THE PROMISE OF CHRIST'S RETURN
Sunday Night Live Sermons : 9th June 2002
Rev GORDON MOYES
Last week, while speaking of the ministry of faithful Chinese pastors who spent
years in prison for their faith, whom I have met, I spoke of Pastor Samuel Lamb.
He has been extraordinarily courageous, and his faithful members, numbering
many thousand, gather together every week. Under constant persecution, Pastor
Samuel Lamb told me that every month he preaches on the Second Coming of Christ.
He told me it is the second coming hope that gives them strength and courage.
In a world where so many are pessimistic and needing strength and courage, we
need to consider the promise Christ made of His return to earth as Universal
1. MANKIND'S HOPES HAVE TURNED TO DESPAIR.
Today, there is not much optimism about the future. The wave of euphoria of
the 1960s began to ebb in the 1980s, and turned to pessimism at the beginning
of the 1990s. The War on Terrorism sees the greatest power in world being bogged
down in a battle with an ill-define enemy led by an invisible leader who is
gathering support from other Middle Eastern allies. Fundamentalist Islam is
causing extreme problems in a dozen countries and Christians from Morocco to
Indonesia are being killed in fundamentalist Islamic jihads. In the Middle East
the Palestinian-Israeli problem is far from being settled and some commentators
predict a decades long military-terrorist campaign. Meanwhile, in Africa, another
severe drought and consequent famine is placing millions of starving people
at risk of death in countries already debilitated by the scourge of HIV-Aids.
Scientific technology is not providing answers only problems. International
communications only make us more aware of international problems. Where is there
hope? From a hundred thousand throats comes the cry, "Is there any word
from the Lord?" People of faith lift their heads. They know hope.
2. THE CHRISTIAN LIVES IN HOPE
Why should Christians hope, when others are so pessimistic? There are several
The Bible proclaims hope. The Bible consistently gives the message of hope.
There is a pattern to creation and a purpose behind all things. The Bible tells
us that God created the world and why He made it. The Old Testament develops
God's plan for His people and for the world through a covenant based upon obedience
to Him. When God's people failed to fulfil their part of the covenant agreement,
He gave a new covenant through Jesus Christ, based upon faith. To the faithful
was given the task of proclaiming to the world our hope in God. The last book
in the Bible, The Revelation to John, describes how the purposes of God, announced
in the beginning, made known through the covenant, expressed to the whole world
through Jesus Christ, and proclaimed by the church, will be consummated.
Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available.
The Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ's first advent,
and both testaments are filled with references to the second coming of Christ.
Some scholars find 1,845 references to Christ's second coming in the Old Testament,
where 17 books allude to it.
In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second
advent of Christ, one in every thirty verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament
books refer to this great event. Your Bible has God's plan for the redemption
of mankind and for the renewal of this Earth. Because the Bible teaches hope,
Christians are the most hopeful of all.
Jesus proclaims hope. Paul wrote, "Jesus is God's 'yes,' for it is He who
is the 'Yes' of all God's promises." 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 The promises
of God were central to the teaching of Jesus. He declared the conditions of
entry, the quality of life within the Kingdom of God, the assurance of salvation
for individuals, judgment for nations and renewal for the entire earth. The
poor, who are shut out from much of this world's benefits, can rejoice because
they can be part of God's Kingdom. The Kingdom is the realm of Good News. There
is forgiveness for sin. There is a new relationship with God and the opportunity
for a brand new life. "That Kingdom of God," said Jesus, "is
already among you." Luke 17:20 It is here. It is at hand. You can enter
into it, yet it is not recognized by every one. It is not yet fully come. It
is not observed over all the world. But for those who accept the kingly authority
of Jesus the Kingdom is already here and believers are a part of it. That Kingdom
will continue to grow until the Kingdom will be seen among all the nations.
At the moment when God's Kingdom comes on earth, His will, will be done here
as it is in heaven. That is the climax of history.
Christians proclaim hope.
They recognise that they are part of a grand plan - initiated from creation,
developed through the covenants, brought to us in Jesus Christ.
We now await the fulfilment of His Kingdom.
We live in hope, in confidence.
God is in command and all that happens is part of His plan. "I am always
in your care," said the Psalmist. 31:15 All that happens is part of His
Therefore we rest in confidence. On January 16, 1977, Janani Luwum, Archbishop
of Uganda, a man of integrity and great personal courage, stood before President
Idi Amin. He told that murderous madman that what Amin was doing was wrong in
the sight of God. Amin decided to get rid of him. Just before his assassination
Luwum spoke to his Bishops: "I do not know how long I will be occupying
this Bishop's Chair, but I live as if there will be no tomorrow. Every day I
face being picked up by the soldiers. While the opportunity is there I must
preach the gospel with all my might. My conscience is clear. I have been threatened
many times. I have told the President the things of which the church disapproves.
God is my witness." As he said those words, the doors were smashed open,
soldiers entered and he was taken away on that last drive. As he left, he called
back to the Christians: "I see the hand of the Lord in this."
The Bible proclaims hope.
The church preaches hope.
Jesus enables hope.
Christians live with hope. We focus on the future.
3. OUR HOPE IS CENTRED ON OUR LORD'S RETURN.
When General Douglas Macarthur was leaving the Philippines to go to Brisbane,
Australia, to establish new headquarters in the war against Japan, he promised,
"I shall return." the promise of Jesus. Jesus said, "I shall
return." It was a promise that He will keep. When astronauts who have been
on the space shuttle return into the earth's atmosphere, a cry goes up from
Houston, Texas, "Re-entry has been achieved."
That exultant call is nothing to the mighty shout that will be heard when our
Lord Jesus, who came in poverty, in silence, submission and subjection, achieves
re-entry and returns - this time to the world in glory, power and acknowledgement!
At a gathering of editors of major newspapers in the United States, a competition
was held to write the greatest possible headline. The winning headline, chosen
by the editors, was simply, "Jesus Has Returned!" That is the biggest
news this world could ever receive! Once, at a printer's premises, I asked:
"What is the largest type a printer has for a banner head-line on a page?"
The printer told me, "Throughout the trade, the largest type is called
'Second Coming Type.' You reserve it for the Second Coming!"
The Signs of His Return. Jesus refers to some signs that would be seen before
His coming. There would be wide-spread immorality, fighting among the nations,
wars and rumours of wars, false prophets, scoffing against those who believe
in Christ, persecution against the true faith, world dictators, famine in many
parts of the earth, recurring earthquakes, and, from other scripture, the Jews,
back within their own land of Israel. For the first time in world history, all
of these signs are present today.
The Purpose of His Return. Jesus Christ is coming to vindicate God's people
who have been proclaiming truth throughout their lives; to raise to life again
those believers who have died in faith in Christ; to judge the nations of the
earth; to destroy Satan and the forces of evil; to renew the world and the environment,
and to gather the faithful in heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:24; Revelation 20:7;
2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1
This world will pass away and there will be a new creation. Peter wrote: "Your
lives should be holy and dedicated to God, as you wait for the Day of God and
do your best to make it come soon - the Day when the heavens will burn up and
be destroyed and the heavenly bodies will be melted by the heat. But we wait
for what God has promised: new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness
will be at home." 2 Peter 3:11-13
4. THEREFORE, WATCH IN HOPE!
As Jesus Christ is coming and as the Bible is full of hope, we are expected
to live in hope ourselves. Faithful living, ever expecting, honest serving,
always watchful - that is how we are to live. James Galway, the magnificent
Irish flautist, was in an accident and was nearly killed. Speaking afterwards,
he said, "My life went before my eyes. That accident brought a lot of things
into focus. I decided that henceforth every concert that I give, every record
I cut, and every TV programme will be as if it were going to be my last. I have
come to understand that it is never possible to guess what is going to happen
to any one of us. The important thing is to make sure that every time I play
my flute, my performance will be as near perfect and as true music as God can
help me do."
Every one of us should live as if the end time is just about to come. The Bible
calls us to be watchful and gives us warning about false messiahs and false
prophets. Matthew 24:23-24 Jesus says, "If anyone says to you, 'Look, here
is the Messiah!' do not believe him. For false Messiahs and false prophets will
appear; they will perform great miracles and wonders in order to deceive even
God's chosen people, if possible."
Jesus warns us against those who make up timetables and say, "Now is the
time. This will be the day." There are great dangers in taking such verses
and creating a timetable, but many Christians are attracted to such. Jesus said,
"If people should tell you, 'look, he is out in the desert!' - don't go
there; or if they say, 'look, he is hiding here!' - don't believe it. For the
Son of Man will come like the lightning which flashes across the whole sky from
the east to the west." Matthew 24:26,27
We do not know when our Lord will come. None know the time of His coming. We
should always be ready, "The Son of Man will come at an hour when you are
not expecting Him." Matthew 24:44 Christians live with faith and hope.
We are not pessimistic as are the futurologists; not despairing as those who
are outside of Christ and have only scientific technology to rely upon; not
sinking with the empty Marxist or failed capitalistic theories - Christians
have hope that Jesus is coming again! "Do not be worried or upset. Believe
in God and believe also in Me… I am going to prepare a place for you…after
I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back." John 14:1-3
When Christ returns He will gather to Himself all who believe in Him to fulfil
their destiny, to complete God's new creation. The Bible uses every word the
writers could conceive to describe our joy, our happiness, our fullness of being.
How important for us to plan now to be there!
"When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation,
And take me home; what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!"
By Rev GORDON MOYES