Reading: Acts 1.6-11
In the Apostle's Creed we affirm that Christ will come "to
judge the living and the dead", while every time we celebrate
the Lord's Supper we "proclaim the Lord's death, until he
comes" 1 Cor.11.26.
On many occasions Jesus spoke of his second coming. After Peter
had confessed him as the Christ and Jesus had spoken to them of
his own suffering and theirs, he pointed to the time of reckoning
- "the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory
of his Father..." (Mt.16.27).
We see the same theme in Mk.13.26; Jn. 14.3; Mk.14.61,62. They
were reminded of his return at the time of his ascension (Acts
l.11), and this became part of their preaching (Acts 3.20,21).
It would appear that "the Lord is at hand" (Phil.4.5)
became a sort of Christian watch-word - the Aramaic form of this
was "Maranatha", meaning either "Our Lord is coming"
or "Our Lord, come!" (1 Cor.16.22). Paul's two letters
to the Thessalonians were written principally to make clear some
points of misunderstanding regarding this doctrine.
The whole question of the future is one which has its own fascination.
This is the reason some seem to be turning to the occult. It is
also the reason some are attracted to sects who claim to have
clues or keys to unlock the secrets on which, really, the Scriptures
I believe it is wise for us to remember that the fact of living
after the event of Christ's earthly ministry has made many Old
Testament passages (like Is.53) so graphically clear to us. So
too, some things will only be clear to us "in that Day".
However, the main pattern is clear.
- It is to be a personal, visible return to earth. Such passages
as Mt. 26.64 and Acts 1.11 make this quite clear.
- It will be glorious and majestic, the coming of a King, in
marked contrast to the humiliation of his first coming (Mt.16,27;
- It will be sudden and unexpected (Mt. 24.42-44; Lk. 17.26-30).
In fact it is made quite clear that the time is unknown, except
to the Father (Mt.24.36) - so much for the date-setters!
- It will be preceded by a great turning away from the faith
- It will be the final and complete triumph of righteousness
Again, we do not go into details where God has not clearly disclosed
all his will, but four aspects should be noted.
- The completion and glorification of the Church (1 Thess.4.16,17
and elsewhere in the Epistles).
- The righteous judgment of the living and the dead. For Christians
this will mean the assessment of stewardship and the giving of
rewards for faithfulness (Rom.14. 10-12; 1 Cor.3.9-15; 4.5). It
will be irretrievable loss for those who have rejected Christ
(Mt.13.41,42,49,50; 2 Thess.1.7-9; Rev.20.11-15).
- The summing-up of all things and the destruction of this world
order (Heb.1.10-12; 12.25-29; 2 Pet.3.10-13). We note that scientists
are affirming the finiteness of this world-order and its resources
- for the Christian the end of the world is part of God's purpose.
- The final binding of the adversary (1 Cor.15.51-57; Heb.2.14;
Some have suggested that the doctrine of the second coming is
unimportant - if it is true, it is just an interesting fact with
no great significance for our Christian life. But this is not
so - it has, in fact, very practical implications for us as Christians.
Apparently there were some in the Thessalonian Church whose interest
in the coming of the Lord led them to inactivity (note 2 Thess.3.6-13).
Perhaps, in part, we have tended to under-emphasise this doctrine
because of some today whose obsession with one doctrine has led
them to inactivity on the real issues of Christian living.
We do well to think of the great social reformer, Lord Shaftesbury,
who said towards the end of his life, "I do not think that
in the last forty years I have lived one conscious hour that
was not influenced by the thought of our Lord's return".
Here then are some of the implications.
- We are to live in constant expectation and readiness. This
is one reason why we are not given to know the date. We are to
keep on the alert (Mk.13. 33-37).
- This will have a strong influence on the way we live (note
- It brings an urgency into the mission of God's people to bring
is good news to others (note the preaching of Jesus and John the
Baptist alike - Mt.3.2; 4.17). This is why the Holy Spirit was
promised and given. The time of opportunity for evangelism and
for the response to evangelism do not go on for ever.
- This promise of God is our glorious hope. We will not only
trust in God's love, but know that in his own good tine he will
vindicate his cause (compare Rom. 8.31-39).
Jesus gave his disciples both a promise and a commission before
he ascended into heaven, "But when the Holy Spirit comes
upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses
for me in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends
of the earth" (Acts 1.8).
So then, let us be ready in prayer and action - "the Lord
© Peter J. Blackburn, Buderim Uniting Church,
19 May 1996
Except where otherwise noted,
Scripture quotations are from the Good News Bible, (c)
American Bible Society, 1992.
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