The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Hebrews 9:27-28
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 15, 2007
Copyright © 2007, P. G. Mathew

"But now [Christ] was manifested once for all at the end of the ages for the purpose of canceling sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is appointed to die once, and after, judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to bear the sins of many. And he will appear a second time without sin, [that is, not to deal with sin] but for salvation of those who are eagerly waiting for him." - Hebrews 9:26b-28, author's translation

Can you imagine that the God of the Bible used a flood to destroy all but eight people for their wickedness? Can you imagine that this same God destroyed by fire all but three of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality? It is true: God punishes sinners in their lifetimes, at their deaths, and at the final judgment.

The God revealed in the Scriptures is a moral God who both saves and punishes. Educated fools often speak of a "closed universe," meaning that God is shut out from the universe and has nothing to do with it. The truth, however, is that ours is an open universe in which God acts in history. If anything is closed, it is the minds of such fools. They are closed to God. But all people shall face him in due time, either as Savior or as Judge. No philosophical materialism can save anyone from having to face the infinite, personal God.

Have you ever wondered where your parents, relatives, and friends are who have died? Are they enjoying salvation in God's presence, or are they experiencing eternal torment away from God? In God's plan, there is salvation for those who trust in Jesus and judgment for those who reject him.

The apostle Paul writes, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do no obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you" (2 Thess. 1:6-10). May God help each of us to heed the gospel call and be saved from the coming wrath of God.

The First Coming of Christ

Let us look at the first coming of Jesus. The purpose of Christ's incarnation was to cancel our sins through his sacrificial suffering and death (Is. 53:10-12).

Hebrews 9:26b tells us that the eternal Son of God entered history in human flesh over two thousand years ago "at the end of the ages." This is the climax of history, what Hebrews 1:2 calls "these last days." Christ ushered in the messianic age to which all the prophets had pointed. The infinite became finite, the immortal became mortal, God became man.

The eternal Son became man that he may die. The Hebrews author speaks clearly of the purpose of incarnation: "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death . . . For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:14-15, 17).

Every sinner is a slave to Satan and death, but Christ died to set us free from such slavery. Because of Adam's sin, every child of Adam comes into the world dead-spiritually stillborn. We come into this world as sinners to live lives of sin and experience eternal death. Ezekiel spoke of this: "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Eze. 18:20), as did Paul: "[S]in entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all men. . . The wages of sin is death . . . In Adam all die" (Rom. 5:12, 6:23, 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22).

Every man born is a sinner, except Jesus, who came into history to defeat sin. He accomplished this by suffering in our behalf. Christ himself bore our sins away, paying for them by his death in our place. He came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world by his sacrifice of himself once offered on the altar of the cross. He suffered the just wrath of God that was against us due to our sins and guilt. The full cup of God's wrath that was ours was given to him. Jesus drank the foaming wine of divine wrath to the last drop, leaving nothing for us. He came as our kinsman-redeemer, substitute, mediator, and representative to blot out our sins. Christ freely accepted our sins and guilt that the Father put on him. He endured our punishment of death and was crucified and buried. But on the third day God raised him up from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that God accepted Christ's death as atonement for our sins. By his death, our sins have been put away, buried in the depths of the ocean. He threw them behind his back and remembers them no more. Our sins have been paid for and removed from our shoulders.

We were once weary in sin. Then we heard Christ's call: "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). He came to put away our sins. Paul writes: "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them" (2 Cor. 5:19). Because God is holy and just, he must count our sins. He counts our sins either against us, or against the Son of God, that God may be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (cf. Rom. 3:26). Paul says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Our sins were imputed to Jesus, and his righteousness is put into our account.

The one who believes in Jesus is as righteous as Jesus Christ himself. Our sins are gone; not even one sin remains to be punished in us. David understood this and exclaimed: "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him" (Ps. 32:1-2). The Lord does not count our sin against us because he counted it against Jesus. We were born cursed and lived cursed lives, but in Christ we are blessed now and forevermore. We are new creations in Christ; the old is gone, the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). Enemies of God have been made beloved children of God in God's Son.

