The Revelation of Jesus Christ - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2007-07-01 PM
  • Systematic Theology
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As we approach Independence Day, I was reminded that one of the most common and familiar phrases in American folklore is the phrase, "I shall return." This phrase is one of the most famous, and even those who don't know General Douglas MacArthur very well usually know this phrase. It was really the last part of a very simple statement to reporters after MacArthur's harrowing escape from Corregidor and his arrival in Australia. This is what he said to the press. He says, "The President of the United States ordered me to break through the Japanese lines and to proceed from Corregidor to Australia for the purpose, as I understand it, of organizing the American offensive against Japan. A primary object of which is the release of the Philippines. I came through, and I shall return."

By far, a more important promise than that was made in very similar words by Jesus Himself. Turn with me to the last chapter of your Bible, Revelation 22. We've looked at this book for several different reasons and in several different ways. But when we come to the very last chapter, as John wraps up this prophetic book, he says that an angel was speaking to him in the first few verses of the chapter. But then there's this interjection in verse 7:

"… behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book."

I, John ... the one who heard and saw these things. ... when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. But he said ... '[Don't] do that. [I'm] a fellow servant of yours ... of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.'" [Again, interjected into this last chapter in verse 12 are the same words.] …

"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am ... Alpha and ... Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

[And again, at the very end of this book, down in verse 20,] "He who testifies to these things [that is, Christ Himself] says, 'Yes, I am coming quickly.' [And John replies] Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be will all. Amen."

We're looking at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. He shall return. We began by looking at the book of Revelation as a whole. Let me remind you that the word "revelation" simply means "to reveal, to uncover, to unveil." And when you look at this event in its context, you discover that it is, in fact, an unveiling of Jesus Christ. It's an event that we call the Second Coming. Now when you compare the Rapture versus the Second Coming (We looked at this in a little more detail last time; I just want to remind you.) there're significant differences.

In the Rapture there's no hint of judgment; in the Second Coming, there is an emphasis on judgment. The Rapture, there are no warning signs; the Revelation is proceeded by dramatic signs. You have in the Rapture, the Rapture of living believers and the resurrection of dead believers; there is no mention of either concerning the Second Coming or the Revelation. The Rapture is before the Tribulation; the Revelation is after the Tribulation. The Rapture, Christ comes in the air for His saints in order to take the saints to heaven; and the Revelation, Christ returns to the earth with His saints to defeat His enemies and to establish His kingdom.

Now last time, we examined the key passage regarding the Second Coming: Revelation 19. It is, in fact, the Revelation of the King. At its heart and soul, it is the unveiling or the uncovering of Jesus Christ. Tonight, (as I promised you last week) we will eventually get to those last verses of chapter 19. But before we do that, I want us to back up, and I want us to make sure that we have our arms around this entire issue, or the key issues, regarding the Second Coming.

I want to start with its importance. You know, there are a lot of issues about prophecy that are not worth fighting about, not worth scrapping about. But this is certainly one of them; in fact, it is, the Second Coming, the doctrine of the Second Coming, is a fundamental doctrine of our faith. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to the Second Coming. It's mentioned, in fact, more often than the first coming of Christ. When you come to the creeds of the church: the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and all the major confessions speak of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ without exception. Charles Feinberg wrote, "Although there are great differences of interpretation on the details of the return, all who believe the Bible agree that Christ will return to consummate His redemptive work." Charles Erdman, of Princeton Seminary, put it in these timeless words. He says:

"The return of Christ is a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. It is embodied in hymns of hope. It forms the climax of the creeds. It is the sublime motive for evangelistic and missionary activity. And daily it is voiced in the inspired prayer, "Even so, come Lord Jesus." No one truth (rather) is more inspiring than that of the return of Christ. None other can make us sit more lightly by the things of time. [He continues.] None other is more familiar as a Scriptural motive to purity, hope, faith, vigilance, and love. Strengthened by this blessed hope, let us press forward with passionate zeal to the task that awaits us, 'Till o'er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain, Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.'"

This is absolutely foundational to our faith. If you come across someone who rejects the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then they are rejecting one of the cardinal doctrines of our faith.

That brings us then to the knowledge of this great reality. When was it known? By whom was it known? And by whom was it predicted? Obviously, there's a lot that could be said here. I just want to give you a quick sweep through the Scriptures. The doctrine of the Second Coming (this may be a surprise to you) was known before the flood. In Jude, the little letter written by the half-brother of our Lord, in verses 14 and 15 we read this,

It was also about these men [that is, these false teachers] that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying [this], "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."

Enoch looked ahead down the corridors of time and understood that that One who would bruise the head of the serpent would come in ultimate judgment, even as it's explained in the Second Coming.

It was understood by Job during the time of the Patriarchs. Job, of course (we don't know exactly when Job was written, but we know that Job lived during the time of the Patriarchs), and he says in Job 19:25, "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth." David understood this as well. In Acts 2:29, Peter, preaching on the Day of Pentecost says, "Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." And he goes on to say in that text that therefore what David said about the end was, in fact, a prophecy of what Jesus would do when He returned.

It was predicted and prophesied by all the prophets as well. Turn to Zachariah. This one may not be as familiar to you, and that's why I want to turn there, Zachariah 14. The prophets understood that there would come a time when there would be a return to take back the earth from the usurper. Zachariah 14:1,

Behold, a day is coming for the Lord when the spoil taken from among you will be divided among you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half ... the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. [On] … that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half ... the mountain will [remove] toward the north and the other half toward the south. You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!

The prophet Zachariah understood our Lord would return with all the saints. In Malachi 4, you see the same promise. In Acts 3:21, again, you have Peter preaching and speaking of Christ. He says, "Heaven must receive [Him] until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient [times]." He said listen, God has written the end of the story, and He wrote it even in the Old Testament Prophets. He will return and restore all things.

But of course, Christ Himself affirmed His coming, His Second Coming. In Matthew 24, in that Olivet Discourse on the-probably the Tuesday of the Passion Week, Jesus spoke these words:

"For just as ... lightening comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be ... And then ... the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and ... all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and with great glory."

Essentially, the same basic point in 25:31, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne."

Jesus predicted His Second Coming; the angels did as well after His ascension. You remember the angels said, "… Men of Galilee, [in Acts 1] why do you stand looking [up] into the sky? This Jesus, [who's] been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven."

And, of course, when you come to the New Testament and to the Apostles, you find that they too affirmed this reality. Peter, in his sermon in Acts 3, says that there is coming a time of "refreshing" in the "presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you." Of course, this is after the ascension, so he's obviously speaking of what? A second coming. Jesus will be sent.

First Corinthians 1:7, we are waiting (he told the Corinthians) "the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." In Titus 2 he wrote to his young son in the faith: we're to be "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Paul, at the very end of his life as he was near death, said that I'm looking for His appearing and you should be as well. He's coming, Paul said. Second Peter 3:12, "Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!" God is going to end the story. So, when you look from the beginning, before the flood all the way through the sweep of biblical history to the very end, the Second Coming is integral to the story of the Scripture. And these are just a couple (of potential-or-a-excuse me-a couple) of examples of passages where these great predictions occur.

So, when is it going to happen? Well, you know as I do, that there have been many even in our lifetime who have tried to set dates. I remember, perhaps some of you remember, the book that made the rounds in Christian circles called 88 Reasons [Jesus Must Return] in 1988. And then there was one in the nineties as well, and so forth. Understand, when you see those books, they are in direct contradiction to what our Lord said. We don't know the time, and He didn't intend for us to know the time. In Matthew 24, He says, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, [nor in His condescension even] the Son, but the Father alone." And in Acts 1 when they said Lord, is this when You're going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Jesus responded to His disciples, "It is not for you to know times or epochs." Two different Greek words: it's not for you to know the "chronos", the time on the clock; and it's not even for you to know the exact "period" of time which the Father has fixed by His own authority. It's not for us to know the exact time. We don't know when this is going to happen. We know generally that it will happen (the Second Coming will happen) after the Tribulation. As we looked last week, Revelation 19:1, beginning after the Tribulation period, that seven years of terrible torment of the earth, it says, "After these things." And then in chapter 19 you have the return of Jesus Christ. So, we know that it follows the tribulation period. That's all we know in terms of time.

