I enjoy a good movie. I like a movie that has a lot of action, quality actors, and a storyline that captivates the audience. It has to tell a story, and there must be a hero in it. Someone who rises up to the occasion and saves the day. It can be hard to find a good movie that’s worth seeing, there’s so many different spinoffs of the same story. That they just don’t seem to compare to the original. What I like even better though, is a movie that is so good, that the people in Hollywood decide to make a sequel, a continuation of the original storyline. It’s great when the sequel is even better than the first movie. That’s what I want to talk about today-The greatest sequel ever-Jesus’ return for his Church.
We know the whole story of Jesus. We know how his family was formed, how he came into physical existence. We know his family tree, all the way back to creation. We know that Jesus grew up and began to walk according to the Spirit. He ministered for three years, teaching and healing in the name of God the Father. He mended humanity’s broken relationship with God and taught how to embrace that relationship. At the climax of Jesus’ story we learn of betrayal, and persecution. We see Jesus put on trial, and condemned to death for no reason other than to protect the politics of Jerusalem and Rome. We watch as he is brutalized and scoffed. We see him carry his cross and then be nailed to it. We watch as his body passes into death and is buried in a borrowed tomb. And then we see the dismal side of reality. The one that was called master is dead. We watch as his disciples hide in fear and sorrow over their loss. But on the third day, yes, on the third day that stone was rolled back and he arose. Jesus, the son of God, the son of man has conquered death. He arose! The story continues for the next 40 days while Jesus walks among his disciples teaching. Finally, Jesus ascends into heaven in a cloud of glory. Isn’t that a wonderful story? Some moviemakers stop at the resurrection while others go to Jesus’ ascension. It is a wonderfully told story in many film adaptations. And now, as Andy Rooney would say “the rest of the story”.
Jesus is Coming Again
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” Jesus said these words in John chapter 14. Jesus promises to come back for us, to come back for his church. Who is the church? It’s not the hierarchy of established religion. It’s not priests, pastors, deacons, and evangelists. The church is the elite of humanity. Those people who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. This is a basic tenet of our faith. Jesus will come again for his church, removing it from the pending tribulation of this world. We all accept that as fact. Jesus is coming for his Church. It is brain knowledge. We recognize it up here. We read in Matthew 24 “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” We seem to have put some distance between us and that hour when he returns. I think that since we don’t know when he’s coming that we have grown lazy in being ready for his return. “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing…but and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder…”Who are we? Are we, am I, are you the faithful and wise servant? Or are we the evil servant? We know he’s coming for us, just not when. Are we ready for his return? Having this foreknowledge of things to come you would think we would be ready. With this snowstorm we just got, I can guarantee you that gasoline, water, snowshovel, and salt sales were up at every retailer in the area. Why? Because we have been given foreknowledge of what was to come. We prepared ourselves for the storm so that when it came we would be ready for it. But we know that being in the Berkshires we will get snowstorms. Why aren’t we always prepared? Why do we go through all this last minute hustle when we know that storms are going to come? Now let me ask you this. How are we ready for the return of Jesus? Are we already prepared? Or do we have to make a trip to the store? Are we the evil servant or the faithful and wise servant? How would you adjust your life if you knew that Jesus was coming today?
The Bible gives us many signs to look for so that we may know that Jesus’ return is sooner rather than later. For example, according to Ezekiel 37 God promised to “take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel.” God promises to restore the nation of Israel. God accomplished this on May 14, 1948.
Revelation 13 talks about the coming of the antichrist. A man who will rule ruthlessly yet be worshipped by all. A man who will terrorize Christians and persecute them. A man empowered by Satan who will entice the general populace to follow him. Although we are not aware of his presence, yet; the mood and the politics of this world are lining up to make his rule seem like an inevitable outcome in future events.
Now something closer to home, something that we are all familiar with. Matthew 24. Beginning in verse 5 we read “…many shall come in my name [Jesus], saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” In the past century 20 people have made claims to being Jesus. Most have maintained some sort of following. Out of these 20, there are 9 false Christs alive today. One of them, a man named Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda has his own website, his own 24/7 satellite channel which broadcasts in 16 countries by over 600 cable companies, his own radio station, 355 education centers in 30 nations, 225 radio programs, 300 tv progams and 2 million followers.
“you shall hear of wars and rumours of wars…nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Is it just me or does it seem like all we hear about nowadays is what our troops endure in the middle east? The world, it would seem, is becoming unraveled and more violent.
