"We Believe in the Return of Christ" Matthew 24:32-42 Pastor Allan Wooters, D.Min.
When we consider the chaos that is now rampant in our culture, it is hard not to wonder what our world is coming to. In the past, I have responded to such a statement by saying, “It’s coming to Jesus.” Yet, with such a statement exactly how Jesus is coming is left unsaid. Well, that situation ends with this message. Because today our topic is the return of Jesus.
The Apostles’ Creed declares that Jesus will come again. The full statement of the Creed is: He is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. By the phrase “living and the dead,” the writers of the Creed were affirming the biblical teaching that when Jesus returns those who are alive will face judgment along with those who have been long dead. But more about this later. Let’s focus now on Matthew 24:32 – 42.
Of all topics in God’s Word, there is little doubt that the subject of Jesus’ return is wildly popular. Of course, it deals with the future and most folks are fascinated by the future. But more than that, in Scripture itself, the return of Jesus is an incredibly important matter. Consider that over 300 verses refer to the second coming. That is one verse for every thirteen verses in the New Testament. That’s incredible! Clearly for the Spirit of God who inspired the Bible, the return of Jesus is massively important. So, to be in step with the Spirit it is crucial to believe that Jesus is coming back again. And we can believe because we have good reasons for believing. Consider first, that we can believe despite not knowing all the details involved in Jesus’ return.
We Believe Despite Being Unsure About the Details!
Prophecy is always challenging. It’s not easy to discern what is being said in a passage of Scripture involved with the second coming. For example, take v.38: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.” Clearly this is a description of people just living life. But in vs. 29 – 31, Jesus describes the world situation at the time of His return as one involving massive calamities. On one hand, life seems to be going on as it always has. How can Jesus come to a “business-as-usual” world, and a world experiencing the worst calamities ever seen on earth? Maybe some parts of the world miss the worst of the disasters linked to Jesus’ coming but that is a hard view to hold given the cosmic scope of the calamities described. It’s best to say such a matter is a paradox and leave it there. But why would God do it that way? Is He wanting to be vague? Maybe! One reason why prophecy may seem vague or paradoxical is because God wants His people in every age to have reasons to be ready for Jesus’ return. We should not think of Jesus’ return as an event far off on a timeline, but something that has been in the offing since the ascension at least. We should be ready for it.
Others suggest that God’s intention was to keep the future somewhat vague and clouded to confound the Devil. It’s like the teaching of the resurrection of the Messiah in the Old Testament. It’s vague to a good degree which is why many of Jesus’ own disciples struggled to understand it when Jesus tried to tell them He would rise from the dead. Why give the devil more information? We know he knows the Bible, but he doesn’t know all the secrets of Jesus’ return. That’s a good thing.
The bottom line is this: though some prophetic statements are vague and interpretations different, we are sure of this: Jesus is coming again, and we must be ready. Those two factors are beyond doubt in the Bible. Now, another factor concerning the return of Jesus is this: we can believe despite the presence of false teachers.
We Believe Despite False Predictions
Look at vs. 24:4 – 5, 23 – 27. Note that one of the challenges the church would face throughout history is the fact that teachers would arise who advocate all kinds of unbiblical views involving the end times. Jesus says some will come claiming, “I am the Christ” (v.5)! If you recall my message from last week, I mentioned the cult founder Sun Moon. He claimed that he was the real Christ. Moon said that Jesus failed in His mission by dying on the cross. Because of this failure, God anointed him to be the new Christ. What is incredible is that thousands of people have believed it! Others so-called prophecy teachers have set dates for Jesus return, taught that Jesus has already come but only in the clouds and is waiting the time to fully reveal Himself. On and on I could go. The twisting of Scripture, the unfounded claims, the confident statements that the “signs of the times” tell us that Jesus is coming in a matter of months is endless.
But this should not surprise us. Again, Jesus warns us of the endless parade of frauds who so easily deceive ignorant people. I am not being harsh or unloving by calling anyone ignorant or deceived who fall for the nonsense the false teachers trumpet. Take this matter of the timing of the end. False teachers have forever set exact dates for the return of Jesus and people believe them. They are then stunned when the date passes, and life goes on. But why? What does Jesus say in v.36? “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Even Jesus, in the time He was on earth didn’t have a clue as to the date of the end. How in the world could anyone else? To have the Bible, to read this statement of Jesus, and still fall for some charlatan’s date-setting heresy, is tragic beyond words.
One more matter here. Some are wondering if what we are seeing are signs of the near return of Christ. They point to an increase of wars, famines, earthquakes, and a pandemic! But vs.6 – 8 tell us what? That such events are not the key. What are the signs? Those are related in vs. 29 – 31. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars fall from the sky meaning there are massive cosmic disturbances. Until you see that, wars, famines and even pandemics are not signs! False teachers use signs and twist Scripture, but you don’t have to fall for it. But again, we believe in the return of Jesus because He said false teachers would appear and His word has proven true. This fact leads me to the final point. That point is that we believe in the second coming because Jesus Himself said He would return.
We Believe Because Jesus Declared He Would Return
We get this at v.35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” In other words, Jesus’ can be trusted as to the truth of His teachings including what He says about His return. Here’s an exercise. Try to think of one thing Jesus was wrong about? Is there a teaching that you can find that He got wrong? No? Well, if He is right about every area of life, why would we think He is wrong about His return? Let’s note that Jesus makes two observations about His second coming.
First Jesus says He will return suddenly, v.27. “For just as lightening comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” His coming will not unfold over a long period of time.
Second, He will return unexpectedly, vs. 36 – 41. We find in these verses that Jesus’ coming will bring judgment or deliverance. We need to keep this in mind today more than ever. We look at the destruction going on in our society. The evil being done in the name of racial justice, sexual equality, the right to abortion and more. We can almost despair at this. But it’s what we should expect from an ever-increasingly godless culture. Second Tim. 3:1 – 5 says that in the last days people will be “lovers of self… boastful, arrogant, revilers… ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited” and more! You want a sign, well maybe this is it! God is not aloof concerning this. He is watching and weighing every action, every thought. Evil is winning at the present, but “it ain’t over till it’s over!” Never forget that!
But we don’t just remember that God is involved and aware of the evil in our land. We double-down on our faithfulness to Jesus. That is the lesson Jesus gives to us about His return. At v.42 Jesus says, “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.” We can get so caught up in the mess of our society that we fail to seek the best things. We grow weak in our faith. We fail to feed our minds the truths of God’s promises. What we can do better is call ourselves to greater faithfulness. Martin Luther advised, “Preach [and live] as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow.”
But what if you have yet to give your life to Christ? The incredible news is, it’s not too late! You can choose Jesus and thereby not face the judgment on evil that is going to happen. This is how it works. On the cross, Jesus took God’s judgment on sin. When you trust in Christ, God applies the work of Jesus to your sins and forgives you completely. That means, when Jesus returns, there are no sins left in your life for God to judge. The price for every sin has been paid. Jesus took your judgment now you can go free!
The famed theologian Emil Brunner summed up better than just about anyone the importance of Jesus’ return. Brunner writes:
Whatever the form of this event may be, everything depends on it… To call it in question would be to undermine the foundations of faith, to tear out the keystone that holds everything together, and without which everything falls apart. Faith in Jesus without the expectation of His return is a check that is never cashed, a promise that is not made in earnest. A faith in Christ without the expectation of a second coming is like a flight of stairs which lead to nowhere but ends in a void…there is no consummation for the unredeemed world. 1
What we have then is hope – real hope. As has often been pointed out, all the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming have been fulfilled to the letter. There is then no reason to think that the promise of His second coming would in any way fail. Don’t despair. Don’t give in to unbelief! Determine to persevere and pray. And you can daily pray the prayer which ends the entire Bible. Revelation 22:20, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
For Further Reading
There are so many books on the Second Coming that one must be careful. Sadly, there is more popular nonsense and outright heresy than truth in these works. Watch out for authors who are always taking current events and reading them into the biblical text.
For a good survey of the issues see Wayne Grudem’s Systemic Theology.