“COME BACK FOR US, JESUS”
Christmas is behind us. We’ve celebrated the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for the last four Sundays and once again in a wonderful Christmas Eve service last Monday evening.
During that time our children and young people have read Scripture and lighted advent candles. Many of you have played or sung for us. As a congregation, we’ve sung no less that twenty-two of the traditional Christmas carols. And the children have presented us and the seniors at Arbor Village with another one of their Christmas plays.
Our children and young people have had their annual pizza outing in Lake Geneva, and the “old people” have enjoyed another fun Christmas party at the Bruley’s home in Genoa City. Well, it was good for most of us.
The fact is that all of it’s been good. And why wouldn’t it be good? We have been together and we have been celebrating the birth of out Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As Christians, you and I are here today, sins forgiven and heaven bound, because of what took place in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. We have been eternally blessed by the birth of the Christ child, His first coming, or what is often called the First Advent.
We’re all familiar with the First Advent. We celebrate it every Christmas. The Scrip-tures said it would happen, and it did, just as God said it would. Isaiah prophesied it.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (speaking to all Israel)
6 For a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the govern-ment will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
The angel Gabriel foretold Christ’s First Advent.
Luke 1:31-33 (speaking to Mary)
31 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a Son, and you shall name Him name Jesus.
32 “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;
33 “And He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever; and His king-dom will have no end.”
Then a second angel also foretold Christ’s First Advent.
Matthew 1:20b-23 (speaking to Joseph)
20b “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
21 “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”
22 Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the pro-phet might be fulfilled, saying,
23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, “God with us.”
That’s Christmas! We’ve just celebrated it. After that first Christmas Jesus grew and matured into a young man. And when the time was right He went down to the Jordan River where His cousin John was preaching a message of repentance. John was saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2)!” It was John the Baptist who identified the Jewish Messiah, the Christ, and confirmed Jesus’ First Advent.
*John 1:29 (speaking to the multitudes)
29 …he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
For the next three years Jesus preached the gospel and explained God’s purpose for the First Advent. He said…
*John 3:16-18 (Jesus speaking to one of the religious leaders)
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world (at the First Advent), but that the world should be saved through Him.
18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; (but) he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Jesus not only preached the gospel, He taught the Scriptures, He ministered to the multi-tudes that followed Him, and He healed countless people of sickness, disease, and physi-cal deformities. He performed miracles, cast out demons, raised the dead, chose His dis-ciples, and began the task of preparing them to carry on His work and establish His church after He would to return to heaven.
Although they were suspicious of Him the religious leaders seemed to tolerate at least some of what Jesus said and did. That is, until He said that He Himself was the fulfill-ment of the OT prophecies about the coming Jewish Messiah.
And when He publicly forgave sins and claimed to be God’s own Son, the religious leaders would have none of it. So, instead of believing and putting their faith in Him, they chose to continue in their own self-righteousness and began plotting against Him.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and (but) the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him…
He came to His own world and was rejected by His own people. Finally, the religious leaders of His own people accused Him of blasphemy and claimed that His power came not from the Holy Spirit of God, but from Satan. With that these most religious of all men, thinking they were condemning Jesus, only condemned themselves.
31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the (Holy) Spirit shall not be forgiven.
32 “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be for-given him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or the age to come.”
No man or woman can sink lower than this – to accuse the absolutely holy God of being the epitome of evil. Where could such a mindset come from? I believe it can only come from a self-absorbed and self-serving self-righteousness. Jesus, using the strongest language, exposed the religious leaders for who and what they were – blind leaders of the blind and hypocrites.
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
And so they hated Him. Consider the irony of it all. Jesus was the One who was doing and saying what God expected the religious leaders to be doing and saying, but were not. Jesus was the One caring for and shepherding the people as God expected the religious leaders to be doing, but were not. Rather, Jesus exposed their sin and their hypocrisy.
Of course, they hated Him for it. And then they transferred that hatred onto those who loved and followed Him. Jesus said they would, didn’t He?
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.
19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
21 “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
22 “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.
23 “He who hates Me hates My Father also.
24 “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.
25 “But they have done this in order that the word (the Scripture) may be ful-filled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’”
So because of this unwarranted hatred, it was only a matter of time before Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and crucified. Not surprisingly, all the accusations, charges, and testimonies against Him were false. And the so-called trials before Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests; Herod, the king; and Pilate, the Roman governor, were all contrived and illegal. But no matter, the world was able to get rid of Jesus of Nazareth.
And, for a few days, it really looked as if the world had succeeded. But of course, the world hadn’t succeeded at all. Jesus was resurrected. He defeated death and the grave. He appeared to His disciples and to hundreds of others as well. Then, forty days after His resurrection, He ascended the Mount of Olives with his disciples and was taken up into heaven. Thus the events of the First Advent were completed just as the OT prophesied.
