Matthew 24:36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
Why is it important that we look for the return of Christ? The promise Jesus made to return is a promise that has resonated in His people for the past 2000 years. The disciples thought He was going to return soon after He left and throughout the ages people have hoped for the day when Jesus restores the Heavens and the Earth to their intended form.
Acts 1:11 “And said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
When Jesus ascended back into Heaven, the ascension was for the most part a private affair. As the disciples witnessed Jesus ascending into Heaven, the promise was made of His eventual return.
Jesus talked frequently about future events, He was not only warning His disciples, He was leaving a legacy for disciples yet to come.
John 14:1-4 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 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? 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. And you know the way to where I am going.”
The hope for a future with God was prepared by Jesus himself. The path was not left to chance nor were His disciples left to question the way…the way was illuminated for all who believe.
Since Jesus made it clear that the way was known, how can we make it clear for others who wish to follow?
Traveling Along “The Way“
The “way” is described in greek as “hodos”, which is a journey or path. The path is descriptive of a prepared course that is evident for all who wish to follow. For the travelers who desire the true God, the course has been described in some detail. For those who desire to follow this pathway, it must first be understood that this isn’t a literal path to discover. It doesn’t lead to a mountain top experience or to a wise sage waiting to offer up some worldly wisdom. The way Jesus described is spiritual in nature and discerned only by those who are spiritually discerning.
1 Corinthians 2:7-9 “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
There are those who have discovered where the path begins, then after considering the sacrifice needed to follow, turned aside and went their own way.
2 Peter 2:21 “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
The way is not meant to be easy, it requires sacrifice. Jesus made it very clear how much sacrifice was needed.
Luke 9:23 “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
For those who give all they have to follow, the return exceeds the sacrifice by an untold margin.
Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Descriptives of the Way
What should people look for when considering the correct path to follow? If they start following a particular path, how do they know they are on the correct one?
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
*The gate by which to enter is narrow. In other words, the path to righteousness has very distinct parameters by which to enter. This thought is very contrary to many false religions today. The prospect of many roads leading to God is doled out by a multitude of false teachers in hopes to give people more freedom in how they choose to live their lives. Jesus made it very clear there is only one way.
*The pathway is difficult. If you begin down a path and realize it is full of the worlds luxuries, if the world is cheering you on and supportive of your path, you might want to rethink the course you are on…it leads to death. The way of the Lord is difficult because it requires much sacrifice. Righteousness is contrary to the world, it requires discipline, a relinquishing of pride with a love for God and for others. The path requires humility and an acceptance of God’s authority as the pattern for living.
*God calls His people to come. For anyone to begin the journey along God’s way, they must first be called. John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” God’s call is distinct and He makes it very clear. When the lost are drawn to the Lord, they must consider few things…what they have, what they will lose, and what they gain by following.
*God leads those along His way. For those who have followed His call, the Lord guides those along His path. Proverbs 4:11 “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.” The pilgrim who has chosen the way of wisdom is kept by the power of God. The good Shepherd protects and leads with His staff and goes out of His way to find that lost sheep that stray from the fold.
*Jesus is waiting at the end. For those who heard the call and responded, the path may be difficult but Jesus takes a first hand role in keeping His people until the end. John 6:39 “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” Since the Shepherd guides His sheep and leads them to safety, He also has promised to prepare Heaven for His chosen flock.
Since the way is set and the destination made ready, how then do people find this way?
Finding the Way
John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The way to life is found only in Christ. The gate is narrow because the gate is found only by committing your life to Christ. There are not several paths to find God, there is one way to the Father and that is found in those who give their lives back to Him.
John 6:40 “For it is My Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
When Jesus returns for His people, He will first arrive with those who have died and dwell with Him in Heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 “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.”
Those in Christ who have died are now awaiting the culmination of the church age. The spirits of the saints of God dwell in Heaven with the Lord and will first be honored by the Lord, we who remain will be caught up with them in the air to be glorified alongside them.
The rapture of the Church will be the precursor to a time of great tribulation upon the earth. The glorious appearing of Christ in the heavens will come first. For those who remain there will be a 7 year period of tribulation. Many will turn to the Lord during this time of great trial and they will be killed for their faith.
Revelation 7:13-14 “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
For those who trusted in Christ alone, they will pay with their lives but they will gain eternity with Christ as a reward.
At the end of the 7 years of tribulation, the second coming of Christ will then occur. Jesus will bring peace upon the land for a thousand years and the millenial reign of Christ will mirror the 7th day of rest God demonstrated during Creation. For 6000 years the earth has been roiling in the curse of man’s sin, at the end of 7000 years all things will be made new.
Isaiah 65:17-19 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create;
For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,
And her people a joy.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
And joy in My people;
The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,
Nor the voice of crying.”
The future for those who have found the way is bright. For those who want to live forever, that life is found only in Christ. You cannot take anything with you, nothing of this world will remain that isn’t sanctified and made holy by the Lord. Your own flesh is corrupted and must be made new.
The decision to follow the Lord is not easy for those who embrace this world. You’ve got to count the cost—is it worth it to lose what you have now to gain what is to come?
This is the question we all must answer for ourselves.