seems that from the earliest days of the church there has been an ongoing fuss
about the return of our Lord. No subject, it seems, is so readily argued over
among the faithful. Regrettably, in our desire to know all, we seem very quick
to exchange our theory (admirably complete, of course) for the deliberate work
of the Spirit – who did NOT give us an entire theory. We are told that which
we need to know for this life; that is excitement enough.
let’s hear what the Apostle Paul has to say to us:
But we do not want you to be uninformed,
brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the
rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even
so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we
say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the
coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these
words. Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of
anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day
of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying,
"Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly
like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you,
brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;
for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of
darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.
For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get
drunk at night. But since we are of the
day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a
helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for
obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that
whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore
encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.
(1Th 4:13-5:11 NASB)
is Paul writing this?
as we have stated, there is too much speculation and theorizing about the
return of our Lord, why did Paul write this? We see a few reasons here why we
should know what we should know:
clear out ignorance
very good reason is this: there is a certain amount of information which is
profitable to the church, concerning the Second Coming. In effect, Paul is
saying that this is what you should know – that which is both necessary
and sufficient, as they say in trigonometry. The matter is easily understood.
It is unlikely that you, reading this, are a medical doctor. But likewise you
are not completely ignorant of medicine. Your bathroom no doubt includes many
medications, prescription and over the counter. Your knowledge is necessary
and sufficient; if it becomes insufficient, you know where to ask.
still those inquiring after “times and seasons”
would have had very little good to say about those who make their living
writing books and hosting television shows which purport to tell us how
prophecy is being fulfilled this very week. He treats those who inquire after
“times and seasons” as those who are not only wasting their own time, but also
their hearers. Indeed, the book of Revelation has not yet been given when this
writing was done. Paul points out to them what he has told them before: the Day
of the Lord will come like a thief. Our Lord tells us it is not for us to know
when; rather, we should be ready for it at any time.
defeat the attack of the heretics
might sometimes wonder why God tells us anything at all about the Second Coming.
What purpose can it have in my daily life? One such purpose is this: to
defeat those who attack the faith with their pet theories. Chrysostom reveals
such a heresy from his own time; it will do as an example of what the human
mind can conjure up:
all know that the root cause of death is sin in this world. You sin, you
also know that Christ was indeed sinless. Therefore, he could not
possibly have died.
he did not die (space aliens can fake anything) then he could not possibly
have been resurrected.
if there is no Resurrection for Christ, there is certainly no resurrection
of the dead.
answer to this is found (as always) in the Scriptures:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become
the righteousness of God in Him.
(2Co 5:21 NASB)
the Resurrection of Christ defends our ultimate resurrection as well. Indeed,
Paul makes that connection explicitly in First Corinthians, Fifteen. The
argument is this: if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, then nobody could. If
the sinless, holy one of God couldn’t do it, we can’t either. But Christ is risen – and we shall rise too.
of course, is exciting news. It whets the appetite; what will that day be
like? When will it get here? The latter, as we have seen, is not given to us
to know – but we have some hints about he day itself.
Day of the Lord
then, just what will this day be like?
us begin with the obvious:
Lord descends. Just as the angels told the Apostles at his Ascension,
His landing will be a reversal of his takeoff. It is made plain that
everyone will know it; therefore, if someone announces to you that He has
come in secret, don’t you believe it. Mark puts it this way:
"And then if anyone says to you,
'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do
not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and
will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. "But take heed; behold, I have told you everything
in advance. "But in those days, after that
tribulation, THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL BE FALLING from heaven, and the
powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. "Then
they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. "And then He will send forth the angels, and will
gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the
earth to the farthest end of heaven.
(Mar 13:21-27 NASB)
shall hear the shout of the archangel. What does this mean? We don’t
know. This is the only place it is mentioned in Scripture. But anything
an archangel shouts about is probably worth hearing.
shall hear the trumpet of God. Traditionally, these two saying have been
combined to have the archangel Gabriel blowing his trumpet. There is no
Scriptural support for this.
mankind has heard the trumpet of God before – at Mount Sinai.
Hinted at in a Psalm,
deeply foretold in Zechariah,
it is mentioned only here in the New Testament.
is a matter of great regret that much debate has happened over the number and
sequence of resurrection events. Hal Lindsey, for example, lists no fewer than
six resurrections (including that of Christ). We will make no pronouncement as
to number and timing here; rather, we must gather the essential facts:
dead in Christ will rise first. “First”, in this instance, is a
comparison to those who are still alive. Unfortunately, this has also
been interpreted as proof that there must be multiple resurrections of the
dead. It does not say so; the comparison between saints asleep in Christ and those awake.
all will rise (not necessarily at the same moment) is also prophesied;
some to judgment, some to glory.
of significance to the living – we won’t be forgotten. We will see the
resurrection of the dead, and then rise to meet our Lord.
it doesn’t take much of a grasp of physics to understand that this will indeed
be a miraculous event (duh.) So it is that some complain that it can’t
happen. But let me ask you this: which is harder, to raise the dead, or to
create the universe from nothing? At least in the resurrection you still have
all the required atomic parts.
being a rather major event in world history, wouldn’t it be nice if we could
know just when it would be? Our Lord’s answer (and Paul’s, here) are short and
to the point. You already know all you need to know about the timing.
will come “like a thief in the night.” If we’re all standing around on
hilltops, wearing our white robes, we can count on it: he won’t come that
night. The only way to be ready then is to be ready now – and all the
sign is this: the world will be proclaiming “peace and safety.” How will
this happen? No details provided.
himself did not know, and explicitly told his disciples that they did not
need to know.
If you’re ready any time, it doesn’t matter – now does it? If you’re not
ready at any time, then that’s a problem you need to work on – because it
is sin in your life.
to do while waiting
you ever notice that the Scriptures often contain a rather earthy sense of
instruction? The glory of God rises above the skies, but it extends down to
earth as well.
sons of the light and day
fine sounding phrase; how do we do it?
by walking in the light – in other words, our deliberate imitation of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
we should show the fruit of such light – the ordinary, day to day results
of imitating Christ: goodness, righteousness, truth.
by living in fellowship not only with Christ, but with all his children as
sober – use the armor of God
in a passage which will be amplified in Ephesians, uses the metaphor of a
is the breastplate of faith and love. The breastplate protects the heart
of the soldier, and nothing so protects the heart of the Christian as
faith. But faith alone would be brittle, so we must add love. Against
this armor Satan has no weapon to bite.
this we add the helmet, the hope of salvation. The helmet covers the
brain, the locus of thought. Despite the best efforts of generations of
pulpit pounders, the word of the Lord still is meant to be taken both to
heart and to head. Our intellectual acceptance of what Jesus says is rooted in salvation. If there is no salvation, why would anyone want to be good?
may combine these two readily in this: take the faith seriously. It is
not just an emotional thrill on Sunday, but rather the full time love with
our hearts, minds, souls and strengths.
and build each other up
is no light doctrine; each of us will see death many times before we
experience it ourselves. How, then, can we build each other up?
should do it in imitation of God – the Holy Spirit. As the Spirit is our
comforter in time of distress, so we should take that same comfort and
share it with others in need.
should not engage in “worldly and empty chatter.” When we say something,
it should be worth listening to.
Speculation about dates and times of our Lord’s return fall into this
contemplation of death men often find that their lives have been spent on
the trivial and useless which are left behind at death. Let us pick up
the attitude of those who are going to rejoice at our Lord’s coming – and
therefore count the things of this world as loss.