BackDoor Bible Series
The Imminent Return
To help us understand that Jesus can return at any moment.
Matt 24:1-31, John 14:1-4
Students Teach Students:
Key Discussion Question -
Many people believe that certain things must happened before Christ can return and they believe this because of what they read in Gods word. Lets turn and Read from what is called the Olivet Discourse found in Matt chapter 24.
Read Matt 24:1-31
Here we find Jesus describing the End times and what the signs will be around them. What signs caught your eye? Well if your like most people you focused on the elements of judgement, the time of great distress, the great tribulation. A time that even the elect would not survive if it were not "cut short". You see, today people are fascinated with catastrophes'. We fear them, yet we love to watch them happen to others and this scripture describes the greatest catastrophe the world we know will ever see. Now before you start to worry, lets turn and read from the book of John.
Read John 14:1-4
Hear we find no mention of catastrophe, just a solemn promise to return and get his disciples. But when most of you ask, when will this happen. Lets find out by continuing to read from Matt 24.
Read Matt 24:32-41
Ok, so you will know kind of when it's going to happen by the sign's of the times, but of the actual day and time, no one knows not even Jesus. Only God the father knows this. But lets keep reading because we are about to find out why some people are waiting for certain things to happen before they believe Christ will return.
Read Matt 24:42-51 and the parable of the 10 Virgins (Matt 25:1-13)
Here we find a challenge to do 2 things, 1 be ready and keep serving the Lord at all times because you don't know when he will come and secondly to keep watch. Now it's the keeping watch thing that encourages people to keep looking for the signs of the 2nd coming. But here we also a dilemma. How can Jesus' return be so unexpected that we must always stay ready and yet signs that we will be able to see must precede it.
Concept of the Imminent Return:
The word imminent means "may occur at any time" and the new testament is full of teaching that indicates that Jesus could have returned for every generation that has lived since the Holy Spirit came to the early church. The disciples all believed he would return for them in their lifetime, so did Paul as he wrote to the churches that came after them and so did the churches in 300 AD that were so persecuted for the gospel. ? Even the book of Revelation which describes the second coming of Christ say is its first few verses that the time is "near". Lets look at a few other passages.
In all these passages we do not find descriptions of catastrophes or judgement but rather words focused on hope and deliverance. Anyone who reads them cannot help but apply them to themselves in their own times. Even passages that do mention God's final acts judgement like 1Thess 5:1-12 and II Peter 3:10-13 tell us that as true believers we are not appointed to suffer God's wrath and should expect to be delivered from the problems of this world into a new "home or righteousness".
Yet it has now been 2000 years and Jesus has not yet returned. In fact people are still talking about what has to happen first. They discuss the gospel being preached to the whole world or the temple being built in Israel. So how can this be? How can Jesus return have been imminent in the time of to the early church? If it really wasn't, is it really imminent today? And if it isn't imminent, why should we act like it is?
In order to answer these questions and get a clear grasp on why the concept that Christ can return at any moment is important we need to look a little more at what the scriptures say about the timing and nature of the 2nd coming.
This is exactly the opposite of how the end times are described for the nation Israel. The Old testament prophecy's in Daniel clearly reveal that God has measured and defined when things will occur for Israel. The book of Revelation also uses very specific measures when speaking of the times associated with events as they occur around Israel. It also uses specific numbers that refer to her saints. Israel has been "measured" and we have been given the numbers. Yet with respect to the Gentiles, the population of Saints that come out of the tribulation is referred to as vast and uncountable. (Rev 7:9-14). And so it is with the time of the Gentiles, the days of the church from our perspective are "unmeasured". In Ephesians 3 a mystery is revealed that was given by revelation to Paul. The mystery that Jesus has chosen to take a "bride". That God has decided to collect another people for himself to be a co-heir with Israel (see also Acts 15:14) and Romans 11:25 tells us that the time to collect this people will not be measured. Rather God will wait for the "full number" to come in before he restarts the clock for Israel.
2. The time of the 2nd coming will usher in the deliverance of God's new people.
Rev 3:10, a letter from Jesus to one of the early churches points out that because they have waited patiently while suffering for Christ, he will protect them from the hour of trial that will test the whole earth. Back in Paul's time there was a church called the Thessalonians and they were under great persecution. Because of this some had begun to think that Jesus had already returned, the great tribulation, the Day of the Lord, had begun and they were in it. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 Paul's answers this concern by assuring the Thessalonians that when Jesus does return any believers who are still alive will meet him in the air. He goes on in chapter 5 to summarize Jesus teaching from the Olivett discourse in Matt 24. He reminds them about how generally unexpected the Lords return will be, restates in his own words Jesus' parable contrasting the faithful and the wicked servant, and then adds something. He points out that we should not worry about that day as we are not appointed to suffer Gods wrath. This passage shows us that at Christ return, the believers will be protected Paul also wrote 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 to speak to this untruth.
3. The time 2nd coming is broad term.
The term Day of the Lord" as it refers to the 2nd coming is likely a broad term covering a series of events which span at least 7 years. Back in the new testament scripture also offered another dilemma that the Jewish scholars struggled with. It also related to the coming of the messiah, the "1st coming". The prophecy found in Isa 9:6-7 depicts the Messiah as coming with greatness, glory and power. Yet the prophecy in Isa 53:2-6 depicts the messiah as lowly, a suffering servant. While the Jewish scholars had a hard time with this, we know today that both are true. They simply refer to how Jesus will manifest himself at different times. And so it may be with our dilemma.
It is possible that the first event associated with the 2nd coming is the rapture of the church. This would protect the "Bride of Christ" and harmonize with the promises of deliverance in the New Testament. As the first event of the 2nd Coming it would also be "imminent" for it could happen at any time ushering in a period of events that are fully measured and declared prophetically. It would end the time of the church, the days of grace, and once again start the clock of Israel's prophetic timeline. When it occurs the believer will not have to find Christ, for Jesus would not only find him, but take him and protect him. For the unbeliever, the thief would have come in the night and the days of trouble will have begun.
4. The judgement and wrath of the Day or the Lord is initiated by Jesus.
The terrible judgements and wrath of Revelation are initiated by an event found in Revelation chapter 5. It is the opening of a scroll. The events of wrath poured out on the earth by the opening of the scroll are what we know as the tribulation. I find it quite noteworthy that no one is found worthy to open except Christ. It is our savior, the one who loves us and died to redeem us, that delivers the judgement to the earth. Further it is the same Jesus who leads the armies of heaven against the earth in Rev 19 and it is Jesus who God has entrusted all judgement of men (John 5:22). Now when you trust in the whole of the New Testaments gospel which paints Jesus Christ as savior and deliverer, how can you fear his wrath. Such a thing is inconsistent. I don't believe we ever need to fear anything that Jesus will do.
Lastly I think it good to look at why it is important to be ready. I think there are two reasons. One relates to the kingdom and the other to us. First , we all know that when something can occur at anytime, people work their hardest and overcome laziness. Since God has chosen to use his children to bring the full number into his church, the time it will take depends on our openness to God's will. We are to stay ready so we are effective for him. And secondly, Although the book of Revelation is primarily related to the time of the 2nd Coming, it contains a series of letters written by Jesus to the early churches of the 1st century. I have found the closing remarks of each of the letters to be quite interesting. Each on closes with a common phrase - "to he who overcomes". Below is one of them, consider reading the rest for yourselves.
To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations-- 'He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery' -- just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star. Rev 2:26-28
Is it possible that living like Christ return is imminent has something to do with our heavenly rewards?
An Ancient Sound