[song: When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder]
I hope you have enjoyed the study of the book of James. James' purpose seems to have been to show that Christian FAITH was to demonstrate itself through godly living. In chapter one, he told us that TRUE RELIGION is evidenced by patience in temptation and evidenced by conduct. In chapters 2 and 3, he told us TRUE FAITH is evidenced by impartiality, works and words. Then at the end of chapter 3 till the end of the book, he tells us about TRUE WISDOM. He says true wisdom is not friends of the world and will not spread slander. Then at the end of chapter 4, he tells us DON'T TRUST IN TOMORROW, and at the beginning of chapter 5, DON'T TRUST IN RICHES. The underlying message is TRUST IN THE LORD, God is in control. He urges the saints to be patient until the coming of the Lord. This is to bring comfort and encouragement in the midst of the humiliations and sufferings the reader may be presently experiencing.
WHY WE NEED TO LEAD SOME SOUL TO CHRIST
In preparation for this lecture, I was reading Rubel Shelly's book on James, What Christian Living Is All About. I found his section here so uplifting and encouraging, I'd like to give you a summation of what Rubel Shelly compiled from the Bible about the second coming of Jesus.
Just as the Old Testament was filled with promises of the Messiah's first coming, the New Testament is filled with the promise of His second coming. One out of every 25 verses in the New Testament refers to the Lord's return. You remember how the Old Testament prophets spoke confidently about the coming of the Messiah, but as the years passed the hope of the people grew dim, and they came to doubt the promise of God. Then when Christ finally did come, they were not prepared and did not receive Him. Likewise, the New Testament prophets speak confidently of Christ's return. But since over 1900 years have come and gone since these prophesies were made, the expectation of many people has perished. Many people question and many doubt that there is to be a return of Jesus, the Savior, to the world and a reckoning thereafter. Peter predicted that there would be scoffers at the idea of a literal second coming of Christ. II Peter 3:3-4, "In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?'"
But as He came the first time, Christ is coming again. God has promised us that. II Peter 3:8-10, 14, "But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up ... Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in His sight."
THE PROMISE OF HIS SECOND COMING
The promise of Jesus' second coming is presented by three assurances. Our faith in Christ's second coming rests, first of all, on His own testimony. Near the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and life, He prepared His disciples for His death and return to the Father. He promised to send the Holy Spirit as a Comforter upon His return to Heaven. He also informed them that He would be about the work of preparing a heavenly mansion for them. Then He added His promise to return (John 14:3), "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you unto Myself; that where I am there ye may be also." That is a confident promise from the Lord: "I will come again."
That promise was next testified to in Acts 1 by angels. The scene is forty days after His resurrection from the dead, on the Mount of Olives. Jesus speaks to His assembled Apostles for the last time, telling them of the work they would soon be doing, again promising the Holy Spirit would come to them and reminding them of their responsibility of bearing witness to Him throughout the world. To the Apostles' amazement and bewilderment, Jesus was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight. He had come and gone miraculously since His resurrection, but apparently never by being taken up into a cloud. They knew this was different. They were probably wondering if they would ever see Him again when two angels appeared to the Apostles. Acts 1:10-11, "And while they were looking steadfastly into heaven as He went, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; who also said, 'Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into Heaven? This Jesus, who was received up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him going into Heaven.'"
Jesus testified to His second coming, the angels testified and, next, the inspired Apostles and the New Testament writers confirm that testimony. Hebrews 9:27-28, "And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgement; so Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time, apart from sin, to them that wait for Him, unto salvation." I Thessalonians 4:16-18, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
These promises were so clear and precious to the early Christians that some mistakenly expected His immediate return in the first century. Some gave up their jobs and their possessions and waited and watched for His return. Paul wrote to the brethren in Thessalonica to correct their misunderstanding by pointing out that the Lord would not return until after the great apostasy had occurred (II Thessalonians 2:3).
Faithful children of God in every generation since have eagerly watched for and proclaimed His second coming. I Corinthians 11:26 tells us that as a child of God eats the Lord's Supper, he proclaims the Lord's death "till He comes."
The promise is clear. The Lord will come again. If it is not so, there is no reason to believe anything that is written in the New Testament. We have all wasted our Sundays and Tuesday mornings.
HIS SECOND COMING TO BE DIFFERENT THAN FIRST
The second coming of Christ will be vastly different, both as to manner and purpose, from His first coming. Jesus first came in humiliation. He gave up His heavenly Kingdom to be lied about, slandered, persecuted, and executed and to suffer on the Cross. His second coming will be in GLORY. Every eye shall see Him (Revelation 1:7), every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue shall confess His name (Romans 14:11), and He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). After emptying Himself the first time, He will return in heavenly glory and full splendor. Matthew 25:31-31, "But when the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all the nations."
THE TIME OF HIS COMING
Since Jesus' departure, men have been trying to determine the day and hour of His return. Paul spoke about this in II Thessalonians 2:2. And since that time, there have been any number of men who have drawn attention to themselves by their claims to have discovered the time of the Lord's return. From falsely interpreting Daniel 8:14, the founder of the Seventh Day Adventists set the date of Christ's return as sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. He and his followers eagerly watched for the Lord's return all during that year. When nothing happened, they recalculated and came up with October 22, 1844. Again they waited. Nothing happened.
Similarly, the founder of the Jehovah's Witness movement advanced the notion that Christ would return in 1874 in an effort to popularize the movement.
The Arab-Israeli War of 1967 set off a series of speculations about the second coming of Christ. Likewise, the 1991 Gulf War had biblical "scholars" thumbing through their books of Daniel and Revelation with various predictions announced and ultimately rejected.
Jesus says in Mark 13:32-33, "But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is." When anyone informs the world that he has discovered the time of the Lord's second coming, he immediately reveals himself to be a false prophet. I Thessalonians 5:1 tells us the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Does your throat get kind of tight on those days when you know someone has predicted this will be the Day? Well, we had best be anticipating His return on any day other than when someone has predicted His return.
The situation will be similar to what it was in the generation of Noah when God destroyed the earth with a flood. Matthew 24:38-39, "For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of man."
Since we can't determine the day and hour of His coming, we had best be ready at all times for His return. We must live soberly and righteously, establishing our hearts for the coming of the Lord. We must watch and pray at all times. We must be doing the will and the work of the Lord. Then whenever the Lord returns we shall be able to stand before Him in confidence and joy.
EVENTS TO ACCOMPANY HIS RETURN
The Bible reveals 7 things that will happen upon the Lord's return:
Jesus is coming. Every generation should be constantly prepared for, believing in, and eagerly awaiting that hour.
What is Christian living all about? It is taking God at His word on all matters and patiently awaiting the fulfillment of His promise at His own appointed time. It is knowing that Jesus is coming again to redeem His saints and render vengeance upon His enemies. It is living each day as if it would be our last. It is looking forward to seeing Him and living with Him who died for us.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR