Dear radio friends,
I plan to begin today a series of messages on the Reformed Witness Hour on the Bible’s teaching on the end times, or the subject of eschatology. Many people are interested in this subject and, because of people’s interest in this, there is a lot of false teaching swirling around that confuses Christians and distracts believers from the true gospel and their Savior and His second coming. It is important as we consider this subject to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and His glory so that we are watching and ready for His return.
I am going to teach the amillennial, biblical view of the end times. I want to begin with three messages, one today and two in the next couple of weeks that lay down three basic, biblical principles for our understanding of the end times. Those three are these: first, that the Bible teaches that there is only one future coming of Jesus Christ; second, that the Bible teaches that the kingdom of Jesus Christ is present and spiritual, not future and earthly; and third, that the Bible teaches that there are recognizable signs of the coming of Jesus Christ that God’s people are able to discern.
I want to begin today by looking at the first of those, that the Bible teaches only one future coming of Jesus Christ. I want to do that from Revelation 22:12 and 13, where Jesus says, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”
The subject of this message is, “The Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” There are four simple questions that we want to ask: What is it? Why? Who? When?
What Is It?
First, what is the second coming of Jesus Christ? I am going to give you a definition. The second coming of Christ is His final, sudden, personal, and visible appearance in great glory on the clouds of heaven in order to raise the dead, to execute judgment on all things, and to make all things new.
This coming of Jesus Christ will be personal, that is, Jesus Himself will personally come. There are other ways that Jesus is already coming, as we will see later in the message. But we refer to this as His personal and His second coming because, just as He personally came in His first coming in Bethlehem, so He will personally come in His second coming. Hebrews 9:28 says, “…unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” We long for Jesus Himself to come. This is our prayer: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
This coming will be visible. That means that everybody alive on the earth will see Him come. Revelation 1:7 says, “…every eye shall see him…they also which pierced him.” This means His coming will be miraculous, not something that can be explained in scientific and natural terms. The word in the Bible for the coming of Jesus is “His appearing.” I John 3:2, “…when he shall appear, we shall be like him.” That means that He will make Himself appear, He will make Himself seen and visible.
And this coming will be with great power and glory. The New Testament tells us that He will come on the clouds of heaven with power and glory. That means His second coming will be different from His first one. First He came in humiliation. He came as a servant. He came to bear our sins. He came in the lowly manger of Bethlehem. In His second coming, He will come in the glory of His Father (Matt. 16:27). This will be the resurrected and ascended and exalted Christ coming with all of His power to raise the dead and to be Judge over all.
That second coming of Jesus Christ, which we hope for in the future, will be His final coming and His only coming. Jesus does not say, “I will come first in a secret rapture. And then I will come a second time seven years later to set up an earthly kingdom. And then I will come a third time at the end of that kingdom.” Instead, the Bible teaches only one future coming of Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 4:16, 17 (a favorite passage of those who teach the secret rapture of Christians here on the earth) teaches that the coming Jesus Christ in the end will be with the sound of the trumpet. It will not be a secret coming: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” That teaches a visible and a public coming of Jesus Christ in power and in glory.
When you look at the book of Jude, you see that it uses the same language and says, “The Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all” (vv. 14, 15). When Jesus comes with the sound of the trumpet, this will be His final and future coming in judgment over all.
The question is: Why will He come? The text answers that question for us when it says, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” The purpose of Christ’s coming is to raise the dead, to execute judgment on all, to reward them according to their works, to destroy all that is wicked and sinful, and to create a new heaven and a new earth.
When Revelation 22 says “My reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be,” it teaches three things about the final judgment. First, that Christ Himself will be the Judge on that day. He will be the One who is on the throne of judgment. The judgment of Christ will be universal: every man and every angel, every moral, rational creature will be judged. This judgment will be according to the works of man, and man will receive a reward according to his works. In this judgment, the justice of God will be revealed. And part of the judgment will be the destruction of this present world and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth, without sin, in which God’s redeemed will live with Christ and God to eternity.
