He Is Coming Again
Are you eagerly longing for the Christ to return?
I entered the Christian life over 40 years ago and became involved in a campus Christian organization. We had weekly rallies and part of that time was singing songs of faith. I think I will always remember one song we sang because it encouraged me to long for the return of Christ. The lyrics went like this:
Coming again, coming again
may be morning may be noon,
may be evening and may be soon
Coming again, coming again
Oh what a wonderful day it will be
Jesus is coming again
Ever since those early days of my Christian experience, I have tried to live a faithful life as I have looked with great expectation toward the second coming of Christ.
The Bible clearly teaches that Christ came the first time bring salvation and He will come again to bring judgment and to set up His millennial kingdom. Paul talked much about the second advent of Christ. In fact, he understood that he would stand face-to-face with Jesus and give an account for what he had done with his life—whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10).
But Paul was had no fear regarding his appearance before the Lord, the righteous judge. He had remained faithful to Christ and at the end of his life he could say, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8)
Paul taught much about the second coming of Christ and he taught it even to the newest of believes. This was not some theological consideration requiring years of training to understand. The concept is simple Christ came once to bring salvation and He will come again to bring judgment. We know this because he wrote much about the second coming of Christ to the new Christians in Thessalonica.
The first epistle to the Thessalonians was written after Paul received a report from Timothy regarding the status of the young Thessalonian church (1 Thes 3:6-7; Acts 18:5). Timothy reported that the believers were standing firm in their faith in spite of experiencing intense persecution from the Jews (1 Thes 2:17–3:10). Forces hostile to Paul were attempting to slander his ministry by asserting that he was only after the Thessalonian’s money (1 Thes 2:9-10). Timothy also reported that some of the Thessalonians had understood Paul to have taught that Christ was about to return immediately. As a result, they had given up their jobs and began to conduct themselves in a disorderly fashion (cf. 1 Thes 4:11; 5:14; cf. 2 Thes 3:6, 7, 11). Others were grieved over the death of their loved ones, questioning what would happen to them since they had died before Christ had returned (1 Thes 4:13, 18). Lastly, Timothy appears to have reported on the misuse of spiritual gifts by some (1 Thes 4:1-8) and the unfortunate tendency on the part of some who were being tempted to return to their former habits involving sexual impurity (1 Thes 5:19-21).
Paul subsequently wrote this letter to express his thankfulness and to commend them for their exemplary witness in the face of terrible persecution (1 Thes 1:1-10). Paul defended himself against the Judaizer’s campaign to slander his ministry (1 Thes 2:1-16). He also admonished his young converts to stand fast in the face of persecution that was designed to cause them to revert back to their former life of paganism and sin (1 Thes 3:2-3; 4:1-12). Paul also provided comfort by answering their question about what happens to Christians who die before the Lord returns (1 Thes 4:13-18). He defined the character of the “Day of the Lord” and the believer’s relationship to that day (1 Thes 5:1-11). Lastly, Paul wanted to discuss several problems in their church life that needed to be dealt with and corrected. First, Paul addressed their personal obligations toward their spiritual leaders (1 Thes 5:12-13). Second, he also covered various spiritual duties they were commanded to fulfill (1 Thes 5:14-28).
The dominant theme of letter is the rapture of the church or Christ’s coming on the clouds for His church. Each chapter ends with a reference to this future event (1 Thes 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:13-18; 5:23), and two of the letter’s five chapters (4 and 5) are exclusively devoted to it.
Let’s examine each passage that references the second coming to determine what the theme of each passage means to those who believe.
- “…and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thes 1:10)
The Christian is to wait for Jesus to return from His place in heaven. This same Jesus died and rose again. He will ultimately deliver us from God’s coming wrath—the Great Tribulation to come (John 3:36, Rom 1:18, Rev 20:11-15). Jesus should now be our object of hope and the focus of our attention. These young Christians commended because they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…” Even as young Christians, they served God.
This should be our model as well. During this time, while we wait for Him to return, we should be serving God.
- “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” (1 Thes 2:19)
The Thessalonian Christians were greatly loved by Paul. In this passage, he expresses his deep affection for them. To Paul, the greatest blessing be will receive at the judgment seat of Christ is the presence of these dear Christian brothers and sisters. They were his hope and his joy. They were the symbol of God’s blessing on his ministry. Such love he had for those he had seen come to faith in Christ.
This should encourage us, as we wait for his return, to eagerly share our faith with those around us.
- “…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thes 3:13)
Paul wanted these new believers to be established in their faith. The term has the sense of begin strengthened. Paul did not expect them to be sinless because that is impossible. But he did pray that they would be blameless (see 1 Thes 2:10). This means that after they sin they would deal with it as God requires (1 John 1:9). Then before God, they would be holy—separated to God—in their hearts. Paul’s hope for them was that Jesus would find them blameless before men and holy before God at His return.
We should seek to be strengthened in our faith in the same way. We should live a stable life in which we are blameless before men and holy before God. This is not an easy calling, but we can accomplish this through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.
- “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thes 4:13–18)
Paul wanted these young Christians to know that everyone who is in Christ (whether they die before He returns or are alive at His return) will be raptured—caught up or snatched away— to be with Christ. What a wonderful day this will be. Notice that Paul says “Then we who are alive…” Paul fully expected to be alive—or at least allowed for that possibility—at the time of Christ’s return. This was so dominant in Paul’s thinking that it kept him on course to live a faithful life. Following the rapture of the Church, we will always be with the Lord. These words are intended to comfort the Thessalonians during the times of great persecution.
I believe that we will see increasingly more persecution of Christians in our country. We must look with great expectation toward the day that Christ returns so we can keep-on-keeping-on. Only then, will we remain faithful to the end and be able to say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7). This should be our comfort as we seek to serve Him in our daily lives.
- “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes 5:23)
Only God is able to produce peace. This peace is within the Church—they did not experience such peace from those outside the Church who relentlessly persecuted them. Paul prayed that God would sanctify them to Himself. They were to be set apart from the world so they could commit their entire being to God. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to stand apart from the rest of the world. Paul wanted these young Christians to be different from the pagan world in which they lived.
What makes us different from the world around us? When I was a young Christian, I heard it said, “If what you believe doesn’t affect the way you live, then it doesn’t matter what you believe.” This should be our attitude in life. What we believe must be reflected in our lives so we are blameless before God and man. We must be sanctified—set apart—for God to use.
How about you…Are you longing for Christ’s return?
Are you living as if He could return at any moment?
Are you ready to stand before His judgment seat to give an account for what you have done—both good and bad?