Sermon Notes • July 26

Return of Jesus

During this pandemic many Christians are thinking about the statement by Jesus found in Luke 21:10-12 that says one of the signs of His return would be pestilence,   Read Revelation 6:7-8 and Revelation 15:1. Are we in the last days before the return of Jesus?

The return of Jesus is an important biblical teaching. Jesus Himself promised to return. In the New Testament no teaching, apart from that which offers or explains salvation, is given the space given to the certainty of the return of Jesus. Bible scholars have noted that, on average, one in every 12 verses in the New Testament deals with His return in one way or another. God the Father declared in Acts 1:11 that Jesus would return. 

Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, creator and sustainer of all things is going to one day return to earth and when He does every believer will rejoice and shout for joy as every believer will be instantly transformed into His likeness. What a day that will be! Read I Thessalonians 4:16-17 and Matthew 24:30. 

The fact of the return of the Lord is set forth so strongly and described so vividly in the Bible that one cannot miss it. History is moving toward the personal, physical, visible return in power and glory of Jesus Christ as Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

The question is never “Will He return?” but only, “When will He return?” That He will return is as secure as God who cannot lie and who will do all things exactly as He has said. But “When?” is the question. The church of the first century believed so strongly that His return would be immediate that some literally sold all they had, quit working and were sitting around waiting for that event. Paul wrote to them in Thessalonians and told them that it may be today or tomorrow or not for some time so get back to work and keep on working with all you have until He returns.

We are now 2000 years later. History records numerous times when the church believed it was in the last days and yet He has not returned. While many outside the church scorn and scoff saying, “See he will never return”, we who believe God’s Word know that He is coming, and that return could be very soon.

Why do many say the return of the Lord seems imminent or soon?  We cannot know the hour or day when the Lord will return, but Matthew 24 and Luke 21 record Jesus’ answer to disciples who wanted to know the time of His return. Jesus described in detail the signs that the church could look for before His return. He even stated that we were to be carefully looking for them.  

Read Luke 21:10-12. A lot has been written about those signs. There will be war and the rumors of such. There has been no period of history that has seen as many or as severe wars as our present generation. Earthquakes are in the news continually. Scientists tell us that there have been more earthquakes in the past century than at any known period of history before. There will be famine. We know that in Africa the locust has destroyed most of the food supply for the coming year with famine sure to follow.  Those involved in famine relief around the world write that in any given year as many as 200 million could die from starvation. 

The word “pestilence” is not easy to translate as it seems to have included a variety of issues, so it is often translated as “plagues.” In recent years Bible scholars have pointed to such plagues as Ebola and SARS. We have seen HIV infect an estimated 75 million and an estimated 33 million have died from it. The annual flu kills annually up to half a million worldwide and now we have Covid-19. The figures on that continue to climb every day.

Jesus went on to declare there will be persecution of Christians. We are all aware of the worldwide persecution against the church and it is not going to get any better as we move closer to the return of Jesus.

Put it all together and we see earthquakes, global unrest, famine, pestilence, and persecution in ways never before seen. It seems like God’s prophetic calendar is playing before our very eyes. Read what Jesus said in Mark 8:18. 

Read Matthew 24:37-38. Jesus said that the moral condition in the days just before His would be similar to those in the days of Noah when God said it was so terrible that He had to judge the whole earth. One cannot read the paper today or listen to the rantings of society regarding the freedom every individual should have to do whatever he wants and not picture the days of Noah.

Luke 21:24 gives another sign of the return of Jesus. Jesus said we were to look for the end of the times of the Gentiles. I know of no honest biblical scholar who does not take that to mean the end of Gentile rule over the nation of Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. The rule of the Gentiles began in 586 B.C., in the days of Daniel of the Old Testament when the armies of Babylon swept through Israel and Jerusalem and foreigners began to control that nation. It passed from Babylon to Greece to Rome and in 70 A.D. under Roman rule the city of Jerusalem with the temple and everything that city stood for was destroyed. For nearly 2000 years the nation of Israel was not really a nation and Jerusalem was controlled by one country after another. At the turn of the last century a move was made by Zionists to get back the land that they believed was given to them by God and therefore belonged to them. In 1948 Israel again became a nation in the land of promise, a nation of 700,000 cast immediately into a war against an Arab world of 500 million. Few believed the new nation could survive but, in the years since, Israel has demonstrated its ability to be a nation returned home. Then in 1967, in what is called the Six Day War, Israel captured all of Jerusalem for the first time since 586 B.C. 

There is no way we can say for sure that this is the final end of the times of the Gentiles, but we cannot help but marvel at what is happening. 2000 years ago Jesus said “I am coming back” and when His disciples asked when, Jesus said “I cannot tell you the exact time but I will tell you this, there will be signs that all of you can easily see and the biggest one will be Jerusalem and when it all comes together, look up for my appearing is about to happen.” In Matthew 24 Jesus said that when these signs occur that generation would see His return. If 1967 was the fulfillment of Luke 21:24 then indeed we could very well be in the last 50-70 years of time to which I will add what John said in Revelation, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

The real question is not so much what day will He return or even if He will return in our generation, which many of us expect, but what does the possible imminent return of the Lord mean to each of us? The first issue is, are we ready for His return should it be today? Matthew 24:40 tells us that when He returns one will be taken and one will be left behind. The return of Jesus will be great joy, blessing and happiness for all eternity for all who love Him and belong to Him by faith, but at the same time for those outside of Jesus that return means the opportunity of redemption is over and all that remains is judgment and eternal death.

The prospect of the return of our Lord is an encouragement and challenge to us as Christians. Read Luke 21:34

First, we are not to be “weighed down with carousing” The word “carousing” literally means to spend or use wastefully or extravagantly.” Jesus said that because there is a possibility that the Lord’s returning soon, we need to evaluate how we are using the resources we have.  Instead of building larger barns to keep our goods in we can and should use our resources to reach the lost before it is too late. Second, we are to avoid drunkenness, which is probably not a problem for us but a caution to a society that is more and more involved in drugs and other stimulants used to avoid reality. 

If we really believe that the Lord may come back soon, we should not be overcome with the cares of this world, or the anxieties of life. Things are not always easy in life, but we are on the winning side. While a view of the soon return of the Lord is not an excuse to reject reality or responsibility, it is a call to put it all in perspective, to see life as going somewhere even as history is going somewhere.

Think about how you would live if you knew for sure Jesus was coming back in two weeks.   Jesus said, “Be always on the watch.” That is a constant challenge for us as well as an encouragement to us as we live in these uncertain times.