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Bible verses about Jesus Christ's Return
(From Forerunner Commentary)

The six parables of the Olivet Prophecy can be summarized in the following six principles:

  1. Though not knowing the day or hour of Christ's return, we can know the signs.
  2. God requires us to live in expectation with vigilance and constant watchfulness.
  3. God requires faithfulness to duty and wisdom in dealing with our fellow man.
  4. God requires preparedness through spiritual development, working on our relationship with Him, and increasing the Holy Spirit.
  5. God requires us to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
  6. Christ will judge us by how we treat Him and our brethren. We cannot fool the King—He can discern true love from false love. Nobody will pass under the rod through hypocrisy.

Jesus understood what the end time would be like, and thus He gave commensurate instruction on how to overcome it and how not to be drawn into this world's distractions. A Christian cannot afford to succumb to these pressure-packed, enervating, and distracting times that we live in. These God-given principles apply to a multitude of specific circumstances: how we conduct our marriages and careers, how we rear our children, how we run our homes, how we drive a car, how we dress, how we talk, how we entertain ourselves. In every case—always—the Kingdom of God covers all parts of our lives. It covers everything all the time for those who are called in this age.

We look to the future, but we live in the present. Are we living by what we believe? Are we truly living by faith? We look for a city whose builder is God, and as His representatives we witness for Him in the way we live our lives. The Laodicean is distracted—he is living by what he sees—and is useless to Christ because he is not a faithful and true witness. The righteous live by faith not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). And so we must live and grow as the return of Christ nears day by day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Simply stated, the Feast of Trumpets is one of God's feast days. It is the fourth of the seven annual holy days, and it is the first of the fall holy days.

A glance at most calendars will show that it is, in fact, a day that is still observed by the Jews. They call it Rosh Hashanah which means "Head of the Year" or "First of the Year." This is because it falls on the first day of the seventh month of God's sacred calendar.

But the Feast of Trumpets is a very special feast day. In many ways, it is a pivotal day.

In our hymnal's version of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," we sing, "In the beauty of the autumn Christ was born across the sea." This is because there is some evidence that the human Jesus may have been born on or very near the Feast of Trumpets. Also, Bible symbolism and prophecy indicate that He may well return to this earth on the Feast of Trumpets in some future year.

This feast symbolizes a vast turning point in world history. It pictures the pivotal changeover between the age of man, of darkness, and of Satan to the age of God, the World Tomorrow, the Millennium, and the Kingdom of God.

But what do trumpets have to do with all this? What is their significance?

The answer to this question is that many scriptures tell us that trumpet blasts will accompany the major, tumultuous events of the end times, the return of Jesus Christ, and the resurrection of the dead. Here are just a few of those scriptures:

» And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:31)

» . . . in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52; see I Thessalonians 4:16)

» So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound. The first angel sounded. . . . Then the second angel sounded. . . . Then the third angel sounded. . . . Then the fourth angel sounded. . . . Then the fifth angel sounded. . . . Then the sixth angel sounded. . . . Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Revelation 8:6-8, 10, 12; 9:1, 13; 11:15)

Staff
What Is the Feast of Trumpets, Anyway?


 

Genesis 20:7

The first person who is named a prophet is Abraham. This occurrs when Abimelech is being instructed by God regarding Sarah, that he is to return her to Abraham.

However, Abraham is chronologically not the first person the Bible shows prophesying. That would be Enoch. It does not report on this until the book of Jude: "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints'" (Jude 1:14). Here Enoch, before the Flood, prophesies of the return of Jesus Christ with the saints.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 

Psalm 110:1-7

Even the Psalms describe the awesome might of Christ's return, showing that it is one of war and vengeance with great wrath. He is coming with power to set things straight.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Shock and Awe - and Speed


 

Isaiah 40:1-10

This may also be part of the message of the Two Witnesses. They will preach comfort to Jerusalem—that the end is about to come, that she's been repaid for her sins, but a time is coming that will be far better for her. They will also prepare the way of the Lord, an obvious aspect of their ministry. In addition, they will proclaim that the Day of the Lord is coming, a time when all flesh is grass—when many will be simply wiped out for their sins. They will also preach a message to the church, leading its part in bringing good tidings of the coming Kingdom of God and giving them encouragement to do it with strength and boldness in Judah (evidently where most of them are at this late date). Finally, of course, they will boldly announce the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His government.

This passage, in a way, encapsulates the witness or the testimony of the Two Witnesses—to the world and to the church. Theirs will be true evidence that brings a conviction. One could say that the Two Witnesses are the two star witnesses of an end-time trial in which God judges that the world must be punished, that He must send His Son back, and that His must rule mankind. The Two Witnesses will give their evidence, and God will pass judgment.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 3)


 

Isaiah 40:10

When Jesus triumphantly returns to the earth, He will establish the Kingdom of God to rule over the people of the world. At that time, His faithful disciples will receive their reward. Notice that He comes to do a work—to gather, feed, and shepherd a flock (verse 11). The reward of the saved is linked to His future work on earth.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: The Reward of the Saved


 

Daniel 7:1-7

This is a further explanation of the world-ruling empires, showing national characteristics, but this time designed into animals of the same four kingdoms that appear in Daniel 2. Instead of being metals—gold, silver, brass, iron—now we have animals, indicating national characteristics of those four kingdoms, symbolized by the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the beast that was diverse from all the others.

