Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asks, "Are you ready for the return of Jesus?"

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The imminent return of Christ means essentially that it could happen at any time. That’s why we need to be prepared. It will be sudden. It will be quick. It will be unexpected. We cannot know when it’s going to happen, so we need to be prepared for it to be imminent—to happen at any time.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Friday, October 13, 2017.

In the first century Jesus said, "I’m coming back soon." That was over 2,000 years ago. Has Jesus failed to deliver on that promise? Nancy addresses that continuing in the series "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 7: Encouragement to Persevere."

Nancy: Around the dial of a clock in a church in Strasburg, France, are these words. “One of these hours the Lord is coming.” The Second Coming. I heard a lot about that in my pre-teen and early teen years, and I was trying to think back to why that was. In 1969 some of you remember Larry Norman’s song, "I Wish We’d All Been Ready," came out. I see some nodding heads. “The Son has come, and you’ve been left behind.” That was a very popular song and got a lot of attention.

In 1970 Hal Lindsay wrote The Late Great Planet Earth. Within the first eight years it sold 9 million copies, which at that time was probably unprecedented for a Christian book. That book has never gone out of print. It’s now been published in 54 languages. It has sold more than 35 million copies.

That book compared end time prophecies in the Bible with what were then current events taking place in the world to try and broadly predict future situations and scenarios leading to what Hal Lindsay believed would be the rapture of believers before the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ to establish His thousand year reign here on earth.

That tells you where Hal Lindsay was coming from in terms of what theologians call eschatology. That’s the study of future things. Now I said in the last session as we looked at this issue of the Rapture and the Great Tribulation . . . If you didn’t get a chance to listen to that session, you can go back and pick that up at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can listen to it. You can read a transcript of it.

I basically staked out the position that I don’t know whose position is right as to whether Christians will be here on the earth during the Great Tribulation or will be raptured before the Great Tribulation.

Now if you grew up in the circles I did, you may think I have just said something that’s heretical because we grew up with a lot of prophecy conferences. This was the approach that many of those took in the 70s and early 80s—this pre-trib rapture. I have huge respect for those who take this position. There’s a lot of biblical evidence to support it. I just don’t think it’s clear enough for me to say I’m sure. You can study it yourself and determine what you think about that.

I remember these prophecy conferences as I was growing up. I loved the Word of God. I loved preaching. I loved Bible conferences. But when they would get on this prophecy stuff, I would kind of zone out. I’m thinking, they’ve got all these charts and these diagrams and these sequences, and I’m not proud to say this, but I really wasn’t all that interested in the details of how and when and exactly in what order all this stuff was going to happen. It just seemed kind of confusing to me.

So I skipped that grade, and now as I’ve been going back to this passage, I’m wishing I had listened a little more closely. The Lord has given me a chance to go back and to study some of these really precious passages and to take an interest in what Scripture does treat as a very important subject of the coming of Christ, the second coming of Christ back to this earth.

One of these hours the Lord is coming. This Second Coming is a prominent theme in the book of Revelation. You read seven times where Christ uses this term coming to refer to Himself and other references to the coming of Christ.

Let me just read through a string of these because I want you to get the sense. I’ve spent much of the last year and a half living in the book of Revelation. You cannot escape this theme that Christ is coming back. Let me just read those verses to you.

Chapter 1, verse 7:

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

Then as we come to the seven letters to the churches that we’ve been examining over these weeks, five of those seven letters to the churches refer to Christ coming. Now, they don’t all refer to the second coming—what we know as the Second Coming of Christ. In three cases Christ issues a warning to the church that He is coming to bring discipline on congregations that will not repent. So that coming may have been immediate or sooner than the Second Coming of Christ.

Listen to some of those words of Christ. To the church of Ephesus He said, "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent" (Rev. 2:5). A word of warning.

Another word of warning to the church in Pergamum. “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Rev. 2:16). We’ve looked at these passages over the last several weeks.

To the church in Thyatira Jesus said in chapter 2, “Only hold fast what you have until I come” (Rev. 2:25). Probably a reference to the Second Coming of Christ.

Then to the church in Sardis, chapter 3, “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up [this is the church that thought they were alive, had a name for being alive, a reputation for being alive, but they were really dead], I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Rev. 3:3).

So in Ephesus, in Pergamum, and in Sardis Jesus’ coming was a threat. It was a warning. Now we come to the letter to the church in Philadelphia and Jesus gives a promise. It’s a promise for the strengthening and the comfort of the church. It was to encourage them to persevere in hard times and places and to remind them that the trial will be short and that the reward is close at hand.

If you know that there’s going to be a reward after you endure it and that your endurance will not have to be forever, then it gives you strength and courage to keep pressing on.

So He says to the church in Philadelphia, Revelation chapter 3, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (v. 10). Then verse 11, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have so that no one may seize your crown.”

Moving on in the book of Revelation, chapter 16, verse 15, “Behold, I am coming like a thief!” Jesus says. “Blessed is the one who stays awake.” And then in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation chapter 22, there are six references to Christ’s coming. Jesus says in verse 7, “Behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Verse 12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” Then verse 20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” I am coming soon. I am coming soon.

