Sure we have always had problems. The world has been in trouble ever since Eve said to Adam, "I'm hungry. Let's go out to eat." But now our problems seem so much more complicated and insoluble.
When times got bad for the early Christians they didn't say, "Look what this world is coming to," but "Look who is coming to this world!" Instead of looking around and being depressed, they looked up and were at rest. They knew Jesus was the Lord of history and that he would return at the end of time to put things right.
For Christians history has a purpose and a plan. History is "His story," a long epic novel with a grand and glorious concluding chapter. You and I have the good fortune to be living in the last days of the late great planet earth. Not since the dawn of creation has there been a more exiting time to be alive.
The second coming of Jesus is a neglected subject. So little have the mainline denominations said of it that self-styled experts from the lunatic fringe beguile many people. David Koresh was writing a commentary on the end of the world when he and his disciples set fire to their world in Waco, Texas.
He was wrong, dead wrong, in his understanding of the Christian faith. How, then, could he fool so many intelligent, sincere people? Clues were there for those who had eyes to see. I am suspicious of anyone who sounds like they are on the program committee for the second coming.
The second coming of Jesus is a controversial subject. Frankly, I would prefer to deal with non-controversial subjects, but Mother's Day and Christmas come only once a year, and they are about the only thing everybody is agreed on. Social and moral issues, like abortion and homosexuality and gun control, are also controversial but much more dangerous. Why? Because people care deeply about them. About the second coming of Jesus they merely have an opinion. Thus the subject is controversial but pitifully safe.
If I am successful, however, I will make you as excited about the second coming of Jesus as you are about Gay rights and Pro-life. And if I fail, the failure will certainly be in me, not in my subject, for the second coming of Jesus is one of the most astonishing truths in the Bible. It is the greatest news story mind can imagine. A cure for AIDS or an extra-terrestrial invasion of earth would be bumped from the front page by the second coming to earth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Is it real? Dare we believe it?
OF HIS COMING
First I believe Jesus is coming again because the scriptures foretell it. His second coming is mentioned 318 times in the New Testament. One out of every 25 verses refers to it. Unless the Bible is conceived to be a collection of fantastic fairy tales, we must believe that Jesus is coming again.
Second, I believe Jesus is coming again because he himself promised it. He said, "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:3). He said it, I believe it and that settles it. Heaven and earth will pass away, but Christ's words will not pass away (Matthew 24:35). He will come again even as he promised.
Third, I believe Jesus is coming again because the angels declared it. At his ascension angels said to the disciples, "Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:10-11).
Fourth, I believe Jesus is coming again because the Lord's Supper reminds us. Paul said, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26). Every time we receive communion we remember the life, death and coming again of Jesus Christ.
Fifth, I believe Jesus is coming again because twenty centuries of Church doctrine asserts it. The Apostles' Creed declares, he "ascended into heaven from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." Creeds of every major denomination, Catholic and Protestant, include it. To neglect or deny the Lord's coming is heresy. To fix a date for it is lunacy. Some of you may be thinking, "What's the big deal about the second coming of Christ?" Isn't it enough to believe that there is life after death? To know that I will be with Jesus when I die is certainly a comforting thought, but what death is for the individual, the second coming is to the earth. It means Jesus hasn't given up on this world. He is coming again to put things right.
His coming will be personal. He is not going to write us a letter or send an angel in his place. "I will come," he said. His coming will be literal. At his ascension while the disciples were watching, "he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). Then the angel promised Jesus "will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." Indeed, we will meet him in the clouds. "For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
His coming will be visible. Visible to the church. He "will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him" (Hebrews 9:28). And visible to the world. "Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail" (Revelation 1:7). Don't believe those who say his second coming will be secret. His first coming was -- except to a few shepherds and wise men. But when he comes again everyone will see him whether they want to or not. For some it will be a time of celebration, for others a time of grief. "All the tribes of the earth will wail (Revelation 1:7b)" They won't be singing the Hallelujah Chorus; they'll sing the blues.
You won't get the news over CNN. "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:27). With the speed of light the whole world will know that Jesus is here.
His coming will be glorious. He will come in the glory of the saints. "When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory" (Colossians 3:4). He will come in the glory of the angels. "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory" (Matthew 25:31). He will come in the glory of God. "For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father" (Matthew 16:27).
His judgment is a compliment. It means God thinks you are important. He takes you seriously a lot more seriously than you take yourself. It is not apes and dinosaurs who stand before him. He loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you and to return for you.
At the final judgment you will not be judged by the point you have reached but by the way you are facing, not by the distance you have gone but by the direction you are going. What you've got coming later is what you've got going now.