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TEXT: Acts 17:22-31
SUBJECT: Exaltation of Christ #3
The subject of this year's Family Camp is The Exaltation of Jesus Christ.
To save us from our sin and misery, the Lord of Glory humbled Himself. He joined the human race-at the bottom. He submitted to suffering and hardship, to crucifixion, death, and burial. Words fail me to describe the greatness of His step down. C.S. Lewis compared it to a man becoming a slug to redeem those nasty, slimy creatures. The comparison is pretty good, but it doesn't go far enough-for the difference between two creatures-even men and slugs-is far less than the difference between the creature and his Creator. And that's what the Lord Jesus Christ is-God Almighty, Infinite, and Eternal. And that's what He did-became a thing like we are to make us a thing like He is!
Paul never got over this-and we mustn't either.
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
how that-though He was rich, yet He became poor,
that we-through His poverty-might be made rich".
Every believer in Christ admires His heroic sacrifice. But not only do believers admire Him for it, but His Father does too! All we can do is exalt the Lord with our voices and lives. God can do more than that: in fact He has done more than that-and will do even more in the future!
For, after three days and three nights in the grave, God exalted the Lord Jesus Christ! He lifted Him up to a place of splendor and majesty. He did it in two stages (so far): He raised Him from the dead and, six weeks later, He enthroned Him in heaven-making Him Lord of all He surveys-and, He surveys all creation from that High Seat in glory!
The Lord Jesus Christ is already reigning and ruling-even now, millions of angels and men adore Him in heaven and earth. But even though He is Lord of All, His Lordship is not confessed by all. He is the Lord of unsaved men, demons, and even Satan, but-at the moment-they say He isn't.
That has to be changed. Paul says every knee must bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. Even things under the earth must join the chorus.
This brings us to the third-and final-stage of His exaltation: His Second Coming.
No Bible doctrine has been denied more often or laughed at more loudly than the Second Coming of Christ. Behind its rejection and ridicule are two kinds of people: scoffing unbelievers and nosy Christians.
Because unbelievers do not want the Lord to come again, they say He won't come again-or, He cannot come again. Peter dismisses them as being willfully ignorant. Pop Psychology would say they're in denial. You understand why. They live without God and Christ, without faith and obedience. They have worshiped idols and served their own desires.
And suddenly, the One they did not believe in or obey has come to pass judgment on them! They can't deal with reality and so they retreat into a world of fantasy.
"Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue the same from the beginning of the world".
They're no different than people who say things like "I can't handle having cancer so I don't have cancer-no matter what the x-rays show!"
But saying it doesn't make it so.
The other people who are to blame have better motives than these. They want the Lord to come again-and that's good. But they want it so badly they begin nosing into things God has not revealed. The Lord Jesus Christ said,
"No man knows the day or hour.not the angels in heaven or the Son of Man."
The words, day and hour, is another way of saying the time: it does not mean the sixty minutes or the twenty-four hours. It means no one knows when Christ will come again-no one!
But some cannot live with not knowing the time. And so they have a vision or dream that tells them. Or-even worse-they claim to find the time in the Bible itself. Often in ways of unbelievable foolishness.
They find the time, they set the date, the day passes, and-instead of laughing at them-- the fools who set dates--the Second Coming is laughed at!
Thus, in affirming the Second Coming of Christ-as all Christians do-we must be careful to affirm only what the Bible teaches and not our own pet theories!
What, then, does the Bible teach?
First of all, it teaches that Jesus Christ will come again.
When the Lord ascended to heaven, He left His disciples standing there below, with their eyes bugging out and their mouths wide open. You know why: of all the awesome things they had seen in the last few years, they never saw anything like this! A Man-a Man they knew and had just been talking to-left this world for the Other World.
Not that His spirit left the world when he died-but the whole Man-body and soul-rose to heaven on a cloud of unearthly magnificence.
The men could do nothing but gawk at the sight. But they weren't allowed to for long. For an angel saw what they were doing and called them on it!
"Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven".
The One who rose into heaven in glory will come back to earth some day in the very same glory. Thus, the Second Coming is not the Day of Pentecost (which was a day of salvation) or in 70 A.D. (which was a day of vengeance on the Jews for their unbelief). These were Comings-in a certain way, the Bible says so-but not The Second Coming-not the Church's Blessed Hope.
Many other verses imply or directly teach the same thing. At the end of His parable on the unjust judge, the Lord says, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Some use the verse to prove He won't find faith-but that's not what it says! It's not a statement, but a question-Will He? What it teaches is that the Son of Man will come again.
Hebrews 9:28 may be the clearest verse on the subject of the Second Coming-even using the term!
"So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation".
Two comings. In the first, He bore our sins on the cross. But no more of that! No more dying for Christ. When He comes again, He will finalize our salvation. What we now have in part, we will then have in full.
The next thing the Bible teaches about the Second Coming is that Christ will then raise the dead.
He will raise the saints or believers who are dead. I Corinthians 15:52 has it:
"For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed".
Most Christians are dead. Only one generation of believers is now alive-and only will be alive when the Lord returns. The living saints will be caught up to meet Him in the air. But what about the others? What about the ones so dear to you-that believing mother? The Christian boy who died so young? What about them? Are they invited to the Party? Will they have a part in this Happy Day?
The Thessalonians worried about that-they were worried sick about it. And Paul relieves their fear by saying:
"For 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 sleep in Jesus. 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."
Dead Christians will be raised when the Lord returns: in fact, there's no such thing as a dead Christian! Believers sleep in Jesus-their bodies are resting now, but one day they'll be woken up. That's what Christ will do when He comes! And that's why Paul calls it the blessed hope-not that half of us (the spiritual part) will survive the grave, but the whole man will be clothed in immortality!
But what about the others? A big part of the human race does not believe the Gospel and will not be saved when the Lord comes again. What happens to them?
They, too, are resurrected by the power and wisdom of Christ. The Lord said, "All who are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth-those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation".
The Resurrection is one, but the people in it will be of two kinds: the saved and the lost-all will be called up from the dead-and stand before their King in soul and body.
This brings us to the third Bible teaching on the Second Coming: it will lead to the Judgment.
When the Lord comes again, He will judge the living and the dead. Every person will stand before the Lord-believer and unbeliever alike. And every person's life will be reviewed and evaluated. Those who have repented of their sins and believed in Jesus Christ will be pronounced innocent; the ones who haven't will be found guilty.
No teaching in the Bible is plainer than this one. Some Christians say believers won't stand in the Judgment-but they're as wrong as they can be! Paul said, "We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ".
Unbelievers like it even less: but like it or not, the Lord is coming in Judgment-maybe today, maybe a million years from now, the timing of the Judgment doesn't matter; but the fact of it does!
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man, for God will bring every work into judgment-including every secret thing-whether it be good or whether it be evil".
Whether you're ready or not, God has
"Appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has chosen and He has given assurance to all, in that He raised Him from the dead".
Fourthly, the Second Coming will usher in the New Age.
In this age, saints and sinners are all mixed up-in the world, in the church, everywhere. But when the Lord comes again, the mix will be unmixed. He will separate the sheep from the goats.
In this age, saints are at the bottom and sinners are on top. But when the Lord comes again, things will be turned right side up: the saints who will inherit the earth, the sinners will get what's coming to them.
In this age, the universe and everything in it are under the curse. But when the Lord comes again, the curse will be lifted and the world-long a desert-will blossom as the rose.
Lastly, the Second Coming will open the doors to heaven and hell. The saved will be welcomed into heaven, the lost will be locked into hell-and there both will stay forever.
This is the Bible's doctrine of the Second Coming. I urge you to be satisfied with it. Please don't go speculating into things God has not revealed.
But, even more than that, live as though the Lord is coming again. Because He is.
We are involved in the Second Coming, of course, after all, He is coming for us. But the Second Coming is not, mostly, about our happiness or the unhappiness of the unsaved. No, mostly, it is about the exalting of Jesus Christ.
On that Day, the Lord will be lifted up as high as He can be. When He comes, the saints will admire Him as they never have before; sinners will fear Him as they never have before. The Second Coming will not make Him any greater or more glorious than He already is-than He was in the manger!
But it will show Him in His proper light.
It's funny that unbelievers don't fear the Second Coming, but believers do! But we should not: for the Second Coming is a Party-God's celebration of His Son's wedding. And we're invited-not to attend it, only, but to be His spouse.
"Surely I come quickly".
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus".
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