Those of us who have believed God’s Word, trusted it, repented of our sin, and received Jesus as our Lord and Savior have been forgiven, saved, and made members of the Bride of Christ, His church.
One might say that we have been betrothed, or to use the more modern word, we have been engaged to be married. We have Jesus’ own personal promise that He will come for us. His coming for us will set in motion the events known as the Second Advent, or the Second Coming.
It is then that He will bring us into His presence, escort us to the wedding ceremony and marriage feast, and consummate our marriage. That is the very imagery God uses in the Scriptures. To use symbols that we readily understand, the engagement ring is already on our finger, but although the Father has set the date for the wedding, we don’t know when it is. We don’t know when the Lord Jesus will come to take us to the wedding. And so, as a bride waits for her groom to come for her, the church, the Bride of Christ, waits for Him. While we wait, we have Jesus” words of assurance and comfort.
1 “Let not your heart be troubled; (you) believe in God, believe also in Me.
2 “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.
3 “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.”
That is what awaits all of us who know and love Him. That is His promise to every Christian. It is not a conditional promise; it is unconditional. It is absolute. We do not have to speculate or wonder if it is true. Jesus said it is true and He cannot lie. “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.”
The NT talks about the Second Coming again and again. Jesus’ coming to take His bride to heaven to be with Him has come to be known as the “rapture of the church.” While the word “rapture” is not found in the Scriptures, it does convey the idea of what the Scriptures do clearly say about that moment yet future when Jesus will come back for us.
The word “rapture” is derived from Latin. It speaks of a state of being in body or in spirit. So even though the word isn’t in the Bible, it does provide us with a vivid descrip-tion of the first event of the Second Coming. Listen as the Apostle Paul comforts the Christians in the church at Thessalonica.
*1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep (Christians who have already died), that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him (the spirits of) those who have fallen asleep (died) in Jesus.
15 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 (the moment of the rapture), shall not pre-cede those who have fallen asleep (already died). (How will this happen?)
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel (Michael?), and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up (“raptured”) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
These are comforting words, aren’t they? When you stand alongside the fresh grave of a Christian you can, despite the sadness and sorrow that just naturally accompanies any death, you can take comfort in these words. The spirit of the one who has died is in the presence of God. And our Lord and Savior has promised that, at the rapture, He, “…will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.”
It is then that all believers, both living and dead, will receive their glorified bodies. They will be like Jesus’ own resurrected body. These will be bodies that are nothing like ours. Yet they will be physical bodies that will never become sick, weak, age, or wear out. They will be bodies that are perfect, flawless, and fit for eternal life. They will be bodies that can stand in His presence, imperishable.
This is the mystery Paul is telling us about in his first letter to the Christians in the church at Corinth.
*1 Corinthians 15:51-55
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed,
52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead (in Christ) will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (at the rapture)
53 For this perishable (body of sinful flesh and blood) must put on the imperish-able, and this mortal (body) must put on immortality.
54 But when this perishable (body) will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal (body) will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 “O death, where (now) is your victory? O death, where (now) is your sting?”
The immortal imperishable body is the one in which we will see Jesus face to face. This is what John is talking about in his first letter to the churches.
1 John 3:2
2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.
And it isn’t just that we will be like Him physically – we will be like Him spiritually as well. We will be conformed to His image in every way. This is the outcome of our elec-tion, our predestination in Christ. Being like Him is our ultimate glorification.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, (so) that He might be the firstborn among many brethren;
30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified (made righteous and saved); and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
This is the promise of His coming for His bride, the church. But where is the promise of His coming? At first that seems like a reasonable question, but we already have the answer, don’t we? The promise is recorded again and again in Scripture. We’ve already looked at a number of them this morning. So true believer’s don’t need to ask that ques-tion. Jesus said it. That settles it.
But the question – where is the promise of His coming – remains, doesn’t it? However, it’s generally asked by the cynics, the skeptics, and the unbelievers, those who would mock your faith and the God who gave it to you. Peter talks about them in his last letter to the churches.
He speaks of the last days and how the world will make light of your faith and the Lord whom you serve.
*2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9
3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,
4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep (died), all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”
8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
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.
Look again at v. 8. It’s both easy and tempting to read more into it than it actually says. Peter is simply telling us that the way you and I count time is not the way God counts it. We live in an environment where a day is a short time and a thousand years is a long time. But God lives in eternity. (The OT teaches this too.)
4a For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by…
Ask yourself this: What do “short time” and “long time” mean in eternity? God isn’t bound by time, space, or anything else. We are locked in time and space, bur God isn’t.