It’s a theme of Revelation but not just of Revelation; it’s a central theme of the New Testament. Jesus spoke often to His disciples about His return, and He urged them to be ready for His return.

Matthew 24, a key chapter about the return of Christ. “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 44). And then that wonderful promise in John chapter 14 that you’re familiar with. “If I go [as He was getting ready to go to heaven] and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (v. 3).

The Second Coming. It’s mentioned frequently throughout the New Testament. More than 300 times. There are entire chapters: Matthew 13, Matthew 24, Matthew 25, Mark 13, Luke 21. There are major portions of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and, as we’ve said, major portions of Revelation that are devoted to this theme of the Second Coming of Christ.

“I am coming soon.” This is the central hope of the New Testament Church. Not only in the New Testament era but in every era since then, including ours. Whether we think about it often enough, it is still our hope.

First Thessalonians 4, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (v. 16).

Hebrews 9, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (v. 28).

First John chapter 3, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears [He’s coming soon] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (v. 2).

Can you see that this is a theme in the New Testament? In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers in some way to the Second Coming of Christ.

Now this is a complex subject when you get into the details of it. I want to start by saying that there is disagreement among Bible-believing Christians in relation to some specifics about the chronology or the sequence of events surrounding Christ’s return.

For example, and we referenced this in the last session, there’s disagreement about whether the return of Christ takes place in one stage at the end of the age to bring about the new eternal kingdom or whether it takes place in two stages, that is with a pretribulational rapture and then the return of Christ after the Tribulation to set up His kingdom.

Christians do not all agree on this. They disagree strenuously on this. It’s amazing. I’ve read some commentaries that say absolutely for sure it is clear in the Scripture that Jesus is coming back to rapture His Church before the Tribulation and then He’s coming back seven years later to reign and rule on the earth. It’s very clear to them.

Others will say with an equal degree of certainty it’s very clear that the Second Coming of Christ is not in two stages, but He’s coming back after the Tribulation to reign and rule on this earth with His people.

I want to just suggest that we need to extend grace to those who hold different views on this. I’m talking about genuine believers who are committed to the authority of Scripture but who have different interpretations of some of these passages. And to remind us that these points of disagreement are of secondary importance, not primary importance.

So we should not break fellowship with those who don’t see eye to eye on this. Maybe there’s a little self-defense going on here because I’m a little nervous about the people who are going to be emailing us and giving me this string of verses, “Don’t you know that . . . ?” and then they want to prove their position. You can send me your string of verses, but I can tell you I have looked at those verses, and I just don’t think it’s all that clear.

If you think it’s clear, I’m glad you have that certainty, but I think we need to give grace to each other. Now here’s what I want to focus on. There is much on which Bible-believing Christians do agree in relation to the Second Coming of Christ and that’s where I want to focus, not only in this session, but in the next couple of programs as we talk about the return of Christ.

There’s one thing that Bible-believing Christians agree on and that is that the Second Coming, the return of Christ, is going to happen. It’s certain that someday He will return to earth. He came the first time as a humble baby born in a manger. The second time He will come as a reigning King. There’s no disagreement among those who accept the Scripture. I just read you a slew of those verses. There’s no disagreement that He is coming back. We agree on that.

We also agree that the return of Christ will be sudden and unexpected. Jesus said in Matthew 24, “You must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 44). Now in several of the passages I read, the Scripture said, Jesus said, “I am coming soon.” He says that to the believers in Philadelphia. “I am coming soon.”

Some of your translations say quickly. The imminent return of Christ. Perhaps you’ve heard that phrase. The imminent return of Christ. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s immediate. When Jesus says I am coming soon, He said that thousands of years ago at the end of the 1st century. To the church in Philadelphia He said, “I am coming soon.” But He hasn’t come back yet. Does that mean He didn’t keep His promise?

The imminent or soon return of Christ does not necessarily mean that it’s immediate. What it does mean, as one commentator says, “When these events do happen, they will occur suddenly and quickly.” Or it could mean soon in God’s view of time, which is not bound to time, but God lives in eternity. So if a thousand years are just like one day to the Lord, then it’s only been two days since He made this promise to the church in Philadelphia—2,000 years. So “soon” in God’s view of time.

The imminent return of Christ means essentially that it could happen at any time. That’s why we need to be prepared. It will be sudden. It will be quick. It will be unexpected. We cannot know when it’s going to happen, so we need to be prepared for it to be imminent—to happen at any time.

So we agree that the return of Christ is certain, that it will be sudden and unexpected. There’s also agreement among Bible-believing Christians that the return of Christ will be a literal, physical event. He will return bodily. He will return visibly, physically. It will be a personal return of Christ.

You say, “What’s the point about all that?” Well, there is a stream of liberal theology that teaches it’s not Christ returning bodily. It’s just His Spirit returning back to this earth.

