For centuries, preachers have been proclaiming: "Jesus Christ may come back tonight!" Countless people have been disappointed—even turned off—because of such date-setting and the extreme emotionalism that often prompts it. What does the Bible really teach about Christ's coming? And what should you be doing about it?
Jesus Christ may come back tonight," the iron-lunged evangelist bellowed during his big tent meeting. "You had better give your heart to the Lord now while He is calling you. You may never get another chance like this!"
Most of us have probably heard preachers talk like this. In World Magazine, April 24, 1999, author Andree Seu wrote: "I know a pastor who likes to say, 'Jesus is coming back today,' because, as he explains, whichever day He returns, it will be 'today.'"
Yes, even though many have been "turned off" because of extreme emotionalism and date setting, your Bible says that Jesus Christ will return soon! He is going to rule this world with a "rod of iron." He will set up a literal government on this earth with Headquarters at Jerusalem!
Do you believe that?
I hope you do—for that is what your Bible clearly says. But how should you, personally, actually prepare for Christ's return? What should you be doing? What should you be learning? What changes should you be making in your life? These are fundamental questions that all true Christians should be asking. What are the real answers?
First of all, we need to get our bearings: we definitely are in the biblical "last days" of civilization as we now know it. In Matthew 24:3, Jesus' disciples asked Him: "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
Jesus answered by listing an entire series of events to watch for—false prophets, numerous wars leading to world wars, famine, disease epidemics, earthquakes, the "abomination of desolation" in the Holy Place and then a truly Great Tribulation beyond anything the world has ever seen—all this leading to human annihilation if God did not supernaturally intervene to stop it (vv. 21–22). Certainly, many of these events are already under way. And note this vital fact: until the last few decades, it was never possible for humanity to completely annihilate itself. But with the advent of the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb and now biological and biochemical weapons, mankind could indeed destroy all life on this planet!
In addition, the virtual breakdown of decent society described by the Apostle Paul is definitely under way. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Certainly, the prophesied "Beast" power in Europe—the final revival of the Roman Catholic-dominated Holy Roman Empire—is already beginning to come together and challenge the United States for world leadership. Read Revelation 17:6–14 carefully. As we have explained many times in these pages, the first six kings prophesied here have already come.
The seventh king, the dread leader of the "Beast" power, will soon appear. He is probably alive somewhere on earth today!
Although most news analysts and political pundits either fail to understand or refuse to admit what is happening, a "religious war" is beginning between professing Christianity and the more than one billion followers of Islam. They feel that our wealth, power and hedonistic lifestyle, our control of world media and our increasing influence on their peoples are a threat to everything they believe and stand for. So they have begun to strike back!
The September 11, 2001 horror was just the beginning of a continuing series of major assaults against the West and our entire way of life. These slowly escalating clashes between the forces of Islam and the West are definitely preparing the way for the events described by the prophet Daniel, who described the coming "Mahdi"—a religio-political leader of a league of Arab nations—attacking the coming Beast power in Europe. "At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape" (Daniel 11:40–42). As all these events finally come into clear focus, it is obvious that we truly are near the end of this age!
Daniel's prophecy reveals that soon after this final Middle East war, Christ will indeed come and bring about the resurrection of the dead and give an awesome reward to those who have zealously served in His Work. "At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:1–3).
Since we are, in fact, in the "last days," what should we be doing? In what special activities should we be involved? Toward what special goals should we be aiming?
The Bible warns us against the self-indulgence and worldly lifestyle embraced, lamentably, even by many professing Christians. As we saw in 2 Timothy 3, God condemns those who are "lovers of themselves"—all involved in "self." He condemns those who focus their lives on money and wealth—"lovers of money." And those who are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."
Do any of these characteristics describe you? Then in Jesus' name I urge you: repent! Ask God to help you to truly and sincerely change and, as Jesus said, "seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus Christ warns those living in the final era: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:15–16). Today, we see millions of Muslims "on fire" for their religion. Some aberrant Muslims have a misguided zeal to attack America and the West. But, if nothing else, they are zealous and could in no way be classified as "lukewarm."
Yet the majority of professing Christians—especially in America, Canada, Britain and Australia—are very lukewarm. Church attendance is way down in Britain and Canada. And even most mainstream religious authors and analysts in the U.S. freely admit that the majority of churchgoers are spiritually weak, biblically illiterate and certainly shallow and "lukewarm" in their religious commitment.
What each one of you readers needs to do is to zealously "search out" where the full Truth of the Bible is being taught and then become enthusiastically involved in learning and practicing the real Truth of God and in proclaiming it to the world! Jesus commissioned His true followers: "'Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matthew 28:19–20).
Is your church or religion committed to teaching "all things" that Jesus taught all of His disciples? Or is it involved in the lukewarm practice of following tradition, modern philosophies and politics, and creating a religious "social club" where people can feel "comfortable" without being challenged by the powerful teachings of the Bible?
Do you, personally, have the faith and the courage to act on the Truth?
Remember the Apostle John's warning about human desire to be accepted and to conform to the society around us. "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42–43).
Throughout the Bible, God tells us to seek Him and His Truth—as Jesus said, to "seek first the Kingdom of God" (Matthew 6:33). The inspired Apostle Paul wrote: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:1–2).