Christ came the first time to cancel our sins, and now our sin, with all its penalty and power is gone: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). He dealt with our sin, both its root and its branches. Death is gone for us forever, and we are given eternal life, to live forever in the life of Christ. The infinite holiness of the person of Jesus demands the infinite worth of his atonement. Christ's atonement is effective eternally for all who trust in him. We have been justified by faith and have peace with God. We have been admitted to the kingdom of God, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Death is terrible and certain. But when Christ said from the cross, "It is finished," our sins and death were dealt with forever. Jesus came into history the first time to cancel sin. His mission, as expressed in Hebrews 2:10, was to bring many sons from the pit of shame to the glory of heaven. Peter also speaks about this: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Pet. 3:18). In Adam we were banished from God's presence, but through Christ we can now draw near to God.

The Second Coming of Jesus

Christ is coming again to end history. History is not cyclical, as the Greeks and the Hindus believe. History had a beginning and will have an end. Jesus Christ is the Lord of history. Christ's first coming ushered in the last days; his second coming will mark their end.

The Hebrews writer says that it is appointed for men once to die, and then he uses the Greek word krisis, from which we have the English word "crisis." There is a twofold purpose to Christ's second coming: the first part is krisis. There is a crisis awaiting every unbeliever, from which there is no escape. Krisis is the process of judgment, which ends in condemnation and hell. It is the eternal judgment of all who refuse to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Such people mock him, spit on him, beat him, and treat with contempt his offer of peace and reconciliation with God. Although these people reject Christ, he is going to come again to produce a crisis from which they can never escape.

However, we are also told that Christ is coming to bring the fullness of salvation for his people, to those who eagerly await him. The Bible says we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. When Christ comes again, we will be resurrected and given a glorious body like unto his glorious body. We shall see him, commune with him, and enjoy the fullness of salvation that is awaiting us.

Christ's mission is to bring many sons to glory; he is coming again to do that. We will dwell with God in a new heaven and a new earth of eternal joy, where there will be no pain, tears, or parting.

The text says it is appointed for men to die once and then judgment. Who is making the appointment? God himself. This is not an appointment like one we would make with a doctor. Adam sinned, and in him all died. We mustdie. Do not believe the evolutionary hypothesis that says that death is based on natural processes. Death is based on divine decree and appointment.

This revelation refutes certain human ideas. First, it refutes the idea of reincarnation. All are appointed only once to die and then face judgment. It also refutes the notion of evolutionary atheists who say that our death is final, like that of an animal, and there is nothing afterwards. Death is followed by a final judgment in which we will have to give an account to God.

This revelation also refutes the notion that after someone dies, we can help that person achieve salvation by giving money to the church, or through some good work, or by asking saints to pray for that person. All these ideas are false. God deals with what we have done in our bodies, whether good or evil. There is no other way. That is why now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.

Not only will God keep this appointment he made, but all sinners will also. Though they die, the day is surely coming when he will raise them up from the dead to face him who died on the cross, even the Judge, our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Jesus himself made this point: "And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned" (John 5:27-29). He whom men reject is going to be the judge because it is the decree of the Father. When he calls, all will come.

There is a crisis of eternal death awaiting people. In 1777 Samuel Johnson said, "Depend on it. When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Friends, we have only a limited number of days to live. (PGM) It is appointed for men to die once. We all must die. But for us who trusted in Christ, the terror of death is gone. We die in faith and appear before the presence of God in glory.

Our times are in God's hands, not ours. We have no control over our birth or death. It may be today that we die. Old and young must die. May this truth concentrate our minds wonderfully. The psalmist says, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90:12).

Have you been thinking about Christ's second coming, which was the blessed hope of the early church? Jesus spoke about it: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).

At his first coming, Jesus died on the cross and canceled our sin by suffering for it himself. But he also rose from the dead and went through the heavens to the presence of God, where he is seated on God's right hand as King of kings and as our high priest, ever interceding for us.

Soon Christ shall descend to this planet again: "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" (1 Thess. 4:16). Paul writes elsewhere: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body" (Phil. 3:20-21). Jesus himself said: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you see him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

What are some of the characteristics of this second coming? First, it will be personal-the same Jesus who ascended will come back. Second, it will be a visible coming-every eye shall see him (Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24:30-31). It will not be a secret. Jesus was manifested to the world in the first coming and he is going to be manifested in the second coming. Several Greek words are used for the second coming, including apokalupsis (unveiling), and epiphaneia (appearing).

