Jesus is coming back to this earth. Everyone who truly believes in Jesus believes that He will return to this earth. Some people have been talking about it for centuries - but not many. The discussion of the end of the world began in earnest in the years leading up to and the years after World War I. Prior to that time, many believed that the preaching of the Gospel was going to bring about a "Golden Age" on the earth; a time of peace and prosperity among the nations of the world, where most people, or at least a majority, would be Christians, and there would be a rise in morality and righteous living. The Gospel would transform the world!
World War I caused many to begin to lose hope that such a worldwide transformation would take place, and World War II reduced the optimism of more who had hoped that Christianity and godly living would produce "heaven on earth." If people had studied the Scriptures more thoroughly, they would have realized that God did not promise such an earthly utopia where everybody loved each other and the great majority would become disciples of Jesus. The Bible predicts that there will be wars and rumors of wars until the end, and that many will leave "the faith" and turn away from Christ. Jesus even asks the question, "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
Jesus is coming back to earth to bring judgment on those who do not believe, and to gather His people from the corners of the earth. He will raise the dead and all who have believed in Him throughout the history of the human race will be taken up ("raptured") to meet Him in the air, to go with Him into heaven as God pours out His wrath upon the earth and those still living upon it. In the coming weeks, and perhaps months, I will be sharing some of what God says about these days that are coming on our world. Why? Because only by considering these things, by understanding what the Bible says about them, by believing God's promises and knowing His plan can you live in this world with hope and live for the right reason: to glorify God and to spread the good news that in spite of what is going on in the world, "our God reigns!"
If you are to find hope and if you are to share it with others, you need to know that Jesus is coming back to earth, but you also need to know that He is NOT coming back TODAY! Jesus said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" (Matthew 24:36). I don't know exactly what day Jesus is going to return. God does not want people making specific predictions about when Jesus is going to return ... yet. The time will come when it will be obvious to those who are believers, who are alive on the earth, that the return of Jesus is imminent ... that it is a matter of days or weeks or months. Those who believe will be able to know, not because of some feeling or because they have received a special message from the Spirit of God - except that which the Spirit has already revealed in God's Word, the Bible.
Many people know a few verses from the Bible and like to quote the verses they know. This makes other people think they know what they are talking about. But all too often people quote verses out of context and therefore say things the Bible never says. They distort and twist the Scriptures, "to their own destruction" (II Peter 3:16). Two of these verses are I Thessalonians 5:2-3. You have probably heard these verses quoted before. They say: "... you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape."
There you have it, some would say ... Jesus will come like a thief in the night and nobody knows the day or the hour. But listen to the very next verse, I Thessalonians 5:4: "BUT YOU, BROTHERS, are NOT in darkness so that this day should surpass YOU like a thief." Those who believe are no longer living in spiritual darkness. By the Spirit of God we can understand all that God has revealed to us in His Word. God calls us to be students of His Word so that we can know the truth that sets us free from fear and anxiety, as well as from the temptations facing all of us to get caught up in pursuing the things of this world rather than the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33; I John 2:15-17). Paul then goes on in verses 5-11 to explain the benefit of thinking about these things and KNOWING what the Word of God says about the events leading up to the return of Jesus, as well as His coming. That's where we'll begin tomorrow.