The Return of Christ

The Word of God:

Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2Ti 2:15]

Every time we open the Holy Word of God our ignorance is shamefully revealed. How many times have you read a passage of scripture and not understood? Or maybe you’ve read a passage one hundred times and it’s like you’re reading it for the first time. You may often recite a favorite verse, and the more you contemplate the scripture the more you glean understanding. The Word of God is living. It is food for the soul. You need to immerse yourself in Bible study. You are responsible for studying the Word of God and seeking the counsel of the Holy Spirit, but you must dedicate time every day to feed your soul.

Make it a habit to turn off the television and insulate yourself from the distractions of the world. Cell phones have become an appendage. Everywhere, people are tethered to gadgets. All of the world’s devices are designed to complicate your life, distance you from God and disconnect you from people. How did people survive, not that long ago, when they had to use a phone booth to make a call, or wait until they got home to return a phone message? Now, we see people at the grocery store making a cell call about what cereal they should buy. (In our day we went grocery shopping with a handwritten list!) People are devolving as they become more dependent on technology. We hear so much about social media. Friends, a tweet does not take the place of human contact. Liking someone on Facebook is not the same as making a personal connection face to face.

Study to show yourself approved to God. Do you really have to watch that favorite movie for the umpteenth time, or might you open your Bible instead? People always ask us questions about doctrine and theology. Here’s a news flash. We don’t have all the answers. Read your Bible! For example, you can ask whatever number of people their interpretation of the Book of Revelation, and you will get almost as many different answers.

Revelation was the last book of the Bible to be canonized. From the 2nd century forward there were doubts as to the book’s authenticity and authorship. Even today there are disagreements as to when the book was written. Some say prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, or as late as 95 AD. Dating of the book will determine your interpretation. With careful consideration and deliberation the book was authorized for inclusion at the Council of Carthage in 397 AD, although some believe that it wasn’t accepted until a fifth century council in 419 AD. Much later (in the 16th century) Martin Luther questioned both the apostolic and prophetic legitimacy of Revelation.

For centuries the “church” taught the doctrine of imminent return. This has provided fodder for the skeptics who say it is proof that our Christian faith is vain and hopeless (2 Pet 3:3–4). The angel of the LORD communicated to John that the events of Revelation must soon take place (Rev 1:1). This is the best evidence that the book was written before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. Otherwise, we are still waiting 2000 years later for events that are soon to take place.

Scripture must be read in its context. If we understand that the Bible was not written to us, but for us, then we can better grasp its meaning and relevance. For example, the Book of Revelation was written to the seven churches in Asia (Rev 1:4) who were living in the midst of a Caesar cult that worshiped the emperor as a god. Christians were lit as human torches to light the avenue leading to the Roman coliseum. Followers of Christ had to burn a pinch of incense in the palm of their hand, deny their faith and declare Caesar as Lord in order to receive a license to buy, or sell in the marketplace. These were distressing times of great tribulation, persecution and death.

Dispensationalists believe that the events described in Revelation (including the Great Tribulation) have yet to occur. However, this was not accepted doctrine until the early 19th century when John Nelson Darby, an Anglo-Irish evangelist, began teaching that the “church” was wrong in its exegesis. Dispensationalism, though, has created a whole host of interpretive challenges related to the doctrines of the Rapture, and the Millennial reign of Christ.

Does anyone remember Jim Bakker? He was the disgraced pastor of PTL ministry who was sentenced to 45 years in prison for defrauding his followers of millions of dollars in contributions that were diverted to fund a lavish lifestyle for he and his wife. Well, he’s back on Christian television hawking generators and food stocks to prepare Christians for the coming tribulation. Evidently, Bakker believes that Christians will have to go through the time of trial, although some Dispensationalists believe that the “church” will be raptured before the time of distress begins. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that in Jesus we are rescued from the wrath to come (1Thess 1:10); and God has not destined us for wrath, but salvation through Jesus Christ (1Thess 5:9-10). This can mean both the wrath of tribulation, and of judgement.

The Millennium is another challenging doctrine in that some evangelicals believe that the reign of Christ began upon His resurrection 2000 years ago which means that a thousand years cannot be interpreted literally. But when God said to Abram that his descendants would be enslaved (in Egypt) 400 years the LORD meant four hundred years (Ge 15:13).

Let’s break it down. We believe what the “church” taught from the 1st century that the return of Messiah is imminent. Peter (1Pet 4:7) and James (James 5:8) believed that to be true; and Paul wrote to the church at Philippi that the Lord is near, or at hand (Phil 4:5). We will not foolishly set a date as did Harold Camping for our Lord said no one knows the day or the hour (Mk 13:32), but we are certainly 2000 years closer to our day of redemption.

And the concept of a rapture has confused many with regards to the resurrection. We believe in two resurrections. Christ said that the hour was coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come forth; those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life (this is the first resurrection that John saw in Rev 20:5), and those who committed evil deeds to a resurrection of judgement [John 5:28-29].

The angel of the LORD revealed to John:

Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years [Rev 20:6].

This first resurrection, we believe, is the so-called rapture; and is referred to by Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians:

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord [1Thess 4:16-17].

The rest of the dead (according to Revelation) are not resurrected until the end of the thousand years at which time Satan is loosed, and final judgement is executed. The second resurrection is referred to as the second death (Rev 20:14).

Paul told the Thessalonians they had no need for anything else to be written regarding the times and epochs of these events for it should be understood that the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1Thess 5:1-2). Today, it seems as if many evangelicals have made a comfortable living writing sensational books about the End Times when the original call of our Lord was to spread the Gospel.

Still, there are some who have difficulty reconciling the doctrine of imminent return with the obvious fact that 2000 years have passed and we are still here. Peter expected Christ to return quickly, but the apostle left us with these comforting words:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance [2Pet 3:9].

Peter, like Paul, wrote that Christ will come like a thief (2Pet 3:10). Would you live your life accordingly if you knew that Christ might return soon? Obviously, you wouldn’t want the Lord to find you in an unholy moment. Peter wrote, What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the day of God! [2Pet 3:11-12].

There was a forum for Christian students at a local college, and a female co-ed asked the facilitating pastor, “When should a Christian couple who are dating bring up the topic of sex.” Really?! How about after he puts a ring on your finger, and says, “I do.” May Christ not find you in bed with someone to whom you are not married. It’s called fornication, and it is a sin. Christian ladies should modestly say “no” to their potential suitors, and they should not be unevenly yoked with an unbeliever (2Co 6:14). It grieves us deeply that so many Christian women are attracted to bad boys. Sisters, there is a reward in heaven for your holiness and virtue.

We are called to be holy and righteous, but many Christians believe they can go on sinning without consequence. Did you know that only those who endure will be saved? We visited a “Christian” website recently where the author wrote: “There is no mention of enduring to the end to be saved. Enduring would be work.”

What does Christ teach?

And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved [Mt 24:12-13].

You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved [Mt 10:22].

By your endurance you will gain your lives [Lk 21:19].

Has your love waxed cold? Do you pray unceasingly, and give thanks always (1Thess 5:17-18)? Do you seek the Lord when you awake, walk with Him through your day and rest in Him at night? Or, are you distracted by the world?

Paul explained endurance this way:

If you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven [Col 1:23]. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith [2Ti 4:7].

You must take up your cross and follow Christ every day, but the aforementioned author who said we do not need to endure also wrote that “Jesus never asked anyone to follow Him”.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” [Mt 16:24]

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me [Mt 10:38].

And whoever does not carry their cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple [Lk 14:27].

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps [1Pet 2:21].

Jesus commanded Peter to follow Me (Jn 21:19Jn 21:22), and the Savior expects nothing less from each of us.

The delay in Christ’s return has given rise to unorthodox, or even false, teaching some of which has become accepted doctrine, or cultish heresy. The Book of Revelation is difficult enough to understand without having to filter interpretations that have become so dogmatic as to divide the “church” with regards to doctrines such as the Rapture and Millennial reign which, quite frankly, are not so specified in all of Scripture.

We assert that division and confusion are of Satan. This was a problem in the assembly at Corinth as we read in Paul’s letters:

Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment [1Co 1:10]. 

When you come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you [1Co 11:18-19].

In a nutshell, we have no doctrinal, or faith, issue with the apostle’s teaching that Christ will return soon. As John MacArthur writes:

I suppose it is also possible that Christ could delay his coming another two thousand years or longer. In any case, the passing of two thousand years is no reproach whatsoever against the faithfulness of God or the trustworthiness of His Word. This is precisely the point Peter made when he anticipated the scoffers who would arise, mocking the promise of Christ’s return (2 Pet 3:3–4). And, therefore, the fact that two-thousand years have elapsed is utterly irrelevant to the doctrine of Christ’s imminent return. Christ’s coming is still imminent. It could occur at any moment. The command to be ready and watchful is as applicable to us as it was to the early church. In fact, the return of Christ should be an even more urgent issue for us, because it is drawing nearer with the passing of each day. We still do not know when Christ is coming, but we do know that we are two thousand years closer to that event than James was in those earliest days of the Christian era, when the Holy Spirit moved him to warn the church that the coming of the Lord was at hand and the Judge was already standing at the door.

If Christ does tarry another 2000 years those 7-year food stocks that Jim Bakker is hawking won’t be very tasty.

Suggested Reading: Is Christ’s Return Imminent?

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