Printed in very large letters, these words are on a wall card above my study desk. Simple words, which to the casual observer may seem meaningless, yet those two words serve to draw attention to one of the momentous events in human history. One day, we know not when, the world will be startled by the actual return to earth in bodily form of Christ Jesus. Who, two millenniums ago when He left this world, said: “I will come again.” John 14:3. That event may take place today.
The event is described in fuller detail by the Apostle Paul. Writing to Christians at Thessalonica, he says, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:13-18.
CHRIST IS COMING
This portion of Holy Scripture teaches in the clearest possible way that our Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again and that those believers who have died in faith will come again with Him. What a glorious prospect. You will have noticed it says “the Lord Himself.” This is no spiritual coming, but refers to the time of His second advent when He will come in real physical form – His corporeal presence.
The Truth of His coming is based on no isolated or obscure passage of Scripture like a stray incidental remark upon a little known and unimportant subject. It is a statement of fact upon a great theme which runs like a golden chain of promise throughout the Bible. It forms part of the Truth of the Gospel. Notice the words “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” Upon those two mighty pillars the structure of our faith rests. Then follows, “The Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven.” The death of Christ is the basis of God’s saving work, His resurrection the proof of His deity and our acceptance with God, His coming again the completion of His purpose and the ground of our hope.
The man who led me to a knowledge of Christ as my own personal Saviour, the late Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, expressed the Truth thus:
“Living He loved me – dying He saved me, Buried He carried my sins far away, Rising He justified, freely forever, One day He’s coming. Oh Glorious day.”
THOSE WHO HAVE DIED
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” Philippians 1:23.
The future for the child of God has been satisfactorily settled. At the moment of death, the spirit of the believer goes directly into the Presence of the Lord Jesus. It is a state of conscious existence; conscious fellowship for he is “with Christ,” and conscious enjoyment for it is described as being “far better.” At the coming of the Saviour, the bodies of those who have died in Christ shall be raised and glorified and reunited to their spirits which Christ will bring back with Him. Those who are alive and remain until the coming of Christ shall be changed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Thus the redeemed of all ages shall be forever with and like the One who made them forever His at the infinite cost of His precious Blood! What a glorious future!
CHANGED IN A MOMENT
Now, concerning Christians, perhaps ourselves, who will be alive when He comes. We will be changed in a moment, changed from a condition of mortality to immortality, changed from earth and translated to Heaven “From whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21. Do you suffer pain, infirmity or deformity? If you are a believer in Christ when He comes you will be changed into His likeness. He will give beauty for ashes, the beauty of a perfect body for the ashes of a weak, mortal, marred body. “We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” I John 3:2. That was the hope of the early church. “Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from Heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.” I Thessalonians 1:9-10. This has been the bright hope of Believers all down through the ages.
“Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills my breast
But better far Thy face to see
And in Thy presence rest.”
This glorious hope is the lone star that cheers our hearts in this midnight darkness of the world’s sorrow and trouble. We wait the coming of the Prince of Peace. Perhaps today! My reader, you may be interested. I trust you are, but are you ready? His coming is certain! His Word declares it. His coming is sure. Events indicate it. His coming will be sudden. The world does not expect it. Let this be God’s Message of comfort and warning. “Be ready when He comes.”