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1. Waiting for the 2nd Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.

(from Paul’s New Testament writings)

Eschatology, in Greek ‘the last word’, is the part of theology that deals with life after death, the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, plus the final outworking of God’s plan for us and His world.[1]

Here we have set limits. We are listening to what Paul says in the New Testament. We may have listened to our Lord Jesus from the four gospels, but we are not. We may have listened to what Luke reported in Acts, but we are not. We are not jumping into any human theories of God’s plan, even if they claim Bible backing.

We believe there are three main parameters for Paul, inside of which his other understandings sit.

1. Wait patiently, with an eye on the heavens

Read Titus 2:11-14:

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good”.

Let us ask ourselves what is the meaning of this text today in relation to Jesus’ 2nd coming?

Our living today is to be supervised by our “waiting”, in Greek ‘looking for’. As when a wife cooks a meal for her husband’s arrival home, “hope” here means ‘confident expectation’. Titus 1:2 uses it of the basic Christian reward for faith. “Appearing” is ‘becoming shiningly visible’. The same word is used of sky-spanning “lightning” in Matthew 24:27, and, “the splendour of His coming” in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Jesus will gloriously return to earth with a huge congregation of His people. Thinking and living Christianly is constantly training us to focus our everything on this climax of all earthly things.

In Titus 2:13 our Lord Jesus is described as our ‘Megas Theos’, “our great God” and Saviour. This clearest Bible statement of His deity has been criticised, but I am convinced Paul wrote it as a conclusion to his lifelong study of Jesus’ deity. The veiled glory of His first coming at Christmas will give way to an unparalleled heavenly splendour in His 2nd coming. He will be seen to be Who He is: 24/7 and eternally God the Son.

2. Wait eagerly, with heart set on the heavens

Read Philippians 3:20-21:

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body”.

Let’s ask ourselves what is the meaning from this text to us today?

We all live on planet earth, but this is not our real home. Heaven is much, much better than Sudan, South Sudan, or the United Kingdom! “Citizenship” describes the heavenly status of believers. The same root word is used to describe the eternal living home of Christians in glory, “an eternal house in heaven built by God”, 2 Corinthians 5:1. We should all try to live where we really are.

In December 2012 the church I once pastored in Khartoum became increasingly harassed by authorities. During the following months members, friends, with other non-Sudanese Christians, were asked to leave Sudan. Some were given only 48 hours to go even though they had lived there for more than 20 years. Locals were intensively questioned about what they did and their relationships with Khartoum International Church. I was in my home in England. It was hard to watch these events involving my friends, even from a safe distance.

Christians are really blessed! Wherever we are on the planet, we don’t actually live there. Focussed on our home in heaven we “eagerly await” to be taken there. We wait expectantly. The NIV word “eagerly” means ‘impatiently desiring’. Please do not become too attached to life here. That is a worldly attitude.

A “Saviour”, a deliverer, a keeper is the One “we … await”. Philippians 1:1 tells us the “we” is “all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi”. Our Lord Jesus Christ will ‘rescue, preserve, deliver’ us from this sinful environment where we find ourselves and into God’s holy heavenly presence. We will be at home with God in God’s home. And it is our home too.

We will be “transformed”. Our Lord Jesus will do it. It is not up to us. From our perspective this is a passive word. To “transform” is to ‘radically alter’. The Greek text order of Philippians 3:21 is: ‘Will transform body of humiliation our, for it to become conformed to body of His glory, according to the working of His power”. In heaven’s home there will be no more downward pull to sin. No more failing physical or spiritual strength. When we use earthly words to describe heavenly things, remember, there is always more than we can express at the moment.

3. Wait longingly, with no treasures on earth

Read the end of 1 Corinthians 16:22:

“Come, Lord” “Maranatha”

– an Aramaic expression used by early Christians.

Suffering Christians, persecuted Christians, older and sick Christians, those who have a deep and daily walk with God, will often have a more intense desire for their Lord Jesus’ Christ’s return. What differences would it make for your life if it was positively announced this week in your church notices, “The Lord Jesus will return this Tuesday at midday”? “The degree we long for Christ’s return is a measure of our spiritual condition”.[2]

The whole of 1 Corinthians 16:22 sums up the Christian message:

“If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord”.

We must be serious. Jesus is coming back. Judgement Day, when Jesus returns is either ‘anothema’ ‘the curse’ or ‘maranatha’. Those who have ‘chosen by default’ will meet the Lord Jesus as their Judge. True Christians will meet Him as our Saviour. When the verse was written Christians were being persecuted by Rome and Jerusalem. Part of their response was ‘maranatha’. ‘Hold on, be brave, the Lord is coming’.