In v. 9 Peter is saying that, with regard to earthly time, God is mercifully holding back the Second Coming so that more and people will hear the gospel, repent, and come to Christ for forgiveness and salvation. By the way, many translations say, “The Lord…is not willing that any should perish…” This can present a theological conundrum, can’t it?
What does “…not willing that any should perish…” mean? In order to answer that we need to understand that the Bible speaks of God’s will in at least three different ways.
1. God’s sovereign will – This speaks of those things God brings to pass with abso-lute certainty. The Second Coming is an example of God’s sovereign will. It must happen because, “It is God’s will that Jesus return!” Nothing can change God’s sovereign will!
So 2 Peter 3:9 cannot be explained by saying it is God’s sovereign will that no one should perish because then no one could ever perish. It would be impossible!
2. God’s preceptive will – These are God’s laws (precepts) and commands which can be disobeyed. An example would be our breaking of the Ten Commandments. “It is God’s preceptive will that we obey them!” But we all disobey them. And though there are consequences for breaking God’s laws, we’re still able to do it. Thus you and I can (and do) thwart God’s preceptive will all the time!
So 2 Peter 3:9 cannot be explained by saying it is God’s preceptive will that no one should perish because then perishing itself would be against His law, and He would have to punish people for perishing. How – by making them perish again?
3. God’s permissive will – This refers to the fact that, although God is not the effi-cient cause of everything that happens, He allows or permits some things to take place. He has the right to intervene, but sometimes chooses not to do so. It is in this sense that He “wills” them. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is an example of some-thing God could have stopped, but chose to exercise His permissive will and allow it to happen.
So 2 Peter 3:9 can only be explained in light of the third definition – God’s per-missive will. He takes no pleasure in the perishing of the lost. He permits it, but He wishes that all would come to repentance. (back to 2 Peter 3:4)
For you and I the question isn’t, “Where is the promise of His Second Coming”? You and I want to know, “When is the promise of His coming?” When will the first event of the Second Coming be? When will the church be raptured? “When will you come back for us, Jesus?”
The answer to that question is found in the Doctrine of Imminency. It simply means that He could come at any moment. There is no other event on what is often called “the pro-phetic calendar” that must take place before Jesus comes for us. That is what is meant when someone says, “His coming is imminent.”
But God has chosen not to tell us when. Jesus said, “…of that day and that hour, no one knows…(Matthew 24:36).” Later, before He returned to heaven, He said, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority…(Acts 1:7).”
Why do you suppose that is? I believe that one of the main reasons God has not told us specifically when Jesus will come to take His bride to Himself is because He wants us always to live expectantly, to “be on our toes.” He wants us to live our lives in such a way that we will always be ready to go up and meet Him “…in the clouds.”
So what are we to do? We are to do? Jesus’ instruction to us is clear. We are to, “…be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42).” As a result, our prayer should be, “Come back for us, Jesus. Come and gather us to Yourself.”
This morning we’ve spoken primarily about the First Coming and the rapture, which is the first event of Christ’s Second Coming. Jeff read about the First Coming from Matthew 1 and the Second Coming from Revelation 19. But Revelation 19 speaks only of the final event of the Second Coming, that day seven years after the rapture when Jesus will return to earth, defeat Satan and the Antichrist, and establish His kingdom.
During the seven years the church is in heaven all hell will break loose on this planet. This earth will go through what Jesus called the Great Tribulation, during which time the Antichrist will be identified and come to power; fully half of the human race will be anni-hilated; and God will judge the world and pour out His wrath upon it. This is what Revelation 6-19 is all about.
While Jesus coming in the clouds for us at the rapture, and His return to the earth in power and glory are two different events that are separated by the seven years of the tribulation, they are both aspects of Christ’s Second Advent, His Second Coming.
The rapture will signal the beginning of the events of the Second Coming. His return in power and glory will signal the end. The rapture will be instantaneous and secret. We will meet Him in the air. All believers will be gone and the lost world will not know what has happened.
But Jesus’ return in power and glory will be different. We will be coming with Him at His return, and every eye will see Him and know who He is. At the rapture we will be saved from the wrath to come. At His return in power and glory we will witness the judgment of unbelievers and see Jesus take His seat on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
But for now, as we are about to begin another year, we wait. We know that Jesus could come at any moment. We don’t know when, but we do know He will. We see the world we live in plunging headlong towards evil and rejecting our Lord, the only One who can stop it, and we look up and we say, “Come back for us, Jesus.”
The Apostle Paul echoed that sentiment in his letter to Titus: “(We’re) looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13).”
~ Pray ~