Now, what is the purpose of the Second Coming? I mean, in a sense you could say that it's to wrap up everything God's been doing in the world, and you'd be right. But let's break that down a little bit more into some specific purposes that are listed in Scripture.

One of them is to be glorified in His saints. Jesus wants to write the end of the story in the lives of His people and to vindicate them when He returns, particularly those who have faced the horrific onslaught of the antichrist. Second Thessalonians 1:10, "When He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all those who ... [believe]." That's part of the reason for the Second Coming: not only to be glorified in us, to get glory because He's followed through on His plan and His promise to us, but so that we would marvel at Him.

There's another purpose, and that is to judge. This one is spelled out in a number of places in scripture. Matthew 16 says, "For the Son of Man is [going to] come in the glory of His father with His angels, and [then will] repay every man according to his deeds." Jesus is coming; He's coming to judge. Second Thessalonians 1 puts it in these horrifying words, really:

… the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day….

Jude, the passage we cited earlier, makes this same point: He is coming "to execute judgment." This is part of the reason Christ is coming: yes, to be glorified in His saints, but also to bring judgment.

A third purpose of the Second Coming is to bring salvation to Israel. There're so many passages that make this point, but I love Zachariah 12. Zachariah 12:10, God makes this amazing promise. He says, "I will pour out on the house of David [among] the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication." [And here's the result,] "They will look on Me whom they have pierced." An amazing prophecy. Before the first coming of Christ, before the First Advent, this was predicted. There's coming a day when "they will look on Me [God says] whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will w-weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn." God is—through the series of circumstances in the Tribulation period, through the work of antichrist, He will bring those Israelites, those Jews alive at the end of that period, to the point of recognizing their Messiah. He will pour out on them a "Spirit of grace and ... supplication, so that they will look on Me whom [they've] pierced; and ... mourn." Zachariah 13:1, it says, "In that day [speaking of the same day] a fountain will be open for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity." A fountain that cleanses them from their sin.

Paul, in the New Testament, makes it very clear in Romans 11 that there's coming a day when "all Israel will be saved"; that is, the majority of those Israelites who are alive at the end will be saved. "Just as it is written, [And he reminds us of the Old Testament prophecy.] 'The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.'" "All Israel." That means all Israel. Now, does it mean that every single Israelite or every single Jew alive at that time? I think probably so. But regardless, the point (the-that-that Paul is making,) that the prophet is making, is that it will be a great, wonderful, overwhelming salvation of the people of God. So that's one of the reasons He's coming.

A fourth reason is to destroy antichrist and his followers. In 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul writes, "Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming." He's coming to destroy antichrist and all of his followers. We'll see that in a moment in Revelation 19 as well.

And finally, the final purpose of His coming is to vindicate Christ. Maybe you've never thought about this, but if you read the list in 1 Corinthians 15, you find a list of all of those who saw Christ after His resurrection, and there isn't a single unbeliever in the list. Have you ever thought about this? There are only believers in the list. That means that the last view that the world had of Jesus Christ, God's Son, is as a dying criminal, guilty of the charges, executed by Rome. There's not a single record that an unbeliever ever saw Christ after the resurrection. So, He will return at the direction of the Father in order that He, as God's eternal, just, and righteous Son, will be fully vindicated on that day. [Matthew 24:27), puts it like this, "For just as the lightening comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be."]

Look at Matthew 26. Turn there with me. [We'll go back, by the way, to that lightening expression, because I think there's a point that Jesus intended to make there. We'll come back in just a few minutes.]

Matthew 26, Matthew 26:67,

… they spat in His face and [they] beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, "Prophecy to us, You [Messiah]; who is the one who hit You?'"

