August 29, 2021

Ready Yourself For Jesus’ Return

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

A man in Switzerland was scheduled for a job interview and he had to take the train to travel to Zurich.  He looked at his watch and thought he had much time.  It was about 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time when he arrived at the train station, but he learned that the train already left.  He went to the desk and quite upset, he vented, “The train left too early.  On my watch, there is still time.”  The clerk at the desk responded, “Mister, here we don't go by your watch, here we go by the station clock.”  The man left with the thought, “I wasn't ready, when it mattered.” 

There is a question Jesus will ask many people at the end of time, “Why aren't you ready?  I gave you so much time to prepare yourself for my coming and still you aren't ready!”  Friends, what can we be sure of in this world?  We can't be sure that tomorrow we will have a home or investments; we can't be sure of the economy and we can't be sure whether we still will be here.  There is 1 One Certainty In Life – JESUS WILL RETURN.  We read in Acts 1: 11, “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.” 

Why does the world not take the reality of Jesus returning as the most important priority?  Why do even God's children not often enough live with the return of Jesus on their agendas?  I think we have to include ourselves with those who don't keep His coming close to their hearts.

We have to agree with what the German Theologian, Karl Barth once said, “Everything in this world is so enchanting, but there is no room for the second coming of Jesus Christ.”  The reality my friends, is that no generation has ever been ready for the coming of Jesus – not even for His first coming.  When He came into the world His own generation was so unprepared that there wasn’t room for Him in the inn.  He had to live with that reality – generations had been told about His coming, but they weren't ready.  In John 1: 11 we read, “He came to which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”  And then after His ascension when the apostles proclaimed the news of Jesus’ return, the first believers kept the vision of the Lord coming with the clouds close to their hearts.  But after a while, 2 The Vision Of Jesus Returning Became Vague In People's Hearts that vision became vague.  To them it was like something we experience from time to time when we look at landmarks to tell us exactly where we are but then when fog moves in and we can’t see the landmarks, we have doubts about our whereabouts.

The vision of the first believers was so affected by persecutions and hardships that they lost their focus on Jesus' return.  And then there were the philosophers in their time who tried to convince them that the promise of Jesus returning was never going to come into realization.  They were told, “Determine your own destiny in life.”  The same was true in the lives of the believers in Thessalonica.  At first they were so faithful.  They literally gathered on a daily basis in prayer to prepare themselves for Jesus’ coming, because they were convinced that it was going to take place in their lifetime.  You see, they didn’t have a full comprehension of what Jesus meant when He said, “I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass before I return.”  By “this generation” He meant those who live between His crucifixion and the time when the trumpets will sound as a declaration of His second coming.  But still the Thessalonians waited eagerly, but that promised day never came.  And they gave up hope...

What can we say of the present church of Jesus Christ on earth?  There isn't  much difference to that what the church in Thessalonica felt in their hearts.  There are those who give up on their fellowship of Jesus.  A man who attended church for 52 years said, “Well, it obvious that it doesn't happen what Jesus promised.  It's just not going to happen.  I'm going to try Agnosticism – man's destiny determined by knowledge.”  St. Paul then wrote his letter to the Thessalonians to clarify things.  But you see he could have put on this letter – ADDRESSED TO ALL GENERATIONS.

Paul brings two realities to us – The first is, 3 The Appointed Time.  Verse 16 a says “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven.”  At some point in the course of human history the Father is going to say to the Son – “Now!  Now is the time to take your bride.  Now is the time to reap the fruit of Your sufferings.  Now is the time to bring your people home.”  There is a glorious NOW that will come into realization, was Paul’s reaffirmation to persecuted believers.  It is not for us to determine this time – all we can do is to wait prayerfully for this to come into fulfillment.

O my friends, it’s a great assurance to you and me in a world where God has been eliminated by many – where His name has been erased from books and constitutions.  The appointed time of God will bring the eternal reign of Jesus.  Then even “those who pierced Him” will have to acknowledge Him in the words of Revelation 1:7.  You see, just as we read on the 1st page of the bible, “In the beginning” and as we read in Luke 2:1, “In the days of Caesar Augustus”, there will be a time when God will tear open His heavens to bring His Son down.  “For the Lord Himself...”  In the Greek the “Himself” is prominent and emphatic.  We won’t just meet an agent of the King.  We won’t just be greeted by a host of angels.  The King Himself will come!  You know the appointed time will be just as what we read in the bible when a particular person was mentioned when God took the initiative – like in the days of Isaiah or Micah or Daniel or Malachi.  Later it was in the days or Herod or Pilate and the apostles like Peter, John or Paul.  It might be in our time that Jesus comes – that some will say –  “ the days of Boris Johnson or Putin or even Kim Jong-Un.”  It can be other leaders after them.  But the point is – just as names were recorded in the Bible when God broke into the world at the appointed time, next to people's names it will happen again.  We don't know whether it will be now the appointed time.  But, be assured – the day is coming!  It's already been written in on God's calendar.

We learn from Paul that 4 Jesus Will Return As Conqueror.  Verse 16 b, “...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. ”  The Greek word for command is “keleusmati.”  It means an authoritative command like military officers give their subordinates.  When Jesus comes He will speak as the One Who conquered to claim His victory.  Then all authorities or kingdoms or dynasties will come to an end.  There will be no more Napoleon's or Hitler's or Stalin's, just to mention a few.  There will be no ruler people will fear when his name is mentioned.

Presently the Taliban in Afghanistan brings concerns, even fear in the hearts of people.  What if there are other forces in the world that will follow in their footsteps?  My friends, they all will cease, because there's only One with all the authority, the One Who will return as Conqueror – Jesus Christ!  He will take the rightful position He told His disciples about just before His ascension, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”  His loud command will also be to call all those who believe in Him to be in His presence forever.  Death will have to surrender all of its prisoners.  Isn’t it a wonderful comfort for us to know that eternal life in the presence of our Lord will become a reality?  There will be no imperfection, no mortality and no suffering.  There we will experience the life with God.  You know, it answers all questions and all fears that people carry in their hearts.  Threads of wars will cease, disasters will cease, cancer will cease, imperfection will not be something to restrict any person.  And by the way...there won't be Covid-19 or any other world pandemic.  But there is something essential – You have to accept the authority of the One Who will conquer everything; you have to submit yourself to the One Who will establish His throne forever.  And that we all have to do before He comes.  Because when He comes and you haven't prepare yourself for His return, it will be too late.  We all recall the Parable of the Ten Virgins.  In that parable we read of what Jesus said to the five foolish virgins – those who weren't prepared, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”  Matthew 25: 12 

O my friends, let’s think for a moment of the world we live in.  Is it really the utopia some believe it is?  We hear frequently on the news of floods, famines, fires, earthquakes, corruption, deception, child abuse, assaults – the list just goes on and on.  No, the real life is to come, when Jesus returns.  Do you have His coming marked on your calendar?  Not that we know the day or time, but each day we have to write it in with the believe, “Today might be the day of His return.”  Are you ready for His coming?