Well if you are just joining us for the first time this month, let me catch you up a little bit as you are coming in on part 4 of a 4 part series based on the hymn How Great Thou art
Taking one verse per week we have spent the previous 3 weeks considering first how the cosmos scream forth the power and majesty of God, Secondly how all of nature reminds us of God’s creativity and His care for it, including us, and then last week we looked at why the cross of Calvary is so crucial and important that the apostle Paul would call it the only thing worth knowing
And that of course brings us to the 4th and final verse of this hymn in its modern English form and if I was right in characterizing verse 3 as the most important, than verse 4 definitely has to be characterized as the most exciting
So let’s take a look at the lyrics shall we,
When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then shall I bow, in humble adoration, And there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!"
Now I am not going to spend my time this morning trying to list for you our eschatological theology, There’s not enough time to even begin that and so I just want to focus on what the verse focuses on, the return of Christ
But I do feel it necessary to explain that the return of Christ happens in 2 phases
The first phase is when Christ comes on the clouds to call home His precious bride, the church that is without spot or wrinkle and take those who are a part of that back to Heaven with Him for the marriage supper of the lamb
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, 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. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
This ushers in a period of time that is dubbed the tribulation period which culminates in the second phase of Christ’s return when He physically returns and places His feet once again on this planet to rule
has this to say about that,
On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.
Zechariah actually has a lot more to say about that second phase of the return of Christ but for the purpose of keeping things a little less confusing I want you to know that this morning when I talk about the return of Christ I am talking about His return to collect His bride, AKA the rapture
Secondly before I begin let me state that it is my intention to focus on those things that I know to be certain
There is a lot of prophetic language surrounding this topic which opens some things to debate of interpretation, I will not spend time on those things this morning but rather will save them for the fall when we continue our Wednesday night discussions about the last days
Today rather I will give you 3 things alluded to in this hymn that I believe are not debatable
The first of these 3 points is that the return of Christ is definite
Appropriately the 4th verse begins “WHEN Christ shall come” and not “IF Christ shall come” because the Bible is very clear that Jesus will come back
In Acts chapter 1 we have Luke’s record of Christ’s last few days on this planet after His resurrection
According to Luke the last thing Jesus did was to promise His disciples the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Luke then writes,
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “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.”
And in Jesus Himself made this promise,
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
And in ,
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
“But,” you say, “It’s been over 2000 years surely if Christ was going to return it should’ve happened by now.”
But it might surprise you to know that people were making that very same argument just months and years after Christ ascended.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
2 Peter 3:3-4
Peter goes on to give the follow response to these scoffers a few verses later,
2 Peter 3:34
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:
2 Peter 3:8-
Don’t get caught in the web of the lies from the enemy that says the return of Christ will not happen, or that it is the result of misinterpreted scriptures
I could spend all my time this morning just going over with you passage after passage that clearly demonstrates that the Return of Christ is a definite event that WILL take place
Which brings me to my second point, when will it take place?
Well let me be clear that Jesus Himself in stated that no person knows the day or the hour
No person, not even the angels in Heaven, so for all of those who have concocted, or been “given” formulas by which they can use the Bible to predict the exact moment that Christ will return we we can be certain that they are wrong
But we can know “the season” and here’s the point, from everything that the scriptures teach about the return of Christ we know that it is imminent
The dictionary defines “imminent” as “Likely to occur at any moment; impending”
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-
Jesus offered us the following warning,
“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
Of the fact that Christ IS coming we can be sure, but we cannot afford to be caught in a false sense of lull just because it has not happened yet
His return needs nothing more to happen than the approval nod of the Father and we need to make sure that we are ready and waiting for it to happen
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains.
At to that that in the book of Revelation which John describes as,
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,
In that book John records these words of Jesus
“Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.”
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
“Yes I am coming soon!” Revelation 22:20B
So we know that the return of Christ is definite and we know that the return of Christ is imminent, the third point is that the return of Christ is permanent
There’s a phrase in verse 4 that I am not so sure we get the full impact of, let me read it again, “When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, AND TAKE ME HOME”!!!!
Have you ever gone away for a while whether it be for recreation or for business, and at first it is fresh and exciting but it doesn’t take long for it to grow wearisome and for you to begin to desire to go home again
To go where things are familiar, where things are comfortable, where things are as they should be
Perhaps you’ve heard the old expression, “This world is not my home” and yet we’ve resided here for so long of a time it has begun to feel as if it is
May the lyrics of this hymn be a constant reminder to us that THIS IS NOT HOME! But that Christ is indeed sometime soon coming to take us home to the place where we belong, where all is made right, where sin and its curse have been dealt with once and for all, where are friends and family that have gone before us are waiting eagerly to see us again
Listen to Paul’s words to the Philippian church,
For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
I absolutely love verse 20 and I urge you to highlight it and bookmark and write it out and attach it to your fridge, to do whatever you have to do to see it as often as possible,
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Peter says something very similar in his 1st epistle when he said, “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourself cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when He arrives.” Message
Well I hope that hearing this message excites you as much as it did me in preparing it and preaching it for the 4th verse of this great hymn is a constant reminder that the return of Christ for His bride is definite, it will happen, is imminent, it could happen at any moment and it is permanent as Christ takes us home to be with the Father forever
Oh I wish that I had time this morning to describe to you what that home will be like but let me just wrap up by quoting from another old chorus
“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see. When I look upon His face. The one who saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the promised land. What a day, glorious day, that will be.”