Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST010/4 The Signs of Christ`s return.


Scriptural Certainties concerning Christ's Coming.

While there may be many ideas as to the events which will take place at the coming of the Lord, and the order in which they will take place, yet there do seem to be some matters on which the Scriptures pronounce quite clearly. These matters are the certainty of the Lord's return, the signs of His return, the manner of His return and finally its purpose.

(i) The Certainty of Christ's Return.

Modern and liberal theology has been inclined to deny the fact of a literal, personal return of our Lord. Unless, however, we spiritualize every statement of the Scriptures in an extreme and unjustified way, it is quite impossible to avoid the conclusion that the writers of the New Testament expected Christ to return in a personal, visible way. 

First we may consider the words of our Lord Himself in Matt. 23:38,39, and again when speaking to the high Priest at His trial, He said, "Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Matt.26:64). 

Next come the words of the two men in white apparel at the time of Christ's ascension, who 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." (Acts 1:9-11). 

Nothing could possibly be clearer than this. The remainder of the New Testament is just as clear. The writer to the Hebrews says, "unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb.9:28). Paul in writing to Titus speaks of "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit.2:13).

The Book of Revelation is likewise very clear, "Behold, Re cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen." (Rev.1:7). There are many others but these are sufficient
for our purpose. In addition to this scriptural testimony, there is that of the great creeds of earlier days, all of which state belief in the personal return of our Lord.

(ii) The Signs of His Return. 

There are certain signs mentioned in the New Testament in connection with the return of Christ which appear to be being fulfilled and thus to point to the comparative nearness of this event, if not even of its close proximity. There are five types of sign mentioned in the Scriptures.

(1) Physical, Political and Social Upheavals.

In Matt.24:7 we read "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: for there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." And later on in the chapter mention is made of great tribulation than which there never has been or will be greater. It cannot be stated with certainty that all these events are to be taken absolutely literally, but obviously the cords refer to a time of great upheaval and disruption. 

It is doubtful whether there has ever been a worse period in history along this line than that through which we are passing now, and this may well get worse.

(2) The Preaching of the Gospel in all the World.

This is declared as a sign of the Lord's coming in Matt.24:14. Radio, television and other means have made the possibility of reaching every nation much more practical It is doubtful ahether there is now a nation which the Gospel has not entered in some measure.

(3) The Rise of Apostasy.

The rise of False prophets and the abounding of iniquity is foretold in "Matt.24:10-12 & 23-25. 2 Thess.2:3-4 states clearly the rise of the man of sin and the great falling away. While the meaning of these verses may not be absolutely clear, the fact of apostasy is certain. 

It is true that in some eastern and South American lands the Gospel is spreading fast; it is also true teat, in the countries that have already had the Gospel for many years, there is a terrible falling away, perhaps worse than there has ever been.

(4) Increase of Knowledge.

Dan.12:4 is an unusual verse but it clearly speaks of the time of the end and speaks of knowledge increasing at that time. It does seem a reasonable and correct exposition of the verse to make it refer to the fact of the immense increase of knowledge in the last fifty to one hundred years which has made possible progress and events almost inconceivable fifty years ago, except in the imaginative brains of writers of fiction.

(5) The Re-establishment of the State of Israel.

The Old Testament prophecies and some in the New speak of the return of Israel to their land and their re-establishment as a nation. This has come to pass almost miraculously, before our very eyes. The remarkable thing is that all the prophecies have to do with the last times.

(iii) The Manner of His Return.

We have already seen that Christ's return will be personal and physical. We are also told that it will be visible "as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matt.24:27). It will be accompanied by a great number of disturbances in the heavens and in the universe (Matthew 24:29-31). 

Again it is not possible to he dogmatic as to the meaning of these words, but obviously some things that are startling will take place. His coming is also to be sudden and unexpected, of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but My Father only" and "in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt.24:36,44; 1 Thess.5:2). 

The same chapter in Matthew also tells us that social life will be going on just as usual when the Lord returns (vv.37-41). One other point should be mentioned here. There are four different words use in the New Testament when describing different aspects of the second coming.

They are (parousia) - "a coming or being present", a word often used of an emperor or his representative visiting a place; (apokalupsis) meaning "revelation" from which our word "apocalypse's comes; (epiphaneia) a manifestation or appearance", our word "epiphany"; lastly a verb like (phaneroo), meaning "to make manifest, visible or known." It will be noticed that all these words hove the idea of publicity or manifestation in them.

(iv) The Purpose of His Return.

It is clear from the parables of Christ in Matthew chapter 25 that the purpose of His return is one of judgment, The wise and foolish virgins, the talents, the sheep and the goats all point this way, especially the last one. 

This is likewise brought out in 2 Thess chapter 10 Christ is coming back to deal with sin and to bring judgment on the ungodly and unrepentant. At the same time there are a number of other events connected with Christ's return. 

A comparison of 1 Thess.4:14-17, 2 Peter 3:10,11 and also the closing chapters of Revelation reveal that the whole range of the second coming will include the rapture of the saints, the resurrection of the saints, the resurrection of the ungodly, the final judgment and the final consummation of all things. Thus the second coming covers a large period and a great number of events and is called likewise the "Day of the Lord".

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