Published May 3, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"He's Coming - A Sure Thing!" (Part 1 of a Series)

Do you ever wonder about when the Lord will return?

If you do – and you should – you're in very good company. Christians have been wondering about that for nearly 2,000 years. In fact, the disciples were the among the first to wonder about it. In Matthew 24:3 we read that the disciples asked Jesus (referring to His coming), "when will this happen?"

Notice that they did not say "WILL this happen?" They said, "WHEN will this happen?" It wasn't a question of "if" but a question of "when" the Lord would return. (The Lord answered by providing several signs that would indicate when His return would be near.)

That's the first thing we must realize about the Lord's return. His return is a sure thing. It's not fanciful "wishful thinking." God said it will happen – and it will happen. God cannot lie. (See Numbers 23:19.) If you say you believe the Bible, you must believe that the Lord will personally return. This is important! This is eminently significant! Make it a fundamental part of your everyday belief system! The Lord is returning!

Dr. Charles Sweeting of the Moody Bible Institute has gone through the entire Bible looking for references to Christ's second coming. In the Old Testament – note that's the OLD Testament – he found some 1,845 references to Christ's second coming, with 17 Old Testament books giving it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament there are 318 references to the second coming of Christ. That figures out to an amazing one verse out of every 30 verses! Twenty-three of the 27 books in the New Testament refers to the Lord's return.

Another scholar has pointed out that there is more said in the Bible about the Lord's second coming than there is about any other doctrine contained there. Do you think God is trying to get our attention?

And yet – with a few notable exceptions – we don't hear much these days about the Lord's second coming. Why is that?

Oh, you can find it if you look hard enough. The extremely popular "Left Behind" book series is a notable example. Millions upon millions of books have been sold in that series. But that's a fictional story, although based on the authors' understanding of end-time scenarios.

You can find it on TV, too. John Hagee, for one, is well-known for his in-depth studies of end-time themes. And Christian bookstores have entire sections devoted to prophecy and end-time studies.

But in the Christian church at large, there is surprisingly little. Again, why is that?

Perhaps it's because many Christians simply don't understand enough about "eschatology" – the study of end-time events – to talk much about it. They haven't a clue. And there certainly is no denying that understanding the specifics of everything involved in end-time prophecies is extremely difficult – if possible at all beyond studied conjecture.

Perhaps it's because there is so much disagreement among Christians about the specifics of prophecy that most feel it's more important to address other issues that are more pertinent to our daily lives. Why bother with something so potentially divisive? (Later I'll explain why we must believe, internalize, assimilate into our very beings, the truth that the Lord will return — and consider the effect that will have on our everyday lives.)

Another problem is that a surprising number of mainline (especially) preachers really – down deep – don't expect the Lord to return any time soon. It's much easier to say, "Sure, I believe the Lord will return – but not in my lifetime. So it really doesn't make any difference to me."

Along those lines, I recently read a story about a lady who truly believes that she had heard from the Lord – verbally – that He would return for His church during her lifetime. (She's now 81, by the way.) She called her pastor at the mainline church she was attending to ask him about this. He told her that he really didn't know what voice she heard speaking to her. But in any case, the Lord's return "...wasn't going to happen for a hundred years from now." If even preachers don't fully believe it, there's little hope for their congregations.

Many liberal preachers and theologians tend to "spiritualize" the coming of the Lord, saying that He has already returned in spirit in the lives of Christians, and that Christ's Kingdom on Earth will be ushered in when everyone becomes a Christian. (That, by the way, sounds strangely like Muslim theology, which says all the world will become Muslim to usher in the moon-god Allah's kingdom.)

To look at the Lord's return in this "spiritualized" way totally ignores all of the very specific prophecies in Scripture of His very real and very personal return. In fact, for every prophecy in the Bible about the Lord's first coming 2,000 years ago, there are EIGHT which look forward to His second coming! And those are in both the Old and the New Testaments.

In John 14:3, Christ Himself made the promise: "And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." Again in Revelation 22, verses 7 and 22, He told John, "Behold, I am coming soon..."

The writer of Hebrews, in 9:28, tells us just as Christ came once, "He will appear a second time...for salvation." And after Jesus' ascension, the angels told His stunned disciples, "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11.)

Since at least my teenage years, I have been fascinated by the promise of the Lord's return. I've always had the feeling that perhaps – well, actually somewhere between "perhaps" and "most likely" – I was actually a part of what theologians call the "terminal generation" – the generation that Paul referred to in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as "we who are still alive" at the coming of the Lord and who will be "caught up" to meet the Lord in the air.

Is that true? Is this the generation?

In the weeks ahead (if the Lord tarries), as I continue this special series, we'll discuss more about what we mean by the Lord's "second coming." We'll explore what Bible teachers call the "Rapture." We'll look at why many prophecy-watchers say the Rapture could be very, very soon. And, most importantly, we'll investigate why this doctrine of the Lord's promised return – one of the most fundamental teachings of the Bible – should have a powerful and motivating impact on our lives as Christians each and every day.

- Paul

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