The next question we ask is: Who will come? And the text explains that for us in the next verse. “Behold, I come quickly,” says verse 12. And then Christ says in verse 13: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Christ is saying here, “I am the beginning and the end and I am everything in between.” He is talking here about the history of this world and God’s purpose in the history of this world. We tend to look at history from a very narrow perspective, or to define it as the history of man, or the history of the universe, the history of this creation. We do this very often without any reference to the beginning and the end of history—the creation and the purpose of God in history. Certainly, this is the way that secular historians or evolutionists look at history. They look at man. Where did man come from? What was the beginning of man? How will the creation end? What is the purpose of man’s existence? We can fall into that, too, when we get caught up in the things of life and we have a very narrow and earthly and materialistic perspective on life. We can do that even when we think about the end times and the coming of Jesus Christ. We think about what is going to happen to us, what will happen to our children? And we are oftentimes filled with fears regarding the end.
The name of the One who will come here, the Alpha and the Omega, tells us that the focus and the purpose and the theme and the thread of all of history is Jesus Christ—that history has its purpose in Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning, the end, and everything in between. This world and this universe mean nothing and have no purpose apart from Jesus Christ.
That is important when we think about the end times and eschatology. Too often false teaching today puts a perspective of man and of Christians on an earthly, future kingdom. So people are taught to have an earthly goal. And when they think about the Bible’s teaching on the end times, they think of earthly purposes. That is true with regard to those who teach a future, earthly kingdom. But it is also true with regard to those who teach that this world is going to improve and get better and better towards the day of Jesus Christ. Then, God’s people lose sight of the warnings and the signs of the coming and the times in which we live and we focus on earthly things.
Our focus must be the Omega—the One who is the Alpha—Jesus Christ, who is the Omega (the end) and who is central to all of history and who is the main subject of eschatology. He is the One who says here, “Behold, I come quickly.” He is our hope, He is our confidence, He is our life, and He is our future.
When we look at Scripture, we can see this. If you turn, for example, to the Gospel of John, chapter 1, you see that Jesus is presented there as the Alpha, or the beginning, of all things. In John 1:1-3 we read this: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Here Jesus is presented as the eternal, second Person of the Trinity, who is equal with the Father and eternal with the Father, who was in the beginning, and by whose power and Word all things were made in the beginning. He is the Alpha.
Ephesians 1 tells us that He is the end and the purpose of all things. Ephesians 1:10: “That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he [that is, God] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” Scripture is telling us there what God’s eternal purpose is with history. His eternal purpose is to gather everything together in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the goal and the end of all things. God will gather all things and will create all things in the new heavens and the new earth to bring glory to His Son, Jesus Christ.
These two ideas, the Alpha and the Omega, are brought together beautifully in Colossians 1:16, where we read concerning Jesus Christ: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” When it says “by him,” it means that Christ was the creator. And then everything that ever happens in history is recorded in this verse: dominions, principalities, powers. These were created by Him.
And they were created for Him. That presents Christ as the Omega—the end or the purpose of all things. Everything in history serves Jesus Christ and His purpose. The gospel and Jesus Christ are central to all history.
This idea, the Omega especially, helps us to understand what we mean and what the Bible means by the end of the world and the end of all things. We do not mean just this, that someday in the future the world as we know it will cease to be and that all things will come to a grinding halt. But instead we mean this, that God has an end, God has a goal, God has a purpose in history. History is His story. And everything in history serves this purpose. All the world events that take place, everything that takes place in politics and economy, in the wars of this world, in the natural catastrophes, has a purpose. Nothing happens outside of God’s purpose. We are part of God’s purpose. The things that happen in our lives serve this purpose as well. Everything is working towards the day of Jesus Christ, when He will come again. “Behold, I come quickly…I am the Alpha and the Omega.”
That is important for us to understand when we think about the signs of the coming of Jesus Christ, which we will get to in our future messages.
The final question we want to ask is this: When will Jesus come? There are two things that we see here in answer to that. The Bible never gives us the day or the hour of the coming of Jesus Christ. Too many false teachers have distracted Christians from their faith and from the day of Jesus Christ and their calling as they watch for Jesus Christ’s coming by predicting a day and an hour. The Bible does not teach us the day or the hour. Nowhere does it say that. Instead Jesus said, “No man knows the day or the hour.” Instead, two things must be remembered.
