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Millions today call themselves Christians but doubt the literal reality of Jesus Christ's prophesied return. What can we learn from Scripture and world events that may change our view of Jesus' often-discussed but rarely understood promise?
Jesus Christ told His followers to pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). With the terrible problems of society all around us, it should be obvious that the Kingdom of God is not here yet! But there is hope! For, from one end of the Bible to the other, God's word tells us that the literal Kingdom of God will be set up on earth at the end of this age!
God is training today's Christians to prepare to be part of that Christ-led government. Yet millions of professing Christians seem completely oblivious to this paramount truth. They have been taught to "just believe" on the person of Jesus Christ and to trust that they will "go to heaven" when they die.
Countless millions believe that the Bible's plain statements about Jesus Christ's literal return to this earth are found only in a few vague Old Testament passages or obscure lines from the mysterious book of Revelation. Since they prefer to read the "easy to understand" or "inspirational" parts of the gospels, or maybe the Psalms, they often do not know—or care—what the rest of the Bible actually teaches. Such people fail utterly to realize that the message of Christ's second coming and the Kingdom of God permeates almost the entire Bible! For it is our hope. It is a key to our destiny!
Notice how Jesus encouraged the Apostle Peter and the other disciples. Peter had exclaimed to Jesus, "'See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?' So Jesus said to them, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel'" (Matthew 19:27–28).
Jesus was obviously talking about a literal government to be established here on earth! That is why He told us to pray, "Your Kingdom come… on earth."
Near the end of Jesus' physical life, His disciples asked Him, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"(Matthew 24:3). Jesus then gave them several "signs" to watch for which would indicate His second coming was imminent. But in spite of traumatic world events fulfilling these signs, millions obviously still "won't get it." For Jesus also explained, "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37–39).
The Apostle Paul described Christ's second coming in this way: "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" (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
It is important to note that although the true saints meet the descending Christ "in the air"—the air of this earth's atmosphere—God does not promise His saints eternal life "up in heaven." Rather, as we see in Acts 1:11, Christ will "come in like manner" right back to the Mount of Olives from whence He rose. In fact, God's word is very specific on that exact point. For the prophet Zechariah was inspired to write, "Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives" (Zechariah 14:3–4). So Christ literally will set His feet once again on that big hill just east of Jerusalem! Then what?
"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—'The Lord is one,' and His name one" (v. 9). Christ the King will be ruling this earth from Jerusalem. And "all the nations" (v. 16) shall come up to Jerusalem during Jesus' earthly reign and learn to observe God's commanded festivals. Jesus will obviously be ruling over physical nations here on this earth. But why should Christ return to the earth? Surely we are getting along pretty well, yes? Surely most people are relatively prosperous, healthy and happy? From the point of view of an all-knowing, all-loving God, is there a real need for Jesus Christ to return and rule this earth as King of kings? Of course there is!
Let us now examine seven key reasons why God will send the living Jesus Christ back to this earth again—this time in total power and magnificent glory—to save humanity from destroying itself and to teach all men the right way to live.
As far back as the 1950s, the world became aware that mankind could soon destroy itself. President Dwight Eisenhower stated, "Science now seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life from this planet."
That time came a few years later. In recent decades, science has developed several means of destroying all human life. These include atomic and hydrogen weapons, chemical and biological weapons and no doubt other weapons that are being developed even as I write.
"Rogue states" such as North Korea have been developing nuclear weapon technology, and Islamic militants are looking for ways to get "the bomb" to carry out their destructive plans.
Whether through biological, chemical or nuclear means, human beings now have the power to destroy all life on earth. Speaking plainly of our time—just before His second coming—Jesus Christ prophesied, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21–22).
Until the last few decades, it would have been virtually impossible for humanity to annihilate itself. Nowadays, it is not only possible; it is a certainty, as Christ indicated—unless God soon intervenes powerfully in human affairs. For the "elect's" sake—for the sake of those who have genuinely surrendered to God and are being led by the Holy Spirit—God will intervene. That is a key reason why Jesus Christ must return to this earth!