There you have a picture of the abuse heaped on Christ by mankind. But I want you to notice and compare that with just a couple of verses earlier, because this gives us a picture of what will happen when Jesus returns. That's what He endured, and you can read it throughout this chapter, Matthew 26, what He endured at the hands of sinful men. But look what He says to Pilot in the-in the middle of this scene in verse 63, "But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, 'I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the [Messiah], the Son of God.'"

So, they're mocking Him for being the Son of-the Messiah, the Son of God, and Pilot asks Him, is it true that that's who You are? — the high priest, actually, in this case. Verse 64, "Jesus said to him, 'You have said it yourself.'" Basically, He says yes, that's exactly right, that's who I am. The parallel Gospel accounts make that very clear. And then He says this, "… nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, AND COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." What was Jesus saying to this high priest?

He was saying listen, I've just told you who I really am, but you don't believe Me; but there will come a day when you will, when I and My claims will be fully vindicated, when I come in glory on the clouds. The Second Coming has as one of its distinct purposes the vindication of the honor of Jesus Christ. Luke 21:27, says, "They will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory." Revelation 1:7 puts it this way: "BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So, it is to be. Amen." Understand, those are the reasons for the Second Coming.

But what's it going to be like? What's the manner of the Second Coming? Well, the Scripture gives us several adverbs that describe the Second Coming. These are key to understanding the Second Coming. First, Jesus will come personally. In other words, He's not going to come through an emissary or a representative, He's going to come personally. There are those who reject this. You may not have heard of them, but there are those who like D.C. Macintosh, who say, "The return of Christ in the progressive domination of individuals and society by the moral and religious principles of Christianity is what the Scriptures mean by His return." In other words, Jesus is coming in dominating individuals spiritually, moral and religious principles. William Newton Clark says, "No visible return of Christ to the earth is to be expected, but rather the long and steady advance of His spiritual kingdom. If our Lord will but complete the spiritual coming that He has begun, there will be no need of a visible advent to make perfect His glory on the earth." That isn't what Jesus said.

In Matthew 24 He said, "the Son of Man is coming." In Acts 1 the angels said, "This Jesus ... will come." He's coming personally. It's the same Jesus that was here on earth, that interacted with people and with the disciples. In Acts 3, He's going to "send Jesus," Peter says. Philippines 3:20, Paul says, "We eagerly wait for [the] Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" to come. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19, he says you're going to be our crown "in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming." He's going to come personally. In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul refers to Christ's "appearing." We're "looking for" Christ, Paul said to Titus in Titus 2:13. And Hebrews 9:28, says, "Christ also, [after] having been offered once to bear the sins of many, [He, the same one who bore the sins of many, the same Jesus that walked the earth] will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." Jesus is coming back personally. He's not sending anybody in His place. He's coming really and personally.

Secondly, He's coming bodily, not symbolically or in spirit. Some say that the return of Christ was His spiritual coming at Pentecost in Acts 2. Others refer to His spiritual presence in the church: that's how Jesus came, it's His presence among us. But Scripture, instead, asserts that Jesus Christ will return physically, in the glorified body that He received. Zachariah 14;4, "In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east." No question but what Jesus is in bodily form. Acts 1:11, He "… will come in just the same way as you have [seen] (Himwa-as you have) watched Him go into heaven." The same Jesus that was able to walk and eat and fellowship with the Disciples and have the wounds in His hands and side felt, is the same Jesus who will return. He will return bodily. He'll return visibly, not hidden from human view.

Matthew, as I read a few moments ago, in-Jesus uses lightening to illustrate this aspect or characteristics of His coming. The appearance of lightening, Jesus said, is just like that of My appearance. What does He mean? He means both in its suddenness, in that you're going about your business knowing that there's a storm approaching, but suddenly you're arrested, your attention is arrested when a bolt strikes nearby and the flash of light and the ensuing thunder; but also in its visibility. Lightening can't be hidden. It's clearly visible to all. Close your shutters, try to hide if you will, but lightening will be seen. That's what He's saying. By the way, a typical lightening-strike consists of between three to five sequential strokes. It's because of the time between the strokes, about forty to fifty milliseconds, that lightening-bolts appear to flicker. The average lightning-bolt is between three and four miles long. The longest recorded bolt ever seen was—and this'll shock you—here in Dallas. The longest recorded bolt of lightning ever seen is estimated to be 118 miles long.

What's Jesus' point in likening His return to a bolt of lightning? The point is this: you can't miss it. You can't miss it. It's going to be seen. Everybody's going to see it. It's going to arrest attention. He's going to return—visibly. Matthew 24:30, "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and ... all the tribes of the earth will mourn." "And ... all the tribes of the earth" is the antecedent of the next they. "All the tribes of the earth ... will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory." It's going to be a visible return. Mark 13:26, makes the same point, as does the parallel passage in Luke 21:27. He's going to return visibly.

He's also going to return suddenly, not slowly over time. Several interesting illustrations are used to point the suddenness of Christ and His return. One of them is the coming of a bridegroom. In the ancient Jewish wedding that we talked about last week, the bridegroom came for the bride. And you didn't know when that was going to happen, and you had to be ready. It's also described as the bridegroom returning from the wedding to his servants. Sudden, unexpected, you don't know when He's coming. And it's even likened, His return, to a thief. It's going to happen suddenly. Matthew 24:44, "For this reason you must also be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." He could "come suddenly," Mark 13 says, "and find you asleep." Revelation 3:3: "I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I come to you." The same point in Revelation 16:15, "Blessed is [he] who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame." Be ready. It's going to be sudden, the Second Coming.

It'll be gloriously. He will come gloriously, not in humiliation and weakness as at His first coming. He'll come with clouds as His chariots, Matthew 24 says, and a number of other passages.

He'll come with the saints. First Thessalonians 3:13, "The coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints."

He'll come with angels. Matthew 16, "For the Son of Man is [going to] come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and [then He will] repay every man according to His deeds." The same point in Matthew 25 and 2 Thessalonians 1, "The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire."

He comes in the glory of His Father. He comes in His own glory, and He comes in glory for everyone to see.

And He comes, finally, victoriously. Victoriously. This is where we come back to Revelation 19. George Alan Ladd writes, "In His cross and resurrection Christ won a great victory over the powers of evil; by His Second Coming He will execute that victory." Turn with me to Revelation 19 where we left off last time, because this is where we ended. The return of Christ will be the return of a victor. We get a little glimpse of the victory of the King. In verses 17 and 18 we'd just seen the heavens opd, and Christ comes out adorned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In verses 17 and 18, there is what we could call an invitation to a nightmare feast. Look at it. Verse 17, "Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, 'Come, assemble for the great supper of God.'" God throws a feast, but it's a most unusual one.

The guest list for this feast is all the birds of the earth. The menu for the feast is, well, revolting. One commentator says, "At ordinary banquets men eat the flesh of birds; here, the birds are to eat the flesh of men." The scene is a battlefield strewn with the corpses of those who have been routed, and there're too many of them even to bury. And so, the birds are gathered. They've been routed by heaven's champion, Jesus Christ, and their corpses lay across the battlefield. MacLeod, in his excellent commentary on this passage, says,

"Many people have the false notion that Jesus Christ is completely different from the God of the Old Testament. They think that when Jesus appeared, God changed His mind and decided to be a gentleman and forgot all about His thoughts of judgment. It is a terrible folly to be misled by such ideas. Yes, there is good news. One need not bear the punishment for his own sins. Another, the Lord Jesus Christ has paid the price on our behalf. But there is bad news for those who reject Christ. It is described here, "feast."

In verses 19 - 21 we're told who these are. Verse 18 says, the birds assembled to "eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders ... the flesh of mighty men ... the flesh of horses and ... those who sit on them ... the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great." So, you have this cross section of humanity, this huge number of people, strewn corpses around a battlefield. Where did they come from? Well, verses 19 through 21 actually precede verses 17 and 18 in time. They explain why the battlefield is strewn with all these corpses. They explain why the birds are feasting on these corpses as well. It's because during the Tribulation most of the earth's population will follow the antichrist against God, and they assemble to fight God.

