The King Is Coming
by Jack Wald | December 28th, 2014

II Peter 3:1-18

When I first became a follower of Jesus in the early 1970s, there was a lot of excitement about the return of Jesus. Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, which sold 28,000,000 copies. In this book he said that the 1970s were the era of the Antichrist and that the 1980s would be the last decade of history. He cited an increase in the frequency of famines, wars and earthquakes, as key events leading up to the end of the world. He also foretold a Soviet invasion of Israel (War of Gog and Magog). Lindsey also predicted that the European Economic Community, which preceded the European Union, was destined (according to Biblical prophecy) to become a “United States of Europe”, which in turn he said was destined to become a “Revived Roman Empire” ruled by the Antichrist.

History has continued since 1980 and many of you were born after the decade Lindsey predicted would be the last. Lindsey was not the first, nor has he been the last to make predictions about the return of Jesus.

Saint Clement I in 90 AD predicted the world would end at any moment. The Montanist movement in the second century predicted that Jesus would return sometime during their lifetime and establish the New Jerusalem in the city of Pepuza in Asia Minor. Hippolytus of Rome, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Irenaeus all predicted Jesus would return in 500 AD. (One of the predictions was based on the dimensions of Noah’s Ark.) The mathematician Michael Stifel predicted Jesus would return on Oct 19, 1533 at 8 AM.

Christopher Columbus who sailed the ocean blue in 1492, predicted the world would end in 1656. The followers of William Miller sold or gave away their possessions to await the return of Christ in 1843. Miller revised his dates after his prediction failed and that date also came and went without the return of Jesus. His followers evolved into the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Charles Russell studied the Scriptures and concluded Jesus would return in 1874. When this did not happen, the date was changed to 1914. He had a grand solution to all those who set dates and then were proven wrong. He said that Jesus would return in 1914, but not physically, only spiritually. Who could prove him wrong then? His followers became Jehovah’s Witnesses. There have been several crisis since then in the Jehovah’s Witnesses because other dates have been set for the physical return of Jesus that have come and gone.

Because we have a fascination with round numbers, the years, 500, 1000, 1500 and 2000 all have received special attention with a surge of predictions focusing on these dates. Some leaders who were disappointed that Jesus did not come back in 1000 AD added the 33 years of Jesus’ life to make the prediction that Jesus would return in 1033. But 1034 came and life went on.

I looked on the internet and discovered not much has changed in one thousand years. There are a number of predictions now focusing on 2033 because we are fourteen years past 2000 and still waiting for Jesus.

How long do you wait for someone before you give up waiting. There is a picture on the bulletin cover of a woman waiting at a bus stop. You can tell it has been a while because although she still has on her good clothes, she is a skeleton. The Bible talks about the church as the bride of Christ and I thought this picture would be a good image for us to see the church, as the bride, waiting for the groom who has promised to come. She has been waiting now for 2,000 years. How much longer does she need to wait?

Could the church still be waiting for Jesus to return in the year 3000? That seems inconceivable to me, but if you could somehow go back in time and have a conversation with Paul and let him know that 2,000 years into the future we would still be waiting for Jesus to return, he would think you were crazy. Paul was sure Jesus would come back with a generation. Peter was sure of that as well. That is what Jesus himself expected.

Jesus left the temple with his disciples and as they marveled at the beauty and magnificence of the temple, he told them (Matthew 24:1–3)
“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus spoke to his disciples of the signs that would precede his coming and then in Matthew 24:34 he said:
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

C. S. Lewis commented on this verse:
It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.  Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”  The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side.

Perhaps there is another way of understanding what Jesus said, but I remember when I first began to read the Bible, being also mystified by this verse. I am still mystified.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that the New Testament teaching on the Second Coming of Jesus can be summed up in three phrases.
1. Jesus will certainly return.
2. We cannot possibly find out when.
3. Therefore, we must always be ready for him.

Jesus will certainly return.

The apostle Peter believed this to be the case.
II Peter 3:10
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

Paul likewise talked often about the return of Jesus as a reality.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17
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, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

The angels who appeared to the disciples when Jesus ascended spoke of his return as a reality.
Acts 1:9-11
he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  11 “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.”

