Welcome to the third installment in our sermon series on ‘Defeating Doubt’. Our first sermon was preached by Mike Dowler and it was about how we can believe in God in a scientific age; last week Phil spoke about how we can believe in God in a world containing evil and suffering. This week I’ll talk about how we can believe that Jesus will come again. In short, why we can believe in Jesus’ second coming. Now, before I give reasons for believing that Jesus will come again it seems reasonable that we have a clear idea of what Jesus’ second coming will actually entail. What is Jesus’ second coming?
- What we believe
The belief that Jesus will come back is one that has deep roots in Scripture. Our reading in Matthew is echoed in Mark chapter 13. Jesus return is also peppered throughout Paul’s letters, especially in 1 Thessalonians 4. In it Paul writes “The Lord will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first…and then we will be with the Lord forever.” Moreover, Jesus himself referred to the prophecies of his return in the Old Testament. For example, when Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man” he is diretly referring to Daniel chapter 7. This belief in Jesus’ second coming is such an important theme throughout the Bible that 2 Peter includes a whole chapter to encourage Christians to hold fast to what they have heard about Jesus’ second coming.
But what will Jesus’ second coming be like? Well, Jesus’ second coming will be a massive spectacle!
At the beginning of our reading in verses 27 and 28 we are told that Jesus’ second coming will be a spectacularly magnificent occurrence. Jesus’ second coming will not only be visible for miles and miles - like a bolt of lightning, or a gathering of vultures in the desert - it will be seen across the world!
It will be an outright assault on our senses. Our eyes will be filled with the sight of the multitude of angels, our ears will be overwhelmed by the blast of their trumpet-call and our bodies will be shaken by its loudness. In this vast display of power, no area will be left untouched. Those who put their trust in Jesus (“the elect”, v.31) will be gathered from across the globe; to its very ends. On top of this, we are told that there will be a great separation as God judges the world. In verses 40 and 41 we read “one will be taken and another left.”
So, the second coming of Jesus will truly be a massive spectacle where he will gather his people from across the world. But isn’t all this a bit far-fetched? Why do we, as Christians, believe this will happen?
2. Why we believe
There are two possible reasons why we can believe that Jesus will return. However please don’t think these are the only two, there are many more!
Reason number one - we can believe Jesus will return because He promised that he would come back.
In the Gospel of Matthew and all the other Gospels Jesus promises to us that he will return one day in the future. At first glance this can sound like we just have to accept this at face value and trust that Jesus is telling us the truth. However, we can address any doubts we may have about God’s promises by having a look at the promises He has already made that have been fulfilled.
Now, it appears that providence would have it that we not only have Matthew already open to us (a gospel that aims to show us that the Old Testament promises of God have come true in the birth of Jesus) but that these promises would coincide with the beginning of Advent – a season where we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ. In the first 3 chapters of Matthew we are told of no fewer than four of God’s promises in the Old Testament that have come true in the birth of Jesus:
- We have the promise from Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin will conceive and bear a son which shall be called Immanuel – ‘God is with us’.
- We have the promise from Micah 5:2 that the shepherd of Israel will come from Bethlehem.
- We have the promise from Jeremiah 31:15 that Rachel shall weep for her children - a clear reference to Herod’s attempt to kill baby Jesus by slaughtering all the male children in Bethlehem.
- And we have the promise from Isaiah 40:3 that there will be the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” who will prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight. This was fulfilled by John the Baptist who went out into the desert to proclaim Jesus’ coming.
From these four examples, then, we can see that God is trustworthy and his promises come true. Therefore we can believe and put our trust in Christ when he says that he will come again.
Our second reason to believe that Jesus will return is because it is consistent with what we already know about God.
What do we already know about God? We know that God is many things, we know He is Love, He is faithful, He is good, He is merciful, He is all-powerful, He is all-knowing, He is truthful, He is trustworthy…and he is also…Just.
The just nature of God is something I think most of us naturally understand and rejoice in. The idea that there is an all-powerful being in control of the universe that is unjust is an idea that I think would make most of us shudder. We would certainly not call him ‘God’. We who know God, know him to be all the things I mentioned earlier. Now, we have a problem when we try to link up these attributes with the fact that God is all powerful. If we look around us today, how can we believe in a God that is both just and all-powerful when the world we live in contains so much injustice? If God is in control of everything, should he do something about it?
This is why Jesus must come again. If God was all-powerful but decided to stand aside while this world continued to lurch towards ever-increasing wickedness, then he could not be said to be just. Let’s think about this. Imagine somebody broke into your house, attacked you and those you care about and then left with all your valuables. If this person appeared in court before a judge who merely shrugged his shoulders – letting him go without making provision to remedy the situation; would you think that judge was just? Would justice have been done? No.
Now the idea that God is just may sound all very pleasant when we imagine ourselves to be the wronged party, but things get much more unsettling when we look at things from an objective perspective. We ought to be uneasy because we are part of what is wrong with this world! We are part of the problem which needs to be addressed. The way in all of us have treated God, each other, and the world we live in falls well below the standard of how we ought to have behaved. We are part of the wrong that God needs to put right.
To restore justice, every single one of us deserves God’s punishment. We have fallen short of the standard of behaviour we ought to have reached. We have fallen so short that there is no way we can put things right by our own efforts. We all deserve the judgment of God. And it is coming when Jesus returns.
But thankfully we can avoid this fate. Because when Christ first came to earth, he prepared a way for all who look to him to live in the peace and joy of His Father. He did this by living the perfect life and sacrificing himself for us on the cross. He took every last drop of the punishment that was marked out for us and gave us the opportunity to share in the relationship between Him and the Father. This relationship is offered to everyone and all we have to do is receive it with faith.
3. Our response
So how can we respond to what we have heard today? Here are two responses we can make:
- Firstly, we can ask God to help us, by his Spirit, to supply us with the conviction that He is just, his word is true and his promises are trustworthy - including the promised return of Christ.
- And we can offer our thanks to God who has sent his Son to be our saviour. A saviour who one day will return to gather his people and put things right once and for all.