In Deuteronomy 4:29–30, God described what would happen to the end-time descendants of Israel when, in the Great Tribulation, they are finally punished, taken into captivity and truly humbled. "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice."
Ask yourself: "Will it take the Great Tribulation to wake me up and cause me to 'go all out' in genuinely seeking God and His true teachings?"
I sincerely hope not! Each of us must learn to seek God zealously, with all our heart! We must realize that genuine study of the Bible, and fervent prayer for understanding and for strength, are the primary ways to seek the true God. A wonderful resource to help you in this spiritual quest is our Tomorrow's World Bible Study Course. This course will take you step by step into a genuinely profound understanding of the Bible—if you will really study (not just carelessly read!) the lessons and continue to take the course. Your enrollment in this study course is completely free upon your request. Just send your request to the regional office nearest you as listed on page 2 of this magazine.
In addition to earnest study and prayer, and building a powerful relationship with the Jesus Christ of your Bible, you need to think about the very real responsibility each true saint will soon be given in Christ's Kingdom! The Apostle Paul was inspired to tell us about this coming responsibility. "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (1 Corinthians 6:2–3).
Most professing Christian churches either do not understand, or totally neglect to tell their members about, this very specific instruction! Rather, they talk more often about "rolling around heaven" with nothing to do! But, the living Jesus Christ is now sitting at the right hand of God preparing to return to this earth at the last trumpet and rule all nations with a "rod of iron" (Revelation 19:15). Jesus said that "he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations—'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; they shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'—as I also have received from My Father" (Revelation 2:26–27).
The inspired "prayer of the saints" also indicates what true Christians will be doing within a few years. "And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth'" (Revelation 5:9–10). Why have you never before been taught about this awesome purpose for your very life? Why?
The true Christian's awesome calling to rule—to serve under the direction of the living Jesus Christ, helping to straighten out this world—is the very reason we are told throughout the Bible to "overcome" and to "grow in grace and in knowledge." By a life of overcoming, obedience and service, we are to demonstrate to God that we are truly surrendered to Him, and always responsive to His will! If salvation were just a matter of an emotional "acceptance" of Jesus and of "going to heaven" with nothing to do, then there would be no need for our trials and tests, and no need for the spiritual growth and overcoming that Jesus Christ demands of His followers! Then, if you and I were sincere but "lukewarm," it would not make any difference!
But, in reality, it makes a huge difference to God and to the true Christ of the Bible! For true Christians are now being called to prepare themselves to assist Christ in a real government soon to be set up over this earth. God needs to know where we really stand—and that we will be obedient to His laws and to His ways, which we will soon have to teach the whole world!
That is why Jesus said: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). That is why Jesus warned: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21–23).
In the famous parable of the "talents" (or "minas" as this monetary unit is correctly rendered in the New King James Version), Jesus described a king (obviously Jesus Himself), who gives His servants a certain amount of money for trading, then departs for a "far country" (heaven). Upon returning, He commands these men to appear before Him to ascertain "how much every man had gained by trading" (Luke 19:15). Spiritually speaking, how much had they "overcome"? How much had they served others and helped prepare for the Kingdom of God?
And what was their reward? Going off to heaven? No!
The man who had increased his mina tenfold was told: "Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities" (Luke 19:17). The man who had a fivefold increase was told: "Likewise, he said to him, 'You also be over five cities'" (v. 19).
Most modern religious scholars will try to "poetize" away the reality of true Christians' coming responsibility. But the inspired Apostle Paul's very clear statement—"Do you not know that we shall judge the world?"—is hard to poetize away, as is Jesus' equally clear declaration that the true saints will rule the nations "with a rod of iron" (Revelation 2:26–27).
Throughout the Bible, this very specific responsibility is reiterated. Describing the time after Christ's return to earth, the prophet Daniel wrote: "Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him" (Daniel 7:27).
So are you, personally, learning to study the Bible with this thought in mind? Are you really studying God's law so that you will be able to administer this law in the true government of God under Jesus Christ? Remember, King David of Israel will, once again, be King over all the nations of Israel. One reason is certainly that David loved God's law—which law will be the very basis of government in tomorrow's world (Isaiah 2:2–3)! King David exclaimed: "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).
Are you studying the book of Proverbs for wisdom so that you can make wise decisions in ruling the cities over which you may be set in Christ's soon-coming government?
The Apostle Paul described some of the qualities God grants through His Holy Spirit. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Are you developing the spiritual power—through Jesus Christ living within you—to "overcome" yourself, the world and Satan? Are you growing in spiritual love—the genuine out-flowing concern for all humanity? Are you growing in true wisdom and balance—the "spirit of a sound mind"—so that you will be a more effective servant of Christ now and in His coming government?
Christ's coming kingdom is going to be very real! It will literally take over the governments of men all over the world. "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 11:15). As God continues to intervene in world affairs exactly according to His Plan—as He "shakes the nations" so that they begin to grasp the concept of a real God—you and I need to prepare lovingly and enthusiastically for Christ's return!
We are not to be in some weak, confused, "tradition-bound" church that has virtually no understanding of prophecy or of the transcendent purpose for mankind. Rather, we should earnestly seek out and become part of God's true Church—the Church that understands the Bible, that preaches the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), that is doing the Work of God at the very end of this age and whose members are genuinely preparing to be kings and priests, under the direction of the living Jesus Christ, in tomorrow's world.
May God help you to understand—and to act.