Christ Will Come Again!
1 Corinthians 15: 1-8
RUMC 27 August, 2017
“Christ has died; Christ is risen: Christ will come again.”
Some of you may know that I was not brought up Methodist, but rather as a Baptist. It was all my mother’s influence. At a young age, mom was taken down to the river and “dunked” under, as I like to call it.
Of course, growing up I have heard just about every “Baptist” joke possible. Recently, I came across this version of one of the more popular St. Peter jokes:
A man went to heaven and was being shown around by St. Peter.
As they went from cloud to cloud, they came to various doors which St. Peter would open.
One showed a large group waving their arms, talking in tongues and singing “Hallelujahs.” “Our Pentecostals” he said.
Next was a serious ritual. “Our Jewish persuasion” he replied.
Then another ritualistic service. “Our Catholics.”
At the next cloud, he didn’t open the door, but instead put his forefinger to his lips in a hush motion and they both tip toed past. Once past, the man asked what that was all about !?
“Those are the Baptists,” he explained. “They think they are the only one’s here.”
My mother was raised in a small country Baptist church and continued in that same faith the rest of her life. As a family, we attended a neighborhood church and mom saw that we regularly attended Sunday school from an early age. One of the things that I remember was being taught to live each day with the expectation that Jesus could return tomorrow. It was an expectation that when you said your prayers at night, tomorrow might just be the day you see Jesus. You were living a life as He would want, since tomorrow you could be in His presence. And so, you were living your life day by day. Being young, say 8 or 10, and new in the teachings of Christ, you could easily believe that His “return” could happen any day!
If my father would have allowed it, we would have had a sticker on our rear chrome bumper saying “Jesus Is Coming, Are You Ready?” so other drivers could be prepared.
But this morning, I want to focus on a familiar verse that we recite each time we gather together and receive Communion. These 10 words are in every version of our communion service. We either say it or sing it in unison:
“Christ has died…Christ is risen…Christ will come again”.
These familiar words are incorporated into our Communion services in remembrance of that Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples.
In this sacramental service, we celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and recite together those 10 words which capture the essence of our faith and belief: Jesus died on the Cross for our sins. That sacrifice makes it possible for all old sins to be forgiven; wiped away; eradicated as if they never happened.
““Christ has died; Christ is risen: Christ will come again.”
This is the Good News message of the Gospel.
I love the way that the verb tense moves from past to future.
…WILL come again.”
In John 14:3, we are told about Jesus’ promise to us: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
This is the promise of eternal life– the promise that we will someday see God –the promise of being with Jesus in Heaven. This is central to all our Christian belief.
The ascension story is found in Acts. Jesus called His disciples together and spoke His last time to them. Then He was lifted up; a cloud taking Him out of sight.
As they were staring intensely upwards, two angels spoke to them saying, “This same Jesus…will come back in the SAME WAY you have seen him go into heaven.” Here again is Jesus’ promise to return.
These verses are telling us that when Jesus returns, we will see Him with our very eyes. No cloud, no heralds, no angels. And it will be this same Jesus that the disciples and early followers had known.
Let’s face a fact that many believers question if Jesus will really come back. Is it a myth or a fairy tale? Or is Jesus’ second coming a real event? We need to realize that when that happens, it will be one of the most astounding events in the history of the world! So let us list the things we’ve already put our trust in, or if we haven‘t put our trust in them, have at least heard of them and will, at some point, have to decide where we stand.
So…Are these things true?
- Did He come and dwell among us?
- Did He go to the cross and die?
- Did He rise bodily from the grave?
- Did He ascend to heaven from the Mount?
In an article by Clark Tanner, he says that before we can believe that Christ will come again that we need to answer these four questions, foundational to our faith. If our answer to those four questions is ‘yes, I believe that’, then we have to believe He will come again. To disbelieve any part is to disbelieve the whole says Tainer. To accept any part as true, is to accept all. (By Clark Tanner)
Imagine what the Disciples thought about “He would return”:
For a moment, imagine yourself as one of the original disciples. Or better yet, as Mary or Martha, the women followers of Jesus. As one of His disciples, He personally chose you to be part of His ministry. You walked with Him everywhere witnessing His miracles and listened as He preached and taught the crowds. You were excited to discover that He was the Messiah; then disappointed at His capture, His beating, and crucifixion. You hid, so as NOT to be associated. Then the miracle of miracles happened – He arose from the grave. For 40 more days, He was with you. But that all ended when He returned to the Father. Maybe you wished that you could have ascended right along with Jesus… but NO. As He was leaving you for the FINAL time, Jesus tells you that He will return one last time.
