Albert N. Martin
Why do true believers who are in a healthy, spiritual state eagerly await, earnestly desire and love the return of Christ?
Do you see what I’ve done in that question? I’ve tried to incorporate the nuance of the three verbs, plus the use of love. We’re asking the question: why do true believers who are in a healthy spiritual state eagerly await, earnestly desire and love the return of Christ?
You see, the Second Coming of Christ will be that climactic, irreversible, ultimate and final defeat of the Devil and all of his followers and all the enemies of His Church. Any true believer in any kind of spiritual health who has tasted something of the beginnings of the triumphs of Christ longs for the final defeat of all of Christ’s enemies and the enemies of His Church. The Second Coming is in many places described in that very language.
Look with me now at just two or three specimen passages.
2 Thessalonians chapter 1. From the very beginning of their profession of the Christian faith, the Thessalonians have suffered great opposition. Paul is writing this second letter to comfort and encourage them, to straighten out some skewed thinking about the return of Christ. Notice what he says in verse 7 of chapter 1.
“And to you that are afflicted rest with us [when, where, with respect to what?] at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from Heaven.” You who are afflicted, a period of rest is coming, and it will come at the revelation of the Lord Jesus, at His Second Coming. What is there in His Second Coming that’s going to bring rest? In the context, it’s rest from affliction.
“You that are afflicted, rest with us.”
“At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and the glory of his might, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed.”
At Christ’s Second Coming He says His own will marvel at Him and marvel at the changes that will be wrought in them! They are to take comfort from the knowledge that at that Coming, which is the manifestation of the glory of Christ brings the sons of God into the full possession of the glory appointed for them, it will be in flaming fire, to take vengeance.
God is a vengeful God. He says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay. Don’t you take vengeance, that’s not your prerogative. Leave it all to Me, for I will repay.” “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”
And these suffering saints at Thessalonica are to draw consolation when they conjure up in their minds what these words mean. The Lord, whose Coming will be the epitome of their own bliss and delight; the Heavenly Bridegroom comes to take His bride, to go off to the marriage supper of the Lamb. He says, “Picture your Lord coming.” How? “Coming from Heaven with the angels of His power.”
In the Book of Jude, Jude tells of Enoch prophesying, “The Lord comes with ten thousand of His holy owns.” Think of the entourage of the returning Lord! Numerous angelic hosts. When on earth people saw one angel they were always terrified. Nobody ever danced a jig when they saw an angel. God had to say, “Don’t be afraid.” There was something intimidating, someone, some being from that other world has intruded into my world. Imagine what it will be like with ten thousand of His holy ones, the entourage of the returning Christ!
He says, “You persecuted Christians, think of it. He will come.” How? “From Heaven, with the angels of His power.” In what context? “In flaming fire, rendering vengeance.” He’s going to come rendering vengeance, and His vengeance will be like a leaping, licking, aggressive, flaming fire! What’s it going to do? It’s going to consume everyone who knows not God and those who obey not the gospel.
What will be the result of that Coming with His angels, in power, in flaming fire, to take vengeance? It will not be the annihilation of His enemies, but Paul goes on to say in verse 9: “Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might.”
Some of you sit here, this morning, proud of the fact you don’t know God and you don’t obey the gospel. Every Lord’s Day when the Lord is preached and someone pleas with you to repent and flee to Christ, you put a notch in your rifle Sunday night saying, “I’ve made it through another Sunday and Jesus ain’t gettin me. No Jesus is going to get me! No gospel is going to intrude my life. No gospel’s going to tell me that I have no right to run my own life, to chose my own standards of right and wrong. No gospel is going to intrude in my life and make me a God-centered, Christ-centered, holiness-loving, obedient disciple of Christ. No way, Jose!” Every Lord’s Day you pride yourself you got through another Lord’s Day.
O my dear friend, I beg you this morning: take seriously this passage. You’ll meet Jesus in flaming fire, as a vengeful Christ if you don’t know God and you don’t obey the gospel. You say, “But I don’t disbelieve it.” Ah, ah. It says if you don’t obey the gospel there’s no neutrality. The gospel comes with its announcement of God’s provision for sinners in Christ, and the great indicatives, the declarations of what God has done suitable to any and every sinner, is followed by the great imperatives: repent and believe in the gospel.
You have no right to go on running your own life, loving your sin! What right do you have to do that? God didn’t make you to sin. He made you to glorify Him. You have no right to go on in impenitence! You have no right to go on in unbelief. Almighty God demands that you trust His Son. He demands that you cast yourself upon His Son. What right do you have to walk by Christ, ignoring Him, despising His grace? You have no right, and at Christ’s Coming God will give you what you deserve; He’ll take vengeance on you.
Some of you better tremble in your seats.
This is why the true people of God long for God’s return. This may help some of you. Several of you say, “Pastor, how can I long for Christ’s return when my own children and relatives are not saved? I want to yearn for His return, but I know that if He comes it will be curtains for them.” My friend, there will always be a tension. It would be inhuman not to feel that tension, but in that tension your yearning for the vindication of Christ and the destruction of His enemies better be greater than the natural yearning for the wellbeing of your children. If Christ can take vengeance on His enemies and not have a bad conscience, the more we are like Christ and enter into the sympathies of Christ there will be something more important than even the salvation of our loved ones. It is the vindication of the glory and the righteousness of God!
The true believer in a healthy, spiritual state longs for Christ’s return, because he knows that at His return all of Christ’s and the Church’s enemies will be ultimately, finally, irrevocably destroyed. If you have any question that this is a holy desire, I commend you one other passage from the Book of the Revelation, chapter 6.
Here in vision, John says in verse 9: And when he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held [these are martyrs] and they cried with a loud voice. Here they are, they’re perfected spirits in the presence of God, and they cry with a great voice saying: How long, O Master, the holy and the true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
There’s no answer of, “Shame on you wanting vengeance. You are perfected, glorified spirits. You’ve been raised above any thought of vengeance!” No. God likes what He hears, and God responds by doing this:
And there was given them to each one a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.
God says in essence: Wait a little longer, and I will. How long? Wait a little longer, and I will. If glorified spirits can long for Christ’s return, that all of Christ’s and His people’s enemies shall be destroyed, then a soul in a state of spiritual health here and now will know something of that yearning.
You see, we need to understand that when we become Christians we’re enrolled in the army of Christ, outfitted by the graces which are ours in union with Christ, and then we’re thrust into battle. There’s no bootcamp in the Lord’s army. You get enlisted, He equips you, and He says, “You’re out in the field.” There are no war maneuvers in God’s army.
You read Ephesians 6:10 and following: Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Why? You’ve got to take unto you the whole armor of God. Why? For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but principalities and powers.
He didn’t say some of us! We all do. To embrace Christ is to be conscripted in this cosmic warfare; on the side of the seed and the woman, against the serpent and the seed of the serpent.
We bless God that we know our labor and our warfare is not in vain!
Bible References: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelation 6:9-11; Ephesians 1:10-13