The important thing to note here is that this illustration in Daniel 7 is a parallel of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2. This illustration in Daniel 7 confirms that the legs of iron of the Daniel 2 image and the fourth beast of Daniel 7 both exist at Christ's return, fight against Him, and are defeated. So even as the feet and toes of the Daniel 2 image will be at the time of the end, so will this diverse beast. They are one and the same.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)


 

Amos 6:3

The prophet pronounces God's judgment. Notice the many parallels to Babylon and Laodicea. Also notice what Jesus says in a parable concerning the time just before His return: "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards . . ." (Matthew 24:48-49). Amos and Christ speak about the same sequence of events. The attitude of putting off the day of Christ's return promotes violence and injustice toward one's fellow man. Appeasement, a "strength" of the Laodicean, virtually guarantees violence and war, as happened in the years leading to World War II.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Micah 4:1-2

This passage shows that Jesus Christ will dwell on earth in Jerusalem, accessible to physical people and nations—not in heaven!

Staff
Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?


 

Micah 5:2

He is prophesying of the birthplace of the Messiah. He makes it clear that it will be in Bethlehem of Judea, the place of David's birth as well. But when did He reveal the precise location of where a person could find Him? Not until He had an angel lead the Magi right to the house where the Messiah was at the time they arrived there. It came at the last moment. Will the timing of His second coming be similar?

We all know that He is coming. We all know that He will circle the earth when He comes, that He will come with a great horde of angels, but when precisely will He arrive? When will God reveal the exact moment? It looks as if it will be right at the end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Habakkuk 1:5-7

This prophecy concerns the economic, political, and military machinations that will occur as the end approaches, but these maneuvers end with the return of Christ. Many parallel prophecies are fulfilled during the same period, for instance, the appearance of the Two Witnesses and their work. Even God declares that what He is going to bring to pass will be astounding, partly because it runs counter to what most believe could happen. Nonetheless, God will have His Two Witnesses expounding upon these prophecies and warning all who are willing to listen that a new world order is being ushered in through the tumultuous, worldwide events of the end-time "Axial Period."

It will not be the "New World Order" of human dreams, but Christ will return and continue to develop this new, God-devised revolution. The Babylonian image, which has governed and influenced the world since the sixth century BC, will be smashed on its feet, but the entire system will fragment into millions of pieces and be blown away into the dustbin of history, replaced by the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Habakkuk 1:5

Secular historians believe that what happened in the sixth century BC is marvelous almost beyond belief. Events of that magnitude do not happen that swifty in such a short period of time. We have seen evidence, however, in God's Word of what happened and why it happened that way. God Himself did it to bring about a radical change in the history of man. Since God did it, it was part of His purpose.

In Habakkuk, He is speaking about a work He will do that is so amazing that "If I told you, Habakkuk, what I am going to do, you would not believe it." What is that amazing work? God is going to turn the world upside down again, only this time He will replace the nations with the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)


 

Matthew 8:32

There is great power in the Word of God (Proverbs 30:5). It can transform a person dramatically (Luke 4:4), working mightily in those who have faith in Christ (I Thessalonians 2:13). No one could have as big a problem as these men possessed by a legion of demons. Nevertheless, it took only a few words from Jesus to deliver them. In Luke 4:35-36 is another example of Jesus using the power of God's Word to exorcise demons:

But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, "What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out."

The world tried many ways to restrain and control the two demon-possessed men in Gadara, but the only effective solution was God's power through Christ. Man's idea was to start on the outside with chains and other bonds, but Jesus began on the inside with the Word of God, which is not chained (II Timothy 2:9). Using their various "programs" to deal with evil, people only treat the symptoms. The best they can do is whitewash the outside. Christ corrects the problem at the source. So Christ is the solution, the remedy for the sin. He cleans out the inside, which is the best way to correct the problem on the outside.

When we study and accept the Word of God, we draw closer to the One who can give us access to the knowledge and power to conquer our spiritual enemy. Hebrews 4:12-13 reads:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

The day of accountability is coming—at Christ's return with power and authority—when all people, as well as Satan and all his demons, will be forced to submit to the Word of God (Revelation 19:11-16).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Two-Demon Possessed Men Healed (Part Two)


 

Matthew 24:32-44

There are quite a number of interesting things to consider in Jesus' instructions here. First, this is not instruction given generally to the public, but rather it was directly to His disciples. Second, He says that we should know from the signs given that His return is near. Our predictions may not be specifically accurate, but at least in the ballpark—near. Third, He emphasizes the element of surprise, even terrifying surprise. The impression is that the world will be taken completely by surprise. Fourth, the overall point of this instruction is that by being alert to the signs and taking advantage of them, we should be ready. The fifth is a final warning in verse 44, because He feared that even the attention, the alertness of His disciples, would be threatened: "Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes."

