The Early Church Expected His Return
The Early Church expected the Lord’s Return. The New Testament writers often wrote about it. The Bible says much about the first coming of Messiah, but it says a lot more about His Second Coming.
The Bible contains over 300 prophecies about the first coming of Christ. Does it surprise you to know there are eight times as many prophecies about His Second Coming? The New Testament mentions it at least 318 times in 210 chapters. There can be no doubt that saints throughout the ages have always “looked for His appearing.”
The believers in the Early Church were well aware Jesus promised to return. I am sure they would have liked to know exactly when He planned to come back but that information was not shared with them.
We do not know the exact date of His Return… although some folks think they do! Some years ago, I awoke in the early hours of the morning by the insistent ringing of the telephone. An urgent voice shouted in my ear. “Why are you still asleep? Don’t you know the Lord is coming back today?”
“Huh?” I managed groggily.
“Get ready! It’s happening any minute now.”
By now I was wide awake. “Don’t YOU know the Lord said no one knows the exact date or hour of His Return?” I responded.
Jesus said no one knows the date marked out on God’s Eternal Calendar. Not even Nostradamus, the Mayans, or any other living being. We may know the season and observe the Signs of the Time. God alone knows the exact date and time.
What Did the Early Church Believe About the Return of Jesus?
They believed that…
1. The Lord is coming back for His Church.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” John 14:1-3.
2. The Lord’s Return will be sudden and unexpected.
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” 1 Thessalonians 5:1,2.
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” Matthew 24:36.
3. “Born again” believers will meet Him in the Air. This will happen prior to His Return to the earth. At that time He will stand on the Mount of Olives and everyone will see Him. This time He returns to execute judgment on a wicked world.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18.
“Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, * “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” Jude 1:14-15.
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north. And half of it towards the south” Zechariah 14:4.
4. There will be a separation of people.
“Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed… I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” Luke 17:30-36.
5. The reign of antiChrist will take place after the end of the Church Age. This necessitates the removal of the Church and the Indwelling Holy Spirit.
“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8.
6. The coming of antiChrist’s Kingdom will take place at a specific time in world history. Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He said four World Empires would reign on earth. These would be followed by a long period we know as the Church Age. A fifth and final kingdom would be even more evil than anything ever experienced in the history of the world.
- Babylon Empire. BC 586-538 (Daniel 2:39)
- Persian Empire. BC 538-333 (Daniel 2:39, 8:20)
- Greek Empire. BC 333-63 (Daniel 2:39, 8:21)
- Roman Empire. BC 63 onwards (undefeated) followed by Church Age
- Revived Roman Empire in Last Days (Daniel 2:41-43)
7. Specific Signs will be evident before the first phase of His Return. They would leave the world in a state of chaos in preparation for the reign of antiChrist. Matthew chapter 25 lists some of them:
- Religious signs. False Christs and false prophets performing amazing lying signs and wonders.
- Political signs. The world will see a global government forming. A global financial system will force people to take a microchip in their body. A global religious system will arise and encourage people to take the chip. A first for our generation.
- Physical signs. An increase in earthquakes, famines, diseases, and disasters will shock the world.
- Persecution of genuine Christians.
- Moral – or rather Immoral – signs. Violence, immorality, sexual confusion, murder, and corruption will be the order of the day. The lifestyle will mirror the “Days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37) and the “Days of Lot” (Luke 17:28).
- Gospel signs. The Bible prophesies preaching of the Gospel in all the world 24/7. It does not say every individual will hear, but every nation will have the opportunity. Modern technology has made this possible.
- Sign of the Fig Tree. Prophecies are very specific about Israel becoming a Nation. Her people will return to their land, and ancient prophecies fulfilled to the letter.
The Reality of Increasing Skepticism and Scoffing in the Last Days.
The closer the Return of Christ and the Rapture of the Church, the more scoffing we will hear. There have always been scoffers, but this will increase as the time of the Lord’s Return draws closer. Even some of God’s chosen people in the modern church today are doubting His Return.
“First, I want to remind you that in the Last Days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire. This will be their argument: Jesus promised to come back, did He? Then where is He? Why, as far back as anyone can remember, everything has remained exactly the same since the world was first created.”(2 Peter 3:3,4 New Living Translation).
Scoffers are unaware they are fulfilling prophecy. Jesus will return in spite of scoffers and skeptics.
“I Can’t Keep My Eyes Off The Clouds” composed and sung by Ray Ludik
God Wants Us to Share the Gospel in these End Times
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9.
The “Last Days” were described by Jesus as being like the “Days of Noah” with all its attendant evils and moral perverseness. It is interesting to note that Noah and his family were in the Ark for seven days before the floods came and the earth was destroyed according to Genesis 7:7-10. We believe this is symbolical of the Rapture of the Church. Believers will be safe with Christ while the last seven years of world history take place on earth under the reign of antichrist.
The Early Church Looked Forward to the Return of Christ with eager expectation… and so should we. There are many differing views, but the bottom line is: whatever you believe, be ready for and excited about the Return of Jesus. The Church will be “caught up” (“snatched up”) to meet Him in the Air! Share the Gospel while there is time.
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;” (2 Peter 3:14)