We Believe In The Return Of Christ
Over the next 12 months, 15 months through the end of 2020 at least, and probably beyond, we’re going to have multiple message series that we’re going to label, “We Believe”. These “We Believe” message series will really speak to the doctrines, the foundational doctrines, of what we believe as a church. I feel like it is very important that we drill the doctrine, the teaching of the church, into the next generation. We have small groups already doing this in different places, but we’re going to have it right here on the weekends and today is the first of the “We Believe” series of messages.
In 325 A.D., there was a creed written at the Council of Nicaea. It’s often called the Nicene Creed. It’s a formal statement of Christian beliefs that many of us already know. In fact, we have recited it here at Chapelhill, but I want to make sure that we do so again as we begin our “We Believe” series. Let us say it together:
“We believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered at the hands of men, was crucified, dead, and buried. On the third day He arose again; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; He will come again to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit; the redeemed church; the fellowship of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.”
Praise the Lord together for that truth and for the doctrines, the core doctrines of the church. I want to encourage you to read that this week. In fact, I would encourage you to memorize it and have your kids memorize it. I want to encourage you, whatever it takes, get the Creed into your kids. Say it at the dinner table, recite it to a beat in the car while you are driving down the road. I think that is a wonderful thing to do is get the truths in our children.
When will the end occur? How does the return of Christ effect my life?
Many people often ask these two questions, when will Jesus return and when will the end occur? Now, those questions are not anything that are new. They were first asked by Jesus’s disciples in Matthew 24:3 NKJV when they said, “tell us Lord, when will these things happen?” He had just given them a list of things that were going to happen in the future, and they said, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Pastor, what effect day to day could the doctrine or the return of Christ have on me and the way that I’m living or the way that I’m building my life? The answer is very simple. A life lived with a consciousness of Christ’s return produces different results than a life lived without it. Yet, a lot of churches, a lot of pastors, a lot of people don’t really talk about it because they don’t think it’s relevant, but I think one minute after the return of Jesus, it will be the very definition of relevant cause. We believe Jesus is going to return. We know people are interested in future things, right? Because the psychic industry is huge. In the United States, overall psychic revenue was approximately $2.2 billion in 2018, with over 94,000 different psychic services available in the United States alone.
A life lived with a consciousness of Christ’s return produces different results than a life lived without it.
But the how can we know when Christ will return or know that Christ will return? One of the most convincing evidence that the Bible is God’s word, are the staggering number of prophecies that have been fulfilled with pinpoint accuracy.
For instance, take the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was born of a Virgin, born in Bethlehem to be our savior. Just take that one event alone. Did you know that in the old Testament there are 300 prophecies concerning the first coming of Jesus Christ and now we can look back into history and we can compare those prophecies with what actually took place and you will discover if you look at all 300 these prophecies that every single prophecy was fulfilled to the mind notice detail in the way that it was actually explained. It’s been calculated. What are the chances of that? What are the chances of that happening? The chances of that happening is one in 10 to the 17th power. That is a chance of 100 quadrillion to one. Nothing can explain it. Nothing can explain that. 300 prophecies, many hundreds of years before they happened took place exactly the way the profits said.
So, if there are 300 prophecies in the Bible concerning the first coming of Christ, there are three times that many prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ. I don’t know if you heard what I said. There are three times as many prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ as we’re the first coming. If God prophesied his first coming with such detail and it happened exactly the way he described it and now he’s prophesying a second coming with the same kind of language through the same prophets. Let me ask you, what do you think God will do? You say, well, pastor, this is just something for religious fanatics. No, you’re wrong. There are millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of Christian believers, Christ followers who believe that God’s word is the inspired word of God, who follow the Lord Jesus, who believed that his coming was prophesied and it happened just the way he said and that his second coming is going to happen just the way he said.
Isn’t this something only a few fanatics believe?
There are millions of people today who believe this is going to happen. Just the way Jesus and just the way the prophet said it. I don’t think there’s a better place to begin then with the words of Jesus himself because he said it. He said in John 14: 1-3 NKJV, 1“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
When is that going to happen? We’ll look what Peter writes in 2 Peter 3:3-4 NKJV, “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
In fact, people are still scoffing like that, right? Let’s forget is coming. We’ve heard this kind of chatter for years. We don’t even need to preach and sing about it anymore, but what else does Peter say?
