Discussions of end times, Jesus and his second coming, have always disturbed my soul. When I was a child and even as an adult, I have not reacted well at what is on the horizon. The Book of Revelation is a murky and dark survey of war, death, plagues, and judgments. Also, there are people who are obsessed with the topic and are trying to read the tea leaves to predict when it all comes about. Seems like a waste of time to me. Because of that I have avoided the end times conversations altogether just teaching the edges and being content with the knowing that I trust God and he will do what is right.
That said this is one of those times when I need to understand and teach about the Second coming of Christ. There is nothing more end times than when Jesus returns as shown to us by John in the Book of Revelation.
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. Revelation 19:11-21 ESV
There is so much in this yet to occur image presented to us by John. I have written about Jesus the King who holds authority over all governments here but today I want to dwell on the spectacular nature of this second coming of Christ. This seems like one of those events where no one alive is going to miss what is happening.
The tribulation period at the end of days is one final intervention by God where his glory will be revealed. Everything that happens in this period will be amazing and terrifying. People will die and suffering will be great. Our understanding of the laws of science will be upended as the miraculous becomes routine. But one thing this return of Jesus will not be is hidden or unseen. When Jesus returns God’s glory will be on display like never in Creation’s short history.
22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:22-27 ESV
In Revelation 19 we see the heavenly view of the King on a white horse coming to wage war. And then in Matthew 24 we see Jesus warning people what it will look like from an earthly perspective. As lightning flashing from the sky so will we all see Jesus. This event will be spectacular. God placing himself on display in heavenly fashion. Jesus came as a human child in humble circumstances in order to draw the poor in spirit to God. Jesus will not return this way the next time. The second time is God intervening in history to end the evil, to end the suffering, and to end the abomination of Satan. And it will be glorious.
Now one confusing thing that is hard to understand is where does the church stand in this? Jesus said above in Matthew 24 that the days were cut short for the elect. But John’s book of Revelation does not speak of the church of Jesus. It speaks of Israel and the Hebrew people God’s chosen people. This is where one must understand the rapture.
8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. Revelation 3:8-11 ESV
Jesus tells the church that they will not be part of the trail that is coming to the world in the tribulation period. In other places the Church is described as a bride being prepared for the King. But in this case I like the description of the church as the diplomatic ambassadors of the King in a foreign land. We are here on earth a lawless evil land to proclaim grace, mercy, and reconciliation to the rightful King.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV
Reconciliation is no longer the objective of a conquering king. In a run up to war diplomacy is broken off. Ambassadors are called home. The tribulation is Satan’s big push to corrupt everything God has made and God’s time of grace, mercy, and reconciliation have ended. God being loving and just will still have compassion on the people and many will be saved in this tribulation period but the church as we know it now will be removed.
41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:41-44 ESV
When the church is recalled and returned to God. When the church’s compassion, mercy, and grace which overflows from God in a harsh world has ended its season then is when we enter the end times and the clock for Christ’s spectacular return is set. All of those seven years of tribulation will point in spectacular ways to the glory of God. He is our rightful king and we will accept his rule either willingly or in judgement.
I shudder at what comes because I want all to be reconciled to the King of Kings. You dear reader live in the time of the church where God has extended diplomacy and mercy. Who is an ambassador of Jesus in your life? Go and speak to this person and seek God’s grace. His love knows no bounds. He is trustworthy. Do not delay.