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12. Graduation Day:

 

The Return of Jesus

Acts 1:11 'Men of Galilee…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.'

It's a fact

Yes, Jesus is coming back! The New Testament is full of this glorious truth. Not only did the angels at the ascension announce it to the disciples (Acts 1:11 above), but Jesus himself promised it:

John 14:2-3 'In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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.'Trumpets announce Christ's coming

For the apostles who gave us the New Testament letters, too, Christ's return was a major theme. Paul, for instance, said to some fellow-Christians:

Philippians 3:20 'Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.'

From these and other scriptures we can conclude that Jesus' return will be:

Christ himself returnsThe great event

A major Bible passage on the subject will answer a lot of your questions about the order of events:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 'Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 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 own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till 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 each other with these words.'

Creation renewed

Instantly, the created order will undergo a radical renewal as the fire of God's presence removes all traces of sin and its grim effects. Those who rejected Christ will be punished by being shut out from his presence. Then will appear 'a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness' (see 2 Peter 3:10-13).

Paul describes this in great excitement, which as Christians we should all share:

Romans 8:19-23 'The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.Creation renewed We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.'

Both you as a Christian, and the whole of creation, will enjoy 'the glorious freedom of the children of God'. What a time that will be!

Rewards

While every Christian will enjoy the Lord's presence and salvation from the very presence of sin, not every one will have the same reward. Rewards will vary according to the way we have served the Lord from the time we became Christians.

The criterion will be not how long you've served him, nor how public your service has been, nor whether or not you were in full-time Christian work, but the degree to which you've been 'good' and 'faithful', and the use you have made of the talents God gave you (Matthew 25:21). The last thing you want when you stand before our Lord is to be ashamed because you wasted your time and put your energies into activities that didn't serve his purpose:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 'No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.'

In the meantime…

1. Christ's kingdom keeps growing

Jesus, victorious over death, is a King, and the extent of his kingdom—his rule—is on the increase as people throughout the world come to know him and submit to his rule in their lives.

While we don't expect to see everyone become Christians, we do expect to see a substantial number turn to him. The 'mustard seed' of the twelve disciples is growing into the 'largest…tree' of the worldwide church (Matthew 13:31-32). Like yeast in a batch of dough, Christian influence is spreading (Matthew 13:33).

2. Revival is coming—to both Gentiles and Jews

The growth of the kingdom is mostly slow and gradual. But from time to time God sends revival, when the process moves up a gear and happens fast. We expect to see this happen on a big scale before Jesus comes (Isaiah 2:2-4).

Revival will touch the Jewish people, too, as they see the blessing of God in the Gentile church (Romans 11:13-14, 25-26).

No surprise to us

Jesus' return will be 'like a thief in the night', that is, unexpected (Matthew 24:43; 2 Peter 3:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:2)—but only to sinners who care nothing for the things of the Lord. To believers like you, who are not 'in the dark' regarding God's purpose, Paul says:

1 Thessalonians 5:4 'But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.'

You don't need to fear Christ's return; instead, welcome it and pray that it will come soon!

How Christ's coming affects you now

The fact that Jesus is coming back is meant to be an incentive to godly living.

When he comes, your likeness to him will be complete. John says: 'When he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2). But we want to see much of that process take place before he Our anchor: the hope of Jesus' comingcomes, in readiness. That's why John completes his statement by saying: 'Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he [Jesus] is pure.'

At home: the Father's family

We could say that God is 'a family man'. He has always planned to have a great family of children who, like their 'elder brother' the Lord Jesus, would enjoy unbroken fellowship with him.

At Christ's return that family will be complete. You'll enjoy Father's loving care and protective presence for ever in that great eternal home—the 'Father's house' (John 14:2). And Jesus himself will be there. He promised: 'I will take you to be with me that you also may be where I am' (John 14:3). What a wonderful prospect!

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Lightning: symbol of Christ's return in glory

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John 14:2-3  'In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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.'

GiG12: The Return Of Jesus
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