It is a deeply held truth among Christians that Jesus Christ is God’s Son — “very God of very God.” And he was incarnated into the human race. That is, he took on a real human body. He was in every respect like us except that he did not sin.
He lived among the men and women of his time, taught his timeless truths, performed his matchless miracles, yet suffered a cruel, unjust death at the hands of evil men. But he was resurrected by the power of God and he ascended into heaven in the sight of a number of his followers (1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Acts 1:9).
As believers, we know, with faith’s certainty, that he came. But do we believe with the same intensity that he will come again? That is, do we attach to the Second Coming hope the same “Christmas” joy we do to his first arrival on earth?
Someone has calculated that the New Testament has 318 references to the Second Coming. And that all but four of the 27 New Testament books mention the Second Coming of Christ. According to these calculations, for every time the first coming of Christ is mentioned, the second coming is mentioned twelve times.
Here is a major example of New Testament talk of the second coming: As St. Luke opens his account of The Acts of The Apostles, he pictures the Lord’s ascension at the close of his earthly ministries. He writes, he was “taken up before their very eyes” (Acts 1:9). Then comes this wonderful announcement:
“They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘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 have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10-11).
“This same Jesus!” For all true believers, that is a precise, unqualified promise of Our Lord’s Second Coming.
The young church in Thessalonica needed to have the witness to the Second Coming clarified. Some believers apparently feared that those who had died before Christ’s return would miss out on the great event. Paul wrote them words of clarification and to this day second coming preaching, when anointed, clarifies expectations, promotes joy, and challenges unholy living of all kinds.
The church then and now does not function in health if there is not clear understanding and hopeful expectation that Christ will return to gather his own — both the living and the dead.
In any event, this first Thessalonian letter written for clarification has an interesting feature. Each of the five chapters ends with a reference to the Second Coming.
At his second coming, I Thessalonians tells us chapter by chapter that Jesus will rescue believers “from the coming wrath” (1:10). And that Paul will rejoice over these Christians “in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ when he comes” (2:19,20). Also Paul exhorts that they be found “blameless and holy” when “our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (3:13). And that those who are alive when he comes will “meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (4:17).
And finally, the benediction: “May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:23).
One of the most effective evangelists of the nineteenth century on this continent was Dwight L. Moody. He was a great soul winner. His mark is still evident in The Moody Bible Institute and other ministries. He declared that Second Coming preaching was one of the secrets of his soul-winning ministry. He said, “I preached for years with the thought that before every sermon was finished, the Lord might come.”
When this promise is so solidly embedded in the Scriptures and repeated throughout, it should prompt serious questions among true believers: Does this belief in any measure regulate my daily life? Does the joy of this truth move me to a passion for holiness? And does such a great expectation energize my ministry, everywhere I work and live?