You say, how could that happen? Could that happen? It will happen. Why? The Bible gives us two reasons, two explanations. First of all, because of demons. Revelation 16 says that "Demons ... [will] go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty." But, it's not just demons.

Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, says, "… God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false…." And they'll embrace the antichrist as the answer to man's problems. This is why mankind will follow this false peace and this false leader who promises much but delivers nothing, and they will follow.

So, all of rebellious humanity, we're told, will get together at the very end of the Tribulation against God and against God's people. But their ultimate goal is to strike out against God Himself. As it's recorded in Psalm 2:2, "The kings of the earth take their stand ... against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us [remove] their fetters ... from us.'" That's exactly what will happen. And they can't get to God, so they go to attack God's people in an effort to strike at God Himself.

In Jonathan Swift's classic tale, Gulliver, a ship's doctor named Gulliver, finds himself the sole survivor of his sunken ship. Perhaps you've read the story. When he awakes, he finds himself on the island of Lilliput. The people of Lilliput are only inches tall. At one point in the story he comes to the realization that he could crush them all if he desired. And in fact, at one point he is tempted, he says, to grab forty or fifty of them and hurl them to the ground. That doesn't even come close to illustrating how little God's enemies look from His throne. Verses 20 and 21 describe the outcome,

"And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who [had] worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh."

So essentially, the two leaders of the insurrection, Satan inspired men, are thrown alive into the lake of fire. And all of rebellious humanity who joined them in that great rebellion against God will be destroyed by the word of Christ, and their corpses will lay strewn about the battlefield until the birds come and eat their flesh. It's a terrible picture, and not one we really like to consider, is it? But this is the picture the Bible presents of the outcome of the way of the wicked.

Now, what's the application of the Second Coming to us? There's several points the Scripture makes. Let me just make them briefly. This is going to happen: it's a reality. It's as sure as this moment that you're listening to me; it's as sure to come. It will happen, and how should we live in light of it?

First of all, the Second Coming should be an impetus to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is the point Paul made on Mars Hill. After he finished his great sermon, he comes to his invitation in Acts 17. He says listen, "God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed." And if you want to know who that man is, He "furnished proof" of who it would be "by raising Him from the dead." It's going to be Jesus Christ. Paul says listen, the day of judgment is coming, you better repent, you better turn; and as Psalm 2 says, embrace the Son, kiss the Son, before He becomes angry and you perish in the way.

Let me just say that I never want to assume that in our church everyone here is a believer. Perhaps you've been struck with the reality of the fact that Jesus Christ is real, that He was here a first time, and He will come a second time and this is how He will respond to those who have not bowed the knee to Him. Let me tell you that He came the first time. The Son of God came-became flesh in order to die for the sins, to die in the place of sinners, for all those who will believe.

Tonight, if you will believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, if you will turn, even as Paul told those on Mars Hill, if you will repent and believe in Christ, then God will take the death of Christ and allow that to be as your substitute; and you can be forgiven and be declared righteous, as righteous as Jesus Christ. But if you refuse to do that, let me assure you that there is a day coming when you will meet Jesus Christ, but He will not be the soft and meek figure that you have seen portrayed in paintings, or perhaps portrayed from pulpits. This is how Christ revealed Himself to John.

Secondly, when we look at the Second Coming, it serves as a reminder of the blinding power of unbelief. I mean, think about it. Unbelievers will be surprised by the return of Christ. How could they be surprised after all we've looked at together? And yet they will be. Matthew 24 describes it. Jesus said it's going to be just like in the days of Noah. They're going to be living life, assuming nothing will ever happen, then the flood came and took them all away. "So will the coming of the Son of Man be." It's amazing, isn't it? God has done everything but write it in the sky, and yet man will still respond in unbelief—and even mock, according to Peter.