Hurray. A promise to look forward to. But when will that time be? You’ve known Him for three years…maybe He will return within three more years. Perhaps it will happen soon after the apostles establish a few new churches. Well, best if it takes place before I depart this world–one more time. One more time to see Him as He was when I last knew Him.
One writer describes the Second Coming in these terms: When we talk about Jesus’ Second Coming there is a tension between two extremes IMMINENT and DELAYED.
The belief that Christ’s return is imminent is not new. Jesus’ followers have been looking for His return right from the beginning. The disciples and the early church believed that they were living in the last days and that Christ could come at any time. So Christ’s return is imminent; it could happen at any moment. That is what I thought as a youth raised in a Baptist church.
Yet Christ’s return is also delayed. Over 2,000 years have come and gone and we are still waiting for Jesus to return. As I saw more of life and the years past me by, I lost my feeling that His return was imminent. Now I was sensing that it just might NOT happen in my life time.
The Non-believers in the church of Corinth:
Some 50 years following Christ’s death and resurrection, the church established at Corinth had fallen into division over church policy and beliefs. (Doesn’t that sound familiar?)
So the leaders of the church sent Paul a list of questions dealing with marriage, Christian freedom, public worship and the resurrection. There were some people who denied that Christ rose from the dead. Others felt that people could not physically be resurrected.
I want to share what Paul wrote to them because this is a core belief; it is foundational for us. Remember the litany “Christ has died…Christ is risen…Christ will come again.” Christ’s resurrection means the end of death. Because He lives, we also will live. He promises us an eternal home with Him.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul is saying to the Corinthian church in chapter 15 –
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Paul was reminding the Corinthian congregation of the message he preached when they first heard the Gospel. You see, the Gospel message is NOT a new kind of Philosophy or a new code of Morality or a new set of Teachings. Yes, it contains all of this, but at its heart, the Gospel is a message about a Person and an Event. The Person is Jesus and the event is His death and resurrection.
Everything else about the Christian life rests on this Person and this Event. That’s why Paul was so frustrated to hear that certain people in the Corinthian church were trying to say there was no such thing as Resurrection. We run into the same kind of problem today — even in the church.
Some Christian groups celebrate Easter as a symbol of renewal and new life, but in reality, they see the Resurrection account as a nice little make-believe story that never REALLY happened. This is pretty much the same attitude Paul was confronting in Corinth. Some folks were trying to hang on to the promises of the Gospel while at the same time, rejecting the HEART of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that if you reject the literal resurrection of Jesus, you have rejected the entire Gospel. Every promise of the Gospel message rests on the Resurrection. Our Christian faith rests on the resurrection.
In verses 5-7, Paul emphasizes that he is NOT telling a fairy tale about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul goes on to list the many eye-witnesses (most of them still living when Paul wrote) who saw and interacted with the visible risen Jesus.
Everything rests on the resurrection – our salvation, our purpose for living, our hope of eternal life.
THE REUNION IN THE SKY: (Back to the Second Coming)
If you never have heard the chorus in the Gospel hymn “Meeting in the Air” here are those glorious and exciting words:
There is going to be a meeting in the air In the sweet, sweet bye and bye I am going to meet you, meet you over there, In that home beyond the sky Such singing you will hear, never heard by mortal ear ‘Twill be glorious I do declare And God’s own son will be the leading one, At the meeting in the air
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “We shall be caught up with the Lord in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
This is going to be a meeting of Christ and members of His Body, the Church. It marks the beginning of the Christian’s eternal association with Christ. And, what a meeting that is going to be!
The goal of redemption is not only to rescue us from judgment but to relate us to Christ.
There are going to be no good-byes in Heaven. Forever we shall be with Christ and His family members from around the world.
So, in conclusion, what will you be thinking when next you recite these familiar words during communion?
“Christ has died; Christ is risen: Christ will come again!”
We are called “Easter” people. We believe in the crucifixion and the empty tomb – do you believe that He will come again?