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Living in the Age of Signs

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One day Christ will return to earth in all His glory as the Judge who will right every wrong in our world. This event is mentioned throughout Scripture, particularly in the New Testament. It will occur after the Tribulation, when Christ defeats the Great Dragon, and before His one–thousand–year reign on earth. Scripture reveals several details about Christ's return, but there is much we will not know until it takes place. Theologians have noted a variety of signs that the End Times and the Second Coming of Christ are near. Let's take a closer look at what the Bible says about the Second Coming and how we can prepare for it.

Fact 1: Jesus' Return Is Featured Prominently in Scripture

"People are often surprised to learn that references to the Second Coming outnumber references to the first coming by a factor of eight to one."

"People are often surprised to learn that references to the Second Coming outnumber references to the first coming by a factor of eight to one."

People are often surprised to learn that references to the Second Coming outnumber references to the first coming by a factor of eight to one. Scholars have identified 1,845 different biblical references to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament, Christ's return is emphasized in no less than 17 books, and the New Testament authors speak of it in 23 of 27 books. The New Testament mentions His return in 7 out of every 10 chapters. In other words, 1 out of every 30 verses in the New Testament proclaims that Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth.

The Lord Himself referred to the Second Coming 21 times. The prominence of Christ's return in Scripture is an indication that this event is important to God, and as a result, it should be important to us. It is predicted throughout the Bible wherever you look. In fact, it's even prophesied in the book of Genesis. Did you know that Enoch predicted the Second Coming of Christ?

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 1:14–15).

As far back as Genesis (and long before the first coming), Enoch said that Jesus would return.

The prophet Daniel also prophesied that Jesus is coming back. He had a dream that described Jesus Christ's return. He said:

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13–14).

In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus said this:

As the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west so also will the coming of the Son of Man be…. Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:27–31).

Fact 2: The Location of Jesus' Return

"The Bible tells us where He is going to arrive when He comes back."

"The Bible tells us where He is going to arrive when He comes back."

The place of Christ's return is an interesting subject because the Bible tells us where He is going to arrive when He comes back. "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south" (Zechariah 14:4). Jesus will return to Israel.

Fact 3: The Witnesses of Jesus' Return

"…the entire world will witness His return."

"…the entire world will witness His return."

At Jesus' first coming, the only witnesses to His advent were Mary, Joseph, and a few animals in a stable. When He returns, the entire world will witness His arrival. Previous generations struggled with that possibility, but in today's context, it's completely plausible thanks to technology.

If the One who spoke the world into being wants everybody to see Him when He comes back, He can make that happen. We don't know how it's going to happen, but the Bible says every eye, in every place, in every corner of the world, will witness His return.

Fact 4: The Promise of a New Heaven and a New Earth

"He is going to make everything about this earth and these heavens new."

"He is going to make everything about this earth and these heavens new."

Notice what the apostle John says in Revelation 21:1 and 5: "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.' " That is the promise of a new heaven. It must have been comforting to John who was languishing in exile on the island of Patmos at the time of his writing, and it comforts us today. Almighty God is going to make everything about this earth and these heavens new.

Fact 5: One Day God Will Make Everything Right

"The Bible tells us that, one day, Almighty God is going to make things right."

"The Bible tells us that, one day, Almighty God is going to make things right."

Jesus Christ is going to judge the nations in righteousness. "Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:15). Sometimes in life, it feels like hell has opened its door and unleashed every imaginable evil—every time we turn on the television—but one day Almighty God is going to make things right.

I remember reading the story of King Nebuchadnezzar when I was young. One day one of the king's enemies was caught. The man had seven boys, and the hateful king put out the eyes of the children before putting out the eyes of the father. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to make sure the last thing his adversary ever saw was his children being deprived of their eyesight.

Beheadings were common in ancient times. Until recently, they were a thing of the past. Now gruesome executions are happening to children, young people, and even babies in parts of the world. Then the bodies are thrown into mass graves. How does one deal with something so awful? By trusting in God's perfect judgment. I think hell will be especially hot for people who torture others like that.

