Subject Twelve: the Second Coming of the Lord

 •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Questions by S. W. Royes; answers by H. P. Barker.
It is well to remind one another that what the Bible presents to us is not theories or opinions, but facts. And if anyone were to say to me, “What are the principal facts connected with Christianity?” I should reply that three of the most astounding facts are these:
1. The throne of Deity is occupied by a Man.
2. God the Holy Spirit is a Resident on this planet.
3. The Lord Jesus Christ has a peculiar treasure in the world and is about to come personally to transfer that treasure from earth to heaven.
It is with the last of these three that we are concerned now. It is a fact that Jesus is coming again, as truly a fact as that He has already been here for thirty-three years and died on the cross.
Before we commence our questions, open your Bible and read three striking passages in which the second coming of the Lord is spoken of as a fact, first by an apostle, then by an angel, and thirdly by the Lord Himself.
“This we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [or, go before] them which are asleep.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.”
The third passage is John 14:33And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:3), where the Lord Himself, while yet on earth, distinctly promises to return for the purpose of receiving His people to His Father’s house.
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
These three passages suffice to show that the truth of the Lord’s second coming is an integral part of Christian doctrine. But, remember, it is not a mere doctrine; it is a fact, and as a fact we shall consider it.
When You Speak of the Lord’s Coming, Do You Refer to Death?
Indeed I do not. Nobody who carefully reads the three passages I have pointed out could fall into the mistake of confounding the two things. When a believer dies, does the Lord descend with a shout? Does He come in like manner as they saw Him go? Are the sleeping saints called from their graves and summoned to meet the Lord in the air? Nothing of the kind takes place.
Let me try to show you by a simple illustration what death is for the Christian.
A gentleman enters one of the country railway stations and asks for a first-class ticket to Kingston. The train not being due for twenty minutes, he walks into the comfortable first-class waiting room and sits down. While there, another man enters the station. To judge by his appearance, he is a working man and not very well off in this world’s goods. He, too, is bound for Kingston and asks for a third-class ticket. He, like the first comer, has to wait for the train, but he may not use the first-class waiting room. He must be content with the uncomfortable, drafty, crowded, third-class room.
But mark this: The man in the first-class room and the man in the third-class room are both waiting for the same train.
In the same way there are two classes of believers bound for glory and waiting for the Lord’s coming to take them there. There are those of us who are still alive, waiting in this dreary, uncomfortable, third-class waiting room of a world, surrounded by trials, subject to temptations and beset with sin. Others there are who have, as it were, passed into the first-class waiting room. They rest in a scene of unclouded peace, with neither sin nor care nor sorrow to mar their happiness. They are “with Christ,” but their bodies are in the grave. They have not yet entered into the fullness of resurrection life. They are still waiting—waiting for the very same thing that we are waiting for, namely, the coming of the Lord.
Death, therefore, for the Christian, far from being the fulfillment of his hope, is merely the servant that ushers him into the first-class waiting room, where he will be “absent from the body ... present with the Lord” until the day when Jesus comes.
Does Not the Christian Often Experience the Coming of Christ to His Heart?
Yes, undoubtedly, but that is not what we are talking about just now.
I remember speaking to an old lady about the Lord’s coming. As I spoke, her face lit up with joy, and laying her hand on her heart she exclaimed, “Oh, He often comes to me! Hardly a day passes without His coming.”
The dear old lady was right. Jesus does come to His people’s hearts in a spiritual way. But that is a very different thing from the coming of which we have read together.
If you will turn to John 14, you will see the two things. Read verse 23. “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him.”
Contrast this with what we have already read in verse 3 of the same chapter. Verse 23 speaks of a spiritual coming of Christ and the Father to us; verse 3 speaks of the future, personal, actual coming of Christ for us. The one is what we may enjoy daily; the other is what we yet hope for.
Will the End of the World Take Place When the Lord Comes?
No, indeed. Scripture is full of promises and prophecies which show that the world is to be the scene of wonderful blessing under the rule of Christ for a thousand years. Men shall beat their swords into ploughshares and live in harmony. Restored Israel shall be the center from which blessing will radiate to the uttermost parts of the earth (Isa. 2:33And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)). Even the animal creation will share the joy of that age — the lion shall lie down with the lamb. Satan shall be bound, and righteousness shall reign. All this takes place after the Lord comes, so the end of the world will be at least a thousand years subsequent. The Lord’s coming is the preliminary to a long course of events. He is about to take possession of the kingdoms of earth and reign with His saints and assume His rights in the place where He has been rejected. But before He comes forth for that purpose, He comes to take possession of that which is already His — His own peculiar treasure, His pearl of great price — His blood-bought church.
With it the Lord will return as the rightful Heir to subdue the earth and reign in peace and justice, so that there will be a long period of time between His coming and the end of the world.
What Will Happen When Jesus Comes?
If you will carefully read those verses in 1 Thessalonians again and compare them with 1 Corinthians 15:51-5251Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51‑52), you will find a very clear answer to that question. The living saints will be changed, the sleeping ones will be raised, and together they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Those who are not Christ’s, whether dead or living, will be left behind.
You know what a magnet is. Suppose that on this table I had a mixture of steel filings and chaff. I bring the magnet nearer and nearer to the table. What happens? Suddenly all the steel filings fly up and stick to the magnet. And what of the chaff ? It is left on the table unmoved.
That is just what will happen when the Lord comes. He has, indeed, been a magnet to these hearts of ours, charming and attracting them. When He comes, those with whom He has a link — the steel filings, the true believers — will by His power be gathered up to Him in the air. And what of those who don’t know Him — the chaff ? They will for the time be left alone, but their career will soon be over: “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:1212Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:12)).