Are we getting anxious about Christ's return? I do not mean anxious in a sense of being fearful, but anxious in terms of seeing it come to pass. First, because things are getting so bad one wonders at times whether it can get much worse, and yet we know that it can. Second, as a result of the pressures of enduring life, there is some measure of concerned anxiety because the end seems to be taking so long to come to pass. We are undoubtedly in "the time of the end," but at the same time we feel that we have been on the gun lap a very long time.

Part of our anticipation exists because we have had it drilled in our minds to watch for certain events to happen. Sometimes it looks as though those events indeed are coming to pass, and right now some of the more important events we had drilled into our minds just are not happening in a clearly visible way. If they are, they are being worked out in a way that we are not prepared for, and therefore probably do not see.

Jesus meant this admonition in the sense of a soldier on guard duty, alert to what is going on around him, and so watch we do! But what if our point of view—the perspective we are looking from—is not correct? We might be alert, diligently and sincerely looking in that direction, but at best, we are only getting a part of the picture. We might be likened to a soldier on guard duty who is alert, but looking in the wrong direction, and so the enemy sneaks up from a blind spot and surprises him, despite him looking intensely in a particular direction.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)


 

Matthew 24:36

In plain words, the specific date of His return is simply not going to be known to us. And that means any day, including the Feast of Trumpets, which most people use as their end-point of their calculations as to when Christ will return. So any date that anybody chooses is simply going to be a speculation.

Many, many people have attempted to determine when Christ will return anyway. At the very least, this shows a strong measure of skepticism, and perhaps, for some, it might even be outright disbelief by those who are doing the searching. It is almost as if Jesus is not taken seriously, but the truth is He was serious about what He said.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Matthew 24:36-39

No matter who or what a man is—he is never actually going to know when the return of Jesus Christ will occur. Nobody will know until it happens. So why waste time trying to figure it out? Is it not flying in the face of what Jesus says here? He is warning us, "Don't fix your mind on this."

He is not saying, "Don't be aware of events that are happening." He is saying, "Don't get distracted into an exhaustive study that will get you nowhere." It is an illustration of the kind of thoughts our Lord and Master thinks. "Keep your mind focused on the most important things." The timing of His return is secondary. No one will ever figure it out, so why waste time trying to do something that will ultimately prove futile? We can watch the world news and see the events and trends that are occurring. We know we are on track. But we should make sure it does not get out of hand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 1): God and HWA


 

Matthew 24:36

Just a few verses later, He tells His disciples, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect" (verse 44, emphasis ours throughout). This is a massive hint that our understanding of biblical prophecy—as much as it has expanded over the last few decades—will still not be enough to remove the element of surprise from Christ's return!

Paul also warns us in I Corinthians 13:9, 12, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part. . . . For now we see in a mirror, dimly." This principle suggests that we will not know for certain how things will work out as the end approaches. We understand in part, meaning we have a vague-to-rough idea of the course of events because of our insight into God's plan, but we cannot honestly be dogmatic about any speculative scenarios we devise. Every interpretation of end-time biblical prophecy should be accompanied with a proviso such as, "This is how things seem to be headed from what we understand right now."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy's Place


 

Matthew 24:42-44

In essence, these verses are Christ's opening salvo on how to be prepared and how to use your time and energy when the evidence of His return begins to appear.

Although we definitely know that we are living in the time of the end, we do not know exactly when Christ will return. So we have to live in readiness every day. The theme of this brief parable is expectation. Knowing the general signs of His coming, we live expecting the unexpected.

He illustrates this by comparing His coming to that of a thief. We normally do not look for thieves. Understandably, thieves do not advertise their coming, but by taking precautions, we prepare against their coming. All of us lock our houses and hide our valuables in safe places. Some of us have installed security alarms and exterior lighting to discourage burglary.

In the same vein, Jesus urges His people to be vigilant, alert, wakeful, and constantly watchful because a thief's principal weapon is surprise. Even to those who are aware, His coming will occur with jarring suddenness—and more so to those who are distracted by ordinary occupations, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage." The teaching in this parable is that to live without vigilance is to invite disaster.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 24:45-51

The parable of the faithful and evil servants admonishes us to be faithful and wise in carrying out responsibilities and relationships with our fellow servants, our brothers in the body of Christ.

A faithful person is trustworthy, scrupulous, honest, upright, and truthful. Without specifically stating it, Christ is saying that we have to be keeping the first of the two great commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).

In this context "wise" means judicious, prudent, sensible, showing sound judgment. It suggests an understanding of people and situations, showing unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them. Just as Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:6 about being self-controlled, Christ's use of "wise" indicates an exercising of restraint, using sound, practical wisdom and discretion, and acting in good sense and godly rationality. In short, Christ means exercising love. He tells us that we should be faithful in keeping the second of the two great commandments: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).

