This beautiful world is fractured and torn. Covid-19 has left its morbid footprints across the face of the globe. More than 200 countries and territories have been affected by this devastating pandemic. Fortunately, due to firm measures of control, Australia and New Zealand have escaped the worst results.
Nature has also joined in the attack. The Australian bushfires of summer 2019–2020 were particularly devastating. Millions of acres were burnt to ashes, thousands of buildings and homes were burnt to the ground, and the lives of firefighters and other citizens were snuffed out. Then came the floods. On the other side of the globe, America has also experienced massive and extensive fire hazards across the western states.
Added to these is the ongoing threat of societal unrest, racial tension, climate change and international conflict. Many people are deeply concerned about the future of our life on this planet.
I have good news for you today. There is Someone, by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who has a plan and the power to deliver this planet from pain, death and chaos. Millions of people down through the ages, Christian and non-believer alike, have met this Man in the pages of the Bible and found Him to be the Prince of peace.
Who Is This Man, Jesus?
If you have not met Him, you will find the story of the life of Jesus in the four gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Here is a Man who was born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth of Galilee raised by his human father Joseph and mother Mary, and spent only three-and-a-half years in public work. During this brief period, He drew the crowds through His teaching, preaching and healing ministry. Multitudes were healed of all kinds of diseases and some were even raised from the dead.
He had 12 close followers called disciples. He claimed to be the Son of God or Messiah (see Matthew 16:16,17) and even to be one with God (see John 10:30). Furthermore, He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Towards the end of His ministry, when one of these disciples asked Him to show them God the Father, He said to him, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
As his ministry came to an end, Jesus gave a comforting promise to His sorrowing disciples that He would return and take them to be with Him in His Father’s kingdom: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 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).
Soon after, Jesus was killed by crucifixion—the result of a plot by the Jewish people’s religious leaders at the time, who objected to the claims that He was the Son of God prophesied by God’s word (written in many Old Testament books such as Isaiah) to be the saviour of not just the Jews, but human beings from all across the world. The Bible tells us that this was not the end however—Jesus was buried in a tomb the day of His death, but on the third day following He miraculously rose from the grave alive once more, and was reunited with His disciples.
How Will He Return?
Forty days after Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection, He departed to His Father. Luke writes, “When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:50,51).
This was a startling experience for the disciples. “They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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 1:10,11). These disciples took this message and spread it across the world throughout the first century, ultimately becoming what we know as the early Christians and some of the first followers of Christianity. While they experienced much hardship and persecution from all corners, including the ruling power of Rome, their hopeful message persisted.
These encouraging words indicate that the same Jesus who ate with the disciples and whom they could touch and feel and worship will return. And His return will not be in secret. The Bible very clearly tells us how Jesus will return. Speaking to His followers, He claimed that it would be public and visible to all, saying “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27). We all know that lightning penetrates the darkness and likewise, the return of Jesus will be highly visible to all.
The apostle John wrote, “‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’” (Revelation 1:7). Jesus said He would return in glory, unlike His first coming as a babe, accompanied by all the heavenly angels (see Matthew 25:31). What a dazzling sight beyond all imagination. Even the deaf will hear the mighty sounding of His coming (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Why Does He Return?
Jesus Christ will return to the world to bring final complete restoration to this broken and shattered world. What a glorious day that will be when even the dead will be returned to life.
The apostle Paul writes, “For the Lord himself 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. 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).
Using the illustration of the seed, Paul writes concerning the new bodies we will all be given when Christ returns: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42–44).
Will You Be Ready To Meet Him?
There are two graves in South Africa where my father and mother are resting. I am looking forward to that soon-coming day when I will once again have the privilege of seeing my beloved parents in their newly transformed and glorified bodies. I do not want to miss that reunion with my loved ones and the Lord Jesus.
Jesus counselled His followers to be ready for His return. He said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:42,44).
Here are some simple steps we can take to be ready to meet the Lord when He returns:
• Believe in Jesus (John 3:16)
• Receive Jesus and become His son or daughter (John 1:12)
• Maintain a relationship with Jesus through prayer (John 15:4,5)
• Accept Jesus into your life (John 17:3)
• Love and trust Jesus and so be ready for His return (2 Timothy 4:8)
I encourage you each day to “stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Curious about some of the key beliefs of Christianity? Check out the other articles in our Fundamentals series to see if you can find the answers you need.
Dr Eric Webster served as the manager and editor of the South African Signs of the Times for 22 years. He also previously worked as a pastor, church president and theology lecturer.