And finally, Jesus himself spoke of his return as a reality. The disciples asked Jesus when the end would come and in his response he said
Luke 21:27
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Jesus will certainly return.

My favorite story about the return of Jesus occurred when I was a young pastor in the US state of Ohio. I was giving a children’s sermon during the period of Advent and my daughter Caitlin, then four years old, was sitting with about four or five other children. I was talking about the return of Jesus and mentioned that the Bible said there would be a loud trumpet blast, Jesus would appear in the sky and then we would all rise up in the air to meet him.

At this point Caitlin said loudly and clearly so all the congregation could hear, “I think you’re fooling us.” Everyone burst into laughter. When the laughter died down Caitlin continued, “I see that smile on your face. I think you’re fooling us.”

That’s a great story and makes a great point. The description of Jesus’ return is a bit unbelievable. Can this really be true? But while it certainly does stretch our imagination and faith, there is such clear testimony about Jesus’ return that if we cannot believe this, then we can believe nothing the Bible teaches us.

There are many theological issues Christians differ about, but this is certainly at the core of our faith: Jesus is coming back as he promised.

1. Jesus will certainly return.

2. We cannot possibly find out when.

In I Corinthians 15, Paul is writing about our resurrection body and says (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

If Jesus comes back in our lifetime, one moment we will be walking down the street, talking with a friend, and the next instant we will be raised to be with Jesus. Someone will be preaching and before they can finish a sentence…Jesus will return.

Many people make confident predictions about when Jesus will return, but they need to read their Bible and understand they are trying to do what Jesus said they will not be able to do. His return will be unexpected.

Jesus taught his disciples: (Luke 12:40)
You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

And Peter wrote: (II Peter 3:10)
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.

It is clear that if Jesus will come when we do not expect him, anyone who tries to pick a date for his coming will be wrong. His coming will be a surprise.

But, you may ask, what about all the signs Jesus said would warn us his coming was approaching?
Matthew 24:4-14
“Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 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.

Wars, famines and earthquakes. There has not been a year in world history since the time of Christ when there has not been at least one war going on. There have been repeated famines in history. In 1005-1006 there was a terrible famine in Europe that made people believe this was going to be the time when Jesus would return. As the tectonic plates shift around under our feet, earthquakes have been a constant companion to civilizations.

Some people work hard to show that there is a recent increase in wars, famines and earthquakes to indicate that we are at the very end of our waiting, but this is not accurate. The occurrence of wars, famines and earthquakes have been a constant in history and they serve not as markers to say that this is now the time but as reminders that we are steadily moving toward the end.

Jesus went on in his teaching to talk about persecution and the preaching of the gospel to all nations as preludes to his return.

The church has been persecuted from the beginning. Sometimes it has been the institutional church that has persecuted the church and sometimes others who are determined to eradicate Christian faith from the face of the earth. This morning as I preach, Christians are being arrested, beaten, tortured, and killed because they will not let go of their faith in Jesus.

There have been spurts of missionary activity in the history of the church, but certainly in the last hundred years the gospel has moved out into most of the world. The Bible is steadily being translated into more and more of the languages of the world and the gospel is been taken out to new language groups at a rapidly increasing rate. The internet is now taking the gospel into homes missionaries are not permitted to enter.

When the gospel is taken to the whole world, then, Jesus said, the end will come. I hope it will be soon.

We don’t know when Jesus will return. It is not that we are particularly dense, although that is often the case. No matter how smart we are, no matter how spiritually perceptive we are, no matter how well we know the Scriptures, we will not be able to discover when Jesus will come back.

I get highly annoyed with the many teachers and preachers who speak so confidently about when Jesus will return. Do they think they are so clever that they can figure out what God did not tell Jesus when he was on earth?

Jesus said: Matthew 24:36
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Throughout history people have spent an enormous amount of time trying to figure out what Jesus clearly said they could not figure out. Those who waste their time trying to figure out when Jesus will return need to read their Bible are being disobedient and missing the clear teaching of Scripture. We do not know and we will never know. His coming will be a surprise.

All we do know is that we are a lot closer to the end of earth history than were Peter or Paul or any of the many others who predicted when Jesus would return.

Jesus could come back before I finish this sermon and that would be delightful.