Since this parable applies to everyone, Christ admonishes us to lead in a way that unites and inspires others to be faithful. We do this by giving them the truth, a good example, and encouragement. In this way, we become wise and faithful stewards of the trust God has given us.

In these verses, Christ strongly links belief with behavior in both examples. If we believe in His return, we will not live as we would like carnally. It is as simple as that. If we really believe He will return soon, this parable shows that our belief will regulate our lives, keeping us from extremes of conduct.

This faithful attitude is opposed to that of the scornful servant, who says his master delays His coming and beats his fellows. His conduct turns for the worse as he eats and drinks with the drunkards. From the description Christ provides, the evil servant's attitude is arrogant, violent, self-indulgent, gluttonous, and hypocritical. Because he believes he has plenty of time to square his relationship with God, his conduct becomes evil.

In summary, whoever is entrusted with duties must perform them faithfully, prepared at all times to account for what he has done. The key words in this parable are faithful, wise, and ready.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.

In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.

Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.

When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.

The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.

No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.

Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!

The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Luke 12:35-40

From this, we can see that expectant watchfulness is the normal posture of a Christian. Jesus wants us to be ready for His return at any time, and as servants, we are in no position to determine when to expect Him. He will come when He will come, and we must be prepared to welcome Him whenever that happens to be.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

Luke 17:20-37

The original question posed by the Pharisees was, "When is the Kingdom of God coming?" (verse 20). The long section from the end of verse 20 to verse 37 is Jesus' answer, first to the Pharisees (verses 20-21) and then to His disciples (verses 22-37). His reply to the Pharisees is rather curt: "You won't be able to discern the coming of the Kingdom because you haven't recognized that I am its chief representative, though I have been among you."

In His longer explanation to His disciples, Jesus goes into quite a bit more detail about the timing and conditions of establishing His Kingdom. First, He says, do not be deceived when people tell you Christ has come (verses 22-23). We will know very well when He returns; it will be like a flash of lightning that everyone will see (verse 24). However, before this can happen, Jesus must be tortured and crucified as man's Redeemer (verse 25). From our vantage point, which the disciples did not have, we know that this condition has already been met at Golgotha or Calvary.

Then He gives details about the conditions in the world when He returns. It will be as it was in the days of Noah and Lot (verses 26-30). He highlights two major signs of the end here:

1. He will come suddenly when people do not expect Him to return. Most people will be going about their normal activities, unaware of the times.

2. When He returns, society will be degenerate and wicked just as it was before the Flood came and before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 6:5-7; 18:20; 19:1-11).

Luke 17:31-33 shows that, for His disciples, His coming will result in a test of faith. They will have to be willing to leave everything behind—their homes, their possessions, even their loved ones—in order to obey the call of God. Lot's wife turned back in longing for what she had left behind, and God's judgment fell swiftly upon her. We may have to be willing even to give up our lives for salvation, because in trying to save our physical lives, we would have to renounce our beliefs.

Verses 34-36 illustrate three scenes of judgment. These show that Christ will judge us individually, and despite how close we may be to another—a spouse, a neighbor, a co-worker—our obedience and good works will not deliver anyone else (see Ezekiel 14:12-20). We will have to prove ourselves to the righteous Judge of all (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10).

Finally, the disciples ask Jesus where these things will take place (Luke 17:37). His reply is better translated in the Revised English Bible: "Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather." This seems somewhat enigmatic, but if we take what He says literally, He implies that He will return at a place of great carnage. This would parallel the scenarios prophesied in Zechariah 14:1-5 and Revelation 19:11-21 (see especially verses 17-18, 21b).

All through this section Jesus is describing real circumstances, real people, and real places. He speaks of a literal Kingdom to be established at His return "with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

Since the context of Luke 17:21 is Christ's second coming, and Jesus is speaking in great detail about the time, place, and conditions of His return, we must see His Kingdom as a literal government—just as real as any government of man. We cannot divorce "the Kingdom of God is among you" from this larger topic. Doing so distorts the true meaning of a literal, soon-coming Kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ that will grow to fill the whole earth after His return.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

Luke 21:34-36

This chapter gives us an overview of the hair-raising, terrifying events leading to Christ's return. Despite all the evidence that will be available for us to witness and thus motivate us, He feels it is necessary to warn us to be alert.

It seems almost redundant. Why should we of all people need to be warned? Well, the general answer is because the Laodicean has trouble keeping his attention, his mind, focused. His mind is all over the place. At least in terms of spiritual things, the Laodicean, has a short attention span. He can go at it for spurts—maybe on the Sabbath for a couple of hours—but what happens during the week? Has his love of beauty—the beauty that this world is fully capable of producing to distract the senses—kept him occupied? Is he drawn to those things? If he is, what relationship will be abused? The answer to that is very clear: his relationship with God.