Christ's second coming will also be glorious: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory" (Matt. 25:31). No longer will anyone mock Jesus and treat him with contempt by plucking out his beard, beating him, and crucifying him. Christ is going to come again in glory.

The second coming will be purposeful. Jesus is coming not only to save but also to judge. Paul writes of the judgment to come: "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed . . . This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ as my gospel declares" (Rom. 2:5, 16). When he comes, men will cry out to the mountains and hills to fall on them and hide them, because the wrath of the Lamb has come (Rev. 6:15-17).

We must surrender any superficial or cultural understanding we have of Jesus and replace it with the revelation we receive from the holy Scriptures. Matthew 25:31-36 and Rev. 20:11-15 are among the many passages where we find this twofold purpose of judgment and salvation. At the end of all things, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, for the glory of God the Father, and every enemy shall be put under his feet.

"He is coming soon, he's coming soon; with joy we'll welcome his returning." Why with joy and not sorrow? Because Christ has canceled our sins. By his sacrificial suffering and death, he bore our sins away. He died our death, suffered our wrath, and set us free from guilt and death. His coming again, therefore, is not a tragedy, but our jubilee and coronation. Jesus is coming to save those who are waiting for him.

When soldiers are away at war, many have wives waiting for them to come home. They may be separated for months or even years. During this time, some wives are not faithful to their husbands. In fact, some hope that the husband will not return. But then there are others who are waiting and praying: "O God, spare him and bring him safely home." These women are not committing adultery, but exercising self-control. They are reading their husbands' letters over and over again, fixing up the house, and doing everything for that day when their husbands will come back.

Christ is coming for those who are waiting for him. He came first to atone for the sins of those who are given to him to save. Those whose sins he atoned for will repent and trust in him, and will wait for him with great jubilation and patience. They are hoping in Christ and waiting eagerly for his return. They are not waiting idly, but they are laboring for the Lord as they wait. When they speak, they will talk about their wonderful bridegroom who died for them. As the bride of Christ, we will love, not the world, but our heavenly bridegroom and wait patiently for his coming. We will not dirty our wedding dress with sin as we wait.

As Christians, we long for the second coming of Christ. Before his martyrdom, Paul wrote, "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Christ is not coming again to deal with sin. He did that in his first coming. Now he is coming to judge all rebels and to grant full salvation to those who trusted in the way of the cross. He is coming that he may be with his saints, and they with him, forever.

What about You?

Are you eagerly waiting Christ's second coming? Are you waiting for him in holiness, righteousness, love, hope, and labor? Are you loving Jesus by loving the word of God, his love letter to us? Are you loving him by obeying his commands, which are not burdensome? Does prayer to him give you pleasure? Does worship give you exhilaration and sheer thrill? Are you careful with your wedding dress, or are you dragging it through the mud? Do you cry out, "Marana tha, come, Lord Jesus"?

The end of history is coming. Peter writes, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Pet. 3:11-13). John says, "Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, even as he is pure" (1 John 3:3).

In the parable of the ten virgins Jesus gives a sober warning: "At midnight the cry rang out, 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 'No,' they replied. 'There may not be enough for both of us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later, the others also came. 'Sir, sir,' they said, 'open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I do not know you.'" You are not my bride. "'I do not know you.' Therefore, keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour" (Matt. 25:6-13).

Are you a foolish virgin with no oil in your lamp? Such people are false professors in the church. Or are you a wise virgin who brought enough oil for the long wait? If we are the bride of Christ, we will love him with all our heart and wait patiently for him, being always ready to meet him. My prayer is that you may hear from our glorious bridegroom, "Thou good and faithful bride, enter into the joy of your beloved Lord," and not, "Depart from me, you evildoer."

There is an appointment with God that we all must keep. The first coming of Christ provided us an escape from God's wrath, and those who trust in Jesus shall fear neither death nor Christ's second coming. Like the bride, they will rejoice at the midnight cry: "Here is the bridegroom. Come out to meet him!" But though all shall see him, the vast majority shall weep and wail when Christ comes again.

There is no salvation outside Jesus. Death can come any time, as can Jesus Christ. Now is our time to repent, believe in him, and be eternally saved. Now is our time to live a holy life and wait eagerly for his appearing. Praise God for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2007, P. G. Mathew

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