First, that Jesus is always coming. That is here in the promise of Jesus: “Behold, I come quickly.” Jesus does not say, “I will come.” Then He would be speaking of something future. Instead He speaks in the present, “I come,” or, more literally in the present tense, “I am coming.” That means that Jesus’ coming is continuous, that it is on-going, that it is progressive, that all through history He is coming. He is coming in the present. He has been coming in the past. And He will yet come in the future. There will be a final phase of His coming that we spoke of already in the idea of the second coming—His final, personal coming. But He has already come. He has come in Bethlehem. The Old Testament describes His coming as one event in the future that includes His birth, His return for judgment at the end of the world, and then His final appearing. The Old Testament Scriptures speak of this as one future coming. So we can say that Jesus has come in Bethlehem. He has come in the past in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. He says in John 14, “I will come again to you,” and He is speaking of Pentecost. He comes today in the preaching of the gospel and by the power of the gospel. He comes and abides by His Spirit in the hearts of His people. The gospel goes forth throughout all the world and He is coming into all the different nations of the world. He comes when He touches us in death. He said, “I go to prepare a place for you and I will come again and receive you to myself in death.” He comes to receive His own to Himself. He comes in judgment in death to unbelievers. He comes in judgment also to churches and those who rebel against His word. He says in Revelation 2, “Repent, for I will come and remove the candlestick from you.” He is coming. He is always coming. And all the signs of His coming are simply this: the sound of the footsteps of Jesus Christ continually coming through history.
We should not look for a particular day or hour in which Jesus will come, but we should realize that we are living in the last days—that the personal coming of Jesus Christ is the next great event on God’s salvation calendar and that our calling in the present is to watch for His coming. This is what He tells us to do.
What does He mean, then, when He says, “I come quickly”? That is the second thing that we notice here about His coming. He says that three times here in Revelation 22—the last chapter in the Bible. The Bible also speaks of the nearness of the end. Sometimes, in light of the passing of so many years—2,000 years of history—since this promise was made, we wonder, Where is His coming, when is His coming?
We should be encouraged by this. When Jesus says, “Behold, I come quickly,” He makes a promise to us. We should understand that time, in a sense, is relative. Our time reference is the span of our lives or what we know about history—maybe a century or so of history. But Christ is speaking here as the Alpha and the Omega, the eternal God. And He has in view all of history, and all the purposes of God, and He says, “I come quickly.” He means by that, He will come as quickly as He can.
From the Bible we know that Jesus Christ will not come until at least these two promises are fulfilled: in Matthew 24:14, “This gospel must be preached in all the world, as a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.” He promises not to come until the gospel has been preached in all the world. Then, in John 6:37 He says, “All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me and not one of them,” He promises, “will be lost.” Why does He delay (from our perspective) His coming? He comes as quickly as He can. But He must keep these promises: to preach the gospel in all the world so that every one of His own, His elect, can be gathered by believing and hearing that gospel.
It is with those two promises in mind that He comes as quickly as He can. He will not linger a moment longer than is necessary. So, again, this means that the next main event in history, the next thing that God has planned on His salvation calendar, is the coming of Jesus Christ. He stands at the door, He is ready to come.
That is our comfort. God will not allow the wicked to accomplish their evil designs. When Jesus speaks of the last days, He speaks of the shortening of those days for the elect’s sake. He speaks of His personally coming to confront the Antichrist. Satan will not prevail. Instead, when the wicked are saying, “Peace and safety,” and are immersed in the pleasures of this life and in the venom of hatred against God’s people, then He will come, as a thief in the night against them.
So are you ready? Are you watching for the coming of Jesus Christ? Here is a good test of that. Do you pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus”? Do you pray that He will come in the Spirit? Do you pray that He will come in the preaching of the gospel? Do you pray that He will come to you in your death? Do you pray that He will come in His final, glorious appearance as Judge of all? Do you pray that He will come as your deliverer?
Too often, if we are not overcome with fear of His coming, we are overwhelmed with the pleasures of this life. This promise of Jesus calls us to look away from the earth and to look to Him, the Alpha and the Omega, to say with the bride of Christ in verse 17, “Come.” That is the prayer of God’s people in the world. Like a bride whose husband has gone away on foreign deployment and who misses him, cannot wait for him to return, and prays every day for his return—so the bride of Jesus Christ, the church, believers, say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” That is our prayer.
Father, we thank Thee for this beautiful word and this wonderful promise that Jesus will come again and that, when He comes, He will deliver us from sin, He will make all things new, and He will bring us into His eternal rest forever. We do not look for an earthly kingdom but we look for a future, glorious, perfect kingdom in which righteousness will dwell in heaven, in Thy presence. We pray, Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly. Amen.
Dear radio friends,