1. Jesus will certainly return.

2. We cannot possibly find out when.

3. Therefore, we must always be ready for him.

II Peter was written in 64 AD, just four years before Peter would be crucified by Nero. This is thirty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus and there was a lot of discussion and anxiety about why Jesus had not already returned.

Let me take you through the outline of Peter’s teaching which will summarize what I have said so far and then let him tell us how we can be ready for the return of Jesus.

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

It did not take long for doubters to arise. Jesus had promised to return. His disciples were confident he would return in their own lifetime. But now as they were becoming old men and women and the disciples of Jesus were dying of old age, lots of questions were being asked.

In every generation there have been those who have been confident Jesus would return and yet we are still here waiting. This gives plenty of room for those who doubt.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Fortunately for most of you here this morning, Hal Lindsey was wrong. If he had been right about the 1980s being the last decade of history on earth, you would not be here and you would not have had the opportunity to reach out and accept the hand of Jesus to be saved.

We ask why it is taking Jesus so long to return and while we ask, Jesus is working to rescue people in this generation. How many more generations will there be? I don’t know but if God can endure the suffering of this world so more can be saved, we can endure our limited time in this world as well.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

The day will come. It is certain. Jesus promised to return and he will. When it is time, Jesus will return and judgment will come to the earth. We like the description of the trumpet blast and rising in the air to be with Jesus, but the description of what that day will be like is a fearful apocalyptic event. This will be the end of the earth and the heavens and then they will be recreated.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?

That is the question. We have to wait for the return of Jesus, but how should we wait?

You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation,

Peter does not say we should spend hours and hours trying to figure out when Jesus will return. We are to spend our time on learning to live holy and godly lives. We need to draw near to Jesus so the fruit of the Spirit becomes a description of our character. If someone were to describe the kind of person you are, would they use these characteristics? love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Do we care for the widow, orphan, and alien among us? Do we seek justice? Do we show impartiality in our relationships with others? Do we think more of each other than we do of ourselves? Are we living to accumulate more and more for ourselves, or are we living to work with Jesus in the advancement of his kingdom? Are we working to gain influence and power? Do we know more about celebrities than we do about the people in the Bible? Where do we spend our time in the internet?

Really, we have so far to go. I have so far to go. I don’t want to waste my time trying to figure out what I will never know. I want to grow in godliness and holiness. I want to work with the Holy Spirit to grow in faith and in my Christian character. I want to work with Jesus as he rescues those who are lost and makes them my eternal brothers and sisters.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

I have loved singing the hymns of Christmas this year. I enjoy singing them every year but there has been a deeper appreciation of the birth of Jesus for me this year. I was eager for Advent to begin and loved listening the new songs of Christmas that are being written.

Jesus was born with the promise of peace. We sing:
Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”

Peace on earth is a common theme for our Christmas songs, and yet, when I look around, what I see is strife, conflict, and war. On an international, national, or local level, where is peace to be found? Where is the peace that was promised?

After the sermon we will sing the Christmas hymn, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. The lyrics are from a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863 when he received news his oldest son had been severely wounded in a battle of the American Civil War. His wife had died when her dress caught on fire and now his son was near death. In his distress he wrote:
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

This is a true lyric. As we look around the world, we can say with Longfellow, “There is no peace on earth, For hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, good will to men.”

We experience the peace of God when we surrender to Jesus but the world around us is still at war. We celebrate the birth of Jesus. We rejoice in the death and resurrection of Jesus that rescues us and gives us hope. But we long for the return of Jesus when the promise of peace will be fulfilled.

Longfellow continues his poem:
Yet pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.

We live life in the frustrating tension between Jesus having come and waiting for him to return. His kingdom has come but it is not yet fully come. So we endure our suffering and the suffering of others as we wait for the peace he promised.

We wait with hope because we know Jesus is at work building his kingdom. Jesus is not deterred by the conflict of the world. God is present with you now. God’s peace can be your experience. You are safe with Jesus. Jesus will return. Don’t worry about when he will return. Hold on to Jesus and grow in faith. Work with Jesus as he builds his kingdom. When it is time, Jesus will call an end to time and a new heaven and a new earth will be created where (Revelation 21:3–4)
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. 4 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 24:12
Behold I am coming soon!

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.