“But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)
I am here to speak to you today on the solemn subject of the second coming of Jesus Christ; referred to in these words of holy Scripture: “unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” That this is the personal return of Jesus Christ is clear from the words of the text. The apostle Paul, writing in this epistle to first-century Jewish Christians has just stated that Jesus appeared the first time to die in the place of sinners in order that their sins might be put away. The word, “appeared” is a way of referring to the incarnation of the eternal Word of God, as Paul elsewhere says, using the same Greek verb, “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). It was not merely a phantom or ghostly vision that was seen by men; but a real man, born of a woman, with a human body as well as a human soul. As this first appearance of Christ was personal and visible; so will the second be.
In the words of the text, “…now once in the end of the world hath he appeared”. “The end of the world” should be understood as “the end of the age”. It was in the last days of the Jewish nation and of the Mosaic economy that Jesus Christ appeared. This fact was very significant to the Jews who were living in those last days of their national existence. All that they had ever known – the Temple and its worship, the Sanhedrin which governed them, was about to come to an end. The age of Jewish privilege and exclusivity was ending. A new age, the Kingdom of God, was dawning, into which the Gentile nations would be brought, on the same footing as the Jews.
At His first appearing, He “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”. The word means “to make void, to abolish, to do away with”. Jesus did not come to make the forgiveness of sins a mere possibility, but to effect it, to make it happen. Those for whom He died have had their sins put away. Not all sin has been put away, for many die in their sins, and suffer the just punishment for them in Hell; but the sins of those for whom He died. He bore the sins of many, of those given to Him by the Father, of those who were chosen unto salvation through belief of the truth. Their sins He put away from them, as far as the east is from the west. Though their sins were as scarlet, He made them whiter than snow. The rest of mankind, those who believe not, shall die in their sins, and the wrath of God will be poured out upon them in Hell. The fact that Christ died for sinners will do them no good!
An analogy is then stated, the point of which is to emphasize the uniqueness and the finality of the redemptive work of Christ. The first part is ”as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. Men die but once. Yet that is not the end of their existence. Afterward, though their bodies have lain in the ground and decayed, they must one day be raised again to stand before God at the last judgment. Just so, the Lord Jesus died once; yet that is not the end! He shall come again at the appointed time to complete the salvation He has begun in us who trust in Him, who “look for Him” – that is, who eagerly await His coming, when He shall raise our bodies unto glory and immortality.
Jesus is coming again! He will appear the second time! This is the great fact of which our text treats! But what does it mean to you? What does the Bible teach about this momentous event that you need to know and understand and act on? My friends, why am I here? I have come for one reason: to seek your conversion and your salvation from the wrath to come. It is the most serious business that a man can undertake. I hope that you will give me a few moments of your attention while I show you from the Bible what it is that God would have you all to know.
The first part of my task is to debunk some popular myths about the second coming.
It will do you no good to merely tell you the truth, if you have already been taught something different. There is a popular view on this subject taught by many that is very far removed from the truth taught in the Bible – a complicated scenario invented in the nineteenth century that perverts the truth always held and taught by God’s church. This view has been widely propagated in sermons and books and even novels and movies; so that many people think that this is what all real Christians believe. It is impossible to teach on this subject without contrasting the truth with what is generally believed today. I will address five of the most important of these myths.
Myth number one: The Second Coming does not mark the end of history.
Many teach that a whole series of historical events follows upon the so-called “rapture of the church”: the tribulation, the rise and career of the Antichrist, Armageddon, the “coming in glory”, a general judgment of the nations, then the millennium, followed by a general apostasy, then another resurrection and final judgment. One text is sufficient to refute this claim:
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)
When we want to discover the teaching of Scripture on any question, it is necessary that we go first to those places in Scripture that speak to the question we are asking. Chapter 15 of First Corinthians is a defense of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. It is chock full of words and phrases that indicate the order and timing of the final events of history. I know of no place like it in the whole Bible. Note the following words and expressions:
in his own order
at his coming
when he shall have
These are all terms that reveal sequence and timing. This paragraph, from verse 20 to verse 28, is designed to show us the order of the great events that occur at the close of human history, and where the resurrection of the just fits into the plan of God. It cannot be denied that it is a reasonable place to look for the answer to many questions about eschatology.
It begins “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” Then it goes on to explain the meaning and implications of the fact that Christ is the “firstfruits” of those that sleep in Jesus. As death came by a particular man, Adam, so the resurrection came by a man, Jesus Christ. Christ is the firstfruits – a reference to the first ripened fruit of the harvest, with the rest to follow after. The resurrection is an accomplished fact as it concerns Christ Himself, but it is not yet time to see the rest of the harvest. “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” The resurrection of the saints will occur at the coming of Jesus Christ.
The next point is somewhat obscured by the translation, which supplies the unexpressed verb as “cometh”. Albert Barnes comments:
Then cometh the end – Then is the end; or then “is” the consummation. It does not mean that the end, or consummation is to “follow” that event; but that this “will” be the ending, the winding up, the consummation of the affairs under the mediatorial reign of Christ. The word “end” [Greek, telos] denotes properly a limit, termination, completion of anything. The proper and obvious meaning of the word here is, that then shall be the end or completion of the work of redemption. That shall have been done which was intended to be done by the incarnation and the work of the atonement; the race shall be redeemed; the friends of God shall be completely recovered; and the administration of the affairs of the universe shall be conducted as they were before the incarnation of the Redeemer.
Verse 25 says, “ …He must reign , till he hath put all enemies under His feet.” This is a reference to Psalm 110, which says that Christ will reign over earth (in the midst of His enemies) from heaven (at God’s right hand) until His victory is complete (until God makes Christ’s enemies Christ’s footstool”):
”The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.”(Psalms 110:1-2)
When he says, “the last enemy that shall be destroyed [better, “defeated”] is death”, he is referring to the resurrection of the righteous. For them, death is defeated when they rise from the dead in immortal glory. Now, according to verse 23, this takes place “at His coming”. But if the last enemy of Christ is destroyed, then history is at an end! Finally, verses 27-28 describe the transition to the eternal state, when the mediatorial reign of Christ is at an end, and the administration of the universal kingdom is returned to God the Father.
Notice that there is no such “two-stage” coming of Christ as is widely taught. There is no rapture/return distinction. Whereas it is commonly taught that the resurrection of church saints occurs seven years before the visible return of Christ; Paul teaches that the resurrection occurs at the visible appearing of Christ at the end of history. The more this passage is studied, the more clear it will become that the resurrection of the righteous at the second coming of Jesus Christ marks the end of history, and the beginning of the eternal state.
Myth number two: Jesus is coming at any moment.
It is true that Jesus may come for me personally at any moment, for I may die at any time, without warning; and if I am His I am assured that He will come and receive me into His father’s house. But this is not the bodily return of which we speak. It is beyond argument that the second coming can only occur after all the unfulfilled prophecies of the Bible (except the second coming itself) have been accomplished, and this may require many generations yet to complete. The chief of these is that implied in Psalm 110, and stated by the apostle Paul, “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1Corinthians 15:25). There must be a worldwide victory of Christ over all the powers of the world that oppose Him: Judaism, Islam, Popery, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism must all fall before the power of Christ, reigning from God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1-2). The Jews must be converted, along with “the fulness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11). The rulers of the nations must all bow to Christ, as predicted by all the prophets – not after His coming, but before! Only when that has happened will Christ leave that throne of glory (or rather bring it with him) to come to earth in person and claim His prize (Acts 3:21).
