Three Appearances of Jesus, 4

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In all, Jesus will make three appearances, each corresponding to an aspect of our salvation.  His first appearance on earth as a baby in a manger brought God’s plan of salvation down to man from the Father.  His second appearance was in Heaven, after His death, resurrection and ascension.  There, Jesus makes intercession for His people, maintaining their salvation.  Our Lord’s third and final appearance will be when He returns to earth in power and glory.  This will be the consummation of our salvation.

When Jesus returns to earth, He will be returning with His saints.  Let’s take a moment to distinguish Jesus’ returning with His saints and His coming for them.

Some results when He comes for His people 

We call this event the Rapture.  Jesus will appear in the clouds for His people, but He won’t touch down on earth.  His purpose will be to remove believers from the earth just prior to the Tribulation, a period of seven years during which God will pour out His wrath on the nations of the world in judgment.  He will also bring Israel to its knees, metaphorically speaking, for the purpose of bringing them into His family.  Given the main purposes for the Tribulation, there is no need for the Church to be here.  Even so, during this time there will be many converts to Christ; great revivals will break out and even in the midst of God’s judgments, the Gospel will be preached.

Here’s what will happen when Jesus comes for His people:

The resurrection of the dead in Christ. 

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul-stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet-call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord.   (1 Thessalonians 4:16  TLB)

What a stirring passage of Scripture!  The Lord Himself – not an angel – will step out of heaven to personally call His people to Himself.  He won’t be sending surrogates get His people.  When He returns to establish His kingdom on earth, He will send His angels to do the ground work, but He will be the One gathering His people.

He will descend with a “mighty shout.”  Jesus didn’t do a lot of shouting during His time on earth, but He did shout at Lazarus to come out of the tomb.  There will also be the “soul-stirring cry of the archangel” and the “great trumpet-call of God.”   It is Jesus who will be commanding the “dead in Christ” to rise.  His voice alone will be orchestrating the events on earth.   This is what Revelation refers to as “the first resurrection.”  The apostle Paul wanted to part of this group:

So whatever it takes, I will be one who lives in the fresh newness of life of those who are alive from the dead.  (Philippians 3:11  TLB)

The transformation of the living.

Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up…  (1 Thessalonians 4:17a  TLB)

As the Lord descends, the saints will ascend to meet Him in the air.  That phrase, “caught up,” is from the Greek verb harpazo, meaning, “to seize and carry off speedily, to catch away.”  This is where we get the term, rapture.  There will be a glad reunion with the departed and resurrected loved ones:

Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.  (1 Thessalonians 4:17  TLB) 

It is here that this event will occur:

It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too.  For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.  (1 Corinthians 15:52, 53  TLB) 

What a marvelous day this will be.  It will be an orderly event:  the dead will be raised first, followed by the living.  That last phrase is, to me, the most exciting one:  and remain with him forever.  Nothing and no one will be able to take us away from our Lord.  Little wonder Paul said this:

So comfort and encourage each other with this news.  (1 Thessalonians 4:18  TLB)

The things we’ve been talking about shouldn’t terrify or confuse any believer.  The teaching of the end times, and in particular the rapture, should be a comfort to all believers.  That word “comfort” also means “exhort.”  Believes are to talk about these things to comfort, in the traditional sense, but also to exhort each other.  Jesus will be taking His Church out of the earth one of these days, ready or not.  The dead will be lifted out of their graves first, followed by the living and together we will be standing with the Lord, in His presence forever.  In fact, we will be coming back with Him to the earth when He physically, literally and visibly returns to earth.

Some results when Jesus appears with His people.

Jesus will have a job to do when He comes back.  He will –

Manifest His own. 

Part of living right is thinking right.  According to Paul, one motivation for living and thinking right is the prospect of a glorious future:

And when Christ who is our real life comes back again, you will shine with him and share in all his glories.  (Colossians 3:4  TLB)

Part of our glorious future will be our manifestation alongside Christ when He returns.  He second coming will be full of majesty and splendor, and we will be right there, in the midst of it.  Lightfoot’s ancient comments still make you shiver:

The veil which now shrouds your higher life from others, and even partly from yourselves, will be withdrawn.  The world which persecutes, despises, ignores now, will then be blinded with the dazzling glory of the revelation.  

Punish the disobedient. 

And so I would say to you who are suffering, God will give you rest along with us when the Lord Jesus appears suddenly from heaven in flaming fire with his mighty angels, bringing judgment on those who do not wish to know God and who refuse to accept his plan to save them through our Lord Jesus Christ.  They will be punished in everlasting hell, forever separated from the Lord, never to see the glory of his power…  (2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9  TLB)

This is not an insignificant thing that Jesus will do.  Right now, we see criminals and evil doers getting away with it.  The justice system seems to be a joke and the perpetrators of crimes seem to get more consideration than the victims.  But we are assured that when Jesus comes back, He will mete out perfect justice.  Nobody will be getting away with anything.

Closely related to His punishment of those who are disobedient, will be what happens to the nations of this world.

Judge the nations. 

But when I, the Messiah, shall come in my glory, and all the angels with me, then I shall sit upon my throne of glory.  And all the nations shall be gathered before me. And I will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and place the sheep at my right hand, and the goats at my left.  (Matthew 25:31 – 33  TLB)

The grip nations have on their citizens and their ungodly rule of this world will finally be broken as our Lord calls them to account for the godlessness.

Restore Israel. 

No, God is not finished with Israel.  Not by a long shot.  Some churches teach something called Replacement Theology, which says that God is done with Israel and that the Church has taken its place.  Therefore, all the promises made to Israel may now be claimed by the Church.  That’s not only bad theology, it’s anti-Semitic.  When Jesus returns He will completely restore national Israel.  It will finally be the nation God always intended it to be.

The Lord will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal line will be as God, like the Angel of the Lord who goes before them!  For my plan is to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.  Then I will pour out the spirit of grace and prayer on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on him they pierced, and mourn for him as for an only son, and grieve bitterly for him as for an oldest child who died.  (Zechariah 12:8 – 20  TLB)

I want you to know about this truth from God, dear brothers, so that you will not feel proud and start bragging. Yes, it is true that some of the Jews have set themselves against the Gospel now, but this will last only until all of you Gentiles have come to Christ—those of you who will.  And then all Israel will be saved. Do you remember what the prophets said about this? “There shall come out of Zion a Deliverer, and he shall turn the Jews from all ungodliness.  At that time I will take away their sins, just as I promised.”  (Romans 11:25 – 27  TLB) 

Destroy the Antichrist. 

The Antichrist will be, and he may already be, a real person.  He will be the big political leader during the Tribulation.

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army.  But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  (Revelation 19:19, 20  TLB)

Rule the nations. 

Our Lord will judge the nations but He won’t destroy them; He will rule them.  The world will – and even today already is – desperate for a political savior; that one brilliant politician who will make everything right and undo all the damage done by previous leaders.  The fact is, only Jesus will be able to do this.

In his days may the righteous flourish and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.   May he rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.  (Psalm 72:7, 8  TLB) 

The Lord will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.  (Zechariah 14:9  TLB)

Some signs of signs of His coming. 

While there are no signs for when the rapture may occur – it could have happened any time in the past and can happen any time in the future – there are many, many signs that will point to the Second coming of Jesus.

We know that the Bible does not teach that the Church will convert the world.  That just isn’t going to happen.  We know that the world will be in terrible shape just before Christ comes.  Things may be bad now, but imagine how things will be with the Church it taken out of the way?  All the horrible things that will take place during the seven-year Tribulation will be the signs pointing to Christ’s return.

The preaching of the Gospel. 

Yes, even though the Church will be taken away, many people will come to know Jesus during the Tribulation and they will take the message of salvation all over the world.

And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it, and then, finally, the end will come.  (Matthew 24:14  TLB)

Of course, the Gospel  has been preached since the days of the Apostles, and it’s being preached today.  But during the Tribulation, with the convergence of Bible prophecy and the knowledge that supernatural events are occurring, many will find the Lord and preach the Gospel in spite of the danger.  There will be many martyrs during this time, but if history teaches us anything, it’s that the more pressure the world exerts against believers, the harder they pushback.  The Gospel will be preached around the world like never before.

The budding fig tree, Israel. 

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see the events taking place that I’ve described you can be just as sure that the Kingdom of God is near.  (Luke 21:29 – 31 TLB) 

The fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel.  God doesn’t keep time with a Timex.  If you want to know how far along we in God’s prophetic timetable, look to the nation of Israel.

This parable is found in all three Synoptics, but is most complete in Matthew 24.  The fig tree represents Israel.  Her revival will be the harbinger of the Messiah’s return.

Perilous times. 

You may as well know this too, Timothy, that in the last days it is going to be very difficult to be a Christian.  (2 Timothy 3:1  TLB) 

Then there will be strange events in the skies—warnings, evil omens and portents in the sun, moon and stars; and down here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  The courage of many people will falter because of the fearful fate they see coming upon the earth, for the stability of the very heavens will be broken up.  Then the peoples of the earth shall see me, the Messiah, coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  So when all these things begin to happen, stand straight and look up! For your salvation is near.  (Luke 21:25 – 28  TLB) 

Perilous is a good word to describe the days just preceding the Second Coming, for sure!

The cry of the Bridegroom’s friends. 

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.  (Matthew 25:6  KJV) 

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…  (2 Peter 3:10a  KJV)

We don’t know when the rapture will occur and we don’t know when Jesus will come again, but the fact of His coming is settled in Scripture.  He is coming.  And He will be here when the world is least expecting Him.

We aren’t in the Tribulation yet, no matter how bad circumstances may be, but even now the signs pointing to His return are obvious to those of us who are looking.  The way things are going, with all the violence and uncertainty all over the world, now more than ever, all believers should lift up their heads, and know that their redemption draweth nigh.

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