“What if Jesus Came Back Today?”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Throughout the years there has been a great deal of discussion and teaching about the end times. Some call it the return of Jesus, or when the Lord will come back. Various ideas and thoughts have been presented and continue to be shared. Most people will say what Jesus himself said: We don't know the day nor the hour of His return, only God does. And if we believe the Bible, we know that is certainly true and that there is a time when indeed the Lord will return. In our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will notice some of those passages. The one thing I want us to do is to focus on being able to answer the following question: Will I be ready when the Lord does return? In the midst of trying to know about the Lord's return and what that will look like, we are to make sure we are prepared for when it does happen. I would encourage us to think about that as we work through our lesson today. Have you received the salvation Jesus offers? When He comes back, will He find us to be one of His faithful and obedient servants? Please join us for the next few minutes as we study the lesson entitled “What if Jesus Came Back Today?”
Ever since I can remember, I have heard sermons about being ready when Jesus returns; in other words, His second coming. And perhaps you can say the same thing. We refer to those sermons by these words, the hellfire and brimstone messages; and perhaps you have heard that phrase as well. But those sermons tend to focus on the wrath and the punishment of God. It may have all started a number of years ago, in 1741, with Jonathan Edwards when he shared a message which he entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Well, some 280 years later, to today, God may still get angry at some things going on in His world. However, His greatest quality is to love people. He does not want anyone to perish, but He wants everyone to come to repentance, according to 2nd Peter chapter 3 and verse 9. Our Heavenly Father loves us and He does not want to punish us. In fact, that is the last thing on His mind. The God I read about in my Bible focuses on His love for people, even though we do sin, even though we mess up and even though we do make mistakes. Some people say that in the Old Testament we read about a God who is full of anger and He seeks to punish people. But then in the New Testament, we read about a God of love and forgiveness. And that just may be what some people want to find as they read the Bible. But from the very beginning of the Bible to the very end of the Bible, we find that God indeed is a God of love. He demonstrates it over and over again as He delivers people from sin. He saves people who have rebelled against Him. He washes and makes clean people who have turned their lives over to the Lord. Yes, God forgives people over and over again through the relationship we can have through His son, Jesus Christ. I really believe that the number one overall theme of the entire Bible is this: God is love! More than anything else, God loves us and wants us to enter into that relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. He wants us to be ready for when His Son does come back to assemble all of those who belong to God's family. You know, most of us probably believe that God is love and that He wants us to receive His Son’s salvation. We also believe the Bible is true and that in it we find one story after another that illustrates God's love for people. But with that in mind, we ask ourselves two very important questions today. The first one is this: Well, how do we know for sure Jesus is coming back? Well, there are many passages in the Bible that indicate He is returning, but I want to focus on two, specifically. The first one comes from 1st Thessalonians chapter 4. These are words written by the Apostle Paul, and they describe what happens, or what will happen, when the Lord returns. We begin in chapter 4 with verse 16: <For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s Word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.> The Apostle Paul wrote those words to some Christians living there in the city of Thessalonica. They had some questions about the Lord's return. They wondered about those who had already passed away, what would happen to them. And so Paul highlights some things that will take place, as were revealed to him; that the Lord will come and it will be the shout of the Archangel announcing His arrival, and then those who have passed away will come up out of the grave and they, along with all others in God's family, will meet the Lord in the air. Well, there's a second passage I want us to notice. These are words from Jesus himself. They're found in Matthew chapter 24. Let's begin reading with verse 36. <But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (skip to vs 42) Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day the Lord will come. (then to vs 44) So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.> Jesus shares these words, and He identifies Himself as the Son of Man. He states very plainly, I don't know when I'm coming back. The angels in heaven don't know either. It is only God the Father who knows; and therefore, everyone needs to be prepared and ready whenever that day might come. For those who are ready for the Lord's return, those passages encourage us, don't they? They remind us again that indeed the Lord is returning and they inspire us to be prepared and ready for that day, whenever it might be. And then, on the other hand, for those who have not received God's salvation through Jesus Christ, these passages remind us of its importance. As we look at those two passages of Scripture, I want to offer some observations, some summary statements, if you will. The first one is this: Jesus is coming suddenly and without warning. You know, there are many things about our lives and about our families which we can know for certain. There are things we know