Yesterday I wrote an article on why Jesus came to earth 2000 years ago. In it I noted that many folks do not fully grasp the real reasons for the Incarnation. The commercialised Christmas season has largely obscured the true meaning of the season, and hidden the biblical version of events: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2013/12/23/christmas-why-did-jesus-come/
In the same way there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about another momentous event: the Second Coming of Christ. This is something all believers greatly look forward to, and it is discussed in Scripture quite often. Since I am now reading the book of Revelation again, it is worth looking at how this vital biblical book discusses such matters.
One thing we learn quite early on is how heavy duty his coming will be. Consider what we read in Rev 1:7:
“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen.
This verse is made up of parts of two Old Testament texts: Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10. No one will miss his coming, and mourning will be a big part of this. Indeed, Jesus came the first time as Saviour, but he comes the second time as Judge.
Now is the time for repentance and turning to Christ. When he comes again it will be too late for all that. Instead, mourning and wailing will be the response. And such mourning, as William Hendriksen reminds us, is “not the mourning of repentance but that of hopelessness”.
As Grant Osborne comments, “the time for repentance is over”. The mourning here is like the “weeping and mourning” of the kings in Rev. 18:9-10 over the judgment and destruction of the harlot Babylon. It is worth reading all of Rev 18 as it describes the fall of Babylon and the reaction of those who “committed adultery with her” (v. 9).
Consider a few other passages from this amazing book. Rev 6:15-17 is an incredible passage which should strike the fear of God in every single one of us: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?’”
This is some pretty serious business here. Those who have not bent the knee to Christ voluntarily will be forced to bend the knee – with great terror and fear. As James Hamilton remarks, “Rather than repent, people foolishly try to hide.”
He continues, “Everything people sell their souls to gain fails them when the great day comes. Politicians sacrifice their integrity to get elected, but their office won’t help them when Jesus comes. The rich trade life for money, the powerful exchange loving relationships to gain influence, and people everywhere prefer enhancing their image to building character and learning truth. But when God knocks the mountains off their roots and yanks the earth’s surface flat, when he rolls up the scroll of the sky, nothing that people forsook him to gain will protect them from His wrath.”
And we must never forget who is at the very centre of this book in general, and the one doing this horrible judging in particular. It is Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Just as many Jews back 2000 years ago missed out on the Messiah because they were expecting a conquering king, but got a suffering servant, so too, people will miss out when he comes again.
Far too many folks – even gullible churchians – have got into their heads this erroneous idea that Jesus is just some sentimental syrupy tree-hugging hippy who would never harm a fly. They hear a zillion sermons about love and grace, and have heard almost nothing about a God who is also holy, just and a jealous God who exercises his just wrath on those who refuse his offers of love and grace.
J. Ramsey Michaels says this about this passage: “What is striking in the book of Revelation – and strange, perhaps, to the modern reader – is that the wrath is the wrath of the Lamb (v. 16). The slaughtered Lamb of sacrifice in the center of the throne is no passive victim, but ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah.’
“The Lamb’s role in judgment should come as no surprise in light of his equality and partnership with him who sits on the throne in the worship of the elders, living creatures and all creation (5:13). From that point on, God and the Lamb never act independently, but always in unison. When they act together in judgment, the inevitable question is, Who can stand? (v. 17).”
Finally, read one more description of this coming King and Judge from Rev 19:11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Wow, that one passage alone should put the fear of God into all of us. Notice the robe dipped in blood. While some suggest this refers to his own blood shed for sinners, Paige Patterson is probably right when he says it likely “represents the blood of his enemies since the circumstance here involves judgment.”
William Dumbrell puts it this way: “Christ is the divine warrior, the Word of God, the supreme revelation of the One who is eternal (cf. John 1:1-18). The decisive moment in Revelation has arrived: the Warrior King returns to earth with his heavenly entourage.
“Christ is riding forth in triumph to acclaim the sure defeat of his enemies by judging them in righteousness. His righteous judgment is in fidelity to previously expressed divine standards and intentions (cf. Psalm 72, of the king; Isaiah 11:14 and Zechariah 9:9-10, of Messiah).”
What a frightful day that will be for those who do not know him, for those who have long shaken their fists at the rightful King and one true God. One day every knee shall indeed bow. There will be no more open defiance and rebellion when he returns.
Instead, fear, dread, woe and mourning will characterise that fearful day. But it need not be this way. While there is still time, we all can avail ourselves of the deep mercy and grace of God. The Lamb’s death on a cross 2000 years ago made the way open for us to be restored to God in faith and repentance.
We have no excuse to refuse such an incredible act of gracious pardon. But if we refuse it, and continue to live in defiance of God and his ways, then we will only have that dreadful day to look forward to. But the Christian loves, and looks forward to, that great and wondrous day.
The first and second comings of Christ are the linchpin of human history. They tell us why the story of Christmas is so important. John Piper ties the two comings together nicely:
“The center of Christianity is the coming of the Son of God into the world as a real man to destroy the works of the devil and create a new people for His own glory. The very heart of our faith is that He did this by obeying the law of God, dying for the sins of His people, rising victorious over death, ascending to God’s right hand with all His enemies under his feet. The second coming of Christ is the completion of His saving work. If you take it away, the whole fabric of His saving work unravels.”