Ready or Not, The King is Coming
By David R. Barnhart
Volume 30 Spring 2015 Issue 2
CHRIST’S RETURN IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
M. R. DeHann, founder of the Radio Bible Class and former editor of the devotional Our Daily Bread, stated, “Jesus Christ is coming back again! It is the blessed hope of the Church, the redeeming hope of Israel, and the only hope for a tottering world. Yes, Jesus Christ is coming back again, and whether you believe it or not, you will someday have to face Him as your Savior or your Judge.”
The New Testament church believed in the literal return of Christ and the establishment of His millennial kingdom. They longed for the day when Christ would come and gather His Church unto Himself. They believed His coming was imminent and that He would reign over the whole earth from Jerusalem as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. For them, Christ’s return was foundational to every doctrine and practice within the church, and they believed His return would bring about every doctrine’s ultimate fulfillment.
The belief in the millennial reign of Christ was held universally by the church until the third century, when Origen (185-254) suggested that the church should start interpreting the Bible allegorically rather than literally. In the fourth century, Augustine (354- 430) formulated what is now called amillenialism, a theological system that teaches there will be no millennial reign of Christ, nor will there be a rapture of the Church. For many years, Augustine believed and taught the millennial understanding of the New Testament church, but later he began to question the early church’s teaching of this doctrine and formulated his own theological position. His amillennial views regarding Christ’s return were eventually adopted as official doctrine by the Roman Catholic Church, and later by various leaders of the Protestant Reformation.
Why did the New Testament church place such emphasis on the literal return of Jesus Christ and His millennial reign from Jerusalem? Because our Lord had talked about it repeatedly in his sermons, parables and teachings. He often referenced the writings of the Old Testament prophets as He expounded on various aspects of His return. To the dismay of those who believe the Book of Daniel is nothing but a fable, Jesus identified Daniel as being a historic person, even calling him “a prophet.”
Furthermore, New Testament Christians were well taught about this matter through the writings of Paul, who linked Christ’s return to assorted teachings and doctrines. Paul referred to Jesus’ coming again as “the blessed hope” for the Church and for all Christians (Titus 2:13).
CHRIST’S RETURN IN THE MODERN CHURCH
My heart breaks when I think about how soon the Lord’s return may be, and how little His Church is being prepared or encouraged to watch and wait for His coming as the Bible instructs us to do.
Paul warned Timothy that in the last days people would not endure sound doctrine, but instead they would seek teachers who would say what they wanted to hear. Without doubt, we are living in such a time when the preaching of the whole counsel of God, especially Christ’s promised return, has become scarce in the land. Today many preachers and teachers seem ready to turn the hope of Christ’s return into nothing more than a theological argument concerning whether or not the teachings of the Bible on this matter should be taken literally or figuratively, or even if He will return at all. For modern critics of the Bible, the writings of Old Testament prophets, such as Daniel and Zachariah, and the Book of Revelation are fictitious and symbolic, and have little relevance for today’s Bible scholars.
NOTHING HAPPENING HERE—MOVE ON!
For most Christians, the major strategy in dealing with the doctrine of Christ’s return is to ignore it. For those in liberal churches, the solution is to opt for some kind of socialistic utopia here on earth and call it the kingdom of God. Some even point to the fact that the theological departments of their denominational seminaries no longer bother to teach about the second coming of Christ, but, instead, teach what they deem to be more important and contemporary— income equality for all, a woman’s right to abortion, sexual rights and same-sex marriage, to name but a few.
But according to the teachings of the New Testament, other than proclaiming the gospel of salvation, there is no more important doctrine than the coming again of Jesus Christ. By His coming, Jesus will bring God’s promise of redemption into complete and total fulfillment. We’ll no longer just talk about the streets of gold, we’ll walk on them. We will no longer simply talk about Jesus, we’ll talk with Him face to face, and His own hand will gently wipe every tear from every eye. We’ll not only talk about seeing our loved ones who have gone on before, we’ll be together with them for eternity without ever again experiencing a single moment of separation.
A SLEEPING CHURCH IN A HELL-BOUND WORLD
Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound the alarm on my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming... Yet even now, declares the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart...rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, for He is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and He relents from sending calamity. Joel 2: 1-2, 12-13
God’s prophetic clock is counting down to the appointed hour. If you don’t believe it, listen to the latest news reports or read the morning papers. Scriptures are replete with signs, prophecies and promises of Christ’s return. Surely, no doctrine of the church has been as neglected by so many as has the doctrine of Christ’s promised return. The signs of His coming are everywhere, yet the silence of the churches is deafening when it comes to proclaiming this vital truth of Scripture. Slumbering preachers and sleeping saints need to wake up to the reality that the King is coming, and His coming may be sooner than any of us realize. In the meantime, millions are perishing without the knowledge of the gospel or the hope that His coming offers. How it must grieve the heart of God to look at a sleeping church in a hell-bound world.
Jesus Himself said, “But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
In Romans 13:11, Paul was speaking about the urgency of the hour when he wrote, “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” He also wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5: 2 and 6 regarding the same matter: “The day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night...so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.”
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT WE WITNESS
In our court system, witnesses are called to testify to what they have seen and heard. This was in the mind of John when he wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands concerning the Word of Life...we testify and proclaim to you...” (1 John 1:1-2).
We are witnesses today to the fulfillment of manifold signs and prophecies of the Lord’s return. In fact, no generation since Pentecost has ever witnessed more fulfilled prophecies regarding Christ’s coming again than has this present generation. But being a witness to these things carries with it great responsibilities. And because of the church’s failure to bear witness to these prophetic events, the world is ready to follow any leader, including one who offers empty promises. These churches will be required to confess this sin at the judgment seat of Christ.
Today we are witnesses to the return of the Jews to their land and the reestablishment of the nation of Israel. We are witnesses to a resurgence of the gospel among the Jewish people, who are embracing Christ as their Messiah in numbers not seen since the time of Pentecost. We are witnesses to a revived hatred for the Jews, along with a global effort to destroy the Jewish state. We are witnesses of a hatred throughout our culture for the name of Christ and His Word, as well as a hatred for those who proclaim it.
We are witnesses to the martyrdom of thousands of Christians who are laying down their lives for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, under the grotesque hand of militant Islam. We are all witnesses today of attempts to create a one-world government and a one-world economy.
We are witnesses today of “the great falling away,” as so many churches embrace apostasy, false teachings and unbiblical practices. If Paul told the churches of his day to “WAKE UP,” what do you think he would say to the churches in the twenty-first century who have joined the ranks of the enemies of God?
Paul wrote in his letters about the readiness of believers for the coming of the Lord. He said to Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearance and His kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
If Christians truly believed that Christ will return soon, they would be preaching it from the housetops and be racing to the highways and byways to witness the gospel to the lost before the age of grace comes to a close.
The doctrine of Jesus’ imminent return must be reclaimed today in its pristine richness, as taught by the New Testament Church. Without this compelling doctrine, it is unlikely the fires of revival will ever burn again in our churches. And without a genuine revival in America’s churches, our nation does not stand a chance. If the events of the past decade, as well as the events that are presently unfolding in the world, are unable to motivate the church to rise up and proclaim the truth of God’s Word, the world will remain without a shred of hope!
“Rise up, O men of God, have done with lesser things. Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of kings.”