are going to happen on a regular basis. We get into somewhat of a routine and we can expect the same things to happen over and over again. And to a great degree, that's good. Yes, lots of things provide a degree of certainty, but we do not know when Jesus is coming back. In fact, as He stated himself, Jesus himself does not even know the day nor the hour of His return. Over the years, many people have tried to guess when Jesus will return, and some have even predicted the exact time and the exact date. And I have to smile when that happens because it didn't happen. We are still here. Jesus has yet to return. And if Jesus himself does not know, then how can anyone believe God has revealed to them that specific day, time and hour? Here's a second observation: Jesus is coming with the shout of the Archangel. We are very familiar with Jesus’ arrival into this world. We remember when He was born of the Virgin Mary and the great announcement was made. There were, there was a star in the East and people were anxious to receive the Messiah. The angels of the Lord announced it. People heard about it. Many came from everywhere to see for themselves the Son of God. Oh, there was no mistake, when Jesus first arrived on this earth. And the same will be true when He comes again. We will not miss it. With that, there will be no more physical death. A new and everlasting body will take the place of the one which has passed away. And that for which we have anticipated for so very long will now become a reality. And as the text tells us, we will meet the Lord in the air. Here's a third observation: Jesus is raising up those who believe in Him. Those who have died will be raised up out of their graves, according to the words of the Apostle Paul. And their appearance will be different. It will be changed to reflect the glory of the Lord. And those who know Him and those who are alive will meet them in the air and they will begin to live in His presence forever. Yes, those who are part of God's family can anticipate Jesus’ return. And even though it will come in a moment's notice, it will be expected. His return will not take any of us by surprise because we know it is coming. And no doubt it will be a great day of celebrating and rejoicing. Well, here's one more observation, number four: Jesus will be with His followers forever. One of the primary messages proclaimed throughout the Gospel is that there is life beyond the grave. And that is such an important part of the Good News message; that death is not the end for those who know the Lord. Yes, there is a promise of life in Jesus, in a home that has been prepared since the very beginning. And that is something we can anticipate with great joy. I don't even know how to describe the joy that awaits us. In fact, none of us do. And yet we do know that joy and that celebration will be far beyond what we could ever think about or imagine, and that joy will not disappoint us. Those are some of the most important messages which are found in God's Word. Those are some of the blessings and the promises given to those who belong to God's family and who have received His salvation. Well, here is a second question I believe that needs to be asked: What does it mean for me to be ready for Jesus’ return? Well, again, I want to highlight three passages which seem to be at the foundation of being prepared for His return. And certainly there are more which we could mention, but these three seem to summarize it all. They remind us of how we are to respond to God's love, and they all work together in His Salvation Plan. Here's the first passage. It is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 20. As John has given some highlights and summary statements in regards to Jesus’ life and ministry, he wraps it all up with these words, beginning with verse 30. <Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this Book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.> John makes it very clear. You have life, you have eternal life, in the name of Jesus Christ when you believe in Jesus Christ, you believe that He is the Son of God, you believe He is the One who came and ministered to and served people upon this earth and then He died on the cross and then rose again; and that's what you believe. That is at the foundation of your faith. Here's a second passage. It’s found in Romans chapter 5. Again, we go to the words of the Apostle Paul, beginning with verse 6. <You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!> That is one of the most amazing passages in all of Scripture. In the midst of our sin and rebellion, God did the unthinkable. Because of His love for us, He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die on our behalf. He so loves us and wants us to be a part of His family, He gave the greatest gift that could ever be given. And now, because of that love, because of that sacrifice, we can be right in God's sight. Well, here is the third passage, again from the Apostle Paul. We find it in the letter of Ephesians, chapter 2 beginning with verse 4. <Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions -it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.