But if this is true, some will say, what do we care about it? We’ll all be dead before it happens. Quite right, I say! We will probably be dead. But what does that matter? We will all – every one of us – certainly be there in that day, and the events of that day concern us in the greatest way and to the greatest extent possible! It is the day of our doom or of our vindication, of our ruin or of our triumph, of eternal death or eternal life. What could be more important, or more worthy of our thoughts? God has revealed this truth to strengthen our faith and to magnify our fear of Him. This will be its effect, if we receive it in faith, regardless of when it is to occur. He has revealed it to terrify those who oppose Him, that they might take warning and amend their sinful ways! This effect does not depend on when it will actually happen.
Myth number three: Jesus is coming to take His people to heaven.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is coming to earth to dwell with His people here forever, in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-3; 22-23); not to snatch away His people and go away. They rise to meet Him in the air, as the people of the Hebrews once went out to meet Him at the triumphal entry, to conduct Him onward into the city of Jerusalem with due honors. They will not go back to heaven with Him, for that is not where He is going. The eternal destiny of God’s people is not in heaven! That is the doctrine of Medieval Catholicism with its Platonic exaltation of the spirit over the body and its “beatific vision”. It is not in the Bible! The saints who sleep in Jesus are with the Lord now in heaven, but that is a temporary arrangement until the resurrection, when they return with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14) to rejoin the saints then on earth in the resurrection of the just.
Myth number four: After the Christians are removed, the world goes through seven years of great tribulation.
The great tribulation mentioned in the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) was another name for “the days of vengeance” spoken of by Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 61:1-2 compared with Luke 21:22). After the Jews crucified Christ, they were punished with a series of severe national judgments that culminated in the war with Rome in which the city and temple were destroyed, more than a million Jews killed, and the rest scattered among the nations. Christ predicted this, and represented to the Jewish authorities (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69) that He would soon be “seen” sitting on the right hand of God, and would “come on the clouds of heaven” to execute these judgments upon them. This time of great tribulation had reference to the generation then living (Matthew 23:29-36; 24:34). There is no such thing in the Bible as a future great tribulation after Jesus comes again. It has already occurred, long ago!
Myth number five: Jesus is coming yet again at the end of the tribulation to set up His millennial kingdom, which had to be postponed because the Jews rejected Him.
Jesus has already set up His kingdom, and it is an eternal kingdom (Isaiah 9:7; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 11:15) – not one that only lasts thousand years. When He came the first time, He announced that the time was fulfilled and His kingdom was at hand, and it was! Just three and a half years later, after His crucifixion and resurrection, He ascended to the right hand of God, to the throne of all power in heaven and in earth. He was crowned Lord and Christ. There is no higher name in earth or heaven! The kingdom of God is here, and He reigns over the nations to bring them into subjection even now. Scripture lends no support to the view that the kingdom was postponed, as some claim. God does not change His plans because some men don’t consent to them.
We have seen what the Bible does not teach about the second coming of Christ. What then does the Bible really teach about the second coming?
First, Jesus is coming to bring an end to human history with all its ungodliness, false religions, injustices, vices, disappointments and suffering. There is a great divide coming, when “this present time” will end and “the world to come” will begin.
Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (Luke 18:28-30)
There is time and there is eternity, and there must be a defining event that intervenes between them. This event is uniformly represented as the day of judgment.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Act 17:29-31)
A time is coming when all the business of this life, the labor and the strivings of men will cease. This is true for each of us personally for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. But a time is coming when the whole world will come to a sudden halt, and every work of man will be brought into judgment.
But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)
The end of this age will be with perfect finality: all that now is, being corrupted and polluted by sin, must burn to make room for a new world of immaculate purity.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up… Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. (2Peter 3:10,13)
The day of judgment commences with the appearance of the Judge. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22) God will judge the world in righteousness by that man He hath ordained. But where is He today? He is at the right hand of God, waiting for the time appointed when He shall return to earth for the final judgment of all men.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Act 3:19-21)
Jesus is coming to bring an end to human history.