Paul had had enough hostility in his earthly life. He did not want to prolong it unnecessarily. He also wrote:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!”, Philippians 1:21-22.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”,

2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

We should leave timetabling to God on when our Lord Jesus will return. “Paul’s cry of ‘Marantha: Come, Lord’ reminds us of how much our world, even our Christian world, lives in the present without longing for the age to come”.[3]

Other Pauline references to think carefully about:

1 Corinthians 1:7-8, “Eagerly await for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed … keep … blameless on the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Live every second in the light of this.

1 Corinthians 4:5, “Wait until the Lord comes … At that time each will receive his praise from God”.

Who do you work for?

1 Corinthians 11:26, “Whenever … you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”.

The Lord’s Supper is itself a practice with a promise that preaches.

1 Corinthians 15:22-24, “So in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn … Christ the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power”.

‘The end’ is what today’s life is all about. It is the ultimate objective. God’s purpose will be fulfilled.

Philippians 1:10-11, “You may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until that day of Christ, … to the glory and praise of God”.

Others powers have temporary ‘power’. Our Lord Jesus is ready for the Day.

Colossians 3:4, “When Christ, Who is your life, appears, then you will appear with Him in glory”.

Therefore today we must set our minds on the real things above. Generally boats anchor by throwing their line into the water and mud below. For us Christians our anchor is above. Look up and reach up.

1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, “To wait for His Son from heaven”.

1 Thessalonians 2:19, “What is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes? Is it not you?”

Make sure you are present in His presence, with as many others as you can.

1 Thessalonians 3:13, “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones”.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. Notice the nine things I have put into italics in this text:

“According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For

the Lord Himself will

come down from heaven, with

a loud command, with

the voice of the archangel and with

the trumpet call of God, and

the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be

caught up together with them in the clouds

to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words”.

When people ask you, “How are you?”, a Christian answer could be, “I’m listening for the shout!” When you say this it may well open a witnessing opportunity with your non-Christian friends. The text almost finishes with (in English) ten ultimate words, “And so we will be with the Lord for ever”, verse 17.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night”.

Our Lord Jesus’ coming is expected but at the same time it is not expected. For many this will be discovered too late and be quietly devastating. Today is the day to be saved by the Saviour Jesus Christ, Son of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One Who calls you is faithful, and He will do it”.

To be blameless is to be free from the responsibility of wrong. Jesus is the complete Saviour!

2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to those of you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels”.

Here we have a glimpse into the character of God and His action on what He knows is unjust suffering.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us – whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter – asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshipped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God”.

Beware of tricks, lies, frauds and cheating. Do not believe anything that may be untrue. Do not even deceive yourself by believing things you would like to believe to be true, because it would suit you if they are.[4]

2 Thessalonians 2:8, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendour of His coming”.

Our Lord’s return will be imposing in magnificence, brilliance and illustriousness. No cheap imitations must be accepted even if they suit your pocket more.

1 Timothy 6:13-16, “In the sight of God, Who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, Who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in His own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone is immortal and Who lives in unapproachable light, Whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honour and might for ever. Amen”.

Our Lord Jesus is about to move into a position where we can see Him as He actually is. Are you excited? You should be.

2 Timothy 4:1-2, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction”.

In 2 Timothy, Paul’s last written letter, he was anticipating the appearance of his Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. The English word carries the meaning of arriving unexpectedly somewhere. Paul was definitely expecting Jesus. Why? Read on.

2 Timothy 4:8, Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing”.

This “is a crown of mercy – a crown which free grace bestows”, “a crown bought with the price of blood”.[5] When you crown your career with a success, you have done something greater than anything else in your life. Born again Christian, our Lord Jesus has a crown just the right size for you. It is ready for Him to officially welcome you into heaven at His chosen time. Keep this always in your mind and heart.

Discussion guide

1. Describe briefly teaching you have heard about our Lord’s 2nd coming? Give a Bible reference if you can.

2. Is it better for a Christian to keep the 2nd coming of Jesus ‘at the back of his mind’ or ‘at the front of her mind’. Why? How will it affect living behaviour? Support your answer from Scriptures in this chapter.

3. I write in this chapter, “We should all try to live where we really are”. Give several practical examples of how Christians can do this.

4. How does anyone ‘choose to meet the Lord Jesus as their Judge’?

5. Choose one of the 18 “other Pauline references” I quote to be your favourite to keep in mind as you wait patiently, eagerly and longingly for your Saviour’s return. If you have time, share with the group why you made this choice.

End notes:

[1] Dictionary of Theological Terms: EMIS, 2003. [2] Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology, p.1093. [3] Craig L. Bloomberg NIV Application Commentary 1 Corinthians (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI) 1994, p.344. [4] See “deceive” also in Matthew 24:4,24; 1 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 3:13; James 1:22, 26; 1 John 1:8; 2 John 1:7. [5] Thomas Watson, May 1st 1656 at the funeral of Thomas Hodges. .


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