of Luke quotes from the prophecy given by Jesus and this gives an indication of the time of the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. A time is given. Jerusalem would be 'trodden down of the Gentiles' until the time when the Jews would once again be established in their homeland. In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was once again ruled by the Jews and freed from Gentile, that is non-Jewish domination. Jesus also states that there will be a time of distress and fear on the earth. As far as the early Christians were concerned, this was to be many years in the future, during which time the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God would be spread throughout the world. Jesus said,

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles (Non-Jews), until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws nigh. (Luke 21:24-28)

The apostle Paul, with confidence, when writing to Timothy stated that the reward for the faithful would be given at Jesus' 'appearing', which is the return of Jesus to the earth.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2Timothy 4:7-8)

4) Coming with Eternal Life

The Apostle John encouraged believers to remain faithful and be ready for Jesus' 'coming'. He also states that Jesus will be in a recognisable form and that the redeemed will know him and 'be like him'.

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that does righteousness is born of him. (1John 2:28)
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. (1John 3:2)

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he reminded them that Christ was the first person to gain eternal life and at 'his coming' to the earth, the faithful would then receive eternal life. He makes the poignant comment that there is little in life to offer us except death, and our only hope beyond this life comes through our association with the promises through Jesus.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. (1Corinthians 15:19-23)

Paul's anticipation of life eternal and his confidence in the return of Christ is expressed to Timothy as he realises his life is almost over, but he expects Jesus' 'appearing', at a future time.

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians describing aspects of Christ's return. Jesus will come with power, 'in flaming fire taking vengeance' and will destroy those who oppose him. God has a plan with the earth and Christ and his saints will carry out God's will and bring peace to the earth.

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when 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. (2Thessalonians 1:7-10)

Peter, speaking to the Jews after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, told them that what had happened had been prophesied by all the prophets. Jesus was their long prophesied Messiah and King, whom they had rejected, and he would return to restore the kingdom to Israel and free them from their oppressors. In AD70 the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were scattered throughout the nations and persecuted. In 1948 their homeland was partially restored to them following Hitler's Holocaust in WW11. There are Jews today, in the modern nation of Israel, who still await their Messiah to set them free from their modern day oppressors.

Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall you hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. (Acts 3:19-24)

When we seek to find out the reward that awaits the faithful, it is not only life eternal, that is immortality, but a role in teaching people and ruling over the mortal population that survive the calamities of the war and earthquake, when Jesus returns to subject the nations to God's will.

And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you weere slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And have made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10)

On several occasions in his letters to Timothy, Paul refers to the return, that is the 'appearing', of Jesus and the necessity for obedience .

That you keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1Timothy 6:14)

Paul also gives information about the reason for Jesus' return to the earth. This is as a judge, the judge of the living and the dead. To judge the dead requires a resurrection of the dead, those responsible that knew of Jesus.

I charge you therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2Timothy 4:1)

5) Jesus' Return in the Old Testament

The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are intimately connected. The prophecies of the Old Testament should have prepared the Jews to recognise their Messiah (or in Greek the Christ). Some did. However the religious leaders did not accept him as their Messiah and as prophesied in Isaiah Chapter 53, they crucified their saviour. The Old Testament prophecies are still relevant today, as they give us an understanding of the work that Jesus will do when he returns to the earth.

Paul writing to the Romans demonstrates this connection between the Old and New Testaments. He points out that Jesus Christ confirmed the promises to the Patriarchs of Israel and through his sacrifice had opened the way of salvation to non-Jews, the Gentiles. Jesus, Israel's promised Messiah, that is king, would reign over the Gentiles.

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers (of Israel): And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto your name. And again he said, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Isaiah said, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. (Romans 15:8-12)

Jesse was the father of King David who ruled Israel approx 1000BC. Paul, speaking in the synagogue in Antioch, emphasises that Jesus was the promised seed of David and the Saviour, who would ultimately reign on David's throne in Jerusalem.

