The 81 year old preacher covered his face with his right hand with his fingers widely spread and with eyes wide open he peered through the gaps in his fingers. As he did so he began his sermon with the words, “Coming ready or not!” Did it mean that he was having a SCS episode (Second Childhood Syndrome episode? My definition!) Or was he practising for the arrival of his grandchildren so he could be more adept at playing “Hide And Seek” with them? The answer came as he said that he was simply quoting what Jesus could say to us today. Jesus could say to us, “Coming ready or not!” because He is!
The first and second comings of Jesus
In this season of Advent we think of both the first and second comings of Jesus. (The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival”) At Advent we think of how Jesus came the first time about 2000 years ago as a baby at that first Christmas. We also think of how He will come at His second coming in majesty and power to establish His rule completely and unopposed on earth.
The preacher went on to use the 10 words that are often quoted in Communion services to sum up Jesus’ ministry, namely, “Christ Has Died! Christ Is Risen! Christ Will Come Again!” He went on to speak of the relevance those comings of Jesus have for us today. I was highly motivated to listen attentively to every word he said.
1). “CHRIST HAS DIED!” The First Coming Of Jesus
When did that first coming of Jesus take place? Paul gives us the answer in majestic language in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law.” At the time God chose, He sent Jesus into the world to redeem His people and to enable them to be adopted into the family of God.
Or perhaps a more well-known verse, often called “the gospel in a nutshell” might help us. John, possibly quoting the words of Jesus, wrote, John 3:16-18. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. He was born as a human, of a human mother so that he might live as a human for humans and eventually die as a human for humans. In doing so He made forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ available for all those who would trust in Him.
At His first coming
- He came in weakness to live as a human so that He might die as a human for humans, so that they might not perish eternally.
- He died so that they might be forgiven and become sons and daughters of God by trusting in Him.
But how can that become possible for you and me? Because He is alive today!
2). “CHRIST IS RISEN!” We Live In The Interval Before He Comes Again
Death could not hold Jesus and He rose from the dead on the 3rd day. He rose triumphant over sin and death and victor over the powers of darkness. He is alive in His world today.
He is present by His Spirit when His people gather in His name. Jesus promised, Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” He is present with us by His Spirit. He may be unseen but He is present. That is His promise.
SO WHAT! How does that affect me?
i). He comes to us individually. He invites us to open the door of our lives to Him.
In Rev 3:20 is the picture of the Risen Christ standing and knocking on the door of every human heart, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The meaning of this verse is brought out in the painting by Holman Hunt, called “The Light of the World.” The picture is of the Risen Christ standing at the door of the human heart. He is holding a lantern representing Him as the Light of the world. He is knocking at a door that is covered with vines. It has never been opened before. His painting shows that there is no handle on the outside of the door. It can only be opened from within. Jesus knocks. He does not charge in uninvited.
I mentioned in the sermon that Jesus is not like some big tough forward in Rugby League football who would knock you down to get the ball off you. I mentioned too that it was my fortune (or perhaps more accurately my misfortune) to play against some of the toughest players in Rugby League history. Men who are still recognised as being among the toughest ever. People like Noel Kelly, Gary Parcell and Dud Beattie who became front row partners in the Australian national team. (In 2009, the three were made Men of League Honourees for their contribution to Australian Rugby League.) Never once in my “crashing runs from the full-back position” (as the Queensland Times newspaper kindly put it) did they ask me if I minded giving them the ball so that they could score at the other end of the field. Never! Nil! Zero! Zilch! Not once in any game I played against them! They simply tried to splatter me over the turf in their efforts to dispossess me of the ball. (I think they misread the paper and thought they had to do the “crashing”, not me!) They succeeded! Often!
Jesus is not like that. He knocks and invites us to open the door of our lives to Him. He respects the free-will He has given us. Amazingly the most brilliant “self-made” people can refuse to open the door of their hearts to Him. Equally amazingly the most needy person with modest intelligence and modest means who needs help desperately can also refuse to open the door of their lives to Him. The terrifying truth is that no one in all of human history can open the door of our lives to Him. It is our privilege and our responsibility alone! None can dodge the God-given opportunities He gives us, but we can ignore them to our peril!
What is happening behind the scenes throughout the world is that Jesus as the Risen One is knocking on the door of millions of human hearts asking to come in. It is obvious that many are opening their lives to Him. It is also obvious that millions are refusing to accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. But as I have already said, “Jesus is coming ready or not!”
ii). He invites us to come to Him for help. When we do become the children of God life takes on a real meaning and is much more fulfilling. But we still live in a fallen world. Life can be tough because people are not perfect and we can go through the same difficult times that others do. But the Risen Jesus wants to help us. He gave this invitation to those who were finding life difficult, Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The Risen Jesus wants to unite us to Himself, to be yoked together with Him so that He can lead us and direct us on the paths God has for us as individuals. He offers to take the burdens we carry so that we can cope with His help. His yoke is easy because it is so well-fitting. It is designed especially for us. The burden is light because He bears the heaviest loads for us.
3). “CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN!” the 2nd Coming
At His First Coming Jesus came in great humility as a vulnerable baby. Born to a humble mother. Born in a humble environment. Rode a humble animal into Jerusalem. Died a humble and shameful death. Given the choice the people chose a murderer instead of Jesus. When asked what should be done with Jesus, the people cried, “Crucify Him!” Abandoned by most. But loved by a few.
At His Second Coming, it will be entirely different! He will come in glorious majesty as the majestic King of Kings and Lord of Lords and every knee, without exception, will bow before Him at His glorious coming. This will not be a time for making decisions about Him. The time for that privilege will be over. He comes to declare His decision about us.
A). Why Will He Come The Second Time?
i). To take us as believers to be with Him forever.
Jesus saw the sadness of His disciples when He told them He was going to leave them. He gave them this promise before His death. John 14:1-6 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (4) And you know the way to where I am going.” (5) Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (6) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
At His Second Coming Jesus comes to gather together all those who believed He was and is The Way, The Truth and The Life and who have accepted Him as such. They will be with Him for ever in His Father’s house. Jesus has already “booked them in”. Our names are already on the doors of our rooms, even as our names as believers are already written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev 21:27). Together with Him in glory and in eternal joy and bliss, forever.
ii). To bring God’s rightful judgment on the world
Jesus comes to judge all the peoples of the world throughout all the ages. Paul preached in Acts 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Jesus the Son of God, Creator, Saviour, Lord and ultimately Judge of the whole world.
B). When Will He Come The Second Time?
When the last person in the world God knows is going to repent and believe, does so, then the end will come. Nothing and no one can stop it. It is inevitable. There were many sceptics in New Testament times as there are many sceptics today. Some scoff in words like these, “Where is the promise of His coming?” St Peter had the answer 2000 years ago. He wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise (about His second Coming) as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. The fact He hasn’t yet returned is a sign of His incredible patience, love, mercy and grace as He waits for that last person to repent and believe. He knows who it is and where and when it will be. We don’t! That’s why we have to be ready because He is coming whether we are ready or not!
C). What will happen when He comes?
Some folk may wonder whether the event will be on free to air TV or whether they may have to get Pay Television to get the coverage. The reality is that it will be simulcast, not on tiny TV screens but on a worldwide global stage so that “every eye will see Him ” (Rev 1:7-8, “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Peter continued his graphic description in 2 Peter 3:10-13, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” 11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
When He comes in majesty there will be no more corruption and deceit. No more sin. No more sickness or suffering or death. No more wrinkles or arthritis. No more weaknesses for the people of God. But there will be NO more opportunities to receive Him as Saviour and Lord.
THE CHOICE WE FACE
Jesus said, “Coming ready or not!” Are you ready? Have you accepted His invitation in Rev 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Or is He still standing there, knocking?
Way back in 1958 I was faced with a dilemma as I physically stood on the boundary between 2 states in Boundary Street, Coolangatta on the Qld- NSW border. I had come to realise that as the words of our Trilogy put it, “Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again!” But how could I get right with God? How could I get that Jesus to come into my life? I realised that I was standing on a spiritual border as well. I was standing on the border of remaining outside the kingdom of God, apart from Christ or I could take the step of faith and open the door of my heart to Jesus. I had been reading some booklets by the Rev John Stott, a Chaplain to the Queen and the Rector of All Souls Langham Place in London. In them he suggested that we need to pray to God using an ABCD plan. Simply put it meant, A= I had to Admit I was a sinner in the sight of God. B = I had to Believe that Jesus had died on the cross for me to take away my sins. C = I had to Consider the cost of becoming a Christian, knowing that my salvation was free to me in Him but very costly to Jesus. D = I had to Do something and that was in prayer to open the door of my heart and ask Jesus in.
Just before midnight I knelt beside my bed in the holiday flat I was in (Lincoln Flats, unfortunately no longer there as a memorial) and prayed the ABCD prayer inviting Jesus to come into my life to be my Saviour and my Lord and Master. As I finished the prayer the bells tolled, the horns honked, there were screams of delight and joy outside in the streets, because …..the New Year had come in! I realised later that on that night there had been great joy among the angels in heaven, because a lost sinner (me) had come home! I had taken a step of faith over the boundary into a new state (of being in Christ, belonging to the Kingdom of God ) and life began!
This Christmas season, I pray that you might open the door of your heart to receive the greatest present God could ever offer, the gift of His Son and receive in Him the gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3) and everything you need to live for Him, 2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.“ And what are those precious and very great promises? Paul tells us they are ours now in Christ, 2 Cor 1:20 “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
Jesus has promised, “Coming ready or not!” My prayer is that you, your friends and your family will be ready!
Blog No. 202. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Friday 23rd December 2016