History tells us Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was a polar explorer. Once while on a South Pole expedition, he left a few men on Elephant Island, promising that he would return. Later, when he tried to go back, huge icebergs blocked the way. But suddenly, as if by a miracle, an avenue opened in the ice and Shackleton was able to get through. His men, ready and waiting, quickly scrambled aboard. No sooner had the ship cleared the island than the ice crashed together behind them. Contemplating their narrow escape, the explorer said to his men, “It was fortunate you were all packed and ready to go!” They replied, “We never gave up hope. Whenever the sea was clear of ice, we rolled up our sleeping bags and reminded each other, ‘The boss may come today.'” If you can understand that simple story, then you can understand this simple blog.
Did you know there are approximately 211 million websites on the second coming of Christ? I haven’t looked at each one, but they cover a wide range of opinions. Few topics are more controversial then the second coming of Christ. If you don’t believe me then bring it up among your friends. Generally, people divide themselves into three groups. Which one of these groups do you belong?
The first group believes Christ will never return. They are the same group that dismisses the resurrection of Jesus. They dismiss the second coming because they believe it is nothing more than an old wives’ tale. In their opinion, it resonates with an uneducated portion of our society, but it has nothing to offer to our sophisticated educated world. It is like the stories of the Paul Bunyan or the Tooth Fairy. It is just a tale to be told. Do you know of anyone who dismisses the second coming of Christ?
The second group believes Christ has already returned. These people are found in the academic world. For them, the second coming has to do with having a clear understanding of the trinity. Remember, God is father, son, and Holy Spirit. They believe Christ returned during that great day of Pentecost in the form of the Holy Spirit. You remember the story. The Holy Spirit swept through the world without warning. The believers and the non-believers were divided. The believers were touched by the divine power and were united with God. They formed this new organization called the church and began to spread the Good News. The non-believers, on the other hand, remained untouched. Do you know of anyone who believes the second coming has already occurred?
The third group is still waiting for Jesus to come. Regularly, they study the signs of the end that are scattered throughout the Bible. Some believe there are as many as 26 different signs of the end. For them, every current event signals our demise. Every war, famine or earthquake is a sign of the apocalypse. The problem is our world is filled with so many wars, famines, and earthquakes. It is like trying to read a street sign through a thick fog. There is something there, but you can’t make it out. Can anyone read the signs? People have been trying to make out the signs for a long time.
In the nineteenth century there was a Baptist evangelist by the name of William Miller (1782-1849). He studied the signs and believed that Jesus would return on April 3, 1843. All over the Northeast, half million of his followers called Adventists, waited for that day. Journalists had a field day. Reportedly some disciples were on mountaintops, hoping for a head start to heaven. Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend in union with their departed loved ones. Some high society ladies clustered together outside of Philadelphia to avoid entering God’s holy kingdom amid the common herd. You know what happened. April 3, 1843, came and went. Jesus didn’t return and time moved forward. What do you believe about the second coming of Christ? I believe someday Jesus will return. However, I don’t worry about the signs. I just trust Jesus.
We find ourselves in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, verses 36-44. The topic is the second coming of Christ. I would encourage you to put all your opinions aside and just listen to Jesus. The Master said his second coming is the greatest secret in the history of the world. Verse 36 says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If there is one verse that everyone should memorize about the second coming it is that one. Only God knows when Jesus will return. Hollywood does not know when Jesus will return. The History Channel does not know when Jesus will return. That strange person in your life, who is always looking for signs of the end, does not know when Jesus will return. The Bible says nothing about the Mayan calendar or Rasputin (1869-1916). However, the Bible does say the second coming is a secret. The Bible does say Jesus will come without warning.
In this blog, I want to talk about the secret. This great secret is the ultimate challenge because it means you must always be prepared. If Jesus returns today, are you ready, or do you have some work to do? Do you need some self-improvement? Are there things you would still like to do? Are there things you would still like to accomplish? Are all your relationships healthy? Is your relationship with God healthy? Are you ready to die? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? I would encourage you to fix these things now. After all, Jesus could return at any time.
