Jesus, the Coming King
Jesus,the Coming King In 1 John 3:2–3 (NIV84) we read this:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know THAT WHEN HE APPEARS, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Nearly 5 years ago now, shortly after a break from preaching of some 22 years, and coerced by the Pastor, I stood here to preach on the subject of the Trinity. It was perhaps a rather cruel re-initiation, as I pointed out at the time, since among the other challenges of that subject, the word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere at all in the text of the Bible. Today, however, as the somewhat delayed final part in our Four Square Gospel series, Scott has asked me to share a little on the subject of “The Coming King”, and while I believe the challenge is at least as tough, it is for almost the reverse reason. For this is a subject that permeates the Scriptures from start to finish. So, a lack of Biblical texts is not our problem this morning. Rather it is that there is just so much in the Bible on the subject, that gaining a coherent understanding of its complexities is an immense task. Broadly speaking though, I think Christians fall somewhere between two extremes when it comes to eschatology, which is the rather grand title given to the branch of theology that focuses on “things to come”. On the one hand there are those who can regale you at length, and at the slightest opportunity, with all the minutiae of every prophetic or symbolic interpretation relating to the Second Coming of Christ and its accompanying sequence of events. And, they can do it, without so much as a pause for breath. You may be relieved to hear that I am NOT among their number. At the other extreme though, there are those of us, who having perhaps sat glazed-eyed under the ministry of eschatological experts, have subsequently made a mental “note to self” not to visit the subject ever again. I’m rather ashamed to confess, that until goaded by Scott to take on this preaching assignment, I have been pretty much exemplary of this second extreme of Christians. But what are Pastors here for if not to nudge or cajole us, however reluctant we may be, along the road of spiritual growth and enlightenment. So here I am this morning to share a little about our Coming King, and despite several weeks of study and serious thought, I’m still, I’m afraid to say, only just this side of blind panic at the thought! So, given that I also know that there are more than one or two in our congregation who would have no trouble whatsoever in teaching me a thing or two about our subject today, I have come up with a plan! I have decided just to put to one side all those complex issues of prophetic interpretation. I have decided to side-step the arguments of those who tell us that eschatologically we are frighteningly close to “midnight”, and, I’ve also decided to shamelessly pretend that there are no significant issues to divide us in regard to pretribulationism, pre-wrath, posttribulationism, premillennialism or amillennialism. Instead, I’m going to focus on just two very basic things. And then, provided that you promise me you won’t come and try to convert me to your way of thinking, I’m happy just to let you loose to go off and investigate these other areas for yourself. So brace yourselves, because my first point is simply this: JESUS IS COMING AGAIN! Now maybe I’m wrong, but for many of us I think that the return of Jesus Christ, whilst we mentally acknowledge it’s truth, can seem somehow unreal, theoretical, distant, even irrelevant, in the context of our busy daily lives. There is so much more that absorbs our time, our thoughts, our energies, and our plans and aspirations, that it is one of those areas of the Christian life that can be side-lined; parked, and collecting dust in a place with the label, “I’ll deal with this later”. And embarrassingly, for many of us, it has been parked there for some time now and rarely, if ever, visited. So today, I’d like to take us all back to that place, and shake off some of that dust and encourage us to take a look once more. Imagine, it’s a normal day. You’re absorbed in the things of that normal day, at home, at work, in school, when in an instant, without warning, you are in the presence of the Lord Jesus. You look down to see that you are sporting a brand new body; instantly you are aware of vastly increased sensitivity and receptivity; your brain feels like it has been steam cleaned and your whole being is flooded with a glorious rush of light and warmth. You are glowing! In that same instant you SEE that King Jesus is here and you are overwhelmed with a joy you never felt or dreamed of before. “He’s here, my Jesus is HERE!” you exclaim, and then it dawns on you that you are surrounded by countless others all changed, all alight with new life. You’ve known it for a long, long time, but now, you really feel it with an exultant, exuberant wave of incandescent joy. Now you really KNOW you are saved! Now whilst you would probably have good reason to dismiss and reject my little characterisation of one aspect of that precious sequence of events that will mark the Second Coming of Christ, I have used it because by personalising it in this way I hope to get us to think again about this event that we know with our heads IS coming, but somehow we are failing to live in the light of that reality. The fact is Jesus IS coming again. One day it WILL happen. And when that day comes everything will have irreversibly CHANGED. Search through the Old Testament and scholars tell us there are twenty times as many references to the second coming of Christ as there are to His first coming that we’ll celebrate at Christmas. Twenty times as many references to the victorious risen Christ returning to rule and reign, as there are to Christ coming to pay the ultimate price for our sin at the cross at Calvary. The New Testament refers to Christ’s coming again on at least 318 times. In Paul’s letters alone he speaks of the Second Coming no less than 50 times. There is just no escaping that the Bible everywhere confirms what the author of Hebrews states so emphatically when he writes in Hebrews 9:28 (NIV84) “28 . . . Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and HE WILL APPEAR A SECOND TIME, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Also, Jesus Himself actually PROMISED that He would return in that powerful passage in John’s gospel where in talking to the disciples of the terrible things that lay ahead for Him as He took the road to the cross, He pauses, out of compassion for His disciples, to encourage them with these words: John 14:1–3 (NIV84) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 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. 3 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. When we use the Lord’s Prayer we are in fact praying for this great event to come to pass when we say those words: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Because we are appealing for that great day when Christ will return as King to reign in righteousness and establish His rulership here on earth? In the final verses of the marvelous Book of Revelation we twice read the words of our victorious Saviour Jesus - “Behold, I AM coming SOON” (Rev 22: v7 & v12) and then as if twice weren’t quite enough, in verse 21 he rounds it off by declaring: “SURELY, I AM coming soon”. Remember too, the words of those two white robed angels who appeared to the disciples at the ascension of Christ; what did they say? 11 “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.” Acts 1:11 (NIV84) JESUS IS COMING BACK. The same Jesus whom the disciples watched ascend to Heaven, IS coming back. As Paul puts it in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 (NIV84) “16 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. 17 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.” Jesus IS coming back! Remember, how unbelievers scoffed at Noah’s warnings of the impending deluge, but they then lived on to see the terror and truth of his testimony as they slipped beneath the rising waters. So too, many today who reject the whole concept of the return of King Jesus will sadly awaken too late to its truth and will be plunged inexorably into that appalling tide of judgment that again awaits our world. Frankly, as Christians, were we to really meditate on the prospect of that judgement of those who reject the message of love and the forgiveness of God expressed in Christ’s death on the cross, I think it would be a powerful motivator for us to ceaselessly share the good news of the Gospel. Because there IS real eternal judgement awaiting those who fail to respond in faith to the spectacular good news of the gospel and IT IS OUR CHARGE to warn them while we may. But this morning in my second and final point, I want us to reflect for a moment, not on the judgement of those who reject Christ, but on the judgement that you and I can expect as born again Christians when Jesus comes again. And I urge you, to take some time to check out these things for yourself, if you have not yet done so. The Bible is clear about the judgement of Christians. In reference to the Second Coming of Christ we read His words in the last chapter of the book of Revelation: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone ACCORDING TO WHAT HE HAS DONE.” (Revelation 22:12 (NIV84)). And Jesus is also recorded as saying in Matthew 16:27 (NIV84):” 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 HE HAS DONE. And the Apostle Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV84) ”For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” Now to clarify, we need to understand that this judgement at what is referred to as the “bema” seat of Christ is not about our sins, because they have been fully paid for by the sacrificial death of Christ. But our WORKS in the service of our Saviour ARE to be judged. Indeed, they are to be tested with fire as Paul tells us clearly in 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (NIV84) “10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 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. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” When God tests our ministry and our works in His service with fire, it will be instantly clear whether they are gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay and straw. In that moment the quality of our Christian walk will be revealed, and, because it is Jesus making the judgment it will be ABSOLUTELY FAIR and it will be COMPLETELY THOROUGH – everything will be accurately assessed and nothing at all will be overlooked. I remember in my early days at Grammar School we had a new Music teacher come. He was very, VERY, frightening, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a single musical bone in his body. That first lesson was torture as again and again he had us singing, first as a class, and then in different small groups. Worse, it soon became clear that my ploy to avoid betraying my less than musical voice