> Again, Paul emphasizes God's great love for all people. And he states, it is because of God's grace and mercy we are saved. It is not because of any good works or any good deeds that we might do that we can say to God, well, I deserve that salvation. No, it is through our faith in Jesus and by God's amazing grace that we will spend an eternity with Him. You know, these passages are important when it comes to being ready for Jesus’ return. We are to believe in God's one and only son, Jesus Christ. And when God sent His Son to die for you and for me, we know that He sent His very best. He sent His only Son. He did not send an angel. He did not send a prophet. He did not send any other person or any other creation. God sent His Son. And that was the only, and it was the very best, thing He could possibly do to tell us, to demonstrate to us His great love for us. And now it is up to each one of us individually to receive God's greatest gift; and nothing is more important. Well, no doubt there are some people and there are some things which need our attention in life, yet there is none greater than Jesus Christ and our response to Him. No other act of faith or obedience could ever take the place of what God's Son did when He purchased our salvation as He died upon the cross and then rose again from the grave. And that is really at the core of the Gospel message, isn't it? It is at the heart of salvation’s story. In 1st Corinthians chapter 15, we find Paul making the statement, “If there is something more important I can share with you, then I would share it, but here it is; that Jesus died on the cross in accordance with the Scriptures and that He was buried and that He rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Yes, the death and the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the very center of the Gospel, the Good News message; and there is no greater message that he or anybody else could ever share. You know, the importance of that message has not changed. We are to believe it and we are to be changed by it. And when we recognize the magnitude of what Jesus has done for us then our only response is to submit to Him as our Lord and to acknowledge Him as our Savior. We realize that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life that leads us to the Father, John 14 in verse 6. And then we demonstrate our obedience and our allegiance to Christ by being baptized into Him as our sin is washed away and forgiven. And it is then that we no longer pursue our own interest and desires, but we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and then we simply rely upon God's grace to save us. No, we cannot save ourselves. And yet, it seems many people believe that through their good deeds or many prayers or generous gifts they earn a home in heaven; and yet, nowhere in the Bible is that taught. In fact, God's Word teaches just the opposite. It is only through our faith in Jesus and by God's amazing grace that we will be able to see His face and to live with Him eternally. There is no sin which God does not forgive, there is no person from whom God does not turn away, there is not one person whom God does not love and there is nobody in this world for whom God's Son did not die. And God the Father invites everyone to believe in what He has done for all of us. According to the Bible, the second coming of Jesus Christ is a certain reality. It is something that will happen at some point in the future; and yet, nobody, not even Jesus, knows that specific day, time or hour. And with that being the case, it is important that we ask ourselves one very important question: Are we ready for that day to come? Not knowing when it is, we need to be ready. We need to be prepared so that we can be with the Lord forever. What would it mean to you if Jesus came back today? Would it be good news or would it be bad news? Would it be a day of rejoicing or would it be the start of a separation from God? You know, if we are ready for Jesus’ return, that's great. I'm glad you are. But if not, consider how God has demonstrated His great love for you and the opportunity that you have, even today, to receive His Son’s salvation and be ready when the Lord returns. And I hope you will make the decision to do that very thing.
Many of us are blessed to have some family members, and we enjoy being around them all the time. However, for some of us, they do not live in the same city or even nearby. And, for instance, they have to take a bus to come and see us where we live. And we look forward to those visits, don't we? We like it when our family members come to be with us. We get caught up on things going on in their lives and we enjoy that fellowship. But one thing happens before they leave; is, we talk about when they will come back. When will be your next visit? When will you return so we can continue on our good family relationship? You know, I'm reminded of Jesus and the family of God that we are able to participate in on a regular basis. We love Him. He loves us. We enjoy being there together with God. But we know the Lord is coming back some time. We just don't know when. In fact, the Bible even tells us nobody knows the day nor the hour, not even Jesus the Son. But we do know He will return. Just like we know our family members plan to return and come back, someday. We know for a fact it will happen with Jesus. And as we think about that, we are preparing our self for when He does return. We are looking forward to when He will come and gather unto Himself all of those who belong to the family of God, and then that love will be fulfilled and we can enjoy it for all eternity. But what if the Lord were to return today? Would you be ready for His second coming?
Thank you for being part of our program today on “Key to the Kingdom.” I hope it reminded us of two things: The Lord is coming back someday, and when He does, we need to be ready for His arrival. If you would like to hear this message again, please go to keytothekingdom.com. This is our website, and on it you can find this message along with many others. Each lesson can be downloaded in audio, written and video formats. There is no obligation or cost to do so, and I invite you to find the messages which are of interest. On the website you will find other information about our ministry. Bible study lessons, our basic beliefs and broadcast schedule are all available. By downloading the free app onto your smart phone, you can access our website along with a one minute devotional thought or a two minute inspirational message. And again, all of those things are free from any charge. Facebook® is another place where you can find us. Feel free to access any of these media options. Thank you again for watching the program today. And please consider joining us next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”