When we consider Revelation 3:14-18 carefully, we see that this is the problem. The Laodicean has compromised with his life in the use of his time. It is not that he is sinning all the time, but that he is not paying attention to the Bridegroom!

Ladies, how would you feel if the man you are to marry pays attention to everything but you? What would happen to the relationship? That is the problem with the Laodicean: His mind is drifting to take in all kinds of things except the One that he is going to marry—until the Sabbath comes along. He will appear in church, and everything looks fairly good, but all during the week he has been paying attention to everything except Christ.

Prayer becomes ineffective. He does not allow God to communicate with him through Bible study in the way that he should. There is very little meditation. He is not doing a great deal of thinking about the One to whom he is betrothed. We can begin to see that his love of beauty is taking him in the wrong direction, and the abuse falls on the relationship that he most needs to build and to protect.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism


 

John 14:1-2

It is the night before the crucifixion. Jesus knows what is going to happen, so He prepares His disciples by telling them that He is leaving to travel, as it were, somewhere else. When He gets there, He will prepare a place for them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 2)


 

John 14:2

God has ways of causing us to yield so that He can mold and shape us into what He desires. Because of this, we will be ready for our "place" when the Kingdom comes. God not only has power, but He also always has alternatives to ensure that His will is done without taking our free moral agency from us. He has another option we may not want to consider: If we will not cooperate by using our free moral agency for right purposes, He can always replace us with somebody better. We are, after all, the weak of the world. We have every reason to be encouraged, however. He will use every means at His disposal to prepare and save those called into His purpose on schedule with the return of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Acts 1:6-7

The apostles were curious and excited about this kind of thing, just as we are today, and their question was not even specifically about a certain day, because they were hopeful that the time had already arrived. Christ was every bit as general in His answer as they were with their question. Again, though, they are very clearly told they were not going to know. This statement coordinates with what Jesus said in the Olivet Prophecy (Matthew 24:36), but He expands the thought from day and hour to time and season, which are even more general. He told the apostles they were not even going to know the time or the season.

The word time here means "the duration of a period of time." An hour would be a very short duration. A day would be a bit longer, but the implication from the word "time" is of a period much more expansive than that.

The word "season" means a length of time characterized by certain events, like the Christmas Season. Even in our culture, the Christmas Season seems to extend now from Thanksgiving, (and even before Thanksgiving in some cases), all the way into January a week or so. So even the common usage here in the United States, a season would be somewhere between two and three months.

Jesus' response to them was more general than the day nor the hour. He also says something very pointed here: "It's not for you to know." What He was doing was counseling them to avoid probing into these things. He was in a sense saying, "It's a waste of time. You have more important things to do than to be thinking about this." In short, the disciples were not even to know the general period of time of the establishment of God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Acts 1:6-8

The return of Jesus Christ was on their minds too. And like us, they would have liked to have seen the Kingdom established right away. They did not understand that they needed to be prepared for the Kingdom of God. They were not ready yet—they did not even have the Holy Spirit yet! Nor had they entirely put together all the elements of God's truth.

It is interesting that Jesus tells them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons," but it has been given to us in far greater measure. We know many things that they did not know. We know that we are very close to the end. We do not know the day, but we know that we are in the time and season, and if there was ever a people on the face of the earth in all the history of Christianity who needed to get prepared for something, it is we. We are not yet ready, and in God's mercy, He has given us time to prepare.

It was a good while before the disciples came to grips with the fact that the return of Jesus Christ would not occur in their lifetimes, a fact evident from what is written within the New Testament. The first thing they had to come to grips with was that they had a job to do before that time would come.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

Romans 13:11-13

Spiritually, darkness is brought on by sin. Darkness gratifies the sinful nature, lulls a person to sleep spiritually, and provides a cover for evil. But his darkness is so thick, man cannot find his way around it, through it, or out of it. The solution to this dilemma will come at "daybreak," "in the morning," "when the day dawns." Even as nothing can prevent the coming of dawn, neither can anything prevent the coming of Christ!

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

1 Corinthians 15:25-28

Christ's reign will and must continue until every enemy has been conquered, and the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by His Father. But in that quotation, "All things are put under Him," it is self-evident that God, who reduced everything to subjection, is not included. When Christ has finally won the battle against all His enemies, then shall the Son acknowledge Himself subject to God the Father, who gave the Son power over all things, that God may be utterly supreme, that He may be everything to everyone. (I Corinthians 15:25-28)

If this quotation does not square with your Bible, do not be alarmed. It is an amplification of these verses pieced together from the Phillips, King James, Taylor, Moffatt, and Norlie translations. The Father is drawing the entire creation into a state where everybody and everything acknowledge Him as God. When this occurs, division, confusion, and warfare will not exist because all, everything, is at one with our Creator.

Our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, repentance from dead works and receiving of God's Holy Spirit are the first major steps for each of us in seeking to become one with the Father. The next major step is the return of Jesus Christ, when we will inherit the Kingdom of God after the resurrection from the dead. The "all in all" of verse 28 is the very end point of the gospel.