Referring to the time just before His second coming, Jesus said, "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7).
Terrible famines have occurred in recent years across Africa and Asia. Large areas of Texas and other parts of the United States have experienced serious droughts in recent years, reminiscent of the "dust bowl" years. Thankfully, actual famine and human starvation have not yet been often experienced in the United States or the other developed nations. But according to Jesus Christ, that will all change!
The book of Amos gives us a warning. Addressing all twelve tribes of Israel, not just "Judah" or the Jewish people, God says: "Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities'" (Amos 3:1–2).
Later: "'So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,' says the Lord. 'I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me,' says the Lord" (Amos 4:8–9).
A time of alternating drought, floods and famine is clearly prophesied to affect the modern descendants of ancient Israel—unless they repent and turn to the true God in a way they have never done before! These plagues will be awesome in their effect, devastating hundreds of millions of lives worldwide!
If you do not yet understand how these prophecies relate ancient Israel to the United States and the British-descended nations—as well as the Jewish state of Israel—please write to the regional office nearest you (listed on page 30 of this magazine) to request your free copy of our powerful booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. You truly need this booklet to understand the prophecies directly affecting America and the British-descended peoples in the very near future!
Scripture warns that "there will be famines, pestilences" (Matthew 24:7). So right after the alternating floods and droughts produce famine and mass starvation, along will come disease epidemics of unprecedented proportions!
In our modern, scientific age, how can this be?
The answer is simple. When there is polluted water and polluted food—inherent in the prophecies regarding worldwide drought and famine—these are nearly always followed by disease epidemics. Add to this the dangers of diseases such as AIDS and the increasing horrors of virulent bacteria that are almost completely resistant to any kind of antibiotic treatment, and you have a recipe for unchecked spread of terrifying disease epidemics!
Describing the punishment that is soon coming to the United States, Britain, Canada and other modern descendants of ancient Israel, God inspired Ezekiel to write: "And you, son of man, take a sharp sword, take it as a barber's razor, and pass it over your head and your beard; then take scales to weigh and divide the hair. You shall burn with fire one-third in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are finished; then you shall take one-third and strike around it with the sword, and one-third you shall scatter in the wind: I will draw out a sword after them" (Ezekiel 5:1–2).
God explains exactly what this means: "One-third of you shall die of the pestilence, and be consumed with famine in your midst; and one-third shall fall by the sword all around you; and I will scatter another third to all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them" (v. 12).
These end-time plagues will affect the whole world, not only Israel. For, after describing the "four horsemen" of false prophets, wars, famines and horrifying disease epidemics, John writes: "And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth (Revelation 6:8). Most scholars recognize that John was not writing about one-fourth of the earth's land or sea surface, but about one-fourth of the entire population of this earth at the time of the end. Since the earth's population is approaching seven billion people, this prophecy is speaking of the coming destruction of more than 1.5 billion human beings!
Every year, it seems that new records are being set for weather and geologic extremes. The world was shocked by the terrible devastation that occurred when the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake rocked Southern Asia in December 2004. The magnitude 9.1 earthquake and the resulting tsunami led to an estimated 230,000 deaths, and more than 1.6 million people were displaced.
Bible prophecy shows that as we come closer to the end of the age, more and more of these disasters will strike—and they will increasingly strike the American and other British-descended nations. We remember the terrible devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which in August 2005 caused more than $80 billion in damage and displaced more than 1.5 million people—making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane in recorded history.
In ways large and small, we are again and again seeing more instances of "wild and crazy weather" where we would never have expected it. It might be easy to call it "coincidence"—if you do not understand the biblical prophecies pointing to what is happening! However, those who understand can see that we have so far experienced just a mild portent of what is yet to come. For, describing Christ's second coming and the magnificent Temple that will be built at that time, God says, "For thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:6–7). Eventually, all nations will be shaken by the Almighty God in the most monumental shaking imaginable. For He says that "every mountain and every island" will be moved out of its place (Revelation 6:14).
