A week or so ago my wife came to me and asked me if we could get a few chickens. A family we know had several and needed to find new homes for them. Now Marika has been wanting to get chickens for a while, and I have been pushing it off, because I’ve been around them, and honestly, I don’t really care for them. So I told her, since this isn’t our house, it’s the church’s, you have to ask the elders if it’s okay, but even if they gave their approval, I wasn’t having anything to do with them. They were her and the kid’s chickens, not mine. So she contacted the elders, leaving messages with each. I would say about 10 to 15 minutes later I got a call from two of them, asking me if they needed to say no, and it was just my way of getting out of it. I told them no, that if they approved it, I was okay with it. Well they did approve it, and now, we have four chickens. Now when I say we have chickens, I really mean I have chickens, because I know that eventually I will be the one taking care of them.
In fact, this past Monday I was asked to help get the coup ready for them. Well at first I had help taking things out of the old shed we are going to use. But that help quickly evaporated. The kids went off to their after school program, and Marika had to get some paper work together. So, from about three in the afternoon, to about seven at night I worked on that chicken coup alone. And the next day, the worse thing about it was the fact that I couldn’t close my hands from bending the wire.
So here I was, supposedly not having anything to do with the chickens, building their home. And I know, that eventually I’ll be cleaning that home, and taking care of those four animals. And do you know how I know? I know because I have seen the signs. When we got our last dog, who isn’t my dog, the kids said they’d take care of it. Well there’s been quite a few times where I have had to. I know because I did it to my parents with a cat I brought home, who eventually became my dad’s cat. I know, because all the signs are there.
And as we come to the end of our What is the Alliance sermons series, that’s what we’re talking about, knowing the signs. Except the signs that we’re talking about, deal with the return of Jesus. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to start in Matthew chapter 26 verse 62, as we talk about the return of Jesus
And this emphasis on Jesus’ return is what brings all of what the Alliance believes together. Listen to how A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Alliance, describes this uniting of the Fourfold Gospel: “It is the glorious culmination of all other parts of the Gospel. We have spoken of the Gospel of SALVATION, but Peter says our salvation is ‘ready to be revealed in the last time.’…We have spoken of SANCTIFICATION, but John says: ‘When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, and every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.’ And we have spoken of DIVINE HEALING, but Paul says: ‘God hath given us the “EARNEST” of the resurrection in our bodies now,’ and Divine healing is but the first- springing life of which the resurrection will be the full fruition. So that the truth and hope of the Lord's coming is linked with all truth and life, and is the Church's great and blessed hope.”
So if we step back from what we have been speaking about in the last three weeks, we can see that the whole of the Fourfold Gospel reaches from the distant past of God’s work throughout history and is accomplished in the cross of Jesus. This is Jesus as our Savior, and we accept him as such when we recognize our sin and rebellion against God, and take Jesus’ free gift of reconciliation into our lives.
This gift of reconciliation, of salvation, leads us into a life long experience of Jesus as our Sanctifier. Meaning, that over the years through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ work on the cross is transforming us into the person God created us to be. A mirror image of himself; unique yet the same.
And it’s through Jesus’ work on the cross and his resurrection, that we can experience Jesus as Healer. That means that God’s divine life can infuse into the believer for the glory of his kingdom, and healing work apart from what we can do, happens in a person’s life.
And all of it, the saving work, the sanctifying life, and the ultimate healing comes as Jesus returns for his Church.
Now let’s jump into our first stop in Scripture, starting in Matthew chapter 26, starting in verses 62. This is where Jesus has been takin’ before the Jewish counsel and is being tried for blasphemy. Meaning, the Jews are asking Jesus if he truly claims to be God or not. So let’s read together:
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.
I love this passage, because Jesus knows what’s going to happen, he’s going to his death, so what does he have to lose? Now it’s funny because Jesus goes beyond a simple yes to the request of, “Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” No, Jesus does one better. Jesus references Daniel’s vision in the Old Testament (Daniel 7:13-14). And this is not just some simple reference, this is a deep Israelite theological teaching. The cloud riding son of man in Daniel’s vision was an attack on the pagan belief that the god Baal was the cloud rider. But time and time again in the Old Testament, the Israelites attacked this idea, saying, no Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews is the could rider. So when Daniel sees one like the son of man riding the clouds, it’s an association with this cloud riding imagery for Yahweh, of the Jewish God. And now Jesus, in his response, is connecting himself to the cloud riding Son of Man and is calling himself, in essence, Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews. This is why the high priest tears his clothes, and calls Jesus’ words blasphemy.
