The Return of Jesus Christ
These are my teaching notes from Cornerstone Church on Sunday, December 23. This is part 3 of a series called The End: Four Events that Will Change the World.
HE SHALL RETURN
At Christmas, we look back to the birth of Jesus AND we look forward to his return. Why? Because they are two sides of the same coin; you can't have one without the other.
This is what I mean: What Jesus did in his incarnation is real, but it is not yet fully realized. That won't happen until his revelation, at his return. For example, we're forgiven today because of all that Jesus did in his incarnation. That's real. But the amazing things made real by forgiveness, are not yet fully realized or fully experienced; things such as our new life, our new relationship with God, our new bodies, We have to wait for the revelation of Christ at his return for all of that.
The good news is this: the birth of Jesus is a deposit guaranteeing the return of Jesus. If God can take on flesh and blood and be born as a baby in Bethlehem, then that same God-Man can come back as the sovereign savior of the world.
Jesus himself said: (Matthew 25:31) "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne."
And Paul wrote that Jesus Christ will be: (2 Thessalonians 1:7) ... revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.
Our Christmas celebrations should amp up our longings for Jesus to return. Really, the best is yet to come. Let me show you what I mean from a brief study of Revelation 19.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE RETURN OF JESUS
JESUS WAS BORN IN WEAKNESS, BUT HE'LL RETURN IN WONDER. THEREFORE, HUMBLE YOURSELF BEFORE HIM TODAY.
At his birth, Caesar Augustus ruled a world-wide empire and Jesus was a helpless baby in a cattle feeder. Let's be honest, it's a challenge to put faith in that distant version of Jesus, right? And worshipping him can just feel weird.
(Luke 2:1) In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
(Luke 2:6-7) While they were there (Bethlehem village), the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
At his return, the limitless power of Jesus will be on open display. He will rule the nations. Then, worship will be irresistible and faith unnecessary.
(Revelation 19:11) There before was a white horse, who rider is called Faithful and True (title of Jesus in Revelation 3:14). (Picture a "triumph" or victory procession in which a Roman general rides into Rome on a white war horse, the symbol of victory)
(Revelation 19:12) ... on his head are many crowns. (These are diadem crowns, the same kind that the dragon and the beast will wear - Revelation 12:1; 13:1).
(Revelation 19:16) On his robe and his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords (again, the theme of the Roman general in victory procession).
(Luke 1:32-33) He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.
(Revelation 11:15) “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
Jesus is awesome! Don't wait for his return. Humble yourself before him today.
JESUS WAS BORN TO BE JUDGED, BUT HE'LL RETURN TO JUDGE. THEREFORE, TURN TO HIM FOR SAFETY TODAY.
At his birth, Jesus came into the world to bear God's judgment. He did it for us. He offered up his obedient life and death as the atoning sacrifice for our sins - the method God chose to take away our guilt and to embrace us as his own.
(Luke 2:10-11) The angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
(1 Timothy 1:15) Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners
At his return, Jesus will bring judgment. He will unleash justice. God will be fully vindicated. Every account will be settled.
(Revelation 19:11) With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire ... (see Daniel 10:1-6 - the context is judgment in a future great war).
(Revelation 19:13) He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood. (The blood of the cross or the blood of his enemies or both?)
(Revelation 19:15) Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." (Psalm 2:9)
(Revelation 19:15) He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. (A terrible image of judgment, see Isaiah 63:1-6; Revelation 14:19-20; 16:19).
(2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.
(Hebrews 10:26-27) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
This is why I will never stop urging everyone to turn from their sins to call on Jesus to save them. He is our only safety from judgment. Only Jesus rescues us from the wrath to come.
JESUS WAS BORN TO FIND A BRIDE. HE'LL RETURN TO MARRY HER. THEREFORE, STAND FIRM AND PRESS ON TODAY.
At his birth, Jesus came to find a bride, the church. Marriage is symbolic of a loving and faithful relationship between God and his people.
The idea of God as husband and his people as bride began in Israel: Isaiah 54:5; 62:5; Ezekiel 16:7-14; Hosea 2:16-20.
Jesus used marriage imagery to describe the relationship between God and his people in the Kingdom of heaven, see Matthew 25:1-13. He called himself the Bridegroom in Mark 2:18-20.
In Ephesians 5:25-32, Paul used marriage imagery to explain the incarnation and cross. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, the church is pictured as betrothed to Christ.
Imagine the sense of anticipation of a bride and groom looking forward to their wedding day, counting down the days. So, we - the church - wait and wait and wait and wait for Jesus to return and we prepare ourselves to see him. (Titus 2:11-14; Philippians 3:20).
At his return, Jesus will marry his bride, the church. That's what we're waiting for: to know him fully and to live with him forever in a loving and faithful relationship.
When Jesus finally appears, we'll go crazy with joy, knowing that our long wait is finally over:
(Revelation 19:7, 9) Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. ... 9 ... Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!
This hope is also my motivational strategy. I'm not counting on today, on my circumstances, on people, on my job, or my family for my joy and positive attitude. I'm not focused on my mistakes, struggles, or regrets. I'm not looking within for what I'm without. I face challenges, but I don't give up. Why? Because soon, I'll see my Jesus and he'll fix everything. The best is yet to come.
I believe we should push back against the pressure to turn the holidays into a season of sentimentality. It can be so much more meaningful than that.
The incarnation of God is deep, mysterious, awe-inspiring, thought-provoking, life-rearranging, satisfying. But as great as it is, it points us to something even greater: the return of Jesus Christ in power and glory. Focus on that this season.
As we sing our carols and celebrate Christmas, we'll also be praying along with the church for the last 2,000 years: "Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus."
(Matthew 24:27-30) For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.