The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
December 9, 2012


1) The Lord's Return (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


The Lord's Return
by Tom Edwards

Written in 1878 by H.L. Turner, and set to music by James McGranaham, around 1906, the song "Christ Returneth" has probably often been sung by many a Christian who truly does long for that great day when Jesus will return -- and which could take place any day!

With knowing that He would soon be  departing this world, Jesus gave these following comforting words to His apostles: "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn. 14:1-3).  

Though this was stated to the apostles, surely this would also hold true for any faithful follower of Jesus Christ.  For the Bible doesn't teach, as the Jehovah Witnesses do, that only 144,000 of the saved will go to heaven, while the rest of the redeemed will live on earth forever more.  Rather, God's word shows that heaven will be the home for every saved person.  For instance, Jesus speaks of a "reward in heaven," when addressing a multitude, during His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:12); and it is to that same crowd that He exhorts to "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (6:20).  To many Christians who had been scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Peter writes of their "...inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4).   Even way back in Old Testament times, there was something more than a Promised Land on earth that many of God's people had been looking forward to.  For they had their sights on "a better country, that is a heavenly one"; and one in which God "has prepared a city for them" (Heb. 11:16).  And though the Lord first gave the land promise to Abraham, which was received a few hundred years later by his descendants, still he also had that greater "country" in mind -- "for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (v. 10).

Not only Jesus, but also the angels promised the Lord's return: "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:9-11).  

We can also point out, however, that Jesus will not be setting foot on earth again.  For when He returns, we will meet Him in the air; and then this earth and all the universe will cease to be.  For example, to comfort those Christians whose loved ones had passed away in the Lord, Paul writes the following, concerning the Lord's return: "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thess. 4:13-18).   

And concerning the end of the universe when that happens, Peter gives this description: "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'  ...But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!" (2 Pet. 3:3,4,10-12).

There has always been those who have refused to believe in the promises of God and in His revelation.  But just as God promised to send Jesus the first time -- and did so "in the fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4) -- even so, God will also send Him back again.  So think, too, of how people, for centuries, had to look forward in faith, believing that one day the Messiah would come; but we, on the other hand, can look back and see that He not only came, but also accomplished everything He was supposed to while here.  He made a way of salvation possible by His atoning sacrifice and instituted a new and better covenant by His death.  As Paul declares, "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,  so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Gal. 4:4).  So at that "proper or destined time" Jesus came.  So we can rest assured that He will also come again!

But "Where is the promise of His coming?," as those mockers were saying (2 Pet. 3:4).   Why have so many years gone by and Jesus has not yet returned?  Doesn't God love us?  Has He forgotten about us?  

Peter answers that also.  He states in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." So it is because of God's love for the world that Jesus hasn't come back yet.  He is simply giving people time to repent and be saved, as 2 Peter 3:15 also points out, in showing that we are to "regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation."

Through the years, there have been many date-setters as to the time of Christ's return.  For example, the Britannica Encyclopedia says of William Miller, "After years of Bible study he began to preach in 1831 that the present world would end 'about the year 1843.' ...When 1843 passed, some of his associates set Oct. 22, 1844, as the date of the Second Coming."  

Miller was the founder of the Advent Christian Church that was organized in 1861.  Two years later, some of the members from that group organized another denomination -- the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1863, who believed that by worshiping God on Saturday instead of Sunday, it would usher in more quickly the second coming of Christ.  

Also, Charles Russell and Judge Rutherford, of the Jehovah's Witnesses, set 1914 and then 1918 as the dates.  

Herbert Armstrong (of what is called the "Worldwide Church of God") and Jehovah's Witnesses stated or implied that the Lord would return in 1975, but backed off as the time drew near.  

Many saw 1988, 40 years after the Jews in Palestine regained their nation, as being the expected date for Christ's return -- the 40 years being the length of a generation -- but that date has come and gone.  

How can anyone who believes the Bible, however, even attempt to make such a prediction?  For consider, for instance, 1 Thessalonians 5:2,3: "For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  While they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape."  That the Lord will come like a thief indicates the unexpectancy of it. He will come at a time when one would think not.  Therefore, the only remedy for that is to be a faithful Christian who would always be prepared.  

Some people have misapplied the signs in Matthew 24 as indicators toward the second coming of Christ.  How often do we hear people refer to today's wars and earthquakes as a fulfillment pointing to the Lord's return?  These signs of Matthew 24, however, rather than indicating the nearness of Christ's second coming, gave warning toward the impending destruction of Jerusalem.  Consider, for instance, Matthew 24:15-22: "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days!  But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short."