I love it! It’s Jesus telling it like it is and letting people deal with the implications. But this idea of Jesus coming in the clouds is synonymous with his return for his Church and the day of judgment.
Verses like Acts 1:11, where the two men dressed in white tell the disciples that Jesus will return in the clouds. Or 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where Paul says that we who are alive at Christ’s return will be caught up in the clouds.
And this emphasis on Jesus’ return is all over the New Testament. But what does it mean that Jesus is going to return? Well, like we’ve done in the past few weeks, let’s take a look at what A.B. Simpson says it is not, and then see what it is.
First off, what the return of Jesus is not…
It is not Jesus coming to the individual Christian's heart. Meaning, Jesus’ return is not just in our life. We’re not just experiencing him on an individual basis.
Nor, is Jesus’ coming at our death. Meaning, when we’re talking about Jesus return, we don’t mean when we meet him after we’ve died and gone to heaven. It’s not an after death experience that we’re talking about.
Finally, it’s not a spiritual coming of Christ through the spreading of the Gospel. Jesus’ coming is not when people accept him, and Christianity grows, and it’s some spiritual progression. This is not the return of Christ, but rather Christ’s Church being built.
Jesus’ return is none of these, spiritual ideas. Instead, what the Scriptures say is that when Jesus returns…
Everyone’s going to see it. Revelation 1:7 says, “‘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.”
Everyone will know that Jesus has come. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 24:23-27, “23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time. 26 So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
So we need to understand that though people claim Jesus has returned, we are not supposed to believer them, because where he returns, there will be no doubt. Everyone will know.
Which leads us into, Jesus’ return will be quick and timing unknown. Paul says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, “1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Throughout history people have come up with a lot, and I mean a lot of dates on when Jesus is going to return. But I don’t know if you know this, none of them have been right. Why? Because it’s not for us to know. In fact Jesus gives us a description of what the state of the world will be like when he returns. This comes from Mathew 24:36-39, “36 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
The time table is God’s, and the idea of the imminence of Jesus’ returns means that it cannot be calculated, because no one has that knowledge. Because if we did have that knowledge we would be living for ourselves until right before that time, and then turn to God for salvation. Which is just using God at that point, rather than truly seeking him.
Finally, even though it will be quick and unknown, it will not come out of the blue. Jesus says in Matthew 24:32-33, “32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”
We’re instructed to be prepared, and anticipating Jesus’ return. We are to see the world around us and recognize the decaying, decadence, and self-love that continues to grow all around us. This keeps our minds on Jesus, seeking to know him and drawn ever closer to him. Paul says this in his letter to the Philippians, “9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (1:9-11).”
Time and time again we are given proceeding events to the return of Jesus, which, we don’t have time to get into here. But what we need to know is that we are called to be prepared for Jesus’ return, growing in our relationship with him. Knowing that with every passing moment, we are getting closer his return. So, we must be ready for it.
But there is one more thing that we can participate in, when it comes to the return of Jesus. It’s actually a mantra, and a shout that the Alliance has used for decades. And it is based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The mantra of the Alliance is, “Bring back the King!”
You and I can participate in the return of Jesus by sharing the Gospel with everyone we can. It was said one time that there are about 16,000 languages in the world, and we’re reaching about 8,000 of them right now. Jesus told us in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We have been given a commission to share the Gospel, to reach this world with the message of Jesus. And everything we’ve talked about in the last weeks, leads us in this direction.
Jesus’ saving work, his cleanings sanctification, his healing, and his return. This is the Fourfold Gospel that drives the Alliance to do what it does. Because we desire to see Jesus coming in his glory, and as he moves, we want to move with him.
We want the King to return. We want to see Jesus coming in the clouds. We want his kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
So today my challenge is a question with two implications. The question is: “if Jesus returned today would you be ready?”
This readiness is first, have you come to know Jesus as your Savior? Putting your trust in him, that through his work on the cross and his resurrection, he offers you the gift of having your sins and rebellion forgive. And now calls you to grow closer to him?
And second, this readiness is that you are prepared to share the Gospel as Jesus leads. That you are ready to given an answer for why you believe. And that you are ready to do what he wants and make it more important that what you want.
My challenge is to wrestle with this question, because I don’t know when Jesus will return, I don’t have that insight. What I do know is that we are to are ready; growing closer to Jesus and sharing the Gospel.
Because if we’re not doing those two things, then when Jesus does return, we’re going to be like the man in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22. Jesus says this, “11 But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless (verses 11-2).”
Let us not be speechless at the return of Jesus. Instead let us be people whom it can be said of us, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21)!” Let us be rejoicing at Jesus’ return, because we are ready. Amen.