And afterward they (Israel) desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man's seed has God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: (Acts 13:21-23)

Luke in his gospel record, describes the incident when a faithful Israelite called Simeon saw the child Jesus and held him in his arms. He was an old man and he knew he would not live to see the Kingdom established as it would not be for many years, but he recognised Jesus' role in the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles.

He came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which you have prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:27-32)

In Romans 15:12 (quoted above), Paul was quoting from Isaiah 11. If we look closely at Isaiah 11 we can see clearly that it is a prophecy. A selection of verses from this chapter will show the connection between the words of Paul and the work of Jesus when he returns to the earth.

Firstly Isaiah refers to the 'rod out of the stem of Jesse', who Paul without any hesitation identifies with Jesus Christ as Israel's saviour, who is righteous, wise, faithful and to be judge in the earth. He will also 'smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked', which describes judgement. An earth filled with peace will be established under his rulership. The chapter gives a time setting. This occurs when the scattered Jews return to their homeland after being regathered from all the lands into which they had been scattered after their nation had been scattered by the Romans in AD70 and their city Jerusalem destroyed. Since 1948 Israel has been revived as a nation.

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, .... And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

And in that daythere shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt,.. and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:1-12)

Zechariah was a famous prophet of ancient Israel. In prophesying of an invasion of many nations that will come upon Israel in the last days, there is a section that clearly identifies the Messiah.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son , and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. (Zechariah 12:9-10)

There are hundreds of prophetic references in the Old Testament that give details of the work of Israel's Messiah, which still remain unfulfilled. The following will show some of them and that Jesus' return to the earth is essential for these prophecies to be fulfilled.

6) Jesus will Return to bring World Peace

The following are just a few examples of the extensive references to the future work of Israel's and the Gentiles' Messiah and future King.

Daniel was given extensive prophecies about the nations that would arise. However the kingdoms of men were to be finally replaced by a Kingdom that would not 'pass away'.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him:

his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44)

Before the Kingdom of God is established there will be 'a time of trouble such as never was'. Daniel speaks of the coming of a 'great prince' of the people of Israel, one called Michael which means in Hebrew 'One like God', followed by resurrection and a judgement. He writes just as the apostles wrote of resurrection in the New Testament.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of your people (the Israelis): and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people (the Israelis) shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)

Isaiah states that Israel's Redeemer, their Messiah, will come to Zion.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD (Isaiah 59:19-20)

The Psalmist depicts a new world environment where the Lord reigns in the earth.

O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth. Say among the nations that the LORD reigns: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved: he shall judge the people righteously. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. (Psalm 96:9-13)

Zechariah prophesies of the great battle against the nations which invade Israel in a time called 'the last days'. Jesus will stand on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem and the description that follows is that of a very large earthquake. More details of this battle are found in Ezekiel 38, Joel 3 and Revelation 16.

Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall divide in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. (Zechariah 14:3-4)

Finally under the rule of Jesus there will be peace, one law and one religion, as revealed by the prophet Micah.

But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it .(Micah 4:1-4)

Jeremiah states that the promises to Israel will be fulfilled. A king, the seed of Abraham who is 'the rod out of the seed of Jesse' will sit on David's throne, executing righteous judgment.

Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. For thus said the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; (Jeremiah 33:14-17)

7) The Desirable Future

There are many signs in the world today that show Jesus' return is very near. It has been shown that Jesus said his return is near when Jerusalem was ruled once again by Jews. The revival of the nation of Israel has to be one of the major signs and the witness to the surety of God's promises (Isaiah 43-44).

The return of Jesus Christ will transform this world from oppression and godlessness to justice, peace and equity. Those who await Jesus' return and are granted eternal life, will have important roles to play in administering this new world order. The mortal population who survive the war and calamities that will come with the transfer of power and government from the nations to Jesus Christ, will experience blessings of joy which we cannot yet fully understand.

Oh that you would rend the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he has prepared for him that waits for him. (Isaiah 64:1,4)
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