Eschatological Absolutes: the Return of Christ – Acts 1:1-11

 

A month ago we had the first in a series of messages entitled “Eschatological Absolutes.” My plan is to address those areas of prophecy which I think are unassailable – Biblical absolutes. Printing presses around the world, produce hundreds of new books about prophecy every month. Some of them are spewing out brand new ideas or, as they profess, new “revelations” from God. These writers are heretics, and often their purpose is to take money from gullible prophesy buffs. Some of the new books – a minority – are simply restating the common doctrines which have been held by fundamental churches for the last few hundred years. But most of the new books are advocating new perspectives and diverging opinions on the old doctrines. These writers are usually sincere, professing humility, while attacking the authors and preachers of generations ago. They are whittling away at the foundations which built churches like ours for many generations.

Without a doubt there is a variety of controversy in the area of eschatology. For example, for hundreds of years there has been speculation on the identity of the Antichrist. It has been this pope or that one, but when they died, the speculators had to come up with other others. Hitler was the Antichrist for some writers, and then he died. (Are we sure he really died?) Other dictators and politicians have been identified as the antichrist beast from John F. Kennedy to obscure leaders from Eastern Europe to Africa to Donald Trump. Yes, there is controversy in eschatology, but I am trying to avoid it as much as possible in this series. If we are sure about the absolutes, perhaps it will keep us from some of the major errors out there.

Thus far I have pointed to what I consider to be four absolutes. The second and third were that Heaven and Hell exist – they are literal; they are eternal; they are real. And our first absolute was that your soul is eternal and will spend eternity in either Heaven or Lake of Fire. I didn’t deal with Purgatory, although we could have. We didn’t because it is a religious illusion which has no basis in fact – it can’t be found in the Bible. We didn’t deal with Limbo, reincarnation or any of the ideas from other false world religions. What are the Biblical facts? Your soul will spend eternity in either God’s bliss or under God’s wrath.

The fourth absolute which we have considered is that there will be a literal thousand year kingdom – over which Christ Jesus will rule. We call it “the Millennium,” using the Latin word for “thousand.” The Old Testament reveals a great many characteristics of that kingdom, and the Book of Revelation describes its length and purpose. No one who believes the Bible – no one who interprets the Bible literally can deny that there will be a Millennial Kingdom. And that literal kingdom requires the eschatological absolute which we will consider this morning. There is no doubt, but that Christ will have to return to earth in order to be the King of that Kingdom. Yes, once again there are naysayers and deniers, but they are doing little more than proving their foolishness, their unbelief and their rejection of God’s revelation.

It cannot be successfully denied that the Bible declares the return of Christ.

The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is a pre-eminent truth – an absolute. It is undeniable both in the way it permeates and saturates the scriptures, and also in the way it has affected the hearts and lives of the people of the Bible.

Most of us have visited Seattle at some point in our lives, and if the weather was cooperating, we have seen Mount Rainier. Rainier is said to be the most topographically prominent mountain in the United States. At 14,411 feet it looms over Western Washington and the millions of people living along that coast. It is a volcano, erupting last in 1894, but it is considered by some vulcanologists to be potentially the most dangerous volcano in the country.

In some ways the doctrine of the second coming of Christ bears similarities to Mt. Rainier. It dominates every doctrine, every saint and every book in the New Testament. No matter what road you take in the Seattle area, Mount Rainier is in one corner of your eye. No matter what building you enter and how high it is, that mountain is looms over it. Are you studying the Biblical doctrine of salvation? The sovereign Saviour lives and is coming again. Are you thinking about Ecclesiology, the church? Christ the King is its divine Head, and has promised to give us responsibilities in that kingdom. Are you reading about divine judgment? That future kingdom will be ruled by the Judge. All paths of obedience and service lead to this mountain of doctrine.

The return of Christ is an Old Testament doctrine.

At the very beginning of human existence there were hints of both the first and second coming of Christ. After Adam’s fall, the Lord said to Satan, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed; He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” Genesis 3:15. That statement points to the two “parousias” of Christ – both to the first and the second. In the first coming, or appearance, of the Son of God, Satan bruised Christ’s heel – so to speak. But in the second coming, Christ will crush his head – and far more literally.

David saw the return of Christ, when he said, “Lift up your head, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in” Psalm 24:7.

Isaiah, who so clearly told us about the first coming, the incarnation of the Lord in chapter 53 also spoke about the day in which Christ would rule and reign over the earth. “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”Isaiah 2:4. The actual return of the Lord is not described, but notice “he shall judge among the nations.” Christ will be here on earth during this time – which is obviously the Millennium.

We have looked at Isaiah 11 already in this series, but consider it again. Verse 1 says, “There shall come for a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” This is a prophecy about Christ Jesus, the great-great-grandson of Jesse and his son David. The rest of Isaiah 11 describes the Millennium, the details of which have yet to be fulfilled. If you ask a 6-year-old what those words about wolves, lions, calves and children mean, he tell you, they mean exactly what they appear to mean. The logical conclusion – the Biblical conclusion – is that the son of Jesse, the Son of God, must return to bring the prophesies to pass. Isaiah says that Christ is coming again to judge the wicked and to establish a kingdom. Neither of these things have yet taken place, so I must assume they WILL take place.

Zechariah prophesied, “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south” Zechariah 14:4. There are dozens upon dozens of Old Testament statements about the Millennium, and most of them demand the literal presence of Christ. But where is He today? He is not on the earth; He is in Glory – Heaven. In order to fulfill the prophecies of the Millennium, He must return.

And what about the New Testament scriptures about the return of Christ?

More than two thousand years ago, in the fulness of time, when the iniquity of the Amorites was full, the Son of God became incarnate and walked among us. He took upon himself humanity and was made in the likeness of our sinful human flesh. For the purpose of giving His life a ransom for many. As all Christians know, Christ went to the cross, and there He gave up His life as the sacrifice necessary to save our souls. Then He was temporarily interred in a borrowed tomb from which He arose three days later. After spending more than a month proving His resurrection, Christ then ascended, returning to Heaven.

Acts 1 tells us about the ascension. Verse 3 – “He shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” “When (the disciples) therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

Following Christ’s ascension to Heaven, what was the first revelation – the first message from God? It was that there will be a second “parousia” – a second coming or appearing of Christ upon the earth. “And while (the disciples) looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” The first post-ascension revelation from Heaven, was echoed in the last revelation from the last book of the Bible – “He who testified these things said, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus”Revelation 22:20. Between these two promises are other passages pointing to that grand and glorious day of Christ’s second coming. I have read there are more than 300 references to the Second Coming in the New Testament. These scriptures cannot be denied – they declare one of the Bible’s Eschatological Absolutes.

It appears the Christians of the Bible were expecting to witness the return of the Saviour. And a study of history shows that the early saints who lived after the last “Amen” of Revelation were expecting the Second Coming. They believed in the imminent return of their Saviour. But after Acts 1, a year passed and the Lord did not return, during which time some of God’s saints died. And following that year another year passed and then another, soon a decade had come and gone. Then there was a century without the return of the Lord, and another, followed by a millennium of years.

Long before that first millennium, and even before the conclusion of the New Testament faithless people began to declare their doubts about God’s promise of the return of Christ and the Millennial Kingdom. In II Peter chapter 3, the Apostle addressed those doubts and the resulting slander against God. “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

From there, Peter pointed to some of the responsibilities which Christians have in the light of the Second Coming, no matter how long we have to wait for it. “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”

The second coming of the Lord is one of the great motivations for consistent, godly living. The Apostle John wrote: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” I am aware that some would like to apply this in other directions. But the vast majority of Bible scholars throughout the centuries have said that this refers to the Lord’s Second Coming – and I completely concur.

Revelation 1:7 says, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: And all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.” Christ Jesus is returning to earth some day soon. You who have seen the Saviour by faith, hanging on the cross covered in His own blood, bearing your sins – Jesus is coming as Redeemer and Deliverer. He is coming from Heaven with a moving van wearing the company name “Fiery Chariots.” He is coming to move the saints to the true White House. But for you who treasuring up sin – you who are proud of your stubborn ungodliness – For you the Saviour shall come as the Destroying Angel. For you who stubbornly reject His general call to repent – the Lord Jesus is coming as judge.

“Behold the bridegroom cometh;” the Saviour cometh, the Judge cometh, the Lover of souls cometh, the God of heaven and earth is on his way.

Consider the word “behold”? This word suggests a personal, visual, and literal coming. John was in the Spirit as he wrote, moved along by the Holy Spirit as an eagle soars high on the wind. And then all of a sudden he shouts: “Behold, behold” – like a starving sailor adrift at sea, sighting some landfall. John doesn’t simply say, “Jesus is coming in the sweet by and by.” He shouts out, “I can see the Lord preparing Himself; I can see Him coming!” No truth in this blessed book ought more zealously proclaimed. It is not “perhaps” – it is positive; It is not maybe– it is as matter of fact. To this give all the prophets witness – “Jesus cometh.” And there is nothing to stop Him from keeping His promise. He is not dependent on man’s

Christianization the world. It is not necessary for Israel to prosper as nation, or for peace to encircle the globe. And without a doubt Satan has no control or veto in the matter.

The word “behold” indicates that He is already on the way. Don’t get idea that the Lord is so busy that He has forgotten His appointment and suddenly has to rush to get back to earth. Don’t be nervous that just because 2,100 years have passed that the promise of God has expired. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen.”

And look, He cometh with clouds. I believe those clouds refer to the vast crowds that will be with Him. There will be a multitude of the heavenly host singing and shouting “Glory to God; Hosanna.” And there will be all those children of God who’ve been promoted into the eternal presence of Christ. That cloud will indicate the power and majesty of the Lord. That cloud reminds us of the mystery of the Lord. And like the cloud in wilderness providing light to the people of God, it will also instill terror in the hearts of the wicked.

“Every eye shall him,” says the Scripture. Are you ready to see Him – to meet Him? It doesn’t say that every mind, every heart, or every dying soul, but every eye shall see Him. In other words, His coming will not be spiritual and invisible, but as literal as His first coming. It will be as literal as His departure. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” If the Bible does not mean what says there is no sense having Bibles at all. Jesus Christ is coming again. Remember the words of Job 19:25-27: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.

Christ Jesus is to be seen around the world when He returns. Kings and peasants, the proletariat and atheistic communist party members shall see the Lord. The prisoner shall see Him, and the President, and the Prime Minister of Canada. The insolent, and impudent, and the impenitent will see Him. Even those who are already dead and buried will eventually see the Lord. Jesus told Caiaphas, the High Priest, “Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Scripture says that even those who pierced Christ shall eventually see Him alive and very well. And how will these dead see the Lord? They shall eventually be raised from the dead themselves. Eventually “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” And that includes our tongues as well. Even you who are living in rejection of Christ; you will praise Him as well. But not from a Christian standpoint. If you are a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus, I urge you to live a holy life, His life, because the Lord Jesus is coming again. Those who live looking to the Saviour, “purify themselves even as He is pure.”

That coming will be great – both in GLORY and in SORROW. That sorrow will affect every part of this globe. Don’t even dare to think that the world will be happy to see the coming of the Saviour. Do you recall when the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of presence of the Lord, first came up to Jerusalem? First, there was dancing in the street, but it quickly turned to fear and great sorrow. And even when David was exultant, Michal and others were livid. Men lost their lives at the earlier return of the Lord to city of David. When Jesus Christ shall return to earth it will be as its lawful Lord and Master. Those who’ve so long lived in sin and pride will feel His wrathful judgment.

Our text says that the world will wail because of Him. I can’t describe right now all that this entails, because I don’t know it all. But this will probably be like the sound of a mother lamenting the death of her only child. Are you ready for the Lord to come? Are you a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus? Christ is returning – and it will be soon.