Return of Christ

Author, Ken Costa is on the leadership team at Holy Trinity Brompton, and chairs Alpha International. Ken shares how he was once on holiday in the south of France and saw a magnificent yacht moored in the harbour. She had a crew of twenty-four. He met the captain who was having coffee in the marina, and asked him about the yacht. He told him that every day the crew took her out to sea to check on safety procedures. Every day the yacht was cleaned to perfection. She was provisioned, and every day they were ready to sail. He then added, wistfully, “We have not seen or heard from the owner for nearly three years, but we are ready to set sail the moment he arrives, and I know he will turn up one day, I hope soon.” – This is how we should live, getting on with the job in hand, as well as we can, as we anticipate the return of Jesus.

Ken Costa, God At Work, 2013, London: Alpha International, p.38

Have you seen the Disney film, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, based on C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia? Right at the end of the film, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy sit on their thrones at Cair Paravel rejoicing as kings and queens of Narnia. Then Lucy notices that Aslan has slipped away and so she runs out onto the balcony, and she sees him off in the distance, walking along the beach towards the sunset. Mr Tumnus looks on and says, “We’ll see him again, Lucy”, and she asks, “When?” Mr Tumnus replies, “In time… but you mustn’t press him, He isn’t a tame lion” To which Lucy thoughtfully responds: “No, but he is good.” – We don’t know when Jesus is coming again but we know God is good and we can trust what the Scriptures tell us because God is always good to his word.

According to author, David Pawson, “There are over 700 (735 to be exact) separate and distinct predictions in the Bible, some are mentioned only once and one over 300 times (the return of Jesus to planet earth). Of these, nearly 600 (596 to be exact, or 81 per cent) have already been fulfilled, quite literally. Some are happening now, before our very eyes, like the second return of the Jewish people to the land promised to them ‘for ever’ by God (see Genesis 13:15 and Isaiah 11:11).

Not one prediction that could have been fulfilled by now has failed. The chances against this are astronomical. To take one example: Ezekiel prophesied that the city of Tyre would be stripped down to bare rock and thrown into the sea, a fate that has befallen no other city, before or since. Centuries later, Alexander the Great did just that, to build a causeway out to the offshore island whence the population had fled in all available boats on his impending arrival. The statistical chance of this happening has been calculated as one in 1039! – The remaining 19 per cent are largely concerned with the end of the world as we know it, so it hardly surprising if they have not been fulfilled… yet.”

David Pawson, The Challenge of Islam to Christians, p.112-113

I read this challenge recently: “Do we really believe Jesus is coming again? We need to think carefully before we answer, because if we do, it will be perfectly obvious by our lifestyle that we are waiting for Him. We won’t spend our life worrying about our bank balance, our career, and our health down here; because when Jesus comes they will all have zero significance. Our lives should be about serving Him now, whatever the cost, in readiness for serving Him for eternity.”

Explore Bible notes, 17/10/2002

What would you change in your life, right now, if you knew for certain that Jesus was coming back in, say, six months? How would your life change; what would you do differently? Who would you seek to be reconciled with? Who would you start praying for? Who would you seek to share the gospel with? Who would you invite to come to an event or invite to join an enquirer’s course? What would you do differently; what would change if you knew for certain that Jesus’ return was just six months away? Friends, what makes you so certain that it’s not? Why are we so complacent?

Why are we so complacent? I read a true and disturbing story from a generation ago that illustrates this point: The ocean liner, the Californian, was within 1500 miles of Boston Harbour when a crewmember noticed flashes of light from a distant steamer ship. Repeated attempts to contact it failed. In fact, it appeared to be sailing away. By 1:40am its lights had vanished… It wasn’t until later that the captain learned what had actually happened. Neither he nor his second officer considered the flashing lights alarming, or that it was coincidental that they had ever seen them. Earlier the Californian had parked because of oceanic ice and the unscheduled stop gave her a ringside seat to an unimaginable event. The crew didn’t realise the flares were distress signals or they would have come to her aid because they were only nine miles away. The floundering ship also sent radio distress calls that were easily within answering range except for one important detail: the Californian’s radio operator, fresh out of training school, was fast asleep! And so on April 12th, 1912, from his vantage point on the bridge, the second officer on the Californian unwittingly watched the Titanic sink!

