Today, in our study of The Apostles' Creed, I would like to talk more about "The Return of the King". By that phrase I mean not the book by J. R. R. Tolkien, though that book gives a picture of what we are going to talk about. No, the return I refer to is the return of King Jesus.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul outlines what will take place when Jesus, the King, returns to earth. First, there is the return itself. "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God..."
This verse makes clear that Jesus' return will be personal, visible, and physical. Remember what the angels said at Jesus' ascension? "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)
This means that just as Jesus went physically into heaven, and was seen by his disciples going into the sky, so he will come back physically to the earth. Revelation 1:7 says, "...every eye will see him..."
How the Lord is going to accomplish this, I do not know. No one knows. Perhaps it will be a worldwide televised event. That would make it possible for every eye to see him at one time. How the Lord will accomplish this is not important. What is important is that Jesus is going to return.
Dr. Louis Talbot once wrote,
When I left Australia years ago, I said, "Mother, don't cry, I'll come back." For years she waited. Had anyone asked, "Mrs. Talbot, what are you waiting for?" she would have said, "My son in America is coming back." And suppose this person would have asked, "What do you mean? Surely you don't expect a personal, visible, actual coming! You get letters from him and receive gifts, perhaps that's what he meant--he would be coming back to you in all these things." My mother would have answered immediately, "Why, that isn't true at all. He promised HE WOULD COME BACK--AND HE WILL!" And she would have been right, for years afterward I did cross the ocean again and with joy took her in my arms, saying, "Mother, here I am, just as I promised!"Many people today doubt the physical return of Jesus just as they doubt the physical resurrection and ascension of Christ. They say that Christ comes again in the giving of his Spirit, or in the conversion of unbelievers, or in the fellowship of believers, or at the death of believers when Christ takes them, spiritually, to heaven. There is a certain sense in which each of these statements is true. Jesus does come to us in all these ways. However, that is not what the New Testament means in all of its references to the Second Coming of Christ, nor is it what the Church has taught for centuries. The New Testament affirms throughout that Jesus will come back physically to the earth.
Paul says that the Lord will come with a loud command. What is this command? I think it will be the command for the dead to rise, for their souls to be united to their new, resurrection bodies. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead we read that Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" (John 11:43) Can you imagine what an exciting command that will be to hear when Jesus returns?
Paul also tells us that there will be the voice of the archangel. No doubt this archangel, whoever he is, will have many commands to shout to his fellow angels and to human beings, getting everyone ready at Jesus' return. It is going to be a massive operation, far larger than the landing of the troops at Normandy on D-Day.
Furthermore, there will be the trumpet call of God. We read in the Hebrew Scriptures of trumpets sounding as an announcement of God coming to meet with his people. How appropriate that there will be a trumpet sounded on the day when Jesus returns to meet with his people!
Tomorrow we will look at what will happen immediately after Jesus' exciting return--the return of the king....