Look what he says 2 Peter 3:9-10, “The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness” Maybe, we just don’t understand slowness. Maybe, our definition of slowness is just different than God’s. Instead Peter says, “but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” Peter explains, that Christ is not yet returned because he is patiently waiting. He’s patiently working to draw every man, to draw every woman, to draw every child to himself, bringing people from every tongue and every tribe and every nation into the kingdom of God. But be assured, even though it seems like he is slow, he will return.
Major events of the return of Christ
Now, I think it’s easy to be confused when we talk about the return of Christ because we usually look at the second coming as a single event rather than a series of events that surround his actual return and his ultimate rule.
I want to think in terms of these four major events as being the return of Christ rather than just a single event. So I’m going to give you sort of a 30,000 foot view of these things and my prayer, my hope is it gives you not just a better understanding, but a greater expectation and a belief that Jesus Christ is coming again and ultimately it changes the way we live getting ready for his return.
1: The Rapture
So, what can we expect next regarding Christ’s second coming? The next event is a moment in time that we call the rapture. Maybe, you’ve heard about it. Maybe, you haven’t heard much about it. Maybe you’ve never even heard that term before. I trust what I’m about to say will pique your interest to the point that you will desire to investigate it even further. The rapture is when Christ calls all of those who believe him as Lord and savior, those who believe that Jesus is the way he is the truth and he is the life and he calls all of us who believe this to be gathered away with him, gathered away, not from, not from Douglas County or wherever you live, but gathered away from this planet.
Oh, Ok, that’s weird. Yes, it’s outrageous. So many things that we believe and we hold true to and we’ve watch God do through the years and through the centuries are outrageous to the carnal mind, to the finite mind, to the, to the mind, to those who don’t believe. The word rapture is not even found in the Bible. It comes from a Latin word that is translated from a Greek word harpazo is found in first Thessalonians chapter four verse 17 and that word means to be caught up. We see the words translated caught up from the word harpazo, which actually is where we get the word rapture.
The rapture is the event that prompted a lot of books series. For instance, the left behind book series, as somebody of your familiar with multiple movies, and Peter referred to it in the passage we just read, but the day of the Lord will come like a thief and people will be left behind. Peter said it, Paul said it, Jesus talked about it. That means the rapture or harpazo or catching away of the church will be sudden. And it is a time that is not expected. It will be like a thief. There are two primary passages to speak of this event. The first one being 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NKJV, “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. 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, 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. 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. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
Paul’s writing to the church at Thessalonica, trying to answer some questions, trying to help them resolve some things where they’re, they’re uninformed. The translators here, use the word “ignorant”. That word can be even better translated as “uninformed.” I don’t want you to be uninformed brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep less 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 when he returns those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord that we who are alive remain until the coming. The Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep or those who have died for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together. (“harpazo” or “raptured”). We’ll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, shall we ever always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words. That’s our blessed hope and we are to comfort one another with the truth, with the doctrine that Jesus is coming again in the clouds to catch away those who believe him as Lord and savior.
Now, Paul wrote this passage, let me explain this a little bit to people that believe that Jesus was coming back, but they didn’t understand what would happen to those who had already died. They had godly parents that had already died. They had grandparents and siblings who had trusted Christ, but they had already died. And so the Thessalonians want to know what about them, what happens to them?
What happens to people who are already dead when Christ returns?
Those are great questions. And so, Paul begins by saying, “I do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep.” Now falling asleep here does not mean taking a nap. Doesn’t mean laying down in bed at night and going to sleep. I mean, that’s different. But here in this passage, falling asleep means not taking a nap, but it means to die. I actually liked that language falling asleep. I liked the fact that the new Testament writers used the terms falling asleep instead of instead of death. When I think of my mom on July 3rd, she fell asleep. I think of my sister on August 12th she fell asleep. But I want you to know they’re more alive today than they’ve ever been. They just fell asleep and they woke up in eternity with Christ first. He said, I want you to know that one day the Lord Jesus himself, himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God. He’s not going to send his angels. He’s not going to send Elijah. He’s not going to send John the Baptist, but the Lord himself will return.
There is going to be a great resurrection?
And then Paul makes this incredible statement for he said, the dead in Christ will rise first, and they’re going to rise up from the grave first. And he tells the church at Thessalonica those who have already fallen asleep are going to rise first, and there’s going to be this great resurrection. Those of your family members and friends who were followers of Jesus that have already died are going to rise first. They’re going to rise first and they’re going to be recreated into a heavenly transformed body that’s incorruptible. A glorified body.
Does how we are buried matter to God. What about cremation?
Pastor, what about, you know, people who have died like a long time ago and they’ve been in the grave for a long time? You know, something happens when you’re in the grave for a long time, the body decomposes and things. Things are different. Pastor, what about cremation? Listen, it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re in a box or you’ve been sprinkled out over your farm, a pond, a lake or an ocean. God is a miraculous God. He doesn’t need our help. He can take a speck of dust, a little ash or neither one and God can say, “I’m going to just take that body and I’m going to resurrect it for my glory and for my praise”. By the way some of you are asking, burial or cremation, which should I do? The Bible doesn’t tell us, you decide as a family, what you think is best? My family has done both. So you decide what you think is best. Now my opinion, if you want to make it a little easier on God, keep it all in the same box. I’m just playing. God can do it however, cause he’s a miracle way maker God. And he says, “those of us who are alive, those of us who have not gone before in death, those of us who remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to be with the Lord”. And this won’t be like an airplane, right? No, this will be like a plain air ride. I mean they will be caught up.
Now that resurrection is only going to be a resurrection of the body because those bodies were believers who have died and are already in the presence of the Lord. They are already in heaven. Those who have died, those who have gone before us, they are already in the presence of Lord, so it’s just a resurrection of their body. How do I know that? Because Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. We can know that when we fall asleep in Christ, boom, we’re in the presence of the Lord. So, if you know Jesus Christ, that may be your future. We’ve probably all heard this spoken at Christian funerals, but I think we ought to be shouting about it in church. I think we ought to be sharing it one with another.
We Believe in the Resurrection
The question is, do we believe this? If so, it should show up in the way that we live, a life lived in the consciousness of return produces different results. 1 Corinthians 15:50-55, here’s the other passage where we see the rapture that speaks of the return of Christ. “Now this, I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit corruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we will all be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye. At the last trumpet for the trumpet will sound and the dead will 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 has put on incorruption and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass. The saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory. Oh, death. Where is your sting? Oh grave. Where is your victory?”
Come on, shout. When you hear there’s a great victory ahead for those that are in Christ Jesus. Wow. How wonderful is that?
I was working with a pastor many years ago now. He and I were at the graveside together of a godly woman and he was performing the message and was giving the final thoughts and words and he read this passage and he said, “and we shall be changed for this corruptible must put on incorruption.” And then he said, “this mortal must put on inmorality.” I’m thinking, “Oh no, it’s immortality. It’s not inmorality.” We just sent that lady on with the morality. That was not a good day. The problem was he didn’t even get it himself. I’m making sure I get that “T” in immortality. So, if you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, listen. When Jesus returns in the clouds, what do you have to look forward to? You will be transformed in an instant and your body will be changed to a new body an immortal body. A body that does not decay, a body that will not suffer, a body that will not get cancer and disease. A body free from any blemishes. A body free from saggy skin. Come on ladies. Yes, plastic surgeons and Mary Kay are going out of business on that day. I’m having fun because this is a fun topic.
2: Christ Returns
This is the next event on the biblical timeline and it’s imminent, meaning it could happen at any moment. You know, we forget that it’s imminent when we don’t preach about and teach about and talk about it much. We forget that it could happen at any moment. But I preached about it last night and as I was laying my head down next to my wife last night, ready to go to sleep, I said, Cindy, it could happen tonight. He could come tonight. Lord, we’re ready. We’re ready for you to come tonight. See, you see, we live differently when we live with the truth of the doctrine of the return of Christ. It helps us live differently when we have it in our consciousness. Lord, help us to keep it in our consciousness that you are coming again.
