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The Second Coming of Christ: Separating fact from fiction

John 14:1-3

The Bible is filled with images like a "wheel within a wheel," great beasts, candlesticks and descriptions of strange looking celestial beings. They carry with them a sense of mystery about the end times and the second coming of Christ.

Theologians use terminologies like Parousia, eschatology, al, post, and premillennialism in their attempts to explain the events surrounding the end times, and when they do, they often make the teachings more difficult to understand for the average person.

Have you ever gone to two different doctors with the same problem and gotten two different explanations? In a perfect world, experts would agree, but in an imperfect world, we differ.

In 1982, when I was attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, I took a class under Dr. Fred Fisher on the book of Revelation. As a requirement for the class, each student had to develop a notebook that outlined the book, gave the background behind every verse and listed the interpretation on every verse of the book of revelation by commentators representing the four major views. It was a massive undertaking, but worth the effort. 

In one case, the premillennial commentator would say the passage must be interpreted figuratively, while the almillennial commentator would say the passage is definitely literal. The one predictable variable was that one side would be literal and the other figurative on every major passage. By analyzing the views, I learned that the critical difference of the interpreters was whether they took a passage literally, or figuratively-a purely subjective decision.

I left the intensive study with a conviction about what I believed, and a respect for those that differed. This morning, on the verge of the new millennium, let's focus on what we know for sure about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Not conjecture, not subjective analysis, but what we know for sure.

  • •We know that the Lord will return
I often read from John 14:1-3 at funeral services. It is a beautiful text that assures all believers that the master craftsman from Nazareth has prepared a place for their loved ones in heaven. I love the poetic feel of the King James Version that translates the verse like this: "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. [2] In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. 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 unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."

Jesus says, I'm going away, but He promises that He is going to come back and get us and that there will be room for us in the Father's house. Though it is a great comfort to believers when they have a loved one die, this text is about the second coming, not death. It is a promise from our Lord that He is coming back to get us to take us to His Father's house. I don't know about you, but "the Father's house" is my favorite picture of heaven. I'm not as concerned with what the streets or gates are made of, I want to know where I'll be staying.

  • •We know that judgment will accompany His return
The scripture teaches that we will all be judged when Jesus returns, Matthew 25:31-34 says: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: [32] And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: [33] And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. [34] Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" (KJV)

Justice can only be served if evidence is untainted and the judge is pure. According to the House of Lords, Parliament and the British Bar, neither happened in the conviction of Krishna Maharaj who, according to the Florida courts, murdered two business rivals in October 1986 and is now on Florida's death row. The prosecutors, Maharaj's attorneys say, withheld evidence that was favorable toward their client. The Judge in the case, Howard Gross, was disbarred for bribery in another case. Maharaj's attorneys want his conviction overturned and a new trial for their client. (Reuters, 12-8-99) 

I don't know if Maharij committed the crime or not, but it didn't surprise me to read of corruption in the court system. It is a worn-out theme.

Ultimately, everyone will be judged by a Holy God. No evidence will be suppressed. He who knows everything will judge the world. There will be no appeals, no evidentiary hearings, no high powered attorneys, just us and God. He will separate us like a shepherd separates sheep and goats.

  • •We don't know when He will return
In Matthew 24:32-36 Jesus said, "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; [33] even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. [34] Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. [35] Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. [36] But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."(NASB)

Jesus was crystal clear, no one knows when He will return. His final words on earth reiterated the same truth: "And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" [7] He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; [8] but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." (Acts 1:6-8 NASB)

One of the common threads of Cult's theology is their insistence of making "end time predictions." The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, believes that a third of the world's cults are predicting the world will come to an end in the year 2000. (Reuters, 12-18-99) The Scriptures make it clear that no one knows when it will happen.

  • •We know that we must prepare for His return before it happens
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus said, "Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went out to meet the bridegroom. [2] "And five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. [3] "For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, [4] but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. [5] "Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. [6] "But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.' [7] "Then all those virgins rose, and trimmed their lamps. [8] "And the foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' [9] "But the prudent answered, saying, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.' [10] "And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. [11] "And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.' [12] "But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.' [13] "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour." (NASB)

The lesson is clear, those who were prepared were allowed into the room, and those who were not prepared perished. There will be no second chances for anyone. When the door is shut, no one will be allowed in. Like those who perished in the flood, many will cry for mercy when judgement comes, but only those inside the ark of safety will live.

Are you prepared? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Why not receive His grace and mercy today, while it is still available?

 

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