Friday, September 28, 2018

Why is Jesus Returning?

The vast majority of Christians believe that Jesus is coming again. The same Jesus who came to our world 2,000 years ago; who was born in Bethlehem, crucified on a Roman cross, resurrected on the third day, and ascended into heaven—is coming again.  He has a plan to do away with all sin and evil. 2 Peter 3:13 (NKJV) tells us, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

The Second Coming of Jesus is a precious doctrine, and I love to study my Bible to learn more about it. I have been studying the Second Coming for more than 40 years. Recently as I have been studying, I have looked at it from a different perspective. For many years the focus of my study was proving how Jesus will come. I haven’t been alone in this. In our second coming doctrine, we have some very good news to proclaim. Like all biblical truths, the second coming doctrine is a window into God’s love. So let’s take a look through the window.

When Jesus came the first time, He was specifically identified by John the Baptist as someone who was seeking those He loved here on the earth. In John chapter 3 we read about John’s followers. They were upset that people were flocking to Jesus instead of to John. We pick up the story in verse 26. “John’s disciples came to him and said, ‘Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.’ John replied, ‘No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, “I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.” It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.’” John 3:26-30 (NLT) Notice that John called Jesus “the bridegroom,” and he identified himself as “the friend of the bridegroom,” or what we would call today “the best man.”

We are familiar with the idea that Jesus came to our world as our Savior to save us from our sins, but here we find an additional insight. Jesus not only came to save us from sin, but He also came to draw us into His love. The plan of salvation doesn’t just get us out of trouble; it shows us God’s heart. It shows us how much God loves us. Romans 2:4 says, “Do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

What leads us to repentance? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it God’s law? Is it your Pastor? No, the Bible says it is the kindness of God. Psalms 17:7 tells us, "Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You.”

Our redemption – our salvation - has an aim, a goal, and a purpose. We are delivered out of a really bad situation into a really good one. We are delivered out of sin into love! Not only does God pity us, but He also wants to show us how much He loves us. He wants us to “love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 That’s the big picture.

In Ezekiel 16 God tells us a very graphic and emotional story. Starting in verse 4 we read, When you were born, no one cut your umbilical cord. No one took care of you: you were not washed with water and purified, nor were you rubbed with salt and wrapped for warmth. No one felt sorry for you or had compassion on you or did anything to help you. Instead, your parents abandoned you, tossed you out into an open field. For on the day you were born, people looked upon you with deep contempt.

Then I passed by and saw you squirming around in your blood. As you lay there in your own blood, I said to you, “Live!” Again, I insisted, “Live!” And that’s exactly what you did. I helped you flourish like plants in the field. In time you grew, became a tall, beautiful young woman: your breasts developed and your hair grew thick and long. But you were still naked and bare. I passed by you again and saw you were old enough to love and to be loved, so I offered Myself to you in marriage. I wrapped my garment over you to cover your nakedness. Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.

What a graphic and revealing description of our terrible predicament. We realize here that it is a lack of love that defines our fallen condition. We Need Love! That’s what God sees in us. He knows we need to be loved. Every person longs for someone to love them. God knows that His love alone can save us. He explains it in Ezekiel 16:6 Then I passed by and saw you squirming around in your blood. As you lay there in your own blood, I said to you, “Live!” Again, I insisted, “Live!”

We were dying in our sins, but God came along and took us up into His arms—the abandoned baby that nobody loved—and He speaks to us saying, “Live! Live!” Then, under His nurturing care, the baby thrives and grows up into a beautiful woman.

Don’t miss the heart of God here. When He looks at us, He’s looking for something specific and special. He longs for us to grow up spiritually to the point where we fall in love with Him in response to His love for us.

Back to the story in Ezekiel 16. When God sees that we are ready for love, He says, “I wrapped my garment over you to cover your nakedness. Then I gave you My divine promise to always be your Beloved, and I entered the sacred covenant of marriage with you. I wed you, and you became Mine.”

Here we see God essentially saying, “I love you so much I want you to be My wife.” God gives us life—or salvation—by loving us into a condition of thriving. Then He asks for our hand in marriage with the hope that we will say “Yes” and love Him back. That’s the real goal of the plan of salvation.

The prophet Hosea helps us to understand how much God is willing to do to make this marriage happen. He describes the fallen human condition as promiscuity. In Hosea 2:13: God describes the lost this way.“‘She decked herself with her earrings and jewelry, and went after her lovers; but Me she forgot,’ says the Lord.” Every sinner is pursuing illicit love affairs with things that keep God from the center of our affections and passions. So what is God going to do? How is He going to save us? By forcing us? By manipulating us? No.

