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11 & 12 May 2024 (Pastoral Page) THE RETURN OF THE KING: ENDGAME

By Dr Peter Lim


Ascension Day commemorates the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven, some 39 days after His resurrection on Easter Sunday. This year Ascension Day fell on May 9. Although this event may not be widely commemorated universally, its significance is fundamental to the Christian faith.


First, the ascension confirmed the completion of Jesus Christ’s primary ministry on earth namely His sacrificial death on the cross whereby He atoned for the sin of man and redeemed man from eternal damnation. Next, the ascension inaugurated the era of the Holy Spirit which is marked by Pentecost. As Jesus Christ Himself stated so clearly, “. . . Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.“ (John 16:7) Finally, as declared by the two men (presumably angels) to the disciples who witnessed the ascension, “. . .  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 of the Apostles 1:11). Actually, Jesus Christ Himself had foretold this sequence of events on the eve of His arrest (John 14:2-4).


The Return of the King: (1) The Timing

Christ’s first advent, though prophesied by the Old Testament prophets (e.g. Micah 5:2) was rather low key and almost private. Only the Magi from the east sought to pay Him homage in response to an epiphany (Matthew 2:1-18). For the Jews, only some anonymous shepherds were likewise honoured with a heavenly annunciation of the birth of the Saviour of the world. (Luke 2:8-17).


On the other hand, the second advent or Parousia will be totally different. Like the first advent, the second coming of Christ has been foretold by Old Testament prophets, Jesus Christ Himself and the apostles. The Christian world has been waiting close to two thousand years for it to happen. Only God the Heavenly Father knows when this will take place – “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36). “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42). In fact, the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). We are also told that the reason for the seeming delay of the return of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ is because God “. . . is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).


The Return of the King: (2) The Manner

But when it happens, the second advent will be a personal, physical and glorious return, visible to all – “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30); it will be spectacular and triumphant – “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Upon the Lord’s return, there will be a resurrection of the dead believers first followed by those believers who are still alive. This host will meet the Lord in the air for the rest of the journey to heaven. (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17). The apostle Paul also tells us that our perishable body will be changed into an imperishable one (1 Corinthians 15: 50-54).


Endgame: (1) Final Judgment

Upon His second return, there will be a judgment of the living and the dead, the so-called Judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). The penalty for the sins of believers has already been paid for by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Thus, for Christians the judgment will be evaluative in nature, involving an assessment of their stewardship and the giving of rewards for faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:9-15). We should be greatly encouraged to note that one of the rewards viz. the crown of righteousness will be awarded to “those who have longed for His appearance” (2 Timothy 4:8). For those who have rejected Christ there will be eternal damnation (Matthew 13:41-42; 49-50; 2 Thessalonians1:7-9; Revelation 20:11-15).


Endgame: (2) Destruction of Death; Annihilation of Satan

Ever since the Fall of Man in the garden of Eden, Death and Satan have been the archenemies of Man. With the second advent of Jesus Christ these twin nemeses will be annihilated forever.  Thus, the apostle Paul was able to declare the death of Death. (1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Hebrews 2:14). Man’s adversary Satan will be eternally incarcerated in the “lake of burning sulphur” (Revelation 20:2,3,10).

 

Endgame: (3) A New Heaven and a New Earth

Finally, our physical world as we know it will undergo a cataclysmic destruction and, in its place will emerge a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10-13).


In the new reality, “the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3,4).


“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearance of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14)

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