We wonder, How is that ever going to be made right? Why doesn't God do something? I want to tell you God is going to do something! He is going to come back and make it right. That is the hope we have in the Second Coming.

Daily Devotions

Today's Devotion: The Everything God—God Is the God of Everything Needed

Every August, lists are prepared by parents to make sure their children have everything they need for the new school year—from pencils, paper, and lunchboxes for the little ones; to computers, smartphones, and residential furnishings for the college students. The most satisfying phrase a parent can hear on the night before the first day of school is: “Don’t worry—I have everything I need.”

That is the opening line of David’s twenty-third psalm, a summary statement of how the Good Shepherd takes care of His sheep. Traditionally, that first line has been rendered, “I shall not want.” But a modern, more positive rendering is, “I have all that I need.” There is no need to consider what we might need and then remember that we have it. Instead, we know, without wondering, that we have everything we need. For David, playing the role of a sheep, that meant lush pastures and quiet waters; restoration of the soul; protection from evil; a luxurious banquet table; an eternal home forever.

If you are Christ’s, you belong to the Good Shepherd—and you have everything you need in Him.

He who has the Holy Spirit in his heart and the Scripture in his hands has all he needs.
Alexander MacLaren

You have no doubt used one of the "mapping" features available on the internet—Google Maps is perhaps the most commonly used. It enables you to focus in on a particular location in the world, then pull back to see the larger view. You can go from a bird's–eye view to an airplane's view to a satellite's view. Truly amazing!

For example: You find Niagara Falls on Google Maps and, for the first time, you picture it as more than just a massive waterfall. You see its place on the Niagara River that divides Canada and the United States, flowing out of Lake Erie and into Lake Ontario. Who knew?

Or, when viewing Central Park in New York City, you zoom out and for the first time realize that Central Park is in Manhattan, which is surrounded by water on three sides. New York City is surrounded by water? Who knew?

Or maybe you're inspecting your own neighborhood—as you zoom out, you suddenly see geographic features you never knew were so close by: parks, lakes, great swaths of forest or rough terrain, or miles of rural roads perfect for biking. Who knew you lived in such an interesting place?

I'm sure you know the expression, "We couldn't see the forest for the trees"—meaning our perspective is so myopic (nearsighted) that we fail to see the big picture. We see our house, our street, and our town—but we don't see the world. We stand in front of a single tree and admire its uniqueness while failing to see the grandeur of the forest.

The Second Coming Is the Central Theme of All of Scripture

It's also possible to perceive a variety of biblical "trees" (details) while never gaining a clear picture of the "forest" (the big picture). We have favorite biblical characters and events, even favorite books of the Bible, but not always a clear understanding of God's big picture—what God is doing from Genesis to Revelation and every step along the way.

When it comes to the Bible, "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable" (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus said every "jot" and "tittle" of God's revelation is important (Matthew 5:18). Following our trees and forest metaphor, that means every tree in Scripture is worth our detailed attention. There is nothing wrong with having favorite characters, events, books, and verses from the Bible. But we also need to understand how they all tie together.

Like a powerful telescope, the Bible is focused on one central theme, beginning at Genesis. Everything in Scripture is written to support that theme: To establish Jesus Christ as the rightful ruler over all of God's creation. From the very beginning, the Bible has focused on the final chapter and verse of the story. From the very beginning, and all along the way, the writers of Scripture have been writing about—generally or in detail, knowingly or unknowingly—what we call today "the End Times."

Therefore, the writers of Scripture have prepared the people of God for the climax of world history in which Christ will rule the world for a thousand years from His throne in Jerusalem.

Christ Is at the Beginning, the End, and Every Step in Between

Jesus Christ is "the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" (Revelation 22:13). That passage stands at the end of world history just as Genesis 3:15 stands at the beginning: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

That verse, enigmatic when read by itself, is the first announcement that a descendant of Eve would come to destroy the serpent, Satan, whose temptations threw the world into ruin. As such, Bible scholars call it the protoevangelium—the first mention of the Gospel in the Bible. God says that the natural enmity between human beings and snakes will stand as a permanent reminder of the enmity between Satan and God—and a promise that the head of the serpent will one day be crushed by the wounded heel of a descendant of Eve (Revelation 12:14–15; 20:2).