Jesus said, ‘People were eating… drinking… [and] marrying… to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing… until the flood came and took them. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man… keep watch [therefore, because]… you do not know… [on] what day your Lord will come’. (cf. Matthew 24:38-42)

Source: The UCB Word For Today devotional 14/3/2008

During WWII, after the American troops were forced to surrender the Philippines to the Japanese in May 1942, General MacArthur vowed to retake the islands. He printed the words ‘I will return’ on thousands of leaflets which were then scattered across the country by aeroplanes. He kept his promise two years later.

Jesus made his intention to return to earth very clear. Although the date of His coming is a secret, He taught on many occasions that we should not doubt that it will happen. The second coming of Jesus Christ will be the next great turning point in the history of the world. Jesus taught that when He comes, everyone who has ever lived will have to stand before Him and be judged. There will be a great division. Some people will go to heaven others [won’t be so fortunate].

Vaughan Roberts

Vaughan Roberts: Missing The Point?, p.34 also in Turning Points, p.132-133

When it comes to the Tribulation or the Rapture or the Millennium (Christ’s thousand year reign), Bible scholars hold different views on these subjects. ‘The Premillennialists view holds that Jesus will return to earth prior to the inauguration of the millennium; prior to Christ’s reign for 1,000 years in a golden age of peace – mentioned in Revelation chapter 20. The Amillennialists view holds that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description; and that the millennium has already begun and corresponds with our current church age. And then there’s the Postmillennialists view, which sees Christ’s second coming as occurring after (post) the millennium, when there will be a golden age in which the church and Christian ethics prosper. Personally, I fall into another category: I’m a “pan-millennialist.” I believer that Christ will return and everything will ‘pan’ out just as God wants it to! – The wonderful thing is, whatever view theologians take on the Tribulation, the Rapture and the Millennium, everyone agrees on the indisputable fact that Jesus is coming again.’

Mark 13 is known as the ‘little apocalypse’ – it’s where Jesus looks ahead to the signs that will precede his second coming. These signs are as follows:

  • First, the preaching of the gospel to all nations: Jesus says in Mark 13v10: “And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.” It is really interesting to note that today – with mobile communications, radio, satellite TV and the Internet – for the very first time in history, the gospel of the kingdom is being, and even today, will be preached into the whole world and to all nations. Yes, there are tribes and peoples that have still not heard, but the nations certainly have. Not in the UK, but the church around the world is larger and growing faster today than any other time in history. This generation could very well be in the last of the last days. Again, no one knows for sure but it could well be.
  • Another sign is the great tribulation. Jesus says in Mark 13v7-8: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars” [like maybe Afghanistan, Iraq, ISIS, Syria, Ukraine, rumours of a new cold war with Russia?]… Jesus said: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”
  • Another sign are false prophets working signs are wonders: Mark 13v22: “False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible.” False religions and false prophets – people claiming that there are many different paths up the same mountain, different faiths, cults, psychics, faith healers, new ageism, crystals and black magic, the world is awash with such things.
  • Let me mention another sign… Almost three thousand years ago, God said through the prophet Amos that just before the coming of the Lord, the Jews would return from the four corners of the earth and rebuild the nation of Israel. The Scripture says: “I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God’ (Amos 9:14-15 NIV). This prophecy was mostly fulfilled when Cyrus, King of Persia conquered Babylon in 538BC, and then issued a decree allowing the Jewish exiles to return to their homeland. But Bible prophecy has not been fulfilled until it has been fully filled. God said He would give Israel their own land, never again to be uprooted but you remember that Jerusalem and the Temple were completely destroyed by the Romans in 70AD and Israel was then disbanded and ceased to exist as nation. But nearly 2000 years later… ‘In 1948 the nation of Israel was re-born. In 1949 they elected their first president, hoisted their own flag, instituted their own constitution and started minting their own money. It’s an amazing fulfilment of prophecy. Now listen to what Jesus said in Mark 13v28-29: “Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the doors!” In Scripture the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. Surrounded and threatened by hostile neighbours, she stands today as a testimony to the accuracy and reliability of God’s prophetic Word.’

Jesus said that when we see these things we should know that His return is near. He says: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (…) Be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42, 44 NIV).

  • Finally, the other sign that will precede Jesus’ return are the powerful signs in the heavens. This is one sign that almost certainly has not yet occurred, nevertheless it could happen very quickly – within the space of a few minutes or maybe an hour or two – followed immediately by Christ’s return: Jesus said in Mark 13v24-26: “But in those days, following that distress [after the tribulation], the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” – The second coming; the return of Christ for his bride, the church.
  • Source: The UCB Word For Today devotional 01/09/2014

    The return of Christ is one day closer today than it was yesterday. Of course, no one knows when Jesus will return but one thing is for certain: He is coming: you can count your life on it and you bank your eternity on it! ‘The second coming of Christ is mentioned over 300 times in the New Testament… that’s an average of once in every thirteen verses!’ Jesus is coming: His return is more certain than the sun rise tomorrow morning!

    Cited by Vaughan Roberts, Turning Points, Authentic Lifestyle: Cumbria (2003) p133

    As Jesus’ followers we are not to try and pin down the date of the second coming. Christ was ambiguous about when he would return, perhaps so that we would continue to follow him with passion rather than ticking off the days that are left!

    J. John

    Source: J. John, Soul Purpose, p.265

    The only reason that Christ has not yet returned can only be that there are still more people who are yet to be saved. – I can’t think of any other reason from the scriptures to explain why Jesus has not yet come back. Can you?

    When my daughter, Kim, was at college she worked part-time as a cashier in a local convenience store. One day a very excited lady came into the shop waving her lottery ticket in the air and exclaiming that she had won, and won big time! Apparently she had picked 5 or 6 of the numbers correctly and knew she had won a substantial amount – the jackpot was £9.2 million, as I recall – and she came into the shop to check how much she had won and see if there was any other winners. Everyone crowded around as Kim took the winning ticket and processed it in the Lottery Machine to register the win and see how much the winnings actually were… What happened next can only be described as the biggest look of shock on someone’s face that you have ever seen in your life! It transpired that the woman had indeed picked the winning numbers… but for the wrong day of the week: she had picked to play the Lotto on the Wednesday, instead of Saturday’s draw! She came into the shop absolutely convinced that she had won the prize but when the truth was revealed she left humiliated and distraught. Terribly sad!

    Jesus said that’s how it will be for some people on the last day. They’ll say, ‘But Lord, Lord, it’s me, don’t you recognise me?’ And He will say to them, “Away from me, you evildoers! I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23).

    R. Ian Seymour

    If we are honest, the return of Christ is not something we think a lot about, is it? In the West it seems to us all a bit nebulous, distant, far off, and we are more pre-occupied with the here and now! But Christians in other parts of the world – in third world countries or Christians who are suffering or persecuted – they think and pray for Jesus’ return, a lot!

    When a wife is separated from her husband – maybe for work reasons – she misses him desperately. They talk by phone and email, but she cannot see him face to face. She longs for the day he returns. We, the church, are the bride of Christ. We read His words in the Bible. We talk to Him in prayer. We are one with Him by the Spirit. We look at the bread and wine and marvel at His dying love for us. But soon, soon these will be no longer needed when we see Him face to face.

    Explore Bible notes, 3/6/2010

    “O Jesus, if You don’t come today for Your waiting church, come in Spirit to my sighing heart and make it sing for joy.”

    Charles H. Spurgeon

    “In the ‘little apocalypse’ in Mark’s Gospel, the main emphasis of Jesus’ teaching is not found in a particular programme of events or in signs; the main emphasis is found in Jesus’ repeated summons (repeated seven times in Mark 13) for us to be alert and ready for his coming, since nobody knows when it will take place. “What I say to you,” Jesus concludes in v37, “I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” The date of Jesus’ return remains a secret. Why? So that we will be kept in a state of readiness and full alert!”

    Explore Bible notes

    Jesus is coming, ready or not!