I read the story of a woman who after many years of being away, moved back to her home town. Soon after she did, she sought out a new dentist. While sitting in the waiting room she noticed the doctor’s diploma hanging on the wall. To her surprise it was the same name of a young man over whom she had once had a deep crush.
As she was taken back to the examination room, she studied the dentist’s face very carefully. Surely this old gray-headed wrinkled faced man wasn’t the same young dark-headed boy she once deeply admired. What had happened to him over the years?
“Did you attend City High?” she asked him. “Why yes I did!” the dentist replied. “What year did you graduate?” the woman asked. “It was 1965. Why do you ask?” “You were in my class!” the woman exclaimed. “Oh really?” the dentist said. “What class did you teach?”
Today I want to talk to you about reunions. But it’s not a bad reunion. It’s a good reunion! The Bible says –
1 Thessalonians 4:16 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: 17 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.
One day Jesus is returning and on that day He is going to take His children home.
I. The Return of Jesus Christ
The Bible teaches us that Jesus is coming again someday. Jesus said-
John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And 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.
There is no doubt that Jesus is going to return to this earth someday. Recently I read that 1/3 of the Bible has to do with Christ’s second coming at the end of time.
A. Christ’s First Coming
Two thousand years ago Jesus came the first time to this world in order to die for our sins. The Bible says that the angels said to the shepherds –
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
It is from the phrase ‘good news’ that we get the word – Gospel. The word gospel literally means ‘good news.’ What is the good news? God sent His Son to be born as a baby so that He could grow up and eventually die on the cross for our sins. The angels said – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
God sent His Son to this earth so that He could take our place on the cross and die for our sins. Jesus said –
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is a fact that Jesus came to this earth the first time, two thousand years ago. But here is another fact – He’s coming again!
B. Christ’s Second Coming
Jesus said – “…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.”
Jesus has to come the second time in order to complete what He began at His first coming.
II. The Reason For Christ’s Return
Why does Jesus need to return to this earth again? There are two reasons:
A. To Take Home All Those Who Have Received Him as Their Savior
Jesus said, “…I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” In other words, “I’m coming to take you home.”
1. What Happens When a Believer Dies?
We read this from the book of Ecclesiastes – “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
a. The Physical Part of Us Returns Back to Dust
The Bible says that when we die, the physical part of our being turns back to dust. We learn from the book of Genesis that when God made man a physical body, He made it from the dust of the ground. (see Genesis 2:7) Therefore, when a believer dies, the physical part of them returns back to the dust from which it came.
b. The Spiritual Part of Us Goes Home to Be With God in Heaven
But there is a second part to our being. There is the spiritual part. The Bible says that after God made man, God breathed into man the breath of life and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7) What is the soul? It’s the deepest most inner part of our being. It’s the real you and me. What happens to the soul when we die?
i. For the Believer – It is Paradise
Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The Apostle Paul wrote, “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) The moment a believer dies, their soul goes to be with God while their body begins the process of decay and returning back to dust.
ii. For the Non-Believer – It is Torment
What happens to the non-believer when they die? Just like the believer, their body returns to dust. What about their soul? The Bible teaches us that their soul does not go to be with the Lord in paradise, but instead their soul goes to a place of torment where it awaits the day when they will have to stand before God and give an account for their sins.
c. Christ is Returning to Take Us Home –Body and Soul
The Bible tells us that all of creation groans as it awaits the day when Christ will return and make all things new. (see Romans 8:19-22) The animals groan and so do the plants. Why do they groan you might ask? They groan because this world suffers under the curse that was placed upon it when Adam and Eve sinned.
Not only do the plants and animals groan, so do we as people. We live in a world of chaos today. In addition, as believers we recognize the battle we still fight with our flesh. Even the great Apostle Paul said, “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15) There’s an inner battle between our flesh and the Holy Spirit. Paul expressed how he delighted in the inner man to do God’s will, yet he found himself fighting a battle with his flesh. At one point he said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)
1. Our Soul Was Set Free at the Moment of Our Salvation
Our soul is set free at the moment we receive Christ as our Savior. Our body will be set free when Christ returns.
2. Our Body Will Be Set Free at the Moment Christ Returns to Take Us Home
1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Today we live in a world that is plagued with many terrible diseases. Can you imagine spending eternity in heaven with cancer? How enjoyable would heaven be for someone who is crippled with arthritis?
Therefore, in order for us to fully enjoy heaven, the physical part of us must receive new life, just as the spiritual part of us has.
1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
a. First the Changing of the Bodies of Those Who Have Already Died
Jesus is coming again someday and when He does, He is going to resurrect the bodies of all of His followers and change them to be like His immortal, perfect body!
1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For 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 them which are asleep. 16 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:
Their souls come back with Jesus where they have been since the moment they died and went home, and their bodies are going to be raised from the dead, changed, and reunited with their souls and thus they will experience heaven both physically and spiritually.
b. The the Changing of the Bodies of Those Who Are Still Living
1 Thessalonians 4:17 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Immediately after the resurrection of the believer’s body who has died and already home with the Lord will be the rapture of the believers who are still living. Before the Bible was translated into English, it was translated into Latin. It is from the Latin word for the phase ‘caught up’ that we get the English word rapture.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that all of this will take place ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.’ (see 1 Corinthians 15:52)
B. To Judge All Those Who Reject Him
1 Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
The Bible says this concerning the end of time and Christ’s return –
Revelation 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
Why will men wail when they see Jesus? They will cry because they will finally realize that He is real and they have rejected Him.
III. Our Response to Christ’s Return
How should we respond to the knowledge that Christ is returning again someday?
A. The Response of the Believer
1 Thessalonians 5:1 But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.
The Bible tells us that as the Lord delays His coming, the tendency for many Christians will be to fall asleep. Much like the disciples who fell asleep in the garden when Jesus told them to pray, many Christians will become cold, calloused and casual about their faith during the last days. Revelation 3 says that many will become lukewarm.
During my study for this sermon this week, I carefully read 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. Paul gave three words of encouragement to those believers:
To watch means to stay alert and always looking for the Lord’s return. A careful study of lives of the early Christians reveals that they were expecting the Lord to return at any moment. Therefore, their lifestyles were built around this anticipation. John wrote – “And now, little children, remain in Him, so that when He appears, we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28) They did not want the Lord to come and catch them in some sin and thus cause them to be ashamed. They lived life with one eye on the eastern sky.
The second concept I found in my study was the concept of always being working for the Lord. Because they believed that their Lord could return at any moment, they were always working and serving Him. Jesus said in Matthew 24:46 Blessed is that servant whose master returns and finds him doing his job.
To faithfully wait upon the Lord includes the concept of watching and working. It means to patiently endure the difficulties of this life and to remain faithful until the end.
B. The Response of the Non-Believer
If you understand even a portion of what I am saying today and believe that it is true, you need to do something about it while there is still time. The Bible says “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:14) It’s been two thousand years since Christ came the first time. Why has the Lord waited so long between His first and second coming? The Bible tells us that He has waited for one reason – to give men time to be saved. (see 2 Peter 3:9) But then the Bible says – ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…’ (see 2 Peter 3:10) Don’t be deceived into thinking that just because Jesus hasn’t returned up until this point, He’s not going to return. Jesus said He would return. The apostles said that He would return. The Bible says that He will return. Jesus is coming again. Will you be ready? Will you be taken to heaven when He comes, or will you be left behind?