Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on June 7, 2009.
"And while we live this life we hope and wait for the glorious denouement of the great God and of Christ Jesus our savior" (Titus 2:13, Phillips).
There may be no other topic more exciting, more fearful, more glorious, and more controversial than the second coming of Christ. Christians are all over the map in their opinions on the subject, fervently defending their beliefs and convictions about it to any who will listen. Here is Weymouth's translation of the passage: "For the grace of God has displayed itself with healing power to all mankind, training us to renounce ungodliness and all the pleasures of this world, and to live sober, upright, and pious lives at the present time, in expectation of the fulfillment of our blessed hope, the Appearing in glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us to purchase our freedom from all iniquity, and purify for Himself a people who should be specially His own, zealous for doing good works" (Tit. 2:11-14). This translation caught my attention because it declares in capsule form what the Lord has given me to write about, particularly in this series, "Surrendering to God."
It is the grace of God which has displayed His healing power to all mankind; it is that grace which trains us in righteous living and it is that grace which has planted in our hearts the "blessed hope of His appearing," a hope which grips us all. It is the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, "who gave himself for us to purchase our freedom from all iniquity and purify for Himself a people who should be specially His own, zealous for doing good works" (Vs. 14). The grace of God accruing to us through the blood of Christ and His resurrection has freed us from all iniquity and further, Christ is purifying us for Himself that we can then flow in His good works. As usual, it has taken me many thousands of words to convey what this passage did in just 29 words. However, it has taken my whole life to understand what this means, which I have dutifully tried to convey in these essays, fully realizing that only the Spirit of God can breath on them the breath of life and make them come alive for the reader, as He has for me.
The "second coming" is NOT a topic I would ever choose on my own, but when the Spirit pressed me, I realized this was what He had chosen for me. My reluctance stems NOT from a lack of enthusiasm for His appearing, for like most of you, I long for Him to bring down the curtain of this tedious "Act 6" we're in and "get the show on the road" to the glory. The struggle with writing about it comes from the fact that the Lord has changed my mind dramatically over the decades about how it may transpire.
Back in the 80s, I read and reread Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth. He filled the book with the fearful thunderings of the old Prophets about "the great and terrible day of the Lord," which Lindsey wove together so cleverly and seamlessly, that it seemed for sure he knew what the Bible was saying about the end times. I've always loved the old Prophets, particularly Isaiah, my favorite. Daniel is another whose predictions clearly dove tail with John the Revelator's. Lindsey made it seem a "done deal" that Christ would surely come back in the 1980s. Of course, He didn't, or at least, not in the sense Lindsey meant.
You do realize, of course, that the term "second coming" is no where to be found in scripture? The closest you can find is Heb. 9:28: "so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." I was very excited to find that when He comes again, He will not be dealing with sin, for after all, how much more dealing could sin require when "he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (I Jn. 2:2). Phillips gives a fuller picture of Heb. 9:28: "so it is certain that Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many and after that, to those who look for him, he will appear a second time, not this time to deal with sin, but to bring to full salvation those who eagerly await him." The term "full salvation" is significant to me because like most of you, I am looking for Him to complete the process begun on the cross. Our sins are forgiven, but our bodies and our souls need His touch.
Long ago, Paul's prophecy about the sons of God being manifested or revealed, and the whole creation longing for such a day, arrested me in my tracks, and I knew that this is exactly what I need, what you need, what the whole world needs. Here's the passage found in Rom. 8:22-25: "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Notice that the "adoption as sons" or the manifestation of us as sons (including women too, of course), will be evidenced by the REDEMPTION OF OUR BODIES. "But that won't happen until we die and go to heaven," someone protests. Really?
Paul doesn't make that clear, IF it is what he meant, and in fact, he gives a hint of something much more glorious in I Cor. 15:51: "Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." That's found in his discussion of the resurrection (I Cor. 15:42-57), when our perishable bodies shall become imperishable and our mortality shall put on immortality. One of the most thrilling scriptures in the Bible is Paul's declaration that "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (I Cor. 15:42-57). That's not an opinion, folks; it is a PROMISE! It is possibly the final act in our little "earthbound morality play." The hope that "the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God," has kept me going when nothing else helped (Rom. 8:21). This promise has sustained me through many a crisis, heartbreak, failure, and trauma. Knowing that God has it all under control, no matter how bleak it looks or how rocky the road, makes all the difference.