Second Peter 3, "In the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own [cravings], ... saying, [Ah-oh yeah,] 'Where is the promise of His coming? [Their uniformitarianism that they embrace, I should say uniformitarianism] ... ever since the fathers fell asleep, [everything[ continues just as it was from the beginning.'" God's never interrupted history; it's not going to happen. They forget. Peter goes on to say that Oh yes, He did. He did in a cataclysm we call the flood. Don't take God for granted.

A third application of the Second Coming is it's to be a comfort to us in the midst of our trials. Turn to 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Paul says, "Therefore, we ... speak proudly of you among the churches of God [because you've persevered, and you've had faith] in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure." The church in Thessalonica was under the onslaught of Roman emperor worship and other forms of false religion. They were enduring persecution at the hands of those who hated Christ.

And he says listen, understand (verse 6) that it's "only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give [you] relief." It's going to happen. Take comfort in the reality that when the Lord Jesus is revealed in heaven, He will deal out retribution to all of those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Take comfort in the midst of persecution. Our persecution here in the States is not as pronounced as that in other places around the world. But most of the persecution described in Scripture, even in the ministry of Jesus, was verbal, wasn't it? It was insults; it was ridicule. We've experienced that as well. Listen, take comfort. Christ will return, and when He returns, He'll set everything right. Justice will come to earth. Be comforted in the midst of your trial, in your persecution.

It also is to be a source of encouragement to each of us in the battle for sanctification. And it is a battle, isn't it? I don't know about you, but I'm just never content with where I am spiritually. And that's probably a good thing. We should never be. We should always have a sort of holy dissatisfaction with our spiritual progress.

But the Second Coming should serve as an impetus, an encouragement, to keep on fighting. Philippians 1:6, says, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." It's going to happen. You're going to be made like Christ. God decided that in eternity past when He chose you, that you'd be like Him.

First John 3:3, "Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him [That is, the hope of the coming of Christ.] purifies himself, just as [Jesus] is pure." Jude 24, think about this, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy." Think about that. Contemplate that as you think about the coming of Christ, of course, for us in the Rapture, and then ultimately the Second Coming. Understand, that there is in the coming of Christ great joy, because we will be presented blameless before Him.

Doctor S. Lewis Johnson, for many years, taught at Dallas Theological Seminary and served as pastor of the Believer's Chapel in Dallas. There are a couple of families in our church who went there and served and enjoyed the ministry of Doctor Johnson. I have 1500 of his sermons on my iPod. I enjoy him very much as well. In his sermon on this passage, Doctor S. Lewis Johnson tells the story of a missionary to the Solomon Islands, a man by the name of Doctor Northcote Deck.

The people in the island where he ministered spoke a kind of pidgin English pieced together from the various English missionaries they'd heard, probably some soldiers as well. And in their pidgin English, the Christians there put together a most unusual name for God. It was this—and they didn't mean it disrespectfully: Big Fella, Master-Too-Much Who Bossed Both Heaven and Ground. When you think about it, that's a magnificent title for our Lord Jesus Christ: Big Fella, Master-Too-Much Who Bossed Both Heaven and Ground.

Someday, He will return to this earth. He will demonstrate all that that title involves. He will take back the earth to Himself. He will return. Until that day, may God keep us faithful to Him.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for our time together tonight. Thank You for the wonderful joy of knowing that our Lord is coming again. He's coming again for us, the church, and then He's coming again with us to set everything right. Father, we don't delight in the death of the wicked, just as You don't; but we do delight when justice is served, when You do what needs to be done to vindicate the name and honor of Your Son.

We look forward to the day, Father, when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord to Your glory. Help us to bow and confess that even now, each day and every hour. We thank You for the fact that You have rescued us from His wrath by Your great mercy and love.

Lord, I pray for someone here tonight who has not experienced that love and mercy, who has only the wrath of the Lamb to look forward to. Father, may tonight be the night when they turn from their sin in repentance and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, accept the wonderful grace offered in Christ in His death. And Father, we know that will only happen where You work, where You grant life, and we pray that You would do that to Your glory even tonight.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Systematic Theology