Luke's parallel account makes "the abomination of desolation" even clearer: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand" (Luke 21:20).   Consider also verses 23,24: "Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people, and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled."  And notice especially verse 32: "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place."

The woe that is pronounced to those who would be nursing children at that time, and the instruction to pray that it be not in the winter or on a Sabbath day,  has no relevancy if  this is pertaining to the second coming of Christ.  For none of that will matter then.   But it would make a great deal of difference to those nursing mothers when the Roman armies moved in on them, and especially if it would begin during the hardship of winter or on the Sabbath when the gates around the wall of Jerusalem would be closed and locked to hinder Gentiles from coming in to do business on a Sabbath day (which was still kept by many a Jew, though Jesus' death had actually done away with the laws pertaining to the Sabbath day observance).  According to the Jewish historian Josephus, who lived from about A.D. 37 to c. 100, more than a million Jews lost their lives, during the two years that Rome had besieged Jerusalem.   Some of the Jews had become so desperate, in their starvation, that they had even resorted to cannibalism.  

So those signs are not referring to Christ's second coming; but, rather, to His coming in judgment (in a manner of speaking) on Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  But His ultimate judgment will be when He comes the second time; for that will involve a judgment not merely upon one city, but one that will involve people from all the world -- and from all time.  

Jesus speaks of the universal resurrection that will take place when He returns in John 5:28,29: "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."  Though it is one resurrection, it will lead to extremely different reactions, depending on whether one is ready to meet God or not.  This might also remind you of Paul's figurative usage of being "a fragrance of Christ," in pertaining to that same gospel, but which had a different impact on others -- "to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life"  (2 Cor. 2:14-16).  Paul also speaks of this resurrection for all in Acts 24:15, by declaring, "There will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust."  So rather than a plurality of resurrections over different periods of time, there will be "a resurrection" for all people.  

In addition, Paul gives us a scene in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 of when Christ returns and shows it to be a time of relief and rejoicing for the saved, but also a time of the sentencing of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord for all the lost.  Matthew 25:31-46 also corresponds with this.  In this passage, Christ returns.  And when He does, all nations are gathered before Him.  He then, as a shepherd, will separate the sheep from the goats.   

The Bible clearly shows of this universal resurrection that will take place on the same day for all -- the last day -- the day when Jesus will come again, and all will meet Him in the air.  After that, there will be no more time left -- but just one great eternity.  Even the earth -- along with all the universe -- will be destroyed at that time, as cited earlier (2 Pet. 3:10-12).  

Are you ready for that day?  Now is the time to prepare -- as many of the Lord's parables also stress.  We need to, therefore, center our lives around the Scriptures so that we can always be ready.  For even if Christ would not be back for another thousand years, we might not have the next thousand seconds! For not even 1 second more on earth is guaranteed to any of us.  

Remember, Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).  Let us, therefore, take heed to the admonition in 1 John 2:28, so that when the Lord returns we will be ready to meet Him.  John says, "Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming."


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians continue praying for the following:

Scott Moon (Jackson Moon's grandfather) who has lung cancer, which also metastasized to a couple places in the brain. 

James Smith (an elder for the McRaven church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi) who has been battling re-occurring cancer for the last several years, and now also has pneumonia.  (His son Alan had died of cancer about a year and a half ago.)

Joe Koczrowski IV, who is only about three and a half years old.  He will be having another major surgery later this month to correct a rare intestinal problem.  Much of this had also been taken care of in last month's surgery; but after this next one, he will no longer have need of the two colostomy bags that he began using soon after he was born.  And since then, had you ever met him, you would never have realized he had such a serious problem.  He's very bright for a boy his age -- especially in figuring out electronic devices.  He's also active, happy, and cheerful; and when he found out that he wouldn't be needing those colostomy bags after his next surgery, he actually regretted the thought of not having them any more!  They have been a part of his life, and which he has been very well adjusted to.

Another young one to be praying for is Thad, a 3-year old who was accidentally run over by a truck in the driveway.  A cracked rib punctured his lung, and his liver was also damaged (but which they hope to heal on its own).  Due to swollenness, he has been in too much pain to sleep.  

Let us also be remembering in prayer...

Ken Robertson who is not yet completely over his recent sickness.  

Cheryl Crews who has chronic health issues.  

Shirley Young who has continual fibromyalgia.  

Pam MacDonald who has serious back trouble.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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