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UNDERSTANDING: “Looking for that Blessed Hope”

The Second Coming of Christ…..

 

The title of this article comes from a verse in Paul’s epistle to Titus. Paul had been giving Titus practical instruction relating to “the grace of God” which has been revealed in Christ. Instead of regarding this grace as some kind of freedom which allows us to do as we please, Paul reminded Titus that a true appreciation of grace enables someone to deny everything ungodly and to live “in this present world” in a sober, righteous and godly way. While living to please the Lord, we must be “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 KJV).

 

Two questions must be asked as we consider this verse of Scripture. To begin with, we must ask, “What is that blessed hope?” When we have established what it is, we can move on to the next question: “Why should we be looking for that blessed hope?” These questions are of vital importance for us today.

 

 

WHAT IS THAT BLESSED HOPE?

Really, the question is not too difficult to answer. Titus 2:13 explains that this hope relates to “the glorious appearing” of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In other words, the blessed hope is the return of our Lord from heaven.

 

Before going to the cross to die for sinful people, the Lord Jesus spoke about leaving His disciples and then returning. He promised: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (Jn.14:3). These words were spoken to men who were troubled by what they had heard. The Lord Jesus was going to leave them. Knowing their perplexity, He reassured them by saying, “Let not your heart be troubled” (Jn.14:1). He then proceeded to encourage them with the prospect that lay before them. Although it was necessary for Him to leave them and return to the Father, He would come again and receive them unto Himself. What a great hope! They could look ahead with more than mere optimism. Their Master had given them a certain promise: He would come again!

 

We find this same promise expressed a little later in the New Testament, but this time the promise was given by angels. As the disciples wistfully watched the Lord ascend to heaven, two men in shining clothing appeared and spoke to them. “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). There was no need to stand gazing into heaven because they had lives to live and work to do for the Master! But the promise was profoundly encouraging. “This same Jesus” – not another, but the very same Person – would return. He would come again from heaven in the same way that He had gone. His return would therefore be literal, personal, and visible. Encouraged by the promise, those early disciples left the hillside where they had been standing and returned to Jerusalem – ready to serve their Master who was coming back some time (Acts 1:12).

 

 

TWO COMINGS

There are many Old Testament prophecies pointing to the coming of the Messiah. Scholars of old had difficulty with the apparent contradiction between a suffering and rejected Messiah and one who was triumphant and reigning. How could two conflicting views, such as these, be harmonized? The conclusion reached was that there must be two different Messiahs. What these scholars failed to grasp was that the Old Testament anticipated one Messiah who would come twice. From our perspective it is fairly easy to understand that Christ has come and that He is coming again because we have the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.  When He came the first time, it was in humility; when He comes again, it will be in glory.

 

Another interesting distinction needs to be made too. When the Lord Jesus “came” to earth, His coming could actually be viewed in two ways. The Old Testament had spoken of His coming to Bethlehem (in Micah 5:2) – the New Testament connecting this ancient prophecy with its fulfilment in Matthew 2:4-6. But the Old Testament also anticipated His coming to Jerusalem, riding upon a colt (Zech.9:9). Matthew carefully connected the later event, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, with the prophecy of Zechariah. This is clearly seen when we read Matthew 21:4-9. In one sense His “coming” to Bethlehem was a private event which few knew about. King Herod was surprised to learn that the “King of the Jews” had been born (Mt.2:1-3). However, when Jesus rode on the colt into Jerusalem as an adult over thirty years later, it was very much a public event. Crowds lined the streets, shouting “Hosanna to the son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt.21:9).

 

A very similar pattern can be observed when we consider the second coming of Christ. There will be both a private and a public aspect. Many Bible-believing people fail to grasp this, and some even heap scorn upon those who dare to make the distinction. But seeing two parts to His second coming makes sense. It throws light upon seeming contradictions which otherwise are very difficult to explain. The Lord Jesus is coming privately, as it were, when He comes into the air to receive His own in accordance with His promise in John 14:3 which we have already considered. Additional details can be found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. At His return (an event often called “The Rapture”) believers who have died will be raised, while the living will be changed. All will be “caught up” (we might say “raptured”) to be for ever with the Lord. What a “blessed hope” this is for the people of God!

 

Other Scriptures refer to a future period of seven years, divided into two equal parts, when God will resume dealings with Israel. The final 3 ½ years of this seven-year period will be a time of unparalleled trouble on earth, often called The Great Tribulation. Much could be written about those frightful years, but that is beyond the scope of this article. At the end of that tribulation period the Lord Jesus will return to the earth – not simply to the air. He will descend to the Mount of Olives (Zech.14:4). “Every eye shall see Him” when He returns in great power and glory (Rev.1:7). That event clearly will be public – unlike the Rapture. Therefore, just as at His first coming there were private and public aspects (although it was only one “coming”), so there will be two parts to His second coming. This interpretation of future events enables us to harmonize scenes which otherwise would hopelessly contradict one another.

 

 

WHY SHOULD WE BE LOOKING?

Having identified the “blessed hope” as Christ’s promised return, we need to answer the second question that was raised. Why should we be looking for that blessed hope? Many reasons could be given, but we shall mention just a few of them.

 

In His teaching before going to the cross, the Lord Jesus often emphasized the need for His servants to watch. In Mark 13:32-37, for example, the Lord made it clear that the time of His return has not been revealed, but His servants must watch. He illustrated His teaching by speaking of the Son of Man taking a journey, leaving His servants with personal responsibilities in His absence. He did not want them to be sleeping or unprepared for His return, and so He emphasized the need for them to watch and be ready. We do not know when Jesus Christ is coming again, but He is coming and we must be on the look-out!

 

The hope of our Lord’s return can have a sanctifying effect upon our lives. Having made known the fact that “we shall see Him as He is”, the Apostle John wrote: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 Jn.3:2-3). If we really believed that the Lord Jesus could return at any moment, it would affect our lives like nothing else. There are places where we would not want Him to find us when He comes. We would avoid activities which are not pleasing to Him if we knew He could return at any time. As we have already seen from Paul’s epistle to Titus, we ought to be living in a sober, righteous, and godly way as we await His return. We owe Him such a debt when we remember that our salvation was only possible through His death upon the cross. He gave Himself “that He might redeem us from all iniquity” (Titus 2:14). Redemption means that a price was paid. If we have been saved we belong to Him and should therefore keep away from sinful activities. We cannot separate the truths of Christ’s work upon the cross from the hope of His return.

 

 

WE DON’T KNOW WHEN!

It is wrong to suggest a date for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ because nobody knows it (Mt.24:36). However, every passing day brings us nearer to His coming. The Lord referred to both the days of Noah and to the days of Lot when He spoke about His own return (Lk.17:26-30). Both of these men were delivered from the judgment which fell upon the ungodly. Lot was taken out of Sodom – a city where same-sex relationships were practised and promoted. In many countries of the world today the behaviour associated with Sodom has re-emerged and has been given official recognition. This one fact alone should cause us to think carefully. Our Lord connected these sinful practices in society with the time when He will return in judgment. Therefore His coming for His people must be near!

 

When He comes, His blood-bought people will be taken to be forever with the Lord (1 Th.4:17). We will be delivered from sin and from a godless society, from trouble, pain, and death. We shall see the Lord Jesus who died upon the cross for us, and we shall live in His presence for ever. What a blessed hope! “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev.22:20). Until then, may we live for Him and serve Him faithfully so that others may come to know Him too.

 

Jesus is coming! sing the glad word!

Coming for those He redeemed by His blood,

Coming to reign as the glorified Lord!

Jesus is coming again!

 

 El Nathan