What is the Second Coming of Christ all about?

For many devout believers, the second coming is the point when the world as we know it is done away with and Jesus snatches his own people up to heaven, to live there with him forever as it’s in some far away celestial zip code.

If that’s what’s going to happen, why would we plant a tree? Why oil the wheels of a car that’s about to drive off a cliff?

Is that what the second coming is all about?

In Ephesians 1:10, Paul declares that God’s purpose for all eternity was to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:15-20 declares that all things were created in, through, and for Christ, and that all things are reconciled in, through, and for Christ. Neither Ephesians or Colossians gives any support for the idea that a major part of the created order is destined to be thrown in the trash while redeemed humans, whether in or out of the body, live forever in some other place. Indeed, it’s in Colossians 3 that we get a hint of a different way looking at what is commonly called the second coming. Paul says, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God; when Christ who is our life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.”

Think about the meaning of “appears” for a minute. When we talk of Jesus coming, we make it sound as though he is presently far away. But “appears” is different. As we find in many New Testament passages, Jesus is not far away; he is in heaven. And heaven is not a place in the sky, but rather God’s dimension of what we think of us ordinary reality. The failure to grasp this leaves many Christians puzzled about how to put together the biblical picture of Jesus’ return. The point is that Jesus is presently in God’s dimension, that is, heaven; however, heaven is not a place in our space-time continuum, but a different sphere of reality that overlaps and interlocks with our sphere in numerous though mysterious ways. It is as though there were a great invisible curtain hanging across a room, disguising another space that can be integrated with our space; one day the curtain will be pulled back, the two spaces or spheres will be joined forever, and Jesus himself will be the central figure.

“When Christ shall come,” we sing in the hymn, “with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.” We ought to sing, “When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, and heal this world, what joy shall fill my heart.” In the New Testament, the second coming is not the point at which Jesus snatches people up, away from the earth, to live with him forever somewhere else, but the point at which he returns to reign not only in heaven but upon the earth.

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Does God Really Speak to You?

I get asked variations of that question all the time. There are 4 ways God speaks to His people today:

  1. Through His Word.
  2. Through other “parts” of the Body of Christ (other Christians).
  3. Through circumstances.
  4. Through the Holy Spirit

So we need to learn to listen and obey.

The hard part is knowing when we’re hearing God speak. I’ll have to save that one for a future post.

God Doesn’t Save us FROM the World but FOR the World

The central message of the Bible is not simply that we are sinners, but through Jesus God is rescuing us from this sinful world so that we can be with Him in heaven.

That’s part of it, but it’s not the whole biblical story.

The Bible is not about the rescue of humans FROM the world but about the rescue of humans FOR the world, and indeed God’s rescue of the world BY MEANS OF those rescued humans.

In the Bible we are saved not simply so we can go to heaven and enjoy fellowship with God but so that we can be a truly human royal priesthood in this world.

The Throne of Grace

Hebrews 4:16  “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

It’s plain to see that if we see prayer as a conversation and communion with the king on his throne then we will approach God as such–with humility and reverence. We can be bold, indeed, but not foolhardy or arrogant.

And if grace is the characterization of the divine throne then we should approach with joyfulness.

And because it is a throne, a place of decision, we should approach it with complete submission. We do not pray to God to instruct him as to what he ought to do. We can ask, but not dictate. Ultimately it must end with “Thy will be done.”

And yet because it is a throne of grace we ought to approach it with enlarged expectations. It does not become a king to give away pennies; he distributes large pieces of gold.

The “Perspecuity” of Scripture

The “clarity” or “perspecuity” of Scripture is a seldom-taught doctrine that stipulates that the main things we need to know, believe, and do can be clearly seen in the Bible. That which is necessary for salvation can be understood even by the uneducated, provided that they make use of study and learning. The Bible may not be understood perfectly, but it can be known sufficiently.

This doctrine is under constant attack. There is a lot at stake.

1. The gift of human language is at stake. Some say, “We can’t fully define God with human language.” Of course that’s true in a way. But can God be described truthfully even if not exhaustively? YES!

2. The gift of human freedom is at stake. This doctrine recognizes that individuals have responsibility and ability to interpret Scripture for themselves, yet not apart from community or without attention to history and tradition.

3. What God is like is at stake. Without this doctrine you have to wonder: Is the Bible only for pastors and priests? Do you need to be a scholar to really understand God’s word? NO!

Short Public Prayers

All of Jesus’ recorded prayers in public were short. When alone with God, he could spend the whole night in communion with God.

My experience is that those who pray most in their closets generally make short prayers in public. Long prayers are too often not prayers and they weary people. How short the publican’s prayer was: “God, be merciful to be me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The prayer of the thief on the cross was a short one: “Lord, remember me when I come into the Kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Peter’s prayer was “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).

If you go through the Scriptures you will find that the prayers that brought immediate answers were generally brief.