Scripture makes it clear that He is coming back in a way that will be visible bodily. Revelation 1:7, “He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him.” This is not just a ghost or a wispy thing. This is Christ returning. Acts 1:11, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,” the angel said to the disciples who were standing on the hill, “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

First Thessalonians 4:16, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven.” It’s a literal, physical, bodily, visible return of Christ.

Then there’s agreement among Christians that He will return in power and in glory. He is coming to reign in power as the King of kings for all eternity. Matthew 24 gives us this sense. “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (v. 30). Not in ignominy, not in a manager, not where only a few would see him like the first time. This time He will come in power and great glory.

There’s also agreement among those who believe the Bible that the return of Christ will be radically life-altering for every person who has ever lived or who is alive at that time. No one who is alive on the planet at that time will escape the impact of the return of Christ. Some people may not know He’s coming. Some people may not believe He’s coming. Some people who know it and believe it may have forgotten that He is coming. But His coming will have radical, life-altering impact on everyone.

It will have radical, life-altering impact on those who are unbelievers because when He comes, He will bring God’s righteous judgment on those who have rejected Him. He will vanquish all His foes, all who oppose Him, including death itself, praise God.

Scripture says in 2 Thessalonians 1, and this is a sobering passage. It talks about the time “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (v. 7).

It will be a time of final, ultimate, eternal wrath and judgment of God on those who have refused to repent. That’s why it’s so important, by the way, that we get the word out that the door is still open. Those who repent and believe may still come into the ark of safety, the ark of God’s salvation through Christ.

It will be a radically life-altering event not only for nonbelievers, but also for those who know Christ. For us as believers the return of Christ signals our liberation from sin. Anybody want to share about that? No more flesh. No more body in sin. Free from sin! You didn’t act excited enough about that. I for one am really looking forward to that.

We will be like Him. We will see Him and the vision of Christ will imprint on us the likeness, the image of God in a way that we cannot fully experience right now. We will experience from that point on for the rest of eternity unhindered fellowship with Christ.

We get glimpses of that now. We experience it in small measure, but to have it without hindrance, without obstacles, without unbelief and doubt and fear and wavering, what a joy that will be! That unhindered, intimate fellowship with Him for all eternity.

With the coming of Christ will be the ultimate solution to all present suffering. No more tears. No more pain. I mean so many things change for us that we celebrate by faith as we look forward to the hope of His return. That’s our hope.

At that time all will acknowledge that He is Lord. “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).

Inscribed on a tablet in Washington, D.C are these words from Tennyson's poem in memorial: One far off divine event toward which the whole creation moves.

I don't know if Tennyson was thinking about the Second Coming of Christ. He had a strange mixture of theology and other views. But as I read that phrase I couldn't help but think about the return of Christ. "One far off divine event toward which the whole creation moves.

The return of Christ is one divine event toward which the whole creation moves. But we would be mistaken to think of it as far off because Jesus said, "I am coming" when? "soon."

Like the words say around that clock, "One of these hours, the Lord is coming."

I love that passage in Revelation 19, one of my favorite in the whole Scripture. It gives us a description of one aspect of that coming. The apostle John says, “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True” (v. 11).

Who did this letter to the church in Philadelphia come from? The True One.

The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God.

And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:11–16).

Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” And if you have put your faith in Christ and trusted Him to save you from your sin, then you can anticipate that day with joy, with anticipation, with excitement. I hope that your heart has been stirred today to think about something we don’t think about often enough.

On the other hand, if you’re within the sound of my voice and you have never placed your faith in Christ, you’ve not repented of your sin and trusted in Him to save you, then you need to dread that day because He is coming with wrath and judgment against those who had years and years and years to repent but refused to do so. He will come to be the righteous One. In righteousness He judges and makes war.

So now is the moment for you to fall to your knees before Christ and say, “Oh, Jesus, I believe. I trust You. I place my faith in You. You are my King and my Lord.” Then you can look forward to that Second Coming, that one divine event toward which all creation is moving.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been pointing our eyes to the hope that is coming. I trust that message from Revelation 3 will encourage you to persevere just like it encouraged the 1first century church in Philadelphia. It’s part of a series called "Encouragement to Persevere." One of the many series we’ve been tackling this year on the messages to the churches in Revelation.

These series will change your perspective, help you focus on the return of Christ, and go through trials with hope. For example, one woman posted this message on ReviveOurHearts.com.

I’m in the middle of a fierce storm. Thank you for reminding me that Jesus sees and knows and will come to me at exactly the right time. Please would you pray for me not to grow weary or lose heart? I want to honor my Lord and trust Him and wait for His deliverance.

Women like her are receiving encouragement because of listeners who partner with us in this ministry. Revive Our Hearts is listener supported. The program wouldn’t continue without the prayers and financial gifts of listeners. If you appreciate this ministry and want to see it continue, would you consider making a donation?

When you do, we’ll say "thank you" by sending Nancy's book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Gratitude is a big deal to God and when you really see what the Bible says on the topic, it will transform the way you move throughout the day.

Ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959. You can also take advantage of this offer online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Next week Nancy continues exploring our hope in the coming of Christ. Please be back Monday for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to be joyful and ready for the Second Coming of Christ. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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