Though I Corinthians 15:28 may appear to be something that happens in the distant future, the process has already begun in us. Understanding this as a reality is vital to our spiritual well-being. If we do not consider it to be real, we may be lured into neglecting our summons to this glorious destiny by letting ourselves follow distractions or grow irresponsible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

1 Corinthians 15:50-52

This verse is parallel to I Thessalonians 4:15-17. The phrase "the kingdom of God" in I Corinthians parallels "the coming of the Lord" in I Thessalonians. Likewise, "the last trumpet" parallels "the trumpet of God." The last trumpet announces both the resurrection of the saints and Christ's triumphant return to earth to set up His Kingdom! Revelation 11:15-18 confirms when the last trumpet sounds.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

1 Thessalonians 4:13

What follows this verse is the instruction regarding the return of Jesus Christ at the seventh trump.

So, where in the grand scheme of things is AD 50, the date of Paul's writing of this epistle? It is a mere nineteen years after Christ's death and resurrection, and He has not returned yet. It is a topic of hot conversation in the fellowship of the people of the church of God. Some are beginning to worry; some are beginning to feel that it is taken too long. Their hope is being deferred.

So, Paul has to write them, instructing them about the return of Jesus Christ, and to exhort them to get their hope back on track!

John W. Ritenbaugh
How to Know We Love Christ


 

1 Thessalonians 4:15-16

Paul mentions the exact timing of this event twice! In verse 15, he says that this occurs at "the coming of the Lord," and in verse 16, Christ "descend[s] from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God." To combat these clear time markers, Protestants have to say that Christ returns twice and that there are two different blowings of the trumpet!

Paul himself quashes this argument in I Corinthians 15:50-52:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

The apostle speaks of those who are unaware ("they"), who are not paying attention to the signs of the times. A pregnant woman clearly shows that she is ready to give birth to her child. However, though her status is known, no one can pinpoint the exact time that the contractions will begin. A woman's labor pains parallel the signs of the times. No one will be able to pinpoint the exact time of Christ's arrival, but we can know that it is near and be prepared.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1

Compare this to Acts 1:6-8. They had learned a great deal in the intervening nineteen years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

Thieves send no warning messages ahead of them that they are coming, so break-ins are usually sudden and shocking events. We are assured that Christ's return will be equally surprising to most on the earth. The Bible's indications are that He will come when a majority of people least expect Him: when newscasts assure us of "Peace at last!" and the whole world is busy with the affairs of this life (Matthew 24:37-39). Then, everything will fall to pieces with a bang!

Yet, Christians should not be taken by surprise. We are supposed to be aware of the signs of the times, evaluating the course of events, and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, so that, no matter when He comes, we are prepared to meet Christ in the air. Because we are not in darkness, our eyes should be fixed on what is truly important during these troubled times: God's Kingdom and His righteousness.

Like his Master, Paul tells us to watch, and he adds, "Be sober" (verse 6). A sober person's mind is unadulterated by anything that would cause poor judgment, as a drunk's ability to make proper decisions is affected by the booze in his system. One who is sober is serious, thoughtful, cautious, calm, and not given to excesses of any kind. He weighs matters carefully and chooses the wisest course of action.

This should be our stance now, despite what people claim about the timing of Christ's return. The promise of His coming has not been delayed, and things are not as they always were. God's plan marches on; He is maneuvering events, circumstances, and individuals into place. We have been given front-row seats to witness the most astounding series of prophetic fulfillments in human history, and to keep them, we must watch, be sober, and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

1 Thessalonians 5:2

"The day of the Lord" can be a lot longer period of time than the specific day or hour (Matthew 24:36) or even season (Acts 1:6-7) of Christ's return.

Does anybody know when a thief is going to come? A thief comes at a time when the householder does not expect. We might just be able to throw this out except for one thing: This is written to Christians. The day of the Lord is going to come as a thief in the night.

All this adds up to something that might be a bit disconcerting: He is saying that we are only going to know general conditions regarding the time of His return. The specifics are going to be touch-and-go.

Over the years, some have been making a determined effort to know each prophecy's precise fulfillment. It seems as though our curiosity demands that we know all of the whos, whats, whens, whys and wheres, but the whole thrust of the instruction is to be ready regardless of when His return is. Doing "the work" in one's life is far more important than knowing the specifics of His return.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

1 Thessalonians 5:2

A thief does not come up to a house and knock on the door. Robbery is something that happens suddenly and at a time people do not expect it to occur. What about us in terms of Christ's return? Should we not be ready? Do we not know the times and the seasons? Yes, we do. We have every reason to be able to be prepared should the "thief" arrive, that is, should Christ return.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

1 Thessalonians 5:2-3

The Thessalonians' interpretation of Paul's teaching on the Day of the Lord was that it was immediate; they leapt to the conclusion that, because Paul was writing about these things, Jesus Christ would come immediately. The result was that some of the more unstable and excitable members of the congregation quit their jobs (II Thessalonians 3:6-12) .

