“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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) When Christ Returns (Tom Edwards)
When Christ Returns
Of all the events down through time, what could be more dramatic and emotionally stirring than when Jesus returns? For when He does, though He will not set foot on earth, there will be a great gathering together to meet Him in the air (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). That in itself we certainly be a major event! And notice, too, of the other great occurrences that the Lord’s second coming will usher in:
A Universal Resurrection
Not only will the saints be raised on that day when Christ returns, but also all people – the righteous and the unrighteous! For as Jesus declares, “…an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28,29). Paul also shows of the universal involvement in this when saying “…that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:15). Notice that he doesn’t speak of a plurality of resurrections, such as one for the redeemed and another for the lost; but, rather, says that there will be “a resurrection” — singular — “of both the righteous and the wicked.” And regardless of how long one has been deceased, all will be raised on that day – from the first man Adam and to all his descendants down through time! What a great number that will be!
A Universal Judgment
Also taking place when Christ returns will be the Great Judgment Day! And all will be there. The rich and the poor, and all in between; the famous and the infamous, along with the billions who are unknown to us. All will stand before God to give an account. Your favorite athletes, musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, inventors, poets, doctors, writers, political leaders, all your friends and relatives, and any other category of people, they will all be there – billions of us! “…For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Rom. 14:10). “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (v. 12).
It is, therefore, a time for which we need to prepare. For “…God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30,31). Jesus also shows the reason why His Father entrusted this duty to Him: “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn. 5:22, 23).
To prepare for the judgment, we need to look to the gospel. For it is the standard whereby we will be judged. Jesus says, “he who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (Jn. 12:48). This, of course, also includes those words that were not given until Jesus ascended back to the right hand of God and sent the Holy Spirit to lead the apostles into all the truth; because while He was on earth, the apostles were not yet ready for all He wanted them to know. As the Lord Himself states: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and disclose it to you” (Jn. 16:12-14). So let us make sure we are using God’s word, and not just the teachings of men, to prepare ourselves for that Great Judgment Day.
The Universe Will Cease To Be
Peter writes of this time in connection with the Lord’s second coming. For after speaking of those mockers who would be saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Pet. 3:4), he goes on to say that “…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” (v. 10). And “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, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” (vv. 11,12).
Time Will Come To An End
Since the universe will cease to be, then time will also come to an end. For, according to Genesis 1:14-19, our time is based on heavenly bodies and on our earth’s revolving and orbiting. On the fourth day of creation, “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.”
The day the Lord returns will, therefore, be the “last day.” For, as we just saw, that is the day that the universe and time will cease to be. So it will definitely be the last day. But also we had noted that the great judgment would take place on that day; and, corresponding to that, Jesus also declares in John 12:48 that “the word I spoke is what will judge him at the LAST DAY” (emphasis mine). In addition, the day of the resurrection is also referred to as being on the “last day” (John 6:39,40, 44, 54). Martha also knew that. She said to Jesus, concerning her deceased brother Lazarus: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (Jn. 11:24).
When time, as we know it, ends, eternity, which is timeless, will still be what it has always been! Someone once pointed out that time will end because it is something that can be measured. Eternity, however, cannot be measured. It has no beginning, and it has no end. For like God Himself, eternity has always been.
The concern of each one, therefore, should be as we see in this following, old hymn that sings out in the chorus, “What will it be? What will it be? Where will you spend your eternity? What will it be, O what will it be? What will your answer be?” The song begins by pointing out that “Someday you’ll stand at the bar on high, Someday your record you’ll see; Someday you’ll answer the question of life, What will your answer be?” And then the second stanza: “Sadly you’ll stand, if you’re unprepared, Trembling, you’ll fall on your knee; Facing the sentence of life or of death, What will that sentence be?” Then the wise exhortation in the third stanza: “Now is the time to prepare, my friend; Make your soul spotless and free; Washed in the blood of the Crucified One. He will your answer be.” This song was written by Tillit Sydney Teddlie (1885-1987) in 1935.
Heaven or Hell — the Only Two Destinations!
Where we will spend our eternity depends on us — and whether we will accept and abide in God’s way of salvation or not, while here on earth. For there will be only one of two possible outcomes for each individual, depending on whether that person truly belongs to the Lord or not — and either one is eternal. Jesus shows of this in Matthew 25:46, when saying, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” The same word used to express the punishment (in the English and the Greek) is also used to describe the reward. It is the word “eternal” (“aionios”).
What side will we be on? “…when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed…” (2 Thess. 1:7-10). When Christ comes again, there will be a separation of the saved and the lost (cf. Matt. 25:32-46).
The Bible shows that God does not want anyone to be lost (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9), and this is why He sent His Son to make an atonement by His death at Calvary for every sinner (Heb. 2:9; Jn. 3:16). But we each must be willing to accept His conditions in order that we can benefit from that sacrifice. For Jesus “…became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9). Though we cannot earn nor deserve it, yet when we submit to God’s terms of pardon, we can then have His grace, His mercy, and His forgiveness in our lives and become a part of His eternal family. And those conditions are that we hear the gospel (for that is how faith comes — Rom. 10:17), that we believe in Christ for whom He truly is (Jn. 8:24), that we repent of our sins (Luke 13:5), that we confess our faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), that we be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3;21), and that we strive to be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:36-39).
The apostles would be going through a most difficult time, which would involve persecutions and even death. (Judas killed himself; but all the other apostles, according to tradition, are said to have been martyrs, with the exception of John of whom the attempt was made to put to death by boiling in a pot of oil, but was miraculously spared and exiled to the island of Patmos where God gave him the Revelation.) I wonder how often they must have thought of that beautiful promise that Jesus had given them, prior to His own crucifixion: “Do not let 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. 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). And will not the Lord also do the same for all others who will be the redeemed in heaven? For will not He be the Maker of all things for us there as well? We, therefore, will not have to rely on whatever carpentry skills we acquired while on earth to build our own home in heaven! Rather, we can trust in the One who is “the builder of all things” (Heb. 3:4); and even now be like Abraham, in ancient times, who “was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10)!
Let us, therefore, turn to the Lord and submit to Him so that heaven will be our eternal destination. For it will be a blissful place where “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain… (Rev. 21:4).
As we have seen, various major events will take place when Jesus comes again. So may we each strive to be ready for that great day!
(All Scripture from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.)
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, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 218-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)