Second, Jesus is coming to raise the dead. John the Apostle said,
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:11-15)
All men, from the most obscure, unknown peasant whose memory has been lost in the depths of time, to the greatest kings and lords of history must appear at the judgment seat of Christ. Every knee must bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So they must all be summoned, body and soul, to that dreadful place and time when their destinies will be forever sealed and declared before all. The souls of the dead are already in places of punishment or reward, while their bodies lie rotting in the ground. But now, says the sovereign Lord Christ, “all that are in the graves shall hear [my] voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29) Jesus is coming to raise the dead.
Third, Jesus is coming to judge the world. We have already touched on this in the Scriptures we have cited so far. This is the last judgment, at the consummation of the mediatorial kingdom of Christ. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: there is no higher authority in earth or heaven, and He claims it as His right to pass eternal sentence on His subjects. The Father, who has exalted Jesus to such a height, is well-pleased to see Him exercise the royal prerogative:
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Hebrews 1:8-9)
As the ancient creed says, “He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead.” In the words of Christ himself,
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world …Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. (Mat 25:31-41) Jesus is coming to judge the world.
Fourth, Jesus is coming to bring eternal righteousness and peace on earth.
Some there are who claim that Jesus comes to bring peace on earth for only a thousand years; but this is not so. If that were true, this would not be the last judgment – judgment day would have to be postponed ’til this millennium had run its course. No, they are mistaken to think Jesus comes to commence His kingdom! He comes to consummate it, to bring all things to a conclusion, and to surrender His commission to His Father once this is done, as taught in 1 Corinthians 15:21-28.
Peter tells us that the elements will melt at His coming, and the earth and all its works will be burned up. The promise of “a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” will then be fulfilled. “The meek shall” finally and forever “inherit the earth”. We were not made to live forever as disembodied spirits in heaven! We would not be whole if our physical being were not restored, if our souls were forever separated from our bodies. We belong to the earth, since we were made from the dust at the beginning. We are the image of God, and to be such we must be visible.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Rev 21:1-5)
Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new!” Paul said in his Roman epistle that
… the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Rom 8:18-23)
The glory that awaits the sons of God will not be confined to their persons: the whole new creation will be delivered from suffering and death for our sakes, as it was once ruined by our sin. This restoration of the original Eden, this replanting of the garden of God will be grander and greater than at the first, for it will be eternally secure because of what Christ has done to secure this perfection beyond any possibility of its marring.
On the other hand, that wicked one who once plunged the new-made world into misery will be no longer at large. The old serpent will be; and yet be as if he were not. His everlasting pains will be the too-real proof of his own existence to him, but no one else will pity him, or even notice him, far away at the bottom of the abyss, enclosed in darkness beyond the piercing of the sharpest eye. With him, in unutterable woe, will be all those who followed him – all who obeyed him – all who were willingly enslaved to him for the sake of the pleasures of sin – all who would not serve Jesus Christ while they lived. Jesus said that this place was “made for the Devil and his angels”; not exclusively, but especially. It was made to be a prison that he could never escape, a torment that even he could not bear.
A Word Picture of the Second Coming
My friends, let me draw you a picture of the Second Coming, the Day of Judgment, and the End of the World. The following picture is to some extent imaginary, and may not be correct in all its details, but it is meant to present the main facts of Biblical eschatology in a realistic and dramatic fashion. Its main features are such as the church of Jesus Christ has always believed and taught.
It begins as a day like any other. Alarm clocks go off, the sun comes up and people get out of bed. They drink their coffee, eat their breakfast and pursue their daily routines. It is a day like any day until… Suddenly – an unusual sound is heard. It is the sound of a great trumpet, but like no trumpet ever heard before! The note is pure and powerful, rising above the televisions and radios that are playing in the homes, above all the noise of the streets, even the great machines of the powerhouses and factories; and, most remarkably, people all over the world hear it at once! It is a solemn, dreadful, moving sound, and it does not go away. It continues and grows until it is the only sound heard and the only thought in men’s minds! There is something unearthly about it. In their hearts, a fear grows with it, the fear of guilty conscience, the memory of past sins. People unaccountably start to remember the shameful deeds they have committed in darkness, and dared to tell no one. They are seized with the desire to run and hide, but there is nowhere to hide from that sound, or from the torment within.
Then there is a great outcry, “Look! Look at the sky!” Something is coming! It looks like a brilliant cloud, but it is moving too fast. It begins to resemble a vast flock of white birds. “No, it’s not birds” says one. “No! It can’t be! It can’t be that!” men are heard to say. But it is that, the unspeakable, the unthinkable – Jesus Christ is coming, at the head of an army of millions and millions of angels.
Now the sky is filled with them, mighty winged warriors with dreadful dauntless faces, terrible to behold. On the earth, stark, paralyzing terror takes hold.
The trumpet suddenly ceases, but this brings no relief. For then a great voice cries out from heaven, clear and deep and resonant, human, but somehow just as terrible as the trumpet. “All ye saints, come up hither. Thy King cometh!”
As the King’s entourage draws near, the earth begins to tremble – slightly at first, then more violently. It rumbles and groans, as its foundations begin to crumble. All the graves break open, and a most wonderful sight is seen: men, women and children flying upward in beautiful white raiment, with joyful countenances, rising to meet their King and Savior. Others come – not from the graves, but – living men transformed all of a sudden into holy, rapturous beings unlike anything men have seen! They can be seen now gathering about Him, like another great cloud, and the angels recede from Him somewhat to give the greater place and honor to His redeemed ones.
But now a great wailing begins on earth, as people finally realize that this is really the end of the world, and they all unprepared! They gnaw their tongues and blaspheme. There is weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then they begin to notice something else. Slowly, as if dragged against their will, men – or what once were men – are crawling out of the graves. These are not like the others. They are bent over as if under a great weight. They look like corpses still, and in their eyes is the look of terror and dread. They stink of death, and in their faces is the malignity of devils. Woe unto them! Their souls have lain in prison, tormented but unrepentant, some for years, some for ages, and have only been raised from the dead now that they might suffer for all time in the same bodies in which they sinned!
Now their eyes fasten upon the sky, where they see many of the great white figures with shining faces break off from the rest and bend their wing towards earth. They are coming to bind the damned and bring them to judgment. What cursing and execrations! What pitiful moans and wails arise! But all in vain! There is no escape. The swift angels arrest their prey with ease and bind them hand and foot. And not only them, for many of the living will share the same fate.
Soon all humanity has been divided into two groups, the miserable prisoners and the free sons of God. They are brought into court before the greatest of Kings, who sits on a throne set in the heavens, with all the world in attendance before Him, the Sons of God on His right hand, and the prisoners on His left.
When all are in their places, and silence has been imposed, the Judge rises from His seat. He looks about at the multitude, then at the earth which hangs in the air beneath them. “Behold!” He cries. And as He does so, the earth swings upward in an arc around the heavenly assembly, so that instead of being under them, it is before them. “The place where all the crimes of your race were committed! The world once glorious, now corrupted beyond remedy. This is the end! Be no more!” He raises His hand, and the earth bursts into flame. All the immeasurable wealth, all the hopes and dreams, all the proudest achievements of vain man are overwhelmed in the Divine inferno and swiftly reduced to ashes.
He speaks again, “Ye sons of Adam, I, your lawful King, have been appointed by my Father to judge the world in righteousness. Long have I desired this day; for I delight to do the will of my Father. And it is His will that all evil should come to an end today. I have triumphed over the wicked one, and it is given to me to execute judgment upon him and his, and all their works. It is also His will, that His faithful servants should this day receive their full reward. By the authority vested in me as Mediator and Judge of all men, I declare that this tribunal of the Most High God is now in session!”
