Number 38 February 17, 2003
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 Hope of Christ's Return - Part 1
By Jack Northart
Most Bible-believing Christians are aware that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, where he ever liveth to make intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:25). Most Christians also believe that Jesus Christ is one day coming back to this earth and that judgement will take place once and for all.
Some confusion exists, however, over several aspects of Christ's return, i.e. where it will happen, what will happen, how it will happen, and who is effected by his return. It appears that there are statements in the Word of God that seem to contradict each other. But as you may recall from The Grapevine in the issues entitled "Setting The Record Straight, Parts 1-5," whenever there appears to be an apparent contradiction in God's Word, it lies either in (1) translation, or (2) our understanding. God's Word cannot contradict itself, for God is the author of it. So let us delve into God's Word to gain a better understanding of this wonderful hope of Christ's return.
Acts 1: 9-11
And when he (Jesus) has spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Here is the promise of Christ's return. Christ is coming back. This is our hope as Christians. This is stated distinctly in the epistle of 1st Thessalonians.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep (those who have died in Christ), that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 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 (old English for 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
We are instructed that these words here in Thessalonians are to comfort us. And what a comfort this is!
For those who are not Christian, there would be a real reason to have great sorrow and grief, because there is nothing left. But for us, we know that Christ is coming back to gather us all together, both those who have died in Christ, and those of us who will be alive at his return. If Christ came back right now, he would raise those believers that have "fallen asleep" from the dead. And those of us who are living would be caught up together with them in the clouds. I Corinthians goes into further detail.
I Corinthians 15:51-52
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (die), 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.
These verses further explain what will happen at Christ's return that we read about earlier in Thessalonians. The trumpet blows, the dead in Christ are raised, and we are all changed. Now verse 53 begins to explain what this change is all about.
For this corruptible (those that are asleep in Christ) must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
The dead in Christ put on incorruption because they are corrupting in the grave. That is why they put on incorruption. But those of us that are still living at Christ's return are mortal, and that is why we will put on immortality. Both groups of believers are changed into bodies that we will have for the rest of eternity. How exciting!
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 they sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Even though believers die today, God gets the last word on it all, because it is only temporary. He gives us the complete victory over death for all eternity.
Verses 57, 58
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
What a comfort to know that we have the eternal life, and that when Christ returns to gather us together, we will have new bodies. No longer will we have to endure suffering, pain and sorrow. No more sickness, no more death, but having bodies fashioned like his glorious body.
Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
These new bodies are part of our great hope.
I John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him: for we shall see him as he is.
We don't know all of the things that this new body will be able to do. But we know what this verse says about it, and that is that we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. So what could his resurrected body do?
At one point, he appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus, and later disappeared out of their sight. Another time, he sat down and ate with the disciples on the shores of Galilee. Another time he appeared to the disciples when they were behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Later, he ascended into heaven itself. So, whatever this new body can do, it will be like his glorious body. It will be very exclusive!
I Corinthians 13:13
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
"Now abideith faith", the word "faith" is "believing." Charity, as we discussed in our previous issue of The Grapevine, is the love of God in our renewed minds. Believing appropriates, hope anticipates, and the love of God activates both our believing and our hope. You can believe for what is available to every believer now according to the revelation and accuracy of God's Word. You can hope for that which is future. But it's the love of God which activates both our believing for what's available now and our hope for that which is future.
So as we begin to delve into the realities of our hope of Christ's return, we begin to see that there is so much to look forward to and anticipate. The eyes of our understanding will begin to be enlightened, and we will see more of what this hope is all about.
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