When our resurrected Lord enters the scene, the whole
system rocks as he gathers his own from every part of heaven
and earth.


When you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by
Daniel 
the prophet, standing where it ought not, then let
those who are in 
Judea flee to the mountains.  Let him who
is on the housetop not go
 down into the house, nor enter to
take anything out of his house.  Let
 him who is in the field 
not go back to get his clothes.

"Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are
nursing 
babies in those days! Pray that your flight may
not be in winter. 
For in those days there will be tribulation,
such as has not been 
since the beginning of the
creation. Unless the
Lord had 
shortened those days, no
flesh would be saved; but for the 
elect's sake, He shortened
the days.

"If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' do
not believe it. False christs
 and false prophets will rise
and show signs and wonders to deceive even the elect;
see, I have told you all things beforehand.

"In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be
darkened, and
the moon will not give its light; the stars
of heaven will fall, and the
powers in the heavens will
be shaken. Then they will see the Son
of Man coming 
in the clouds with great power and glory. He will
send
His angels, and gather together His elect from the four
winds,
from the farthest part of the earth to the
farthest part of heaven."

                                                          Mark 13:24-27 NKJV, condensed


                                   The Great Homecoming

When I was a child, my father decided to give our property a
name. He had a sign made and attached it to the mailbox down
by the road. It read, "Maranatha Hills." Dad told us the word
Maranatha meant, "Come, Lord Jesus", and he seemed to be
ready and eagerly awaiting an unmistakable, dramatic,
cloud-breaking event. Unfortunately he did not live to see
his invitation fulfilled.

Multiply his experience by the millions of people in the past
2,000 years who have actively anticipated the return of Christ
in power and glory. Even the original twelve disciples were
convinced Jesus would return in their lifetimes. It has not
happened. This presents a dilemma and some folks have run
out of patience and hope.

Still, many of our congregations continue to affirm, "Christ has
died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again." At the table of our
Lord we hear the words of Saint Paul from I Corinthians 11:26,
"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you
proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

A literal reading of our text indicates that after a period of
extreme suffering, the rhythms of nature will fail. Once more the
humble "Son of Man" will make his advent into a dark world. But
this time he will come riding the clouds like a victorious king. He
will command his angels to gather up his scattered pilgrims.
They will come from the north, south, east and west, even from
the far most parts of heaven and earth.

Whether Jesus meant his words literally or symbolically, we
confront an awesome mystery here that is both a present reality
and a future consummation. When we speak of the second
coming, it sounds like Jesus is absent and we are waiting for him
to return. Yet Jesus also promised that he would be with us
always, even to the end of the age.

Our resurrected Lord is always present, yet coming again some
day; already here, yet we are to watch for his return. Jesus
asked us to do two things at once: live in his daily presence and
never tire of waiting for his return! Maybe the first step in
waiting for Jesus to come through the clouds at a future date,
is to spread the welcome mat today for the God who is the
great "I AM".

At the end of the age when the reign of God brings creation
to fulfillment, the forces of nature will shake, rattle and roll.
The world as we know it will cease to exist. But with this vision
also come words of hope and assurance for the faithful. It will be
a time not to cower in fear, but to look up with joy and receive
the promise of God's salvation and final victory over sin.

If we learn anything from this life it is the cycle of life and death.
When the end is near, so is a new beginning. One day dies in the
west; another day is dawning in the east. This year's seeds hold
the promise of next year's crops. So it is when God shuts down
one age, another age will open up. Our destination is not to go
back to the garden of Eden. In the book of Revelation, the
apostle John revealed that when Jesus comes in the clouds,
he's coming for his bride!

When will these things be?  How long, O Lord?  Why the delay?
Perhaps the apostle Peter explained it best, "The Lord is not
slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but
everyone to come to repentance." (II Peter 3:9 NIV) God wants
no one to be left behind. He's waiting patiently for each of us
to turn from our sins and follow the footsteps of our Savior
into the kingdom of heaven.

Is the doctrine of the second coming a warning of impending
doom? Or a promise of everlasting life? It all depends on our
response to God's faithful and abiding love. Will we ignore the
message and wish it away, or eagerly lift up our hearts and say,
"Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  Did you ever know or meet anyone who was passionate
                       about the second coming of Jesus? If so, describe something
                       about that person.

 

How well do you deal with change?
            Share an example from your life when you experienced a big change.
            In what ways did your big change represent a new beginning?

 

How do you respond to the Biblical teaching about "Christ coming in
the clouds"? 
            Discuss why this subject interests you or doesn't interest you?

 

Christians make three affirmations: 'Christ has died; Christ is risen;
Christ will come again.' It has been said that the certainty of the
affirmation diminishes with each statement.
            Is that true for you?
Are able to continue believing Jesus will return some day even though
it is a 2,000 year old promise?

 

Do you have peace of mind regarding the second coming of Jesus?
            Why or why not?
What are your expectations for when Christ returns?

 

What similarities or differences do you see between the first advent
of Jesus as a baby in Bethlehem and the second advent of Jesus at
the end of the world?

 

Jesus was facing the cross in just a day or two. Although his death
was witnessed by many, the empty tomb was seen by only a handful
of people and had to be taken by faith.
            How would the apocalyptic language of Christ's second
            coming strengthen the early believers who suffered so much
            for their new-found beliefs?

 

When God puts an end to sin and death, the goal is not to return to
the garden of Eden, but to be transported to the table of our Lord
at the joyous wedding feast described by the apostle John in his
Revelation, where all believers will collectively be the bride of Jesus
who is referred to as the Lamb.
            How does this image capture the heart of God and God's
                    desire for all mankind?

 

What is the difference between waking up in the morning and thinking,
"Well, today may be the day it all ends for me."; or thinking instead,
"Today could be the day it all begins for me!"?

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