The King Returns to ConquerPastor Lutzer | October 31, 2