Coming Again!

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 are silent.

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.

  1. It is to be a personal, visible return to earth. Such passages as Mt. 26.64 and Acts 1.11 make this quite clear.
  2. It will be glorious and majestic, the coming of a King, in marked contrast to the humiliation of his first coming (Mt.16,27; 25.31).
  3. 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!
  4. It will be preceded by a great turning away from the faith (2 Thess.2.1-10).
  5. It will be the final and complete triumph of righteousness (2 Thess.2.8).


Again, we do not go into details where God has not clearly disclosed all his will, but four aspects should be noted.
  1. The completion and glorification of the Church (1 Thess.4.16,17 and elsewhere in the Epistles).
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. The final binding of the adversary (1 Cor.15.51-57; Heb.2.14; Rev.20.2,3,10).


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.

  1. 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).
  2. This will have a strong influence on the way we live (note 1 Thess.5.1-11).
  3. 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.
  4. 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 is coming".

© 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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