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

1 Thessalonians 5:8

Paul employs a military metaphor of a sentry on duty. He writes of "the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation," soldiering gear. The alert and self-controlled sentry, vigilant for signs of the enemy, is entrusted with the safety of those within his camp. Normally, he is neither lackadaisical nor wildly excitable. His armor and weapons grant him a measure of control and ability when the need arises.

Similarly, a Christian should become neither lackadaisical nor wildly excited about the time of the end without the controlling factors of faith, hope, and love. There is nothing wrong with speculating about the time of Christ's return. Speculating is a natural result of watching and evaluating the times. However, since even Christ did not know the time of His return, we would be very arrogant to think that we might have had it revealed to us. In reality, if someone claims to know when Christ is coming, it is nothing short of blasphemy! That person is calling God a liar! Jesus Christ says nobody knows, not even the Son (Mark 13:32), and the implication is that the Father will not tell the Son until it is just about time for Him to return.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

2 Timothy 2:15-18

Today, people are saying, not that the resurrection has occurred, but that Christ is not going to come soon, indeed not for a few hundred years. How bad will this world be in a few hundred years? Can humanity possibly survive that long at the rate things are going? Can the world survive, considering how angry the nations are and how competitive they are with one another?

Can things possibly go on for that long, when the nations have weapons that can wipe mankind out completely? Man's history proves that, eventually, every weapon is used! When some madman sees particular advantage to himself or his country, he will use those weapons. Men will take those chances because human nature gambles, and the human nature in some people gambles recklessly with other people's lives.

It is irresponsible to be telling church members we will have to wait a few hundred years for the return of Christ, but that idea is out there, floating among the churches.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope


 

Titus 2:13

The thrust of Paul's exhortation is to encourage us to quit looking back with longing to the world and our former lives and to live in the present with our minds focused with eager and active expectation on our Savior's return. If we are doing these things, we are preparing for that future great event. Eagerly anticipating the imminent fulfillment of our earnest desire for Christ's return motivates us to modify our conduct in the present evil world.

If we do not have this glorious hope in us, we will very likely just drift around, squandering our time in useless, trivial, but perhaps exciting carnal pursuits. We will fail to use the grace of God toward growing in His image and producing fruit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

2 Peter 3:1-2

What did the apostles write? They wrote about the life and death of Christ, about prophecy, about the second coming of Christ, about the resurrection of the dead. They wrote about the establishment of the government of God on earth, about a whole nation being born in one day, about the world being filled with beauty, love, peace, and prosperity.

Peter reminds them of this because this is where their hope needed to be. We too need to be looking forward to this to be able to relate what we are going through now with what is going to happen in the future. What is happening now is intended by God to prepare us for the future so that when His Kingdom comes, we are ready for it. Christ is not only preparing a place for us, He is also preparing us to be able to fill that place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

2 Peter 3:1-4

In our day, such scoffers have indeed arisen, both inside and outside the church, spreading their ideas that the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings is many decades away. As happened in the first century, members who hear these prognostications begin to wonder if they are true, and sadly, some come to believe them, put down their guard, and begin to drift away. Agreement with any form of "the Lord delays His coming" will take a heavy, spiritual toll on those who accept it as true, as it eliminates their motivation to overcome their sinful human nature and to prepare for God's Kingdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

Revelation 1:1

The margin says shortly means "quickly" or "swiftly." This must be understood in terms of what the book of Revelation was designed to reveal. Verse 10 tells us that the book was designed for the Day of the Lord. "Shortly" has to be seen in light of verse 10.

When was the apostle John on the island of Patmos? All indications are that he received this vision somewhere in the AD 90s—somewhere between AD 90 and 100. The Temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed by the Romans under Titus.

Think about this word "shortly" in reference to the time in which the prophecy was given. Did Jesus Christ mean shortly after He gave it? What happened historically quickly or shortly after Christ gave this prophecy to the apostle John? Nothing. Nothing happened. By and large, almost 20 centuries later, very little in Revelation has yet happened.

What does this say about the design of the book of Revelation? It says that its primary intent is for the time we are living in right now! When Christ said that these things must shortly come to pass, what He meant was that once the things in Revelation begin to occur, they will happen very quickly in historical terms. They will begin unfolding so fast, it will take our breath away!

To whom was this book written? Verse 11 says that it was written to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. If the book was written to the end-time people, then we have to conclude that the message as delivered to the actual churches in Asia Minor was only secondary. The attitudes, the conduct, the events occuring in those seven congregations were only models of what was going to happen later.

However, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea are somewhere extant on earth today. Not just in the form of attitudes, but maybe also in the form of true-church organizations. All seven churches must be in existence at the end. This only makes sense because the book is concerned primarily with the end-time.