Then the Judge is seated, and the trial begins. The books are opened. The secrets of men’s hearts are now to be discovered, their true characters revealed. The Divine-human Judge knows all, sees all. His austere expression, His face at once lovely and full of awful grandeur, hushes all to silence.
The first book is opened, the Book of Life. And all the names are read, one by one. And with the reading of each name there is joy for some and grief for others – joy for those whose names are read, and for those who loved them while they lived; and grief to those who were their persecutors. Finally, the last name is read, and the Book of Life is closed. The Judge says to all of them, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
Then His eyes, which are as a flame of fire, turn toward those on His left hand. The other books are now opened, containing all their names, and the records of each man’s works. Everyone knows now that no excuse will suffice. It’s all been written down. In their hearts they know that lies are of no use here. Every mouth is stopped, and all the sinners in the world become guilty before God. The charges are brought, but there is no defense! Then the wicked hear their dread sentence,”Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!” and with the terrible sound of their wailing, mixed with bitter cries of futile rage, are driven away into outer darkness forever. Silence reigns in the wake of the righteous judgment of God Almighty. The Redeemed are still creatures, and the awe upon their souls leaves them amazed and quiet for a season.
Suddenly, the saints hear a new sound, like the voice of many waters. They turn to the source of the sound. It is coming from their former abode! Instead of the blackness of ash and smoking ruin, the air is clear again. The oceans and continents are plainly visible. Green patches can be seen on the land, growing rapidly. Blue ribbons – streams? and – can it be? – pools of water appear! Hills rise to mountainous height and sink into basins as the whole is shaped by an invisible hand. The work is brought swiftly to completion, for God does not need six days to re-create the world. Birds once more are heard and seen to fly in the blue heaven, and living creatures of all kinds fill the earth and sea. The LORD, now finished with His work of judgment, gives a great laugh of profound joy, and cries ”Behold, I make all things new!” Suddenly, the saints find themselves descending in the company of their Lord and all His angels to a beautiful paradise, where they shall live forever in holy peace and blessedness. Thus the world ends; and yet begins again!
What Must we Do?
Dear friends, If you are not a Bible Christian, a true disciple of Jesus Christ, it is not yet too late. There is time to make peace with the God you have offended so many times by your sins. You need not be among the lost in that day. Indeed, you must not let that terrible day find you unprepared! Now is the time when you must begin to put your house in order. From this day forward, you must make the chief business of your life the salvation of your soul. You must stop pretending that religion is a matter for others – not for you. You must stop shunning good men, and break off your friendships with the foolish, the wicked, and careless sinners. You must begin to fear God and walk in all His ways as He gives you light from His word.
But more important than these outward things; you must from the heart repent and believe the gospel of salvation. Then you can be one of those glorious and joyful beings who live forever with Jesus; and you can look forward to the day of judgment without fear. Believe that Christ died in the place of sinners, bearing their sins so that they might be freed forever from all the guilt and the pollution and the power and the presence of sin, and so from the wrath of almighty God. Believe that the gospel is addressed to you and that God is in earnest when He calls you to receive the salvation that is in His Son. Turn from the works of darkness and shame that have not profited you, except to bring you into bondage to the devil and your own lusts! God will receive you, and give you a place among His sons and daughters! Only trust Him!
Do it now, before the impression this sermon has made upon you fades. Do not think you can go away and think about it for a while without sin. The Lord will not be “played”. It is the devil who says, “Later, later – at a more convenient time.” Jesus demands that you bow the knee to Him, acknowledge His rightful claims on your life, and render Him the allegiance and service that you owe – now! There is no reason to delay! Give Him your heart; for it is His by right. If you refuse, you only add fresh rebellion, and you will have no right to expect anything but judgment from Him in that Great Day. Heed the words of Scripture, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalms 2:12) Amen!
A Great Hymn on the Second Coming of Christ
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favored sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!
Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
See the day of God appear!
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!
By John Cennick