Section A: From Paradise to Paradise
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansion: if it were not so, I would have told you. I got to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3
Here is a solemn, precious promise made by Jesus Himself! The believers in all ages have cherished this hope of the future return of Jesus.
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints.” Jude 14.
Job believed in the Redeemer’s return and the resurrection of his body. Job 19:25-27.
Paul called Christ’s coming our hope, joy and crown of rejoicing. 1 Thessalonians 2:19.
Jesus’ second coming is also called the blessed hope and the glorious appearing. Titus 2:13.
How will He come?
1. So we can all see Him – in the clouds, just as He ascended to heaven after His resurrection. See Acts 1:9-11. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30. “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him,…” Revelation 1:7. See also Matthew 24:27; Mark 13:26.
2. So we can hear him. “And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet,…” Matthew 24:31. “For the Lord Himself shall descent from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:…” 1 Thessalonians 4:16. (The Archangel is Christ, also called Michael in the Scriptures. See Jude 9; Daniel 12:1.)
3. He will come in glory and power. “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with H im, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.” Matthew 15:31; Luke 9:26. The power of just one angel was demonstrated in the incident in Matthew 28:2-4. The wicked will cry for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from such great power and glory. Revelation 6:15-17. They will be destroyed by the brightness of His glorious coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
4. To the wicked, who are unprepared, Christ will come as a thief in the night. 2 Peter 3:10. “…In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 24:42-44. However, the righteous, who are prepared to meet their Saviour because they have accepted Him as their Redeemer during their life on earth, will not be overtaken unawares. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.
When will Jesus come?
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” Matthew 24:36, 42. “The proper attitude of a Christian is to be always looking for his Lord’s return.” – Dwight L. Moody.
Why will He come?
1. To raise the righteous dead to eternal life. 1 Thessalonians 4:16. At the trumpet call, the dead are resurrected to immortality. 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53.
2. To catch up the living righteous to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
3. To take all the redeemed – the righteous ones – to heaven, to the heavenly mansions Christ has prepared for them. John 14:2, 3.
4. To change the vile, or mortal, bodies of the living righteous and make them like Christ’s glorious body. Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 15: 51-54.
5. To destroy the wicked; see point numbers 3 and 4 in “How will He come?” above. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2:8.
Prepare to meet thy God
The Scriptures have clearly revealed Christ’s promises that He will come again. God has taken great pains in the Scriptures to explain that Christ will come in person, visibly, and audibly in glory. The purpose of His coming is to raise the righteous dead, destroy the wicked, and take all the righteous to heaven. Now the important question is, How can we be ready to meet Him? The very first step is to come to Jesus now. John 6:37; Hebrews 3:15. The next step is to seek, through the grace of Christ, to be like Him. 1 John 3:2,3. Then we will earnestly look for the Lord’s coming. (2 Timothy 4:7, 8) and tell others what Christ has done for us personally. Revelation 12:11. If we love Jesus with all our hearts, we will be able to do these things and to say with joy at His return, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:8, 9. In later lessons we will study more deeply into the personal preparation needed for Christ’s coming.
Signs of Christ’s coming
How will anyone know the time when Christ is about to come? Does the Bible tell us? When any great event is about to take place, there are always signs that precede it, and this greatest of all events is no exception. Matthew 24:32, 33. Every year at the advent of spring, the earth gives clear evidence of a renewal, of a new burst of life everywhere. Anyone who has seen spring arrive can recognize many of these signs. So, most surely, the coming of Christ is preceded by definite signs. Let us see what they are.
When Christ was on earth, His disciples proudly showed Him around the temple site, but they were shocked to hear Him say, “…Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” Matthew 24:1, 2. Naturally, they asked Him in return, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3. The disciples thought the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world would take place at the same time. In the whole chapter of Matthew 24, Jesus outlined the conditions that would prevail before both of these events; but we will examine only the signs related to Jesus’ coming and the end of the world.
Jesus explained what signs in the political world should alert the believers, as well as non-believers, to the imminence of His second coming at the end of the world.
1. Fear, perplexity, and distress of nations. Luke 21:25-28.
2. Wars and rumors of wars. Matthew 24:6, 7; Joel 3:9-14; Revelation 11:18. The devil is the force behind all this strife, for he delights in war. He was a “murderer from the beginning.” John 8:44.
3. At the same time wars are going on, there will be efforts toward peace. “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3; Jeremiah 6:14.
1. Increase in knowledge – of Biblical prophecy and of science – and development of rapid transportation. Daniel 13:4. The past 175 years stand apart from all previous history in terms of inventions, scientific achievement, and general learning. The use of electricity, motors, mass communication, and much more came into being only in the last century. Today we have the tiny transistor radio which fits into the palm of one’s hand, as well as huge rockets and lunar and planetary exploration equipment, which have propelled man’s works into the surrounding universe. Alongside this, the understanding of God’s prophetic word has been opened. The books of Daniel and The Revelation are now readily understandable to the diligent searcher. And the Bible itself is today available worldwide for the spread of God’s truth concerning the last events of this world.
2. In addition, men are running “to and fro” across the earth at unprecedented speeds and in a large variety of ways. The distances between continents has shrunk to where modern statesmen and businessmen can transact business in foreign capitals across the seas and then be back in their own offices by the next day. Through rapid communication, such as satellite transmission, messages can be flashed across and around the world in seconds.
3. Moral decay. Matthew 24:12; 1 Timothy 3:1-5. One only needs to walk down the streets of any major city today to see evidence of the very conditions which existed prior to the flood in Noah’s day. See Matthew 24:37-39. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire for their immortality and godless pleasure seeking. See Genesis 18:20; 19:1-7, 13, 28, 29. The standards of human decency, the sacredness of the marriage relation and the home, modest dress, and upright behaviour are all scoffed at and considered inappropriate in these modern times. Homosexuality, common-law marriage, and other debasing habits and practices are commonplace.
4. Conflict between capital and labour. James 5:1-8. The age-long conflict between employer and employee has reached gigantic proportions. Strikes cripple whole nations, and in some places they even affect such vital services as health care, education, and transportation.
1. Earthquakes, famines, and pestilences. Revelation 6:12. The Lisbon earthquakes, centering in Portugal, of 1755, extended over approximately 1,500,000 square miles and was the worse earthquake ever recorded. Each year brings an increase in both the frequency of earthquakes, the areas affected by them, and their total intensity. Matthew 24:7.”“It is estimated that there are now over 1,000 earthquakes every half day, but only a small proportion are felt. At least half of them are too small to be noticed, and many occur in oceans or unpopulated areas.” – Collier’s Encyclopedia, 1968 ed., vol. 8, p. 486. Along with earthquakes, there are famines and pestilences. War, revolution, and drought are causes of famine and its suffering, even in developed countries which normally would not be subject to this scourge. Today the world is struggling for food supplies. Due to population growth and changing atmospheric conditions, food reserves are low and threaten severe problems in the event of weather problems.
2. The Dark Day and the Falling of the Stars. On May 19, 1780, as predicted in Matthew 24:29; Joel 3:15 and Revelation 6:12, the sun was darkened at about noon in the heavily populated areas of New England. When night came, it was so dark that one could not see his hand in front of his face. The moon rose but had the color of dark red, giving no light. Many thought the world was coming to and end.
3. Then on November 13, 1833, the greatest meteoric shower on record occurred. It lasted for 4 to 6 hours over most of North America. This, too, had been predicted – in Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:13. Thus spectacular signs of Christ’s second coming have already occurred, and some are still going on in the natural world.
1. Christ warned His disciples strongly against false Christs and teachers. See Matthew 24:4, 5; 2 Peter 3:3, 4.
2. Spritualism and interest in the occult have skyrocketed in recent years. Libraries and book stores are flooded with books on subjects such as witchcraft, black magic, satanism, astrology, and the like, for the demand for them is great. Jeanne Dixon’s book, A Gift of Prophecy, sold 365,000 copies of the original edition and 5 million paperbacks. Though the Bible is readily available, few people go to it for answers; as a result, fables and outright falsehoods concerning death and the after life foster widespread spiritualistic practices.
3. Moral decay, as mentioned earlier, is on the increase. Men love pleasure more than God. 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
4. There is a lack of the simple, childlike faith required for salvation. “…When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8.
5. “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Matthew 24:12.
6. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 14:14.