But what happens after the rapture?
Well, after the rapture there will be times of judgment. The judgment in heaven will be a celebration. The judgment on earth, not so much. The judgment in heaven is also called the judgment seat of Christ, the judgment seat of Christ. First, the rapture, then the judgment seat of Christ. There’s a lot of debate about sequence of in time events and we won’t get into all that today, but I can tell you the rapture will have to take place first before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
3: The Judgement Seat of Christ
This is not a judgment for salvation or sin, but it is a judgment for rewards. This event is about your reward in heaven. It’s all right around the time of the return of Christ, the rapture of the church. It’s about your reward in heaven or it’s about our lack of rewards. There’s going to be great joy and celebration, but I also think there will be some disappointment in the lack of rewards. Listen, it makes a difference in eternity, if you have invested in this life in true riches. Jesus had a lot to say about true riches. There’s a reward for those who do and there’s a lack of rewards for those who do not. I want you to know about the judgement seat of Christ, I want you to learn about it because it’s a day, a time when all of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and while it’s going on in heaven, the people who remain on earth will face the divine judgements of a time called the great tribulation or the tribulation time.
Now remember, this is just a 30,000-foot view and we’re not going to get into all the deep weeds. There could be hours of teaching on this subject alone, the tribulation, but this time of tribulation spoken both in the old and the new testaments, especially in the book of revelation and it’s what many people think about when they think about the end. They think about this time of tribulation and the time surrounding Christ’s return. This is when the church age has ended, and God has removed the church through the rapture caught away (harpazo).
A time when no one is left to restrain the lawless work of the enemy
Can you imagine the evil that will be present in the earth when all the Christians, all those who have the Holy spirit living in them have been caught away, raptured, taken away, and now they are gone and no one’s left to restrain the lawless work of the enemy and the lawless work of people who don’t have the Holy spirit working in them? The Holy spirit in believers will no longer be present because the church will have been removed at the rapture. Now, some teachers teach that during this time of tribulation that the Holy spirit will be removed from the earth. I don’t personally adhere to that because I think the Holy spirit is the person of God in the earth that’s going to facilitate everything that’s going to happen during those seven years. The Holy Spirit is going to be active at work doing a work at that time, but the Holy spirit in believers is going to be gone. People, that have the Holy spirit are going to be gone, which is going to create this lawless time.
A Fulfillment Of Daniel’s Prophecy
The period of time is prophesied in the 70th week in Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9. This period focuses on Israel as it’s also known as the time of Jacob’s trouble. The time of Jacob’s trouble in Jeremiah 30 is a seven-year period of great trouble, a seven-year period of great tribulation. As we read Jeremiah 30, we get an understanding that the tribulation time talks about the trouble that the unbelieving world will now face. That’s why there’s such an emphasis to be ready at the time of the catching away of the church, be ready at the rapture of the church because the unbelieving world will face this time of judgment and there’s going to be trouble for Israel, this is, this is largely about Israel. We make it about us, but it’s largely about unbelieving Israel. But the Lord, Jeremiah says, will eventually save Israel through this time of tribulation.
So, it’s not really all about us, although it is. God loves the world. Jesus Christ died for all of us that we might all be saved. God’s just got this special thing for Israel. And Jeremiah 30:7 NIV says, “How awful that day will be,” speaking of the tribulation, “no other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob.” Israel went through the Holocaust. But Jeremiah says, even that will not compare to this time of trouble, “he will be saved out of it.” Although, Israel has endured times of great persecution, which we’re all familiar with at this time, the forces of the antichrist will come against Israel with the plan to destroy Israel in every age. In every generation. There’s been a plan by some evil leader to destroy Israel and is certainly no different in this time of tribulation. But God says in Jeremiah 30:10-11 NIV, “so do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant, do not be dismayed. Israel declares the Lord, I will surely save you out of a distant place. Your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. I am with you and we’ll save you, declares the Lord. Though I, completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you.” Now remember, the churches already been raptured. We’ve already been gathered and then he says, “I will discipline you Israel, but only in due measure. I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”
Now, while this time of seven years of great tribulation certainly will be horrific, as God will be judging the earth and judging Israel. It is also a time when God opens the eyes of Israel and they recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They recognize Jesus will return and Jesus will save Israel.
4: The Return of Christ
So, here is the fourth and the big piece to the return of Christ. We have the rapture of the church. We have the judgment seat of Christ. We have the tribulation and now we have the return of Christ. The actual return where he sets his feet down on this planet. This time he’s not coming in the air as he came in the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4 or in 1 Corinthians 15, but he will set his feet down on the Mount of olives as a conquering King who will rule for 1,000 years. Zechariah 14:3-5 says “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as he fights on a day of battle.” At the end of the tribulation, he’s going to go out and fight for Israel. “On that day, his feet will stand on the Mount of olives, East of Jerusalem, and the Mount of olives will be split into from East to West, forming a great Valley with half of the mountain moving North and half moving fast South Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee. As you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus, the Lord my God will come, And all the saints with You.”
The Battle of Armageddon
About the time that the antichrist thinks he’s going to win a great victory, there’s going to be a loud shout that’s going to say, “He’s back.” No, it’s not really going to say that, but that’s the picture I have. He sets his feet down the Mount of olives and he has returned. The Bible says, and all the Holy ones with him. At the very end of the tribulation period when God judges the earth, there’s going to be this great battle that’s going to occur in the, in the Valley of Megiddo and Jesus Christ is going to be leading the army of the Lord of hosts in this battle known as the battle of Armageddon.
What’s it going to look like? It’s this incredibly huge space where the armies of the world were gathered, but Christ will return, and he will establish a great victory there. It says in Revelation 19:11-13;16, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Listen, I don’t know about you, but I know this. I want to be on his side. I want to be one of those who believe and who will be victorious with him on that great day. Wow. So, at the end of the tribulation period, what am I saying? Christ returns as a conquering King and he reigns. And this is, this is more eschatology, the study of future things. We’re not going to get into it today. We probably will be able to get into it in this series, but there’s an a thousand year period of time called the millennial reign of Christ where Christ himself will rule from Jerusalem and it will be a glorious time of peace because Satan and all of his really bad team, he has been locked up and confined for a thousand years and there’s going to be this beautiful time on this planet, which will be a very heavenly rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe in a miraculous God that can and will return
Pastor, are you kidding me? Do you really, really believe that? I believe that because this book has never been wrong. It’s never been wrong, and there’s three times as much in this book about his second coming as there is and was for his first coming. It’ll be miraculous. Certainly, it’ll be miraculous. Listen. If you don’t believe in the miraculous of God, then you can’t be a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ believes that God miraculously can change an old hard sinner’s heart and change that into a new heart and give somebody a new life and give them eternal life and that these things that God has said are true. It can and will happen, that God can do the miraculous. He will continue to do the miraculous.
One day he parted the Red Sea. Now that’s outrageous. But he parted the red sea. One day he stood out in front of a tomb and he said, “Lazarus, come forth”, and Lazarus came up out of that tomb after he’d been buried for four days. That’s a historical fact. Listen, I could go on and on and on and on. How outrageous some of these things sound and some of these things seem, but I serve a God that can do anything. Anything he devises, anything he strategizes, anything he plans. I serve a God who is able, as I close, I want you to listen to new Testament writers who wrote about his return.
Paul from a prison cell, Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up, meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.”
The Day Of The Lord Is Approaching
Why would we give up meeting together when the Lord’s coming is closer than it’s ever been, but instead encouraging one another even more? As you see, the day of the Lord approaching. here also from the book of James 5:8, “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
Hear it from Peter 4:7, “the end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
Hear it from two angels that were with Jesus himself, men of Galilee, in Acts 1:9-11, “They said, why do you stand here looking into the sky? The same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” He’s going to come back in the same way
I hear it from an aged apostle named John in the concluding words of the Bible. Revelation 22:20, “he who testifies to these things says, yes, I am coming soon.”
We believe in the return of Jesus Christ.