Clinging to the Everlasting Arms, traveling in the Palm of God's hand involves changing our focus. Two scriptures point our vision toward heaven (Spirit) and away from the murder and mayhem which prevails on earth: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." In other words, "SET YOUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE, not on things that are on earth" (Col. 3:2).
For years, I pondered the second coming of Christ, ran the references, read the study notes and asked the Lord to show me what He wanted me to know. What came to me was that the angel's prophecy when Christ ascended to heaven, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11), was actually fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when He returned from heaven in the fire and light and power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-12). Most of my life, I had been seduced by the interpretations made by men, adopted as doctrine by the church, and taught as gospel.
Zechariah's prophecy comes to mind here as a prime example of traditional church teaching: "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south" (Zech. 14:4). This scripture is possibly the one which compels most Christians to protect and preserve Israel, and disrespect the Palestinian claims to "the holy land" (a popular description of Israel which fails to recognize that we ARE God's Holy Land).
God always moves through a remnant, the elect, and always for the benefit of the non-elect. The Jews were "God's chosen people," until God blinded their eyes so they could not see nor hear the truth (Is. 28:26-27; Jn 12:40; Rom. 11:7-10), until the Gentiles come in. Then, Paul declared, "All Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26), along with all men upon whom God will have mercy (Rom. 11:32). When we traveled through Israel in 2000, and 2005, I quickly saw that the ONLY reason most Christians pray for Israel, give money for her preservation, and therefore, despise the children of Ishmael, is not because they love the Jewish people, but because they are protecting the "tarmac" upon which they believe Jesus will touch down when He returns. That's a result of taking Zechariah's prophecy literally.
Decades ago, Harry Fox said, "I don't believe it will happen like that, but I can't rule it out." What does that mean? Is he merely being wishy washy? No indeed. Harry is a trained theologian, who believes that you cannot take all prophetic scriptures literally. If you do, the book of Revelation will scare you spitless. As Lenny points out, John said in the first chapter, "What you see is not what it is." Jesus Himself told John that "the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches" (Rev. 1:20). John spoke to the persecuted church, in language they were VERY familiar with, the prophetic visions of Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah and Joel, to name a few. They understood what he meant, and the Romans did not. Christians who fear the book of Revelation do not understand it either, for the book is what it says it is, THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST! He has already come a second time, He is coming, and He will come to all hearts open to receive Him.
What I've written is my opinion, gleaned from scripture and from the Holy Spirit's leading. It is for me. No one should take what I write as law or their marching orders. It is merely what I have seen. Because I've been through so many "camps" of opinion about the "second coming," I know what a fluid subject it is, and very subjective, much like our personal experience with Christ Jesus. Let me summarize this way. If what you think about the second coming fills you with fear and dread about your own fate or the destination of those you love, perhaps you need to go back to the well and draw fresh water from the Spirit.
God is LOVE (I John 4:16); the PRICE has been paid for the sins of the whole world (John 1:2), and ALL MEN will experience the mercy of God (Rom. 11:32). For that, with all the Saints, past and present, we bow our knee in worship to the One who keeps us from falling, and who will present us "before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy. To the only God, our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen" (Jude 14). Amen and amen, all praise and glory to His name. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
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Working for Jesus? Surrendering to God, II
Fighting the Good Fight? Surrendering to God, III
A Covenant With Death? Surrendering to God, IV
The Family Fix, Surrendering to God, V
Your Mortal Body, Surrendering to God, VI
Echoes From Sodom, Surrendering to God, VII
Judgment: His or Ours? Surrendering to God, VIII
Why did Christ have to die? Surrendering to God, IX
The Pearl of Great Price, Surrendering to God, X
Tested by Fiery Trials? Surrendering to God, XI
Sibling Rivalry, Surrendering to God, XII
When Parents and Churches Fail, Surrendering to God, XIII
Does God Need Us? Surrendering to God, XV
Does God Need Our Faith? Surrendering to God, XVI
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 06/04/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister