Lesson for September 20-26, 2014
We mostly think of the early Christian church as preaching about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection–crucial knowledge that the world needed in order to understand salvation. But there was another topic that they were not silent about. Besides the First Coming of Jesus, they were just as excited about the Second Coming, called “the blessed hope” in Titus 2:13.
This “glorious appearing” was mentioned more than three hundred times in the New Testament. Without this teaching, our faith would be in vain. A belief in the Second Coming is what gives the church a sense of destiny and is what motivates our witnessing.
Jesus’ promise to return and set up His heavenly kingdom is one of the culminating events of the great conflict between good and evil and highlights our need to prepare ourselves spiritually on a daily basis. Because indeed, we do not know what hour our Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42).
But Jesus was not amiss in giving us signs to look for. We will explore what Jesus taught about His own appearing–when He will come “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Key Text: ” ‘Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also’ “ John 14:1-3 NKJV
Evangelists and preachers, in various denominations, have attempted to present the Second Coming by highlighting the “time of trouble” and the fearsome conditions on this planet earth, prior to His Coming. Some have used what amount to fearmongering methods, trying to arouse public fear and alarm using scare tactics.
Matthew 24:21 does say:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” NKJV
However, we must temper these solemn warnings with reassurances that God will see us through that time. We must keep our eyes on the prize (those heavenly mansions) and trust God to fill in the details.
As seen in our key text, this is exactly how Jesus handled the anxiety being felt among His disciples when it was drawing close to the events on Calvary. How peaceful were the words to them, “Let not your heart be troubled.” How much we need this calm assurance in our chaotic, sin-filled world today.
Sunday: The Promise
Jesus hinted at the Last Supper that He would soon be leaving His disciple friends. In Matthew 13:33, He said, “Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer.” There must have been some consternation felt that night.
Peter asked Jesus where He was going and even went so far as to say that he would lay down his life for the Master if needed. Jesus saw through his weak bravado though and informed Peter that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed.
Then comes the promise that has comforted us down through the ages. “Let not your heart be troubled…” (John 14:1-3). I’m sure my mother isn’t the only saint who has this promise engraved on his or her gravestone. It continues to be the favorite passage of many of God’s children.
In the Greek language, verse 3 reads, “I am coming again”, rather than “I will come again.” Although it still means at a future date, We hear it more as a promise, rather than just a statement of fact. In other words, you can “bank on it”.
Here are just a few examples in the Bible showing how Jesus has already kept His promises.
- First of all, His First Coming was prophesied numerous times throughout the Old Testament. And all the details held true, from His birth to His ascension back into glory.
- Jesus also fulfilled promises made during His earthly ministry:
- He promised Jairus that his daughter would be well, even though she had died (Luke 8:50).
- He announced that three days after His death, He would rise from the grave (Mark 8:31).
- He promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples at Pentecost (Acts 1:8).
Discussion Questions: Why are children often found saying, “You promise?” when they are upset or doubtful about something? What makes a promise so necessary and comforting to them?
Why should signs of Jesus’ Coming give us joy rather than dread or anxiety? What Bible promises give you a sense of peace and security about these approaching turbulent times?
Monday: The Purpose of Jesus’ Second Coming
Jesus not only promised to come again, but He revealed the purpose for this return visit. Matthew 16:27 says, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to His works.” NKJV
This reason is substantiated in Revelation 22:12, which says, ” ‘And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.’ ” NKJV
If one believes that these verses speak of the visible, literal Second Coming of Jesus, then one must conclude that we are indeed asleep in the grave and not enjoying our “rewards” immediately following death. (See last week’s lesson on “Death and the Resurrection”.
There must also be a judgment going on prior to His coming to determine what our rewards will be. As Adventists, we believe this judgment is currently going on in heaven in these last days we are living in.
This purpose highlights the value God’s people place on the Second Coming. Without it, our hopes for salvation and resurrection would be totally worthless. This is undoubtedly why Satan has tried to obscure this important teaching over the centuries.
We’ve seen an increase in interest and belief of the Second Coming in just the last couple of centuries. But Satan has made up for this by presenting so many interpretations of the event that one is often left confused about what to believe. Here, as with the topic of death, we must cling closely to what the Scriptures teach and weed away all the man-made theories and speculations.
Discussion Questions: Read Mark 16:16 and John 1:12, which speak of our salvation depending on our belief in Jesus. How do you reconcile the verses that mention our judgment being based on our works?
Tuesday: How Will Jesus Come?
At the incarnation, when Jesus came to live here as a man, we find Isaiah describing him as “having no form or comeliness”; in other words, no beauty or majesty. However, Jesus describes His Second Coming in much brighter pictures:
- Matthew 24:37 ” ‘For as the lightning comes from the east to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” NKJV
- Matthew 2431 ” ‘And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” NKJV
- Matthew 25:31 ” ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” NKJV
John the Revelator was confident in saying, “Behold, He is coming with clouds [thought to represent angels], and every eye shall see Him…” Revelation 1:7 NKJV
Paul gives us a glorious picture of this event:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” I Thessalonians 4:16-17
Discussion Questions: Paul wraps up his description with the words, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” What do you find comforting in thinking about the Second Coming in this manner? What other emotions might be felt?
How does this visible, literal manner of Jesus’ return to earth compare to some of the alternate theories in the Christian world today?
Wednesday: When Will Jesus Come?
This is a question that has intrigued mankind in every generation. When exactly will Jesus come? It says in Matthew 24:36, ” ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” NKJV
We have reason to believe, with reference to the context, that this is speaking of time figuratively, and “day and hour” could actually be an extended length of time. II Peter 3:8 reminds us that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The point is that no one can set a date for it. We can only watch for the signs that let us know it is near.
Many have become discouraged that it’s taking so long for Him to come. One can even begin to lose hope that it will ever happen. But II Peter admonishes us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Jesus’ prophetic sermon, found in Matthew 24, sounds at times as if His disciples would actually be alive at His Coming. But it also sounds particularly designed for our times today. A review of the signs He outlined are found in Matthew 24. Among them we find:
- spiritual deceptions
- religious persecutions
- false prophets
Discussion Questions: How do you see these signs being fulfilled today? And what will be the defining mark that sets them apart as predicting the Lord’s return?
Matthew 24 sounds like the disciples would actually be alive at His Coming. In what way and for what reason did Jesus deliver this dual prophecy (one that spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., for which some, such as John the Revelator, were alive to see, and of the end of the world at His coming)? Why was it presented in this way to the disciples following their question, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” [In the disciples’ thinking the events would coincide. The destruction of the temple would be the same as the end of history at Jesus’ return. They were not prepared at that time to understand the difference between the events, so Jesus grouped them together.]
Read Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27, which all speak of “some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man or the kingdom of God coming”. Notice that in all three Gospels, the story that follows is about the Transfiguration. How could the event on the Mount of Transfiguration represent the kingdom of glory? [Moses = resurrected saints, and Elijah = those alive at His coming]
Thursday: Watch and Be Ready
Believing that Jesus’ return is soon, how should we occupy ourselves as we await this glorious event? The phrase “watch and pray” has been used many times, but we don’t often take it as seriously as we should.
Consider the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to entering Jerusalem and being arrested. He asked three of His closest disciples to stay nearby and watch and pray with Him. Three times, however, the Lord came and found them sleeping. See Matthew 26:36-48.
I’ve often pondered how this could happen. Surely, they knew that something big was about to happen. It’s almost as if they’d been drugged. Perhaps Satan caused them to feel this overpowering urge to sleep. It just didn’t make sense that they would desert their Master as such a time, and not remain awake to pray with Him, as He requested.
But then the thought emerges that we are no less negligent than the disciples. The last of the seven churches outlined in Revelation 3 was the Laodicean church, a church that was lukewarm, blind, and you might as well say it…asleep.
And what are some of the things that prevent us from watching and praying with the Lord, on the eve of His glorious appearing? Luke 21:34-36 does not leave us clueless about our condition:
” ‘But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ “ NKJV
So, here’s the laundry list that saps us of our ability to stay awake and watch and pray:
- carousing (meaning intemperate, extravagant, careless ease)
- drunkenness, or drinking (perhaps all substance abuse)
- cares or anxieties of this life
Even those who have a correct understanding of the Second Coming and all its theological intricacies can succumb to these three. Whether you’re rich, poor, or in between, Satan has something to pull you away from your prayer post and cause you to postpone preparing for this spectacular event.
There are ways to be ready:
- repent and confess all our sins to Jesus
- renew our faith in what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross
- surrender our wills completely to Him
Discussion Questions: Read the Parable of the Talents in Luke 19:11-27. How can we strike a balance in going about our daily work and still living in anticipation of His Coming? How is this illustrated in the parable and what do the words mean in v. 13, “Occupy (or do business) till I come”?
From a personal perspective, why is the Second Coming no farther away than a moment after our death? How does this thought impact how we relate to living as if His Coming would actually be at any time?
Dispensationalists (those who believe that God works differently with people during different time periods, or dispensations) generally also believe that there will be a secret rapture of the church at the conclusion of the church age, with Christ’s second coming happening seven years later, following a seven-year tribulation period. This scenario leaves people with a second chance to repent after the secret rapture. What might be the danger of this teaching?
The Second Coming, a literal, visible event, will take place at an undetermined time, with Jesus personally appearing with His holy angels to reward the faithful, both living and dead. The promised return of Christ “recognizes the fact of a loving Savior who deeply desires a reunion with His chosen people. Believers are admonished to daily spiritual preparation and constant watchfulness so that Christ’s coming will neither find them unprepared nor unaware.” ~”The Lesson in Brief”, Teachers Comments, Sabbath School Quarterly, p. 156
Review Matthew 25 and look for principles that might help in our preparation for the Second Coming. The three parables include:
- parable of the ten virgins or bridesmaids
- parable of the talents
- sheep versus goats
Next week: new quarter, The Book of James
To read the Sabbath School lesson or find other resources, see www.ssnet.org