Tagged: return of Christ

John’s testimony from Patmos

In the visions the apostle John receives while exiled on the Isle of Patmos, he often records the words of Jesus foretelling his return. John may have recorded these visions as early as the AD 60s or as late as the AD 90s. In any case, Jesus assures his followers – and warns his opponents – that his return is certain. 

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

God the Father most likely makes this statement, although some English translations cast these words in red and ascribe them to Jesus. It seems best to understand this verse as the Father putting his divine signature on the prophecy of the second coming in verse 7: “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him.”

Jesus repeats the Father’s self-description as “the Alpha and the Omega” and applies it to himself in Revelation 22:13. Further, Jesus refers to himself as “Lord” in the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 12:8; John 13:13-14), and eyewitnesses of Jesus ascribe to him the same title (e.g., John 20:28; Acts 2:36). Jesus and the New Testament writers also affirm the deity of Christ, which includes his transcendence and omnipotence. Thus, both the Father and the Son may rightly lay claim to being “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

While this verse is not an explicit promise of Jesus’ return, it places the Father’s stamp of approval on Old Testament prophecies of the second coming. And it ties together the redemptive work of the triune Godhead to be completed when Jesus returns.

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The Son of Man and the return of Jesus

Many of Jesus’ teachings on the second coming revolve around his favorite self-designation: Son of Man. In fact, Jesus uses the title Son of Man roughly eighty times in the Gospels to refer to himself. While Jesus prefers to use this title rather than Son of God or Messiah to identify himself, it shouldn’t be assumed he has any doubts about his identity or wishes to be coy with his followers. His use of Son of Man is purposeful.

Jesus clearly reveals his deity at strategic times. For example, he applies the divine name I AM to himself (John 8:58). He claims equality with the Father (John 10:30). He receives worship (John 20:28). He forgives sins (Mark 2:1-12). He teaches with divine authority (Mark 1:21-22). He affirms in advance what the apostles write concerning his deity (John 1:1-3, 14; cf. Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-16; 2:9; Heb. 1:1-4). And he fulfills the attributes unique to God (Matt. 28:18-20; John 1:1; 5:22; 16:30; Heb. 1:8; 13:8).

It seems the term Son of Man accomplishes two primary goals. First, it illustrates that Jesus shares humanity with us. In Philippians 2:5-8, Paul spells out the humble manner in which the eternal Son of God adds sinless humanity to his deity. But a second goal is of equal importance. In calling himself Son of Man, especially in front of Israel’s religious elite, he reveals himself as the divine being of Daniel 7:13-14:

I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed (emphasis added).

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“I will come again …”

On March 11, 1942, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur escaped the island fortress of Corregidor under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. After a harrowing thirty-five-hour boat ride through rough seas laced with Japanese mines, MacArthur flew in a B-17 Flying Fortress to Australia to begin planning the liberation of his beloved Philippines. 

The agony of leaving troops under his command trapped in the islands prompted him to issue the now-famous statement to the press, “I shall return.” It was a mantra he repeated often in public appearances over the next two and a half years, promising neither to forget nor abandon American soldiers and the people of the Philippines.

Commanding limited forces, MacArthur launched a major offensive in New Guinea, winning a string of victories. Then, gaining support from the U.S. Joint Chiefs and  Admiral Chester Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet, MacArthur turned his attention to an invasion of the Philippines. On October 20, 1944, a few hours after his troops landed, MacArthur waded ashore on the island of Leyte. In a radio announcement later that day, the general declared, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!” 

It would take months to recapture Corregidor, and even longer to take Manila. By the time the Philippines were fully liberated, only one-third of the men MacArthur had been forced to leave behind survived to see his return. “I’m a little late,” he told them, “but we finally came.” [“General MacArthur leaves Corregidor,” https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/macarthur-leaves-corregidor.]

MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his valiant defense of the Philippines. He is remembered not only for his bold promise to return, but for his steely determination make good on it. In a very real sense, MacArthur helped set things right in the Pacific Theater. And on September 2, 1945, aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, MacArthur received the Japanese surrender on behalf of the U.S. and its allies.

MacArthur’s promise to return, and his fulfillment of that promise, serve as pinnacles in a storied military career featuring many peaks and valleys. They also cast a long shadow backwards in history to an intimate dinner in a borrowed upper room. In the hours leading up to his passion, Jesus gathers with his apostles and prepares them for his departure – first to the cross and then, after his resurrection, into heaven. But he makes a bold prediction: “I will come again” (John 14:3). 

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Making everything new – Revelation 21:5-6

Light from heaven

Previously: God’s dwelling is with humanity – Revelation 21:3-4

The scripture

Rev. 21:5 – Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” 6 And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life.” (HCSB)

Making everything new

In verses 5-6 John writes, “Then the One seated on the throne said, ‘Look! I am making everything new.’ He also said, ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’ And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life.’

In the creation, God makes everything out of nothing (ex nihilo) and declares all He has made to be good. Sinless perfection is the norm until Adam and Eve fall into sin, bringing death upon themselves and entropy upon the created order. From the garden, however, God provides atonement through a substitutionary sacrifice and a promise that the “seed” of Eve will crush Satan’s head and set things right.

We get glimpses of the world set right throughout scripture. Yahweh defeats the false gods of the Egyptians and parts the Red Sea for His people. A widow finds an abundance of oil and flour after she offers the last of her supply to the prophet Elijah. A leper is healed after bathing in the Jordan River. An army of 185,000 Assyrians is struck dead in a single night. And the prophets of old share inspiring predictions of a world restored, where the lion and the lamb lie down together while the child plays over the cobra’s den.
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God’s hidden plan will be completed: Revelation 10

Previously: There will no longer be an interval of time

The scripture

Rev. 10:1 – Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, his legs were like fiery pillars, 2and he had a little scroll opened in his hand. He put his right foot on the sea, his left on the land, 3and he cried out with a loud voice like a roaring lion. When he cried out, the seven thunders spoke with their voices. 4And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. Then I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down!”

5Then the angel that I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven. 6He swore an oath by the One who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it: “There will no longer be an interval of time, 7but in the days of the sound of the seventh angel, when he will blow his trumpet, then God’s hidden plan will be completed, as He announced to His servants the prophets.”

8Now the voice that I heard from heaven spoke to me again and said, “God, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”

9So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take and eat it; it will be bitter in your stomach, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.”

10Then I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I ate it, my stomach became bitter. 11And I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” (HCSB)

God’s hidden plan will be completed (v. 7)

The second phrase of special interest in the mighty angel’s oath (the first is that there will no longer be an interval of time) is that “God’s hidden plan will be completed” at the sound of the seventh angel’s trumpet. Note carefully that the angel does not say God’s hidden plan will be revealed, but completed. And he adds, “as He announced to His servants the prophets” (v. 7). In other words, we are not to look for further revelation when the third woe is declared; we are to watch as the Lord reclaims what is rightfully His – the kingdoms of this world. He already has told us this day will come. Now He’s going to fulfill His promise.

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