Because of rebellion against God and His physical and spiritual laws, human beings will literally have to be shaken to their senses. But, in His mercy, God will cut short the days of that terrible punishment so that Christ may come as King of kings to teach humanity how to live by God's physical and spiritual laws before society becomes any more depraved than it already is!
Not that long ago, Americans who worried about "terrorism" mostly feared domestic radicals. In recent years, however, militant Islam has been galvanizing hundreds of millions of people in opposition to the Western democracies, even as the U.S. military finds itself pushed to its limits in the "war against terrorism." We need to understand that it is the ultimate goal of many radical Muslim leaders to "conquer" the world in the sense that all human beings either become Muslims, totally submit to Muslim domination or ultimately be wiped out!
Note what historian Bernard Lewis—a Princeton University professor world-renowned as one of the top experts on Islam—tells us about the growing Muslim threat. In his powerful book, The Crisis of Islam, Lewis describes how "a significant number of Muslims—notably but not exclusively those whom we call fundamentalists—are hostile and dangerous, not because we need an enemy but because they do." He explains: "In recent years, there have been some changes of perception and, consequently, of tactics among Muslims. Some of them still see the West in general, and its present leader the United States in particular, as the ancient and irreconcilable enemy of Islam, the one serious obstacle to the restoration of God's faith and law at home and their ultimate universal triumph. For these there is no way but war to the death, in fulfillment of what they see as the commandments of their faith" (p. 28).
Because God "rebukes and chastens every son He loves," the Almighty will allow terrorists to have greater and greater successes in attacking the Western nations—desiring that we will change our ways, and knowing that He will soon intervene in order to shake us out of our rebellious and miserable ways!
Delegates assembled in San Francisco in the spring of 1945 to form the United Nations, hoping to avoid the mistakes that led the post-World War I League of Nations to fail. As the meetings opened, General Jan Smuts of South Africa declared: "If San Francisco fails, then I see nothing but stark disaster before mankind."
More than 60 years later, most objective observers would have to agree: mankind's legacy of "stark disaster" has not ended. The United Nations failed to stop the killing fields of Cambodia, the massacres in Rwanda, the bloodshed across the former Yugoslavia, and countless other instances of mankind's inhumanity to man.
More than 50 years ago, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur summed up the problem, in a famous speech to the U.S. Congress. He said: "The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence, and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature, and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh" (The World's Great Speeches, p. 596, Dover Publications, 1958).
Humanity's real hope is found in the word of God. The book of James reveals part of our problem: "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:1–3).
Ultimately, it all comes down to whether you actually believe what the Bible clearly says. The prophet Zechariah was inspired to write, "Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives…" (Zechariah 14:3–4). And verse 9 continues: "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—'The Lord is one,' and His name one."
Christ will rule over the nations on this earth after He returns—not up in heaven. Jesus Himself makes that clear: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matthew 25:31–34).
Do you believe Him?
Actually, the belief in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ on earth with the resurrected saints was part of the original Gospel—the message preached by the original Apostolic Church and preserved among God's faithful people for many generations! However, it was gradually stamped out of professing Christianity by the reasonings and imaginations of various bishops and monks during the Dark Ages. Even the highly respected secular historian, Edward Gibbon, discovered this in his massive research of that time period. In his landmark work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, he wrote:
"The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to a tradition which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred that this long period of labor and contention, which was now almost elapsed, would be succeeded by a joyful Sabbath of a thousand years; and that Christ, with the triumphant band of the saints and the elect who had escaped death, or who had been miraculously revived, would reign upon earth till the time appointed for the last and general resurrection" (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon, Vol. I, p. 403).
Within the lifetimes of many of us, this part of the "Lord's Prayer" will be answered, "Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10).
Speaking in the first person, Jesus promises to return quickly, "And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Revelation 22:12). God grant that our "works" may be pleasing in His sight so that our "reward" may be truly fulfilling. For Jesus Christ is coming soon. We have seen seven vital reasons why Christ must return to save mankind—not the least of which is that He promised to do so. God speed that day!