Hope and the end of history

 
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As the world races through the twenty-first century, have you ever considered what our greatest need is? What do men and women living in the twenty-first century need most? If you were starving, it might be food. If you were homeless, it might be a place to live. If disease ravaged your body, it might be medicine. If you were lonely and discouraged, it might be love. But is there one thing more than any other that could take you through any difficulty you might face in life? Is there one thing that can make the human spirit soar?

All over the world people are desperately looking for hope. Someone has well said, “What oxygen is to the lungs, hope is to the human spirit.” We can live days without food, hours without water, a few minutes without air, but no time at all without hope. Hope buoys up our spirits. It lifts our vision from what is to what will be. It is a candle in the darkness. It is like water in the desert or food to a starving man. It provides encouragement for the future. The Bible is filled with the best hope of all—the hope of Jesus’ return to this planet. But what exactly does the Bible say about this great event?

Just before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave a promise to His disciples to fill their hearts with hope: “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1–3). Christ’s comforting words are like a promissory note. Jesus said He would return—and we can bank on it!

The apostle Paul described the hope of the second coming of Christ as “the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). He also says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). There’s certainly a lot of hope surrounding the second coming!

Not only will it be an event of hope, but it will also be an event that will be witnessed by the entire human race. The Bible describes this when it says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him . . .” (Revelation 1:7). Every eye will see Jesus when He returns—the eyes of the young and the eyes of the old, the eyes of the educated and the eyes of the uneducated, the eyes of the rich and the eyes of the poor. People from all cultures, nationalities, languages, groups and countries will see Him come.

There are, however, many misconceptions about the second coming, with some claiming it will be a hidden, quiet event called the “secret rapture”. But the Bible describes Jesus’ coming quite differently: “And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30). This passage refutes the teaching of the “secret rapture” that misleads so many Christians today. For not only does it emphasise that Christ will come with “power and great glory”, but it states that His return will be arrestingly audible, accompanied by a “loud trumpet call” (verse 31)—the noisiest of all musical instruments! Teachers of the secret rapture claim that the redeemed may see the Lord return, but the wicked who are lost do not. Yet both this verse and Revelation 1:7 speak of the wicked—those who “mourn” when they see the history ­ending spectacle of Christ’s return. It will overshadow every other event on planet Earth. No-one will need to tell you when Jesus returns. You will see His coming!

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But who will join Jesus when He returns? The Bible says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31). The second coming of Christ is the grand climax of time and eternity, which all creation has been eagerly anticipating! The heavenly angels—not the fallen ones—have been impatiently waiting for and working toward that great event. Do you think any one of them would like to be told, “You stay here while the rest of us go and rescue the redeemed?” You know the answer, and this text declares that none will be disappointed. Prophetic Bible authors like John and Daniel no doubt felt the impotence of mere human language when trying to describe how many heavenly messengers they saw in vision: “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Revelation 5:11). Jesus’ second coming will be the mighty climax of all the ages. He will be surrounded by all His holy angels. Try to imagine what that glorious scene will be like.

An amazing dramatic event will take place when Christ returns: “. . . the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). This amazing event is also described in 1 Corinthians 15:52,53: “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”

While those who are saved will rise up and join their Saviour, those who chose to reject God will be filled with guilt and fear, running from the Christ who loves them and longs to save them. They have rejected His mercy and turned their backs on His love. Now frightened, they flee to shield themselves from His glory. What a tragic ending! Meanwhile, the saved will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).

What’s the second coming going to mean for you? It matters whether you are prepared for that surprise of a lifetime. It’s one of the things that matters most. Don’t be swallowed up by the routine—make God a priority in your life right now. Jesus urges His followers to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Is the kingdom of God a priority in your life? Is a personal relationship with Jesus supremely important to you? Have everyday concerns crowded out the things of eternity or does heaven have first place in your heart?

A saving relationship with Jesus will not come by chance. You’ve got to decide to do it. You’ve got to allow Jesus to get into your heart and into your life. If you don’t decide, you’ll end up in eternal sleep. It’s so much better to wake up now.

 

Mark Finley has shared Bible truth around the world in person and via broadcast media. He is a vice-president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.

This article is adapted with permission from What the Bible Says About (2012, Pacific Press).