“Things surely believed among us…” Acts 1:1
I am reminded of the old lady, who before retiring at night would look heavenward and say, “Perhaps tonight Lord?” In the morning, she would again look up and say, “Perhaps today Lord?” She lived with anticipation, expectation, and certainty of the imminent return of her Saviour. Is this true of you and me?
The scoffers in Peter’s day mocked saying, “…Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Pet. 3:4). The same cry is heard chanting above the turmoil of this godless age, “Where is the promise of His coming?” With political upheaval, moral decadence, catastrophic storms, and the threat of nuclear holocaust unnerving many, our hearts cry out, “perhaps today, Lord?”
In these last days, we must focus our attention on the promise of the Saviour who assures us, “I will come again.” (Jn. 14:3). This promise is distinctly given by the Lord, clearly taught in the epistles, and powerfully enunciated in the book of Revelation. All through scripture, the Holy Spirit continually reminds us that Jesus is coming!
In dealing with the return of the Lord Jesus for the believer, there is no one portion of Scripture where it is completely taught. The Bible is different from college textbooks or systematic theology, in which the subject is taught in a systematic order. In Scripture, the reason for a subject being introduced is what Bible scholars call the “textual reason.” The subject of the Lord’s coming for the believer is introduced in a variety of places throughout the New Testament, because at various times the situation dictated it. Consider five portions of Scripture to grasp the reason this subject is taught.
In John 14, the disciples were distressed after the events of chapter 13, where the Lord demonstrated His humility, washing His disciples’ feet. There He also told them of His soon departure, revealed Judas as His betrayer, and prophesied Peter’s denial. Fear and trepidation gripped their hearts. No wonder the Lord commenced chapter 14 with “Let not your hearts be troubled…” With all that transpired in chapter 13, chapter 14 opens with the certain hope that He would one day come again for them. Their hearts were troubled over the events of chapter 13, and it was at this juncture, that Jesus introduced the assuring promise, “I will come again!” He would leave them, but one day He would return for them! A little boy, whose Dad had been away for a long while, kept asking his Mum, “When is Daddy coming home?” His mother wisely said, “When you see the leaves falling from the trees, you’ll know Daddy will be returning.” She gave her son no definite date for Daddy’s return, but she gave him the season when his daddy would return.
The Lord gave the disciples the assurance of His return, but He didn’t set the date. But not only that, He introduced another wonderful promise. During the interval between His going back to heaven and His return for them, He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would indwell them during His absence. What an assurance for them! (Jn. 14:16-18). Their troubled hearts were calmed. This is the textual reason for the promise of the rapture. (Although, rapture is not found in the Bible, the Greek word ‘harpázō’ means to ‘snatch away’, as a swooping eagle does).
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul deals with the confusion that some Corinthian believers had as to the resurrection of the Lord and of the believer’s future resurrection. Paul gives an outstanding defense of the resurrection and then sums it all up by giving these believers an assuring hope that their Lord would return, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…” (vv. 51, 52). The textual reason for mentioning the Saviour’s return is that some were in denial of the resurrection. He assures them that “death is swallowed up in victory.” (v.54). Could these believers now rest confidently in the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life…?” (Jn. 11:25-26).
In 1 Thessalonians 4, the believers were filled with doubt and fear as to what happens at the death of their loved ones. The textual reason for this portion is to remove their doubts, eradicate their fears, and to comfort them. Have you ever stood at a loved one’s grave and wondered if you would see them again? Paul gives them assurance and hope and in verse 14, he encourages them, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” We will meet again! It is estimated that three million Christians are buried in the catacombs – they will rise. There are numberless saints in watery and unmarked, forgotten graves who will rise. The promise remains, “the dead in Christ shall rise first!” (v. 16). No wonder Paul closes with the words, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (v. 18).
In Hebrews 10:35-37, the writer reminds us that these Hebrew believers had endured much, and had intentionally been made a gazingstock, or “publicly exposed to insults and afflictions” (Berkley Translation). They were at their wits end. They had suffered insults, rejections, scorn and hatred, just because they belonged to Christ. How many of you have suffered insults, rejections, scorn and hatred because of your faith in Christ? “In the world you shall have tribulation…” (Jn. 16:33). Remember the old hymn “it will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”
The writer encourages them to patiently endure, while they await the Lord’s return. This is the textual reason for introducing the rapture to these weary believers. It is only for “a little while”- literally, “for a very little while” and He promises, “He will tarry not.” (v. 37). This is emphatic, “He shall not wait!” It is impossible for our Lord to tarry, for tarrying is a human weakness. He encourages the believers not to cast away their confidence (v. 35), to patiently endure (v. 36), and reminds them that it is only for a little while (v. 37). What an encouragement for you and me!
In the closing few verses of Revelation, John wonderfully reminds us of the three-fold certainty of the Lord’s coming, thus giving them the textual reason for it (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). In verse 7, He speaks of the blessing at His coming. In verse 12, He reminds us of the reward at His coming. In verse 20, He assures them of His coming, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming quickly.’” May our hearts respond, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Perhaps today, Lord?