Years ago, I watched the History Channel’s series, The Men Who Built America. In the series they examined the lives of John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), Henry Ford (1863-1947), and J. P. Morgan (1837-1913). Each story was fascinating, but it was Henry Ford’s life that really caught my attention. Did you know Henry Ford was born on a farm outside of Detroit? It was his father’s dream for Henry to take over the farm, but he had different ideas. At the age of 16, Henry left the farm and began as a machinist apprentice. Then he went to work for the Edison Illuminating Company. In time, he was their chief engineer. The whole time he was working he was saving his money so he could pursue his real dream, developing a car the common man could afford. He and a partner founded the Ford Motor Company with this in mind. When he introduced the assembly line to his plant, his dream became a reality. The Model T became an instant success. Did you know half of all cars on American roads in 1918 were made by Ford? I think his story is fascinating on many levels. However, what I admire most about Ford is that his dream became a reality. Have all your dreams reached reality?
If Jesus were to return today, what regrets do you have personally? What dreams do you still have that haunt you daily? The return of Christ signals the end. It means the end of my personal aspirations. What do you still want to do with your life? What books would you still like to read? What places do you still want to travel? What hobbies do you still want to explore? What causes do you still want to aid? What people do you still want to meet? The second coming of Christ signals the end! However, he still hasn’t come so you still have time to live out your personal dreams.
One of my favorite Christmas movies is Frank Capra’s (1897-1991) It’s a Wonderful Life. If you are like me then you have seen it countless times. You know the storyline. George Bailey is a young man with dreams. He wants to see the world, but his responsibilities keep getting in the way. He is trapped in his hometown of Bedford Falls and shackled to the family business, the Bailey Building and Loan. He is living a disillusioned life when matters get worse. The bank examiner comes to town and discovers the business is short $8000! You must factor inflation into the story! That would be like losing $123,000 today. George looks everywhere for the money, but he can’t find it. Then the unexpected happens. The people, who George had known and helped for years, step forward and give him the needed funds. He wasn’t the richest man in town because he had money. He was the richest man in town because of his relationships.
If Jesus would return today, what regrets do you have socially? Is there anyone in your life you have spoken to in years? Is there anyone in your life who doesn’t deserve a second chance? Is there anyone in your life you hate? Is there anyone in your life you don’t trust? George Bailey was guilty of not believing in the people in his life. How guilty are you of selling the people in your life short? What joys are you withholding from yourself because you have cut someone out of our life? The second coming of Christ signals the end! However, he hasn’t come yet, so you still have time improve your relationships.
According to a 2011 Ipsos Research Institute study, 51% of the world’s population believes in the existence of God. They surveyed 18,000 people from 23 different countries. I don’t know if that fact makes me feel better or worse. That is one of those facts that really doesn’t matter. Believing is the existence of God is not enough. Even Satan believes in the existence of God, and he is not going to heaven. Believing in the historical Jesus doesn’t really matter. The only thing that really matters is that you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you have accepted Jesus, then you go to heaven. If you haven’t accepted Jesus, then you go to hell. If Jesus would return today, what regrets do you have spiritually? In other words, do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? The second coming of Christ signals the end! However, he hasn’t come yet so you still have time to accept Jesus. You still have time to grab that ticket that leads to eternal life.
At the height of World War II, Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer (1906-1945) was imprisoned for taking a stand against Adolph Hitler (1889-1945). Yet, he continued to urge fellow believers to resist Nazi tyranny. A group of Christians, believing that Hitler was the Antichrist, asked Bonheoffer, “Why do you expose yourself to all this danger? Jesus will return any day, and all your work and suffering will be for nothing.” Bonheoffer replied, “If Jesus returns tomorrow, then tomorrow I’ll rest from my labor. But today I have work to do. I must continue the struggle until it’s finished.” It is not just the story of Dietrich Bonheoffer, it is our story as well.
Someday Christ will return! The question that has haunted the ages is, “When?” It is the greatest secret in the history of the world. Only God knows the answer. The angels in heaven do not know the answer. The Son does not know the answer. The entertainment world does not know the answer. Pastors and evangelists do not know the answer. Only God knows the answer. However, we do know the second coming of Christ signals the end. However, he has not come yet so you still have time to make some improvements. You still have time to live out your personal dreams. You still have time to fix those broken relationships. You still have time to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) once said, “A Christian is not one who never goes wrong, but one who is enabled to repent and begin over again after each stumble—because of the inner working of Christ.”