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A Reminder About Some of the Points in Lesson 8
The Return of Jesus Christ
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical fact on which the hope of all mankind depends. As certain as the fact of the resurrection, is God’s promise that His Son will return to the earth. After Christ was raised from the dead, he ascended to heaven, and angels gave his disciples this assurance:
“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1.11)
The Purpose Of His Return
In the Lord’s prayer Jesus taught his followers to pray for the establishment of God’s kingdom, on earth:
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6.10)
At this time the words of David will be fulfilled: “The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.” (Psalm 37.29).
Christ is to return to the earth to establish God’s kingdom by overthrowing the present human systems of government. He will rid the world of wickedness and fill the earth with God’s glory as the divine solution to all its present problems, “As surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth.” (Numbers 14.21)
For this reason the apostle Paul, in the first century A.D., encouraged Titus to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and rather to “..say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2.12-13)
WHEN WILL HE RETURN?
From the beginning, God appointed a particular day when Christ would return to judge the earth. Paul spoke of this:
“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17.31)
Christ, in his preaching, made it quite clear that, although God’s plan was made, and events would follow a set pattern, not even he knew time of his return. In Mark chapter 13 Christ told his hearers of his return, and gave them some indications as to the events which must precede it, after which he said:
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13.26). “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13.32).
Christ’s Return Like A Thief In The Night
Most people today find the idea of Christ’s returning to the earth amusing, not be considered seriously, in view of the apparent permanence of our existence. The apostle Peter warned that men would think like this: “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this `coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3.3-4).
So we are, given the assurance that God is not slow in fulfilling His promises, but that this world-shattering event will take place at the time that He has appointed for it:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” (2 Peter 3.10)
As Christ pointed out, the precise hour of his coming is not known to anyone except God, and cannot be worked out from the scriptures. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24.44)
This teaches us that believers in Christ’s return require faith, for only God knows the specific day when this will happen. To those who are not looking for this event, his appearance will be as unexpected as that of a thief in the night
IS THERE NO SIGN WHEN CHRIST WILL RETURN?
The disciples were interested in this question and asked Christ privately whilst they sat on the Mount of Olives,
“Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24.3),
Christ’s reply to this question, and many other passages of Bible prophecy, clearly show the likely time period when this return will be fulfilled. These Signs of the Times have been given to encourage Christ’s followers, that they may be ready for him.
Signs Of Christ’s Return
1. THE SIGN OF NOAH
In his answer, Jesus reminded his disciples of the Bible account of the days before the flood, as similar circumstances would be seen in the days just before his return:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24.37-39)
For the background to the times of Noah read Genesis chapter 6, where it shows plainly why God destroyed mankind, and saved only, eight people. Such wickedness was evident in the thoughts and deeds of men and God saw that The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God said to Noah,
“... God saw how corrupt the earth had become, ... So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, ... So make yourself an ark of cypress wood;” (Genesis 6.11-14,).
“God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,” (1 Peter 3.20)
The press, radio, television, the internet daily reflect the similarity between the violent, Godless world of Noah’s day and the violent, Godless world of our times.
They reflect in many instances the apostle Paul’s description of men in the last days prior to Christ’s return:
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3.1-5).
A careful consideration of each descriptive word of that Bible prophecy will show that these descriptions fit our age more than any before.
2. THE JEWISH SIGN
Jesus also spoke a short parable as an additional sign, to tell his disciples when he would return. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24.32-33)
The prophet Jeremiah gives us a clue to the identification of the fig tree as he uses the same symbol in chapter 24 when he refers to the people of Israel. We must look then for the symbolic fig tree, Israel, tender and its leaves come out..
This refers to the regathering of the Jews from all parts of the earth where they were scattered by God.
“Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods--gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.” (Deuteronomy 28.64-65)
“..then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 30.3-5)
Today the world is witnessing the Jewish people in Israel ‘its leaves come out’, as they continue to fight for their country which was re-established as a state in 1948. However, the Jewish people still have their eyes closed to the gospel message. But all that is soon to change:
Ezekiel prophesied the same event in the first fourteen verses of Chapter 37. This time the Jewish nation is likened to a collection of bones. The prophet saw a valley of dry bones:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.” (Ezekiel 37.1-2)
Then the bones came together, were covered with flesh; breath was put into them and they lived.
“Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.... I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 37.11, 14)
So we see in figurative language Israel being brought into the land as promised by God; a young nation, sprouting forth as a budding tree.
What follows this regathering? The Jewish sign tells us the establishment of God’s kingdom. The exciting aspect of this prophecy is that we can see’ God’s hand at work, as the Jews return and build up their land. We are warned:
“..when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” (Matthew 24.33)
Jesus’ Prophecy Concerning Israel
Jesus made very clear predictions both as to the immediate future of his nation, and to its long-term destiny. The leaders of the nation failed to see the hand of their God stretched out to them. He had sent them His only son as their Messiah, and they demanded his death. Just prior to his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus and his disciples stood on the mount overlooking Jerusalem, and the beauty of the temple caused the disciples to exclaim in wonder; but Jesus saw only the punishment to be meted out to his people:
’Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.... They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Luke 21.6, 24).
This prophecy received its detailed fulfillment in A.D. 70, when the Roman Empire sent an army, under Titus, to put down a rebellion. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the ground was actually ploughed over. Deuteronomy chapter 28 was further fulfilled, and the scattering of the nation was complete. No Jew was permitted to remain in the land. In A.D. 135 a decree was issued expelling the surviving Jews from Judea. The name of Jerusalem was changed to Aelia Capitolina.
There followed centuries of down-treading for the land and its people. The ’Diaspora’, or dispersion, became fact. The Jewish prisoners captured in innumerable wars were scattered to the Four Corners of the world as slaves. Those fortunate enough to escape this fate became merchants and traders. The Jew was everywhere around the world, except in Israel, so thoroughly did God fulfil His word. Settlements were to he found throughout the world, but God had decreed no comfort for them. Persecution and anti-Semitism became their way of life. For 2,000 years the land and its people were very effectively crushed and a miracle would be needed to revive them. But God had promised that miracle through many of His prophets. In 1967 the Israelis captured Jerusalem and for the first time in 2,000 years Jerusalem came under Israeli control.
Nothing could be clearer than the prophecy spoken through Jeremiah:
“I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.” (Jeremiah 32.37-40)
God had said He would give them a new heart and spirit to bring about the revival, and the amazing truth is the way the nation seemed to gather inspired strength and courage. For 2,000 years of captivity the Jews had been weak and unresisting. God had taken away their will and their ability to fight. But when the time came for the prophecies concerning their restoration to their land to be fulfilled, then this new spirit came into the nation. They waged a war to ensure they took possession of their land and Britain, the occupying power, was only too pleased to hand over. Then, against all, odds, the nation became a fighting machine, to defeat the combined strength of the Arabs and Egyptians. 650,000 Jews faced 40,000,000 Arabs and; as of old, God led His people to victory. So what the prophets had declared would happen came to pass.
Since 1948 over five million Jews have returned to Israel. The next major event will be Christ’s return to establish his Kingdom in Israel, and thence throughout the whole world.
3. THE SIGN OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM
Lesson 3 dealt fully with the image seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
“The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.” (Daniel 2.32-33)
Daniel’s interpretation showed the course of world history. The iron represents the Roman Empire, which reigned supreme in the world for hundreds of years. Originally it was ruled from Rome. Then the emperor himself moved to Constantinople in the fourth century AD and the empire became separated into two halves, east and west, representing the two legs of the image. The iron component continues right down through history to this day. It is now represented by Eastern and Western Europe.
At the present time the toes are forming: The toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. (Daniel 2.42)
Clay does not adhere to iron and is associated with the seed of men.
Clay is a symbol used in the Bible to represent mankind. , “O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64.8)
Clay makes up the dust of the streets and represents ordinary common man. In some counties, where they have no kings or monarchs, governments may be greatly influenced by ordinary men and women.
“Just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.” (Daniel 2.43)
We are to look for a group of nations, some strong (iron) and some weak (clay), forming an alliance which, because of the mixture of nations will not be very stable.
It is in the days of these kings, that God will intervene in the affairs of mankind, sending the Lord Jesus Christ back to this earth. In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom (Daniel 2.44)
4. THE SIGN OF GENERAL WORLD UNREST
Christ also told the disciples that the time just before his return would be of anguish, perplexity and fear among people caused by the distressing signs in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth:
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21.25-26).
Christ is speaking in figurative language of ruling powers (sun and moon), with the sea and waves representing people: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.” (Isaiah 57.20)
This sign gives a picture of waves, people on the earth roaring, using their collective voice to exert power over events and situations, and to shake the security of rulers., The prevailing mood is of distress among the nations, which makes thoughtful people fearful as to the outcome of all the world’s disturbances and problems. Surely the picture presented could be the caption for a survey of the current world situation!
Once again, Christ tells us that when world events are like those described by him, we must expect his return: “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21.27).
The establishment of the Kingdom of God upon earth lies at the centre of His purpose, as we have seen. It requires the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to fulfil all the promises of God. Jesus himself spoke, in prophecy, about the events, which would precede his return to earth.
5. THE RUSSIAN SIGN
In our comments on the Jewish sign we referred to Ezekiel 37, which speaks of the restoration of the nation of Israel to their own land. In the following chapter we read of their invasion by Russia: “The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him.” (Ezekiel 38.1-2)
The name ’Russia’ comes from ’Rosh’, ’Rus’ or ’Ros’, ancient names for the tribes, which live in the area of Russia and much of the former USSR.
The events of Ezekiel 38 will take place immediately before Christ’s return and we read that Russia will lead a confederacy of nations against the land of Israel to take a spoil.
Russia is situated to the north of Israel, with Moscow on the very same line of longitude as Jerusalem. She will be the leader of this aggressive pack, as the prophet states:
“You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” (Ezekiel 38.15-16)
Triumph will seem certain by this powerful invader, but God will bring His power to save His people: ’And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say"Son of man, prophesy against Gog and say: “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you.” (Ezekiel 39.1-2)
The instrument of this power used by God is the Lord Jesus Christ, termed by Daniel, ’Michael, the great prince’. Michael means ’who like God’ and is a reference to Jesus, who was ’like unto his Father’.
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people--everyone whose name is found written in the book” (Daniel 12.1)
At the moment it would seem unlikely that Russia would be in a position to lead such an invasion. It should be noted, however, that Russia has a relatively large Jewish population, which has been treated very harshly. Also, for hundreds of years she has longed for a warm water port to the south.
Russia is very much in a state of flux following the fall of Communism. There are a number of prominent leaders, who, have shown indications that should they ever come to power, they could very well fulfil the role which Bible prophecy has assigned to this country. All will be revealed in God’s good time.
Christ’s Return A Fact
The Signs of the Times make up an unmistakable pattern of the shape of things to come. The preliminaries for God’s intervention are almost complete and Jesus Christ is at the door, ready to take the world by surprise.
Seeing the signs and knowing their meaning, can we afford to remain unmoved by them? We can be like those who foolishly close their minds to these things and do nothing. The return of Christ will come to such like a thief in the night.
Alternatively, we can regard the signs and heed the warning before it is too late. Jesus said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21.28)
Instead of being downcast by present conditions, we can look up and see the need for redemption, through Christ our Redeemer. We can be wise and seek sanctuary in the Christ-Ark, before the ’great day of God Almighty’ engulfs the wicked.
It is in our power to treat this subject as of great importance, remembering that it involves our life and destiny. The Bible offers us the hope of eternal life and a place in God’s Kingdom - a Kingdom where Christ will reign in righteousness and peace; not a ’reign of grace in the heart’, but a literal kingdom upon-earth.The wise will reach this conclusion:
- that the coming of Christ is a vital matter
- that the warning from God’s Word should not be ignored
- that our present life gives no lasting satisfaction
- that belief of the Gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God and that baptism into the saving name of Christ are imperative.
It is for us individually, to decide if we desire to ’abide the day of his (Christ’s) coming, when He shall .. “And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
- The return of Jesus Christ is a fact.
- The angels at his ascension promised this return.
- Jesus is to return to establish God’s kingdom on earth.
- Only God knows the exact day appointed for Christ’s return.
- Clear signs indicate Christ’s return is imminent.
- The days of Noah are comparable to our own.
- The restoration of the Jews in Israel is a living sign.
- We live in the final phase of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision.
- World unrest precedes Christ’s return.
- Russia’s role in God’s plan tells us Christ’s return.
Relevant Passages For Bible Reading:
Ezekiel 37, 38 and 39
1 Thessalonians 5
2 Thessalonians 1
2 Peter 3:1-10