by mouthing the words without actually making a sound, had been picked up by the eagle-eared teacher and at the end of the lesson, judgement was passed as I was one of a handful of pupils who had to wait behind and then go and stand next to the piano individually and sing entirely alone. It was my worst nightmare! But I think, that hearing my singing up close and personal made the teacher finally realise that musically, I was indeed the hopeless case that I claimed, as he turned the full attention of his trained ear to the appalling noise I was generating, accompanied as it was, by the involuntary percussion of my knocking knees. But as Christians, we need to face the reality that at that final judgment we too WILL be found out. Jesus knows us. He is not deceived for a moment. He knows. He knows when we have exaggerated. He knows when we have held back the whole truth. He knows when we failed to act or intervene as we should have done. He knows the hidden and duplicitous motives behind the actions that others may have thought were benign and selfless. He knows our own inflated but entirely spurious opinion of ourselves. He knows our unpleasant secrets, our failures and our failings. And while we know that our sins are forgiven completely and eternally, thanks to Christ’s perfect sacrifice, we should also understand that the way we have lived our lives has meant that our works, however good they may have looked to others, may not survive the testing fire of the one who sees and judges all things justly. And, it is on the basis of that judgment, the judgment of our WORKS in Christ’s service, that our role and place in the eternal Kingdom will be determined! In Jesus’ Parable of the Talents, we see that the two servants who doubled their master’s investment received the commendation: “‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ (Matthew 25:21 (NIV84)) So, if we are to follow their example, it is important for us to give some thought NOW to what Jesus will be looking for when we are judged. What kind of good works will survive the fire? What kind of works are gold, silver or precious stones? What will see us rewarded with a “Well done” from our Saviour? Let me suggest just a few such things on the evidence of Scripture. In Luke 6:35 (NIV84) Jesus says: “. . . love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your REWARD will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because HE is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” So here, He is commending one of His many counter-intuitive approaches to life. What pleases Jesus is an approach to life that gives others what they don’t perhaps deserve, in the very same way that Jesus Himself has given to us salvation, and so much more, when which of us would dare to say that we have deserved any of it? We are to bless others who don’t deserve to be blessed BECAUSE we ourselves are those who have been forgiven for our sins and treated by God in a way we certainly don’t deserve. God likes that approach, He loves it, and He commends it with a “Well done!” In Matthew 6:19–21 (NIV84) Jesus counsels: 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do NOT destroy, and where thieves do NOT break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We are right, of course, to be wise in handling our finances, but we must be wise in a way that attracts a return from our Saviour, not just from our savings! We need to cultivate a generous heart that will make us responsive to prompts from the Holy Spirit to give to meet the needs of OTHERS, rather than just satisfying our own appetites and desires. Such an attitude the Scripture tells us attracts the approval of God. In Matthew 5:11–12 (NIV84) Jesus tells us to expect to be persecuted for our faith and to make that persecution fruitful even though it is painful, even crushingly painful. He says: 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because GREAT IS YOUR REWARD IN HEAVEN, . . .” When our response to persecution is not just to wallow in self-pity and to cry out to God to intervene, Jesus is clear, we will earn a GREAT REWARD and I’m sure that responding with faith on such occasions will provide good works that survive that fire of testing. Now there are, of course, very many other scriptures that speak of what God rewards, and if this were a month long Bible Study we could look at more of them, but I certainly commend the idea of searching them out and reflecting on their significance because they will have a material effect on the nature of our eternal future. But to finish this morning – just two simple observations. ONE: it is not selfish, but sensible, to set ourselves to seek rewards from the Saviour, because the things that are to be rewarded are the very same things that please God. They are the same good behaviors and practices that the Bible commends and that Jesus taught. We are totally right then, as Paul says to the Corinthians, to ”. . . make it our goal to please him,” 2 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV84) and so to seek to gain His rewards. TWO: to end as we began, we need to let the Apostle John’s words permeate our lives: 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that WHEN HE APPEARS, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 EVERYONE WHO HAS THIS HOPE IN HIM PURIFIES HIMSELF, JUST AS HE IS PURE. (1 John 3:2–3 (NIV84)) That must be our goal; because that way lie rewards that will transform our ETERNAL future, when at last we see OUR COMING KING for ourselves.