Does it not seem reasonable and logical that, if Christ wanted to get a message to each of the churches, and He only had a moment to spend with each one, He would be extremely selective in what He had to say? He would carefully design His message to contain the nucleus of what He wanted to get across. It would be quick, concise, and hit the nail right on the head. What He said would be of the utmost importance to them in regard to their responsibilities at the end time.

If His church were to be in existence at the end—and surely it is because He says that the gates of the grave would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18)—then He would give His church what it needed most of all to survive and endure that period of time. He would not waste His opportunity speaking on trivial matters!

He would get to things that are essential to His people to get them through the trouble and into the Kingdom with as much growth as possible! This is the essence of those seven messages. It is the reason why they were written.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 1:10-11

On the isle of Patmos sometime around AD 95, John is projected forward in time to the Day of the Lord, that is, the day of God's wrath against mankind upon this earth.

He is projected forward in vision into our day, and he is given something akin to a three-dimensional movie. However, this kind of vision is unique even to those of us who are familiar with cinema because John can participate in it. The characters he sees before him are not mere figments of his imagination—they are actually able to communicate with him and he with them! Perhaps, we can say it is more like a stage play with a backdrop of three-dimensional figures. However we look at it, it is extremely realistic, and John actually feels as though he is on the scene.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 1:10-11

Verse 10 teaches us that the book of Revelation is designed for the Lord's Day. The Lord by wisdom designed the earth. It was no feat, therefore, for Him to design the book of Revelation to be applicable primarily to the Lord's Day, that is, the Day of the Lord—the time that is shortly to be upon us. Undoubtedly, we are in the opening phases of it, the preparation for it. We are not yet into the Tribulation, which we understand will precede the Day of the Lord. Both the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord are encompassed within the theme of Revelation. If there is any group of people for whom the book of Revelation ever applied more directly, it is those of us living now, although in type it also applied to the seven churches that existed at the time in Asia Minor (today's western Turkey).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works


 

Revelation 2:25

There is no sense that they are going to die before He comes. His return is so imminent, He says, "Hold fast till I come." It is as if He is saying, "You only have a little while to hang on."

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 2:25

One can hold fast only to what one has previously been given. They had been given something in the past. They had drifted away into a relationship with the world. Idolatry was present in their character. But Christ says, "Hold fast to that which remains"—something that had previously been given—so that they would not drift any further.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 3:11

When was this prophecy uttered? The best guess is somewhere about AD 95 to 97. Christ said, "I come quickly!" Now what if we heard Him say that in AD 95? We would have thought, "Boy, oh boy! His feet are going to be on the earth any day now!" However, the book of Revelation applies to the end time, and within the context of the book of Revelation, the end time is that period immediately before the return of Jesus Christ. Then those words are a lot truer than they would be in AD 95. They are imminent.

But it has been 1900 years since Jesus said that. Was Jesus lying? No, because the intention for the book is for that period of time right before the end; maybe in those few decades before the end. In that case, we are within the parameters of a "season" in which certain events are taking place. Conditions are beginning to look like it is indeed the end time. Likewise, the prophecies of Paul or Peter are very general, especially in regard to when things would occur.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Revelation 3:20

This verse can be taken in two different ways. It could apply to the door of one's heart, his mind. Christ is calling, "Let Me into your life!" On the other hand, it can also mean that He is saying, "I am just about ready to return! And we can fellowship together if you would just repent!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church


 

Revelation 6:10

Theirs is not a bloodthirsty cry for vengeance, as some have seen it, since this does not accord with Christian character (Romans 12:19-21), but a call for justice or judgment—a major theme of the seals—as well as a question about the proximity of Christ's return. It is well known that at His second coming, He will both reward His saints and judge His enemies (see Matthew 24:30-31; Revelation 11:15-18; Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 14:1-5).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part Two)


 

Revelation 11:15-18

This last - seventh - trumpet announces the coming of Christ, the establishment of God's Kingdom, the judgment upon the nations, and the rewarding of the saints. They occur simultaneously!

The last trumpet sounds when Christ returns, not 3½ years before! If we compare verses 11-13 (the resurrection of the Two Witnesses) with verse 19, the "great earthquake" ties the resurrection of the saints with the beginning of the Kingdom (see also Revelation 16:18). In addition, an angel tells John in Revelation 10:7 that when "the seventh angel . . . is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." There will be no more mystery about man becoming God when the saints are resurrected or changed to eternal spirit beings!

Matthew 24:30-31 also verifies this scenario, showing that the trumpet sounds to send the angels to gather the elect from all over the earth to meet Him upon His return. To clinch the argument, verse 29 very plainly says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. . ."! Isaiah 27:12-13, Joel 2:1-11 and Zechariah 14:3-5, 9 also confirm these events.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

Revelation 11:18

According to these angels, part of the reason for Christ's return is to pass judgment on those who have polluted, defiled, and marred God's creation! God has great patience, but by that time He will have seen enough of man's blatant disregard for the work of His hands. He will strike with a vengeance that mankind has never before even imagined (Matthew 24:21-22), and the guilty will pay with their lives.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment


 

 




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