“and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” I know growing up, that this time of the year my school would always sponsor a UNICEF collection drive where when we would go trick or treating we would collect money to help feed the hungry. We can also define a famine as a scarce harvest. Haven’t our prices at the grocer been going up due to a poor harvest. I remember last year we ran out of pumpkin mix and squash was scarce. We seem to endure famine and not even recognize it. Pestilence or disease. It seems like every year the flu gets worse, you here about more people with sickness, such as cancer, AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia. How about earthquakes? Have you heard about any of them? It seems like a week doesn’t go by that we don’t hear about one happening somewhere in the world. Now I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the time is drawing very near to when Jesus shall return for his Church.
So what would happen if Jesus were to return today? Well lets look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 beginning in verse 13 we read “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.”
Firstly, a trumpet will sound and the archangel will shout. There will be no silent coming of our Lord. No. He’s gonna make some noise about it. The last thing we hear on this earth will be the sounds of the first ones we meet in the air. Notice though that there is an order to things. The dead in Christ will rise first. Those that have died in their faith, who have passed away before us, who have lived a life that has been given over to Jesus Christ, those people have been chosen to rise first. There is no despair for the Brothers and Sisters of Christ who have died. They have a promise to be raised first. Their bodies will be restored. Now we know that according to 2 Corinthians 8 that “…to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord.” When a Christian dies they go to heaven. The soul is momentarily separated from their body and they enjoy the things of heaven. Now when Jesus returns he brings them with him to reunite the body and the soul. This body is now made pure. Look at 1 John 3:2 “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.” We will have the purity of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? What is the purity of Jesus Christ like? It is undefiled. It is free from sin. There is no stain of sin or of death upon it. Look at Revelation 21:4 “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” according to Philippians 3:20 “…the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body…” We won’t be like this anymore. No sickness will touch us, no temptation will overcome us, no thoughts or speech will demean or defile.
Now, what would happen to us, the living believers, if Jesus were to return today? Well according to 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “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.” Jesus doesn’t just come back for the dead in Christ, no he comes back for his entire Church. We get to escape death! If you look back at all the heroes of the faith, all the “famous” people of the bible, you will see that they all had one in common besides their relationship with God. They all died. Adam, Abel they died, Methuselah and Moses, they died, Jacob and Joseph they died. Despite the might of Samson, he died. And no amount of wisdom could keep Solomon from escaping death, poor Lazarus had to die twice, and even the apostles died. Hebrews 9:27 reminds us that “…it is appointed unto men once to die…” In the natural processes of this worldly life we all must face death. Unless a power greater than death intercedes. That power would be Jesus Christ. When he returns for his Church we that are alive shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. We shall not die, and we shall be changed. This corruptible body shall put on incorruption. We, like those that have died before us shall be given a new body as well, and we shall be like the son Jesus. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15:51 Paul writes “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible MUST put on incorruption, and this mortal MUST put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall brought to pass the that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory…” Notice that last word and hold on to it. Victory! We receive victory over death itself because of the might and goodness of our Lord Jesus Christ who has conquered sin and the grave. O come sweet Jesus, come!
If Jesus should come today, would some of you be ashamed? Look at 1 John 2:28 “And now little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” Have I, have you abided in him? Continuosly? Have we walked the walk, and talk the talk. Have lived up to the expectations that God has for us according to his word? What will Jesus find you doing, how will Jesus find you living when he does return for you? Will you have confidence, and not be ashamed before him? Will he see you living a righteous life? Will he see you reading the Word, Will he look inside you and find your motifs are right, and that you seek to glorify God and not yourselves? Or will his sudden return catch you off guard? Perhaps he will find you in an illicit affair? Or maybe he will find you gossiping. Perhaps when he comes he will find you immersed in pornography, or find you being cruel to your spouse or your children. Will he find love in your heart for him or will he instead find the love of self rotting away your insides. Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony these are the seven deadly sins. Will Jesus find you as an evil servant or as a faithful and wise servant? This is a truth which we have forgotten about. Who are we going to be when we come face to face with Jesus. Are we going to be ready? Or are we going to be ashamed?
Christian, take this time to examine yourself. Examine your life and the things that you say and do. If you find yourself in the category of one of the ashamed then take the time to fix that. Lay your sins aside and repent. Turn away from those things which cause you to sin, and turn instead towards Jesus. You do not have to be ashamed when he returns for you. Put aside the sin in your life, grasp the word of God. Cling to it. Live the life that God meant you to live. Free yourself from sin, flee from temptation. Let the light of Jesus shine through you as a lighthouse on the shore, guiding lost ships to a safe harbor. “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” Matthew 5:16. Pray from Psalm 43:3 “Oh send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle”. Remember, Jesus said that we “are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house…” Christians let your light shine brighter than ever. I close with Revelation 22:20 -“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”