Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

He Will Return

by Jeremy Shaffer

The Passion Week of Christ is the single most important week in all of human history. Christ’s sacrificial act on the Cross provides meaning to everything in the universe. John said it best in Revelation 13:8: “…the Lamb who was slain before the foundations of the world.” Before the universe was ever created and its boundaries fixed, the plan was always for the Lamb to be sacrificed for all of humanity. Therefore, claiming that Passion Week is the single most important week in human history is no exaggeration! Knowing that God had a plan for our redemption from the very beginning ought to bring joy to our hearts and a tear to our eyes; it might even cause us to weep incessantly with wonder and amazement. But there are more great things to come…keep reading.

Resurrection Day is the most celebrated day for all Christians worldwide, and once again, that is no exaggeration. Christ’s resurrection causes us to be thankful for many things, but the most significant is that there is a future. Christ’s work on the Cross was accepted by God the Father, but Christ’s work on our behalf is not finished…not by a long shot. After spending 40 days on the earth “presenting himself alive by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3), Jesus continued speaking about the kingdom of God. This excited the Apostles because it meant one thing: the King would return and set up His Kingdom! Yet, it appears that the Apostles weren’t satisfied with knowing about the kingdom; they were obsessed with knowing when it would come. Notice how Acts 1:6 shows their persistence.  They kept asking Him, “Lord, has the time come…” (NLT). Undoubtedly, the Apostles had a personal stake in this question; they wanted the kingdom to begin soon because that would mean the overthrow of the Roman government and the end of the oppression of the Jewish people once and for all. Maybe this question is not overtly selfish, but it does have narcissistic undertones when you look at the bigger picture. Let me take a moment to explain.

God did indeed promise in the Old Testament that the nation of Israel would be instrumental in establishing the kingdom of God on earth, but the Jewish mind failed to remember that the kingdom of God has always been a plan for all people. God’s promise to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden (Gen.3:15) through sin was not only for the nation of Israel (the nation of Israel wasn’t even in existence at that time). The plan of God’s kingdom has always been centered on Christ as the only way to make salvation available for all people, not just the nation of Israel. When Christ returns at the second coming, He will re-establish the kingdom of God that was lost in the Garden of Eden through sin (we often term this return period as the “millennial kingdom” focusing on the 1,000-year aspect; Rev.20:3). It’s during this time that Jesus will be ruling over the earth, with the nation of Israel functioning in the unique way that God intended. Isaiah 42:6 tells us that Israel was to be a light to the Gentile nations, a bright light that would draw all the nations around them to the one true God. Unfortunately, the Bible reveals that the reverse happened. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel pulled away from the one true God and went after the gods of the nations around them, and in the New Testament, when Jesus, the light of the world, shows up, the Jewish people still reject Him. It seems apparent that the Jewish people are so preoccupied with their unique role in the kingdom of God that they have forgotten the original plan of redemption for all humanity. Christ didn’t forget the original plan; in fact, His death and resurrection were integral to the plan. Like acts in a play, Christ knew that more was coming, and He also knew that His Father had already written the ending; so, Christ tells the Apostles not to worry about the future; the Father has it all under control. They needed to focus on their present task of being a witness for Jesus (Acts 1:8), not their future role in the kingdom of God.

As the Apostles receive the Great Commission from Jesus, something remarkable happens:  Jesus begins ascending into the heavens. They watched Jesus ascend with amazement and emotion. Suddenly, two supernatural beings appear beside the group, asking the Apostles why they are staring into the sky. Then, these two supernatural messengers deliver their message of hope:  Jesus is coming back! But look carefully at Acts 1:11, “…this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Jesus is coming back in the same manner that He went into heaven. Mark this verse because it is one of the strongest proof texts for a literal and physical return of Christ in the future.

The Ascension of Christ reminds us that Christ’s work is far from over. Presently, He sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes for His children (Heb. 7:25). One day, the Father will execute His end-times plan. It begins with Jesus coming back in the clouds to rapture away His Church (1 Ths. 4:16-17) so that they may escape (Rev. 3:10) the awful Tribulation judgments that are detailed in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 6-19). Those Tribulation judgments will culminate with His return, known as the Second Coming of Christ. And the incredible part of His return is that we, the saints, will return with Him (Rev. 19:11-16).  Christ will defeat all His enemies and set up the Kingdom of God on earth, the same kingdom that the Apostles longed for at His Ascension.

We must not forget that He will return. It must be a part of our everyday thinking and living. Oliver Wendall Holmes famously said, “Some people are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.” While that quote is catchy, the real truth is quite the opposite. The Apostles turned the world upside down for the cause of Christ because they were so heavenly-minded.
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