This morning, many live in a state of confusion about what is coming with the eventual return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Too many people are anticipating that day fearfully – for a number of misguided reasons. Others deny its reality. Still others expect several things to happen before it arrives that the Bible does not support. Regardless of the confusion, we should never let the counterfeit teachings about Christ's second coming discourage or cloud our joyful anticipation of that glorious event. While I do not claim to have a lot of insight into certain difficult texts that men sometimes use to prop up their errant teachings (such as Revelation, Daniel, or Ezekiel), one need only observe the clear texts in Scripture to discount the "house of cards" teachings that many hold to. Our study verse this morning is one of the clearest stated teachings on His second coming in all of Holy Writ, and our desire is to focus upon Paul's thoughts and draw strength for today and hope for tomorrow.
Quite often in Scripture, we find simply stated and succinct texts that give an encapsulation of a grand teaching. Such is the case of our verse. Let us notice a few of the phrases that scope out the subject of Christ's second coming. 1. It is unto them that look for Him. 2. He appears the second time. 3. He appears without sin. 4. He appears unto salvation. These four plain statements dispel many of the misguided – but popular – thoughts of the day about this event, but more importantly, they give some of the greatest comfort to God's family.
Many texts in the Bible are taken by Arminians to throw their slant onto it. Our text is one such verse that is sometimes used to support the idea that only people living right will get to enjoy Christ's eventual coming. They say, "If you're not looking for Him, then you'll get left out of Paradise." However, such thinking will not stack up to Scriptural exegesis, as Paul in another place declared that the only thing affecting our eternal state in glory was that Christ died for us. Whether we are awake (spiritually) or asleep (spiritually), it matters not. Christ's death for us secures our home in glory. (I Thessalonians 5:9-10) So, what does Paul mean by this statement? In another place, Paul uses some similar language to teach the same point. As he was writing his last epistle, he declared his desire to depart and enjoy what God had prepared for Him: a crown of righteousness. (II Timothy 4:8) However, this provision that God prepared was not to be singularly enjoyed by Paul. Everyone would equally enjoy that state who "love his appearing." Paul's statement of people loving His appearing and looking for His appearing speak to something that God has already done for His regenerated people.
God has given us – in the new birth – a creature that is wholly righteous. (I John 3:9) This new man longs and yearns for that blessed day of being with Christ with all the family of God. (Romans 8:19) In the heart, new man, new creature, etc. there is a longing to be where He is. No matter what happens in this world, that nature is there, for it is anchored beyond the veil where Christ sits. (Hebrews 6:20) Regardless of what Satan and all the world throws at us, God has planted something within us that cannot ever be undone or taken away. Truly, we do not always act obediently to the inclination of this new man and nature as we are still tainted with our old nature in the body of this death. (Romans 7:25) Yet, that new nature is intrinsically yearning and reaching out – longing – for home. Our course is to manifest outwardly the desire that is already within. Live with the longing and outward desire that is already worked in by God. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The second phrase "shall appear the second time" is so clear it takes help to misunderstand it. Here Paul adamantly and clearly slams the door on the idea of multiple future appearings of Christ. Since He has already appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Verse 26), there can be nothing since then other than this second appearing that Paul speaks of. There will be no secret appearings, special raptures, reigning future kingdoms of Christ on earth, etc. Whenever people go to Revelation to try to prove such concepts, I may not have a definitive answer about what those texts mean, but I can assuredly have the conviction to answer that they do not support such teachings as our verse clearly refutes those ideas. Another important point to make here is that His appearing the second time shows that there was not a bodily appearing on earth other than these two. Some have the misguided idea that Christ has been coming in bodily form ever since the days of the Old Testament. While He certainly existed, He did not assume flesh until His first appearing, and that fleshly – albeit glorified – form will not be seen again until this time that Paul speaks of.
Paul further asserts that this appearing will be without sin. That is a somewhat curious statement since He appeared the first time without sin as well. While in a real body, it was only the likeness of sinful flesh. (Romans 8:3) However, Paul's thought here refers to not only the perception of Christ but also the scope of the occasion. Since His first appearing had the likeness of sinful flesh, there was the perception by some that He was no different or better than anyone else. Such will not be the case on that last day. As He appears in the clouds of glory, all will see Him and know who He is. The brightness of His glory will be really and fully seen. His majesty will be on full display, and not one person or thing – even His enemies – will be able to do anything other than bow their knee and confess that, "Jesus is Lord." (Philippians 2:9-11)
Also on that occasion, the scope is so grand that sin will be manifestly taken away. His appearing is not to finally vanquish sin, but rather to show His past conquest of it on our behalf. All the sins that plague us now will be manifestly gone. Sinful bodies will be changed and forever made sinless. Sinful, wicked men will be forever removed from us and cast into the lake of fire. Evil principalities and the powers of darkness will likewise be taken away. The only vision and sight that the family of God will have on that day is the clearest most unclouded sight of glory ever to behold. No longer seen through broken vision, we will behold the King in the fulness of glory and honour. No longer plagued by weakness on every hand in this low ground of sin and sorrow, we will know and understand for the first time what the term "without sin" really looks and most importantly "feels" like.
Just as the expression "without sin" does not imply Christ's final conquest but rather a manifestation of conquest over sin, so also the expression "unto salvation" shows that Christ's coming is not to "finally get the job done." It is to show that His job and mission has already been accomplished. Some think that His coming is to set the affairs on earth in order as He sets up His kingdom. Friends, His affairs are already in order. He has spoiled the grave. He has victoriously defeated Satan. Praise be unto God, He has already saved us from our sins. His coming in the clouds manifests the reality of all these things. Hebrews 2:8 tells us that all things are put under His feet, but we do not yet see all things put under Him. We still see death on every hand and the wiles of Satan trying to ensnare us in this world. On that day, we will realize the fulness of His salvation. For the first time, we will be able to talk of the story in the rich fulness that it deserves.
Since we only know and see in part here, we cannot possibly hope to scope out the blessedness of His mercy, compassion, and grace. On that day, we will know Him even as He knows us. We will be able for the first time to understand fully and completely His love for us. We will be able to bask in the blessed Light of His rapturous mercy as the endless ages of eternity roll.
Putting all of these thoughts together, we can see that regardless of what happens in this old world, nothing is going to keep us from Him. The next time He appears, all will be over. We will know and understand the fulness of salvation, void of sin. The only thing left is to improve our manifestation of that first principle – looking for Him. Friends looking for Him outwardly should be done in the same vein that occurs inwardly. Yearning and pining for home. May our walk here be marked with free and cheerful confession that this world is not our home. May our thoughts be directed upward with the hope and confidence that He will appear from that place. Truly, what does this world have to throw at us that compares with that? What fancies of the world are worth taking our mind and attention away from it? What troubles of the world are worth depressing us to the point of failing to see or look forward to it as we should? Friends, an old cliche says, "All's well that ends well." While that cliche fails in so many human endeavors, it will be abundantly true in the end of all ends here on earth. All will be well. All is well right now, but all will eventually be well to our sight and vantage point.