Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Signs of Christ's Second Coming

By Norman R. Gulley

Iwish you had been there. Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists crowded into the train station, waiting for the Metro to take them to the Georgia Dome. They sang, “We Have This Hope,” while others wondered about this joyous celebration. It was the final Sabbath of the General Conference session in July 2010. What a joy to be a Seventh-day Adventist! What a blessed hope we have!

The Signs of Christ’s Coming
Christ spoke about His return. You know His signs sermon, don’t you (Matt. 24; 25)? Did you notice the disciples’ question, “What will be the sign [singular] of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)? Christ answered, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (verse 4), and went on to mention several signs. Was Christ ignoring their question? Or did He have a deeper burden beyond signs, even though signs are important? Finally, Christ pointed to His coming in the clouds as “the sign” (verse 30).

Christ spoke about false christs and prophets who will deceive (verses 5, 11, 24). But His ultimate concern was the preeminent false christ (Satan): “If they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (verse 26), for my coming will be like lightning flashing across the sky (verse 27; cf. 1 Thess. 4:16-18). “Don’t be deceived by Satan impersonating Me” was His warning (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14). “Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures and who have received the love of the truth will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive.”1

Seond Coming of Christ

The second coming of Christ is the blessed hope of the church, the grand climax of the gospel. The Savior’s coming will be literal, personal, visible, and worldwide. When He returns, the righteous dead will be resurrected, and together with the righteous living will be glorified and taken to heaven, but the unrighteous will die. The almost complete fulfillment of most lines of prophecy, together with the present condition of the world, indicates that Christ’s coming is imminent. The time of that event has not been revealed, and we are therefore exhorted to be ready at all times. (Titus 2:13; Heb. 9:28; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; Matt. 24:14; Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:43, 44; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Cor. 15:51-54; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; 2:8; Rev. 14:14-20; 19:11-21; Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 1 Thess. 5:1-6.)A Needy Church
Christ said that many end-time people would be cold (Matt. 24:12). That’s the culture surrounding the church. How about the church? Christ said His church thinks it needs nothing when it really needs everything—for Christ is kept outside (Rev. 3:14-22). Christ knew that some in the church would love pleasure more than God, “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Christ then told the parable of the 10 virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). All 10 virgins fell asleep. The foolish virgins were like the others, except they lacked oil (verses 1-5, 8). Christ once said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). Christ wants His church to be filled, not satisfied with a little oil when they could have so much. Christ knew that sleeping virgins needed a revival and a reformation.

Christ said that people in Noah’s days were surprised when the Flood came and they were outside the ark. He said His second coming would be a surprise like that (Matt. 24:38, 39). It would be like the coming of a thief, “at an hour you do not expect” (verse 44). “Wait a minute,” says one. “Wouldn’t we expect Christ’s coming after an international Sunday law, international death decree, and the seven last plagues? How could we be taken by surprise? “Important question,” comes the reply. “It’s not about signs, but about oil.” The 10 virgins know about these end-time signs, but five of them lacked sufficient oil. These went to buy oil, evidently got some, tried to gain entrance, but Christ said, “I do not know you” (Matt. 25:12). They must have had counterfeit oil (Matt. 7:21-23).

The Other Second Advent
Did you know there are two second advents? Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s. The Spirit’s first advent, or former rain, was at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-39); and the second advent, or latter rain, is in the end-time (Joel 2:28-31). Consider the first advent of Christ. Was the Jewish nation ready for Him? No. Did He come according to their expectations? No. They looked for a Messiah to conquer the hated Romans and give them national freedom. They overlooked the quieter coming of Christ to save humans through His death. Just so today, our church looks forward to the conquering King of kings to liberate them from a hostile world (cf. Rev. 19:14-21; 13:1-8, 11-17); but some overlook the quieter coming of the latter rain to save them (through sealing them).

A global divine decree goes forth, “Hold back winds of strife so My people can be sealed” (see Rev. 7:1-4). The sealing is “a settling into the truth, both intellectually [know the truth] and spiritually [love the truth], so they cannot be moved.”2 The latter rain seals us so we will remain true to Christ, come what may. This is God’s insurance policy that nothing in the end-time will deceive us. The bottom line is this: If we are not ready for the second coming of the latter rain we will not be ready for the second coming of Christ. The good news is this: if we are ready for the second coming of the Holy Spirit, we will be ready for the second coming of Christ. Guaranteed!

Here Comes the Big One
There’s no sign to warn us that the latter rain is coming. Those who wait for the latter rain to get them ready will be too late.3 The latter rain doesn’t come to prepare us. That’s the work of the former rain. The latter rain comes to seal us. We must be ready now—before He comes! His coming is the next event. Christ knows that some will abandon their faith and give heed to spirits of demons (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1; get false oil), that some will resist the latter rain, because He does not come according to their expectations (similar to Christ’s first coming, when He was resisted and crucified).4 What an utter tragedy to resist the very power that guarantees a secure passage through end-time events. It doesn’t get any worse than that! To be unready for the coming of the latter rain is to experience the thief in the night.

Now is the crucial time in final events. I am praying to God for a deeper infilling of the Holy Spirit, to be ready, to be sealed, to give myself wholly every day to Christ and His will, to be totally dependent on Him. I long to receive the fullness of the latter rain, the holy oil, the sealing Spirit. This is my urgent need, and it is our urgent need. Let’s seek God now and be ready for the other second advent. Then we will be ready for Christ’s second coming.

1 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 625.
2 Ellen G. White, Manuscript 173, 1902 in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, vol. 4, p. 1161.
3 Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 71.
4 Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, pp. 209, 210.

Norman R. Gulley is a research professor of systematic theology at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee, U.S.A. He is the author of numerous books, including Christ Is Coming! (1998).

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1 comment:

Jon Watson said...

Gulley's Systematic Theology is now available at Logos Bible Software. Check it out, it's available for pre-order at a great discount.