Force and manipulation are contrary to the ways of love and therefore contrary to the character of God since “God is love” (1 John 4:8). So He has a different plan. God describes His course of action in Hosea 2:14: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her.” God the allurer! I wasn’t sure allurer was a word, but I found it in the dictionary. One who allures. Some Bible versions use the word entice or attract. This isn’t the picture most people have of God! That doesn’t sound harsh, now does it? God intends to save us by alluring us, enticing us, attracting us. This concept reminds me of the words of Jesus. Not long before he was crucified, he foreshadowed the event when He said in John 12:32: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” This sounds like Jesus is alluring, attracting and enticing us.

On the cross, Jesus gave the ultimate revelation of His love for us. And that love, if we look upon it, will draw us to Him. It will generate attraction in our hearts toward Him and allure us to His heart.
Now let’s go back to Hosea 2:16: “And it shall be, in that day, says the Lord, that you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master.” What an incredible God! This is the most powerful being in the universe and yet He refuses to overpower us. He does not want a master-servant relationship with us, but rather a husband-wife relationship. He wants voluntary love to be the motivating power that defines our relationship with Him.

In verses Hosea 2:19,20 God pledges Himself to be our faithful spiritual husband: “I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.”

Jesus came to our world to fulfill this prophecy. Standing before us with the promise of unwavering faithfulness, He offers Himself to us for an eternal union that will never be broken, which just happens to be what His second coming is all about.

You probably wondered when I was going to get back to the second coming of Jesus. In John 14:1-3, one of the most famous second coming passages, we read: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

I want us to think about this passage with the understanding that Jesus uses the language of a marriage relationship to describe our relationship with Him. What Jesus says here in John 14 about His second coming makes perfect sense. Jesus foretold His second coming by employing the language of the marriage customs of His time.

First, there was the wooing phase. If a man loved a woman, he would interact with her in such a way as to draw her to himself. Once drawn to him, the couple would enter into the courtship phase, getting to know one another and growing in their love. Then the man would propose. If her answer was yes, the man would then depart from his bride-to-be with a promise to return for her. The reason for his departure was practical. He would go away so that he could prepare a place for her in his father’s house.

In other words, Jesus did not merely promise to return; He promised to return for His bride. He is coming back to Earth for one reason: because He deeply, passionately, longingly loves us and wants to spend eternity in intimate fellowship with us. Don’t miss the fact that He says, “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Later, just before He was to die on the cross, Jesus again expressed His heart in John 17:24: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am.”

That’s what Jesus wants. He wants you to simply, be “with” Him. Think of someone you like to be with, someone whose presence you desire and enjoy—your spouse, your mom or dad, your sibling, your best friend. The point is simple: we like to be with those we love.

Jesus longs for our presence, for our friendship, for the enjoyment of our love. When Paul talks about marriage, he uses it to describe the love of Christ for His people. In Ephesians 5:25, Paul says; “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

Paul is saying that the marriage relationship holds before us a deep, secret truth regarding our relationship with Jesus as His eternal bride. God has something in mind for us beyond our wildest dreams.

Presently, we are in the courtship phase of the relationship. He is wooing and winning us, revealing to our minds the beauty of His character so that we can mature in our love for Him. The total reality of our identity as the bride of Christ will not dawn upon us until the wedding itself. The time will come in salvation history when the church is spiritually “ready” to enter the marriage with her Lord. The whole universe will witness our readiness and make the wedding announcement.

Look at Revelation 19:6-8: And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. The entire story of the Bible points forward to a single point of climax: Jesus returning to earth to receive the church as His eternal bride.

The Song of Solomon is a prophetic love song that offers a unique window into the love of Christ for His church. In it, we get a penetrating glimpse into God’s matrimonial love for His people and where it ultimately leads. Chapter by chapter, verse by verse, expressions of devotion are exchanged between the man and the woman. They describe one another’s virtues. They compliment one another with exuberance. They want to be with each other.

Have you ever wondered why the Song of Solomon is in the Bible? To some people, it seems unnecessary. I remember some years ago when a friend of mine gave a sermon on the Song of Solomon. Several members didn’t think that it was appropriate. I guess they questioned why it was included in the Bible. I think that if we look closely, the Song of Solomon is more than just a silly love song.

 The climactic point of the song has the woman saying something very profound to her lover: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised. (Song of Solomon 8:6, 7; ESV)

Suddenly, we are led to realize that the deepest love known to human beings—that which exists between a bride and her groom—tells us of God’s love for His church, and His hope that we love Him back. Dying on the cross, Jesus did, indeed, reveal to us a quality of love that is stronger than death, a love that no force in the world can quench.

Salvation is the plan by which Jesus allures our hearts back to Him and establishes a love relationship between Himself and us. And the second coming of Jesus is when the lover of our souls comes back to get us so we can be with Him forever. Now that’s good news! We as Christians eagerly long for the return of Jesus.

Jesus looks at us longingly even though we are a mess. He wants to be with us. That is why He’s coming back. The question is; do we want to be with Him?

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