Will There Be No Chance of Salvation for Those Who Are Left Behind?
For those who have heard the gospel and refused it there will be none. They will be judicially blinded and hardened. Let Scripture speak as to this. Read the solemn words of 2 Thessalonians 2:1012. “They received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
The door of mercy, now open so wide, will then be permanently closed. “When once the Master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know not whence ye are: then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets. But He shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from Me, all ye workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:25-2725When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. (Luke 13:25‑27)).
These awfully solemn words answer your question clearly and decisively. No, there will be no salvation for those who refuse it now.
Will You Make the Distinction Clearer Between the Lord’s Coming for His People and His Subsequent Coming With Them?
A friend of mine was once taking me for a stroll around Newcastle-on-Tyne. “Do you see that hill yonder?” he asked, pointing to the further side of the river.
“Yes,” I replied. “Is there anything notable about it?”
“It is called Sheriff’s Hill,” he said, “and the reason is this. In the olden days, when the circuit judges came from Durham to hold the court sessions at Newcastle, the sheriffs of the city used to go out as far as that hill to meet them. Having met them there, they accompanied the judges back to the city to open the court sessions.”
Now this will, perhaps, help in making clear the distinction between the Lord’s coming for His people and His subsequent coming with them. You get both referred to in Scripture. First, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself.” That is His coming for us. Then in Jude 14-1514And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, 15To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 14‑15): “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment.” He is coming to hold court, as it were, to visit the ungodly with His displeasure and “throughly purge His floor.” In this He will be accompanied by His saints, as the judges in coming from Durham to Newcastle were accompanied by the sheriffs of the latter place. But in order that this may be so, His people will be summoned from earth to meet Him in the air. Then they will return with Him when He comes forth in conquering might. See Revelation 19:11-1411And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. 12His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. 13And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. 14And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:11‑14). It is this latter event that is referred to again and again in the Old Testament. In the New Testament it is often spoken of as His appearing, or His manifestation in glory, as contrasted with His coming for His own people only.
What Will Happen Between the Lord’s Coming for His Church and His Appearing in Power?
It would take me a very long while to give even an outline of the course of events indicated in the prophetic scriptures as happening in that period. We cannot even refer to the passages that speak of them. But I may briefly say that a careful study of Scripture would lead us to believe that as soon as the church is taken to heaven, wickedness will increase in the world with rapid strides and will culminate in the “man of sin,” who, under the direct influence of Satan, will head a most fearful apostasy. God will meanwhile be working in and through some of His ancient people, the Jews, gathering them again to the land of their fathers and preparing them, amid unheard-of sufferings, to be channels of blessing to the whole world. At the same time remarkable developments will take place in the political sphere. The Roman Empire, revived in the form of ten confederate kingdoms, will support its head, the “beast,” who is in close alliance with the “antichrist,” or “man of sin.” Corrupt Christendom will at first be the governing influence, but infidelity will gain the ascendancy, and the apostate church, spued out of Christ’s mouth, will fall a miserable prey to the powers of the world, whose favors she has sought so long.
Then after many heavy strokes from God’s rod have fallen on the earth, suddenly Christ will appear, with His saints, bringing swift destruction to the wicked one (antichrist) and his associates. But in order to trace out all these points in Scripture, a careful study of the whole scope of prophecy is necessary, which is quite beyond the limits of our present subject.
Can Any Date Be Fixed for the Coming of the Lord?
We are told in Mark 13:3535Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: (Mark 13:35) to watch, because the hour of His coming is unknown. How could anyone watch for the Lord to come if it were known that He would not come until a certain time? The exhortation to watch implies, on the face of it, uncertainty as to the time.
I am well aware that many attempts have been made to fix dates for the Lord’s return. The only result of such attempts is to bring discredit on “that blessed hope” and cause it to be associated in people’s minds with folly and fanaticism.
Much confusion has arisen through people failing to see that the present time is an interval in the line of God’s dealings with men. When Christ was slain by the Jews, God suspended His dealings with them as a nation. From that day onward, He has been occupied in saving by His grace those who compose the church. When the church is complete, the Lord will come and remove her from earth. Then God will take up the thread, so to speak, which He has dropped, and then the history of His earthly people will recommence, and dates and times and seasons will again have a place. But no dates are connected with the present interval. At any moment we may hear the home-call. How sweet for those who are ready! Dear fellow-believer, think of it! Another moment, and you may hear the voice of the Beloved of your soul! Another moment, and you may feel the embrace of those everlasting arms! Another moment, and you may be at home — your home because it is His home, and you are His and He is yours!
Have We Anything Besides Watching to Do in View of the Lord’s Coming?
Yes. We have to go out to meet Him (Matt. 25:66And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. (Matthew 25:6)) —out from everything that we should not like Him to find us mixed up with, out from slothful ease, out from sinful habits, and out from unholy associations.
Then we are told to occupy till He comes (Luke 19:1313And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. (Luke 19:13)). We are to be engaged in looking after His interests during His absence, intent on serving Him.
If you read the New Testament, you will be surprised to find how often the thought of the Lord’s return is brought in, in a practical way, to enforce various admonitions. To cherish this blessed hope and to live in daily expectation of the Lord’s return is to be a very practical Christian. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:33And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)).
May it be ours, dear fellow-Christians, not only to “live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” but to look for “that blessed hope” and also for what will follow, “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-1312Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (Titus 2:12‑13)).