"The coming of the Lord is at hand"

(James 5:8)

Jesus promised to return.

Knowing that His time on earth was drawing to a close, Jesus warned His followers that He would be leaving. But He also promised to come again. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:1-3).

Jesus knew His followers would be sad when He left. Thus He wanted to comfort them by making the purpose of His departure known. He was going to make preparations in that heavenly homeland sought by the faithful of every age (Hebrews 11:13-16; compare with 1 Chronicles 29:15; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11).

This earth is not our home. We are strangers and pilgrims. Preparations are being made elsewhere. When all is ready, Jesus will come again and we will be with Him for ever. This promise is the foundation of the Christian's hope for the future.

As Jesus predicted, He was killed. His followers, who had not sufficiently understood or believed His statements about the resurrection, were downcast and in despair. But after three days He rose from the grave and proved once more that He was the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Their joy returned! But He immediately warned them that He had to go to the Father. He said to Mary, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God'” (John 20:17).

After He appeared to them during forty days, speaking about God's kingdom (Acts 1:3) and explaining the Scriptures (Luke 24:27,45), He went to the Father: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'” (Acts 1:9-11).

Jesus repeated this promise in Revelation: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11); “He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). And John gives the reply of all believers: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). This was the prayer of early Christians. They sometimes used the Hebrew words spelled with Greek letters, MARANA THA, “O Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22).

Through the intervening ages Christians have been waiting and longing for the return of Christ: "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5:7, 8).

The Lord's coming has been impending for almost two-thousand years. When James said the coming of the Lord was at hand, he meant that Jesus could come at any moment. “The judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).

The first coming of Christ changed the world. We date our calendars from His birth. He has influenced the world for good more than anyone else. The purpose of His first coming was to save not to judge. Jesus said: “If anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:47, 48).

When Jesus comes again, the world will be judged on the basis of the teaching Jesus gave the world the first time He came. Paul told the men of Athens: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He

has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, 31).

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

At His first coming, Jesus came to serve as a sacrifice for sin. At His second coming He will perfect the salvation of the faithful. “He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:26-28).

When Christians partake of the Lord's supper they remember the sacrifice of Christ and look forward to His second coming, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Glorious and frightful things will occur when the Lord returns. The faithful will be soothed and the disobedient punished, "since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed" (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

"Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen" (Revelation 1:7). The lawless one will be consumed by the breath of His mouth and destroyed by the brightness of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

The dead in Christ, and the living believers will be united with Him at His coming: "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

"But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

It is crucial that we belong to Christ and abide in Him so we can face His coming without fear. "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28).

Do we belong to Christ? Are we ready? "The coming of the Lord is at hand" (James 5:8).

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive