October 14, 2007
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15
The Return of Christ – Part One
by Jack Northart
Some are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Others don’t believe he ever will come and have relegated their lives to mere chance, circumstance and natural selection. The truth of the matter is that Christ did come and lived his life on earth. He was crucified, died and was raised the third day by his heavenly Father God. Forty days after his resurrection, he was taken up into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. At the appointed time, he will return to gather together all who have believed on him after the Day of Pentecost.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
These verses are specifically addressed to the Church of the Body of Christ, or those who have believed on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is not specific to those who were believers before the first coming of Christ, or as the Bible calls them, “the just,” who will be resurrected at their appointed time. These are two distinct events, as we shall see in this study of Christ’s Return.
The “Gathering Together” of believers will be a wonderful event for the Church of the Body of Christ. It is a day that we can look forward to with joy and excitement. It is important however, to distinguish between the return of Christ for the Church, and the portion of his return when he comes with his saints. A very critical distinction is necessary when reading the scriptures in order to rightly divide the Word of truth. The first portion of his return is FOR his saints, the second portion is WITH his saints. A great deal of confusion has resulted from not seeing the difference between these two events. Part of the confusion comes from not understanding the special significance of this age of grace, or age of the great mystery which God kept secret from the beginning and did not reveal it until He made it known to the Apostle Paul.
Ephesians 3: 1-6
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.
This great mystery was not known by anyone until God revealed it to Paul. He revealed that whoever believes regardiing Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, will be a member of the Church of the One Body of Christ. Christ himself is the head, and we are members in particular in the One Body. Among many significant things, the members of the Church of the One Body will be gathered together unto Christ at his return. This was part of the Great Mystery that was revealed to Paul.
I Corinthians 15:51-52
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (be dead), but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Again, he is revealing information that was not known previously. This epistle is addressed specifically to the Church of the One Body, after the Day of Pentecost. Those who believe on Christ will be changed at his coming; whether dead or alive at that time. If we are alive at his return, our bodies will be made immortal, and if we are dead (asleep) our bodies will be made incorruptible. This is our wonderful hope of glory that we can look forward to with great expectation.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And what a victory it is! It is our great hope.
I Peter 1:3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively [living] hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Our hope is a living hope of an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and does not fade away.
If you had a very rich uncle that was worth several billion dollars, and he told you that it would all be yours someday, wouldn’t you be excited and thrilled to know about it? Wouldn’t it give you a different outlook on life? Wouldn’t you wake up every day with the thought of it on the forefront of your mind? Yet, God has given us much more than several billions. Many believers shrug it off as if it is not really going to happen, and since we really don’t know what it is all about, why think about it? We should think about it because it is going to happen. It will give us a different perspective to each new day. Hope is not something that we aren’t sure about, because these things will definitely come to pass. This hope can be taken to be sure and steadfast.
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Yes, life has trials and pressures, but we keep believing and walking for Him. Knowing that at his return, we might be found unto praise and honor and glory. What a joy!
In light of these verses that make the gathering together of the One Body very clear, it is important to understand and recognize that there are distinctions made in God’s Word concerning various time periods. As an example, after Adam and Eve sinned and were expelled from the garden of Eden, their situation was radically different from what they had been before they had sinned, and their relationship with God had changed radically. In reading God’s Word, one cannot ignore these changes. Similarly, when the Lord Jesus Christ began his earthly ministry, situations were different than they had been previously. The Messiah was present. God’s dealings with mankind, and particularly with His chosen people Israel, had become very different. In understanding this key, we will see in Part Two of this study, how the return of Christ involves various events, at various moments of time in the future.
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