That promise of God sets the stage for the rest of Scripture which John, the writer of Revelation, well understood. It was John who wrote that Jesus Christ came into the world "that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). And it was John who saw, in his apocalyptic vision, Satan and his angels being cast down from heaven to earth (Revelation 12:7–9).

So Christ is the Beginning and the End of God's revelation concerning the beginning and the end of earth as we know it. All of the writers of Scripture contributed part of the story that is focused on the enthronement of Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords in the future (Revelation 19:16).

What the Prophets Detail About Christ's Second Coming

Following the words of God Himself in Genesis 3:15 concerning the future victory of the Messiah over Satan, God's subsequent writing prophets saw various dimensions of Jesus' life leading up to His eventual kingship at His Second Coming.

  • Key prophets. Both Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9) and an unnamed psalmist (Psalm 2:6) foresaw the coming of Christ as a King. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would come as a ruler who would bring peace and whose government will never end (Isaiah 9:6–7). Micah also saw the Messiah coming as a "Ruler in Israel" (Micah 5:2). Daniel envisioned the Messiah's future kingdom destroying all other kingdoms of this world (Daniel 2, 7) as well as the final judgment of all humanity (Daniel 12:2–3). Zechariah also wrote about many other facets of Christ's return to earth and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. Actually, it would be easier to write a short list of prophets who didn't prophesy about the End Times!

  • Key passages for the future. The prophet Daniel gave us more than one critical passage for students of the End Times to study. The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream provides a paradigm for Gentile kingdoms of the world that will be replaced by the kingdom of God's Messiah (Daniel 2:24–45). Daniel's prayer for forgiveness for Israel resulted in the vision of "Daniel's 70 Weeks"—an outline of the time of the Gentiles, the death of the Messiah, the treachery of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel during the Tribulation, and the Antichrist's final judgment (Daniel 9:20–27). Malachi wrote a powerful description of Christ's Second Coming as Judge and King (Malachi 3:1–4). Isaiah's prophecies contain many classic passages concerning Christ and the End Times: universal peace (Isaiah 11), Tribulation troubles (Isaiah 24), Millennial blessings (Isaiah 35), the future glory of Jerusalem (Isaiah 60–62), coming judgment and salvation (Isaiah 63–65), and life under the Messiah's rule (Isaiah 65:17–24). Ezekiel's dramatic vision of the valley of dry bones pictures Israel's restoration (Ezekiel 37). And Zechariah saw multiple visions of the End Times: the blessing of Jerusalem (Zechariah 8), Israel's mourning at Christ's Second Coming (Zechariah 12:10–14), and Christ's return to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14).

  • Key prophecies of the past. The prophecies concerning Christ's Second Coming are to be embraced faithfully because they are the last prophecies in a long line of hundreds of prophecies that have already been fulfilled concerning Christ's first coming. These prophecies and their fulfillment—concerning Christ's lineage, birth, ministry, death, and resurrection—are well known and serve as guarantees of the prophecies yet to be fulfilled.

  • Key purposes of God's writing prophets. A foundational verse concerning the purpose of God's writing prophets is Amos 3:7: "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets." Through His prophets, and later through the New Testament apostles' writings, God has given those who are spiritually hungry insights into the past, present, and future of His redemptive plan. Central to all His Word, from Genesis to Revelation, is the role of God the Son in restoring humanity and creation to a condition that brings eternal glory to the triune God.

As you read your Bible, relish the forest as well as the trees—the big picture of redemption as well as the details—so you will grow in appreciation for the centrality of Jesus Christ as we approach His Second Coming.

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

The Return of the King

Complete audio message as heard at Shadow Mountain Community Church

Planet earth's most amazing day is yet to come: The largest amassing of armies in world history will turn their faces skyward to see Jesus Christ descending from the clouds with His own armies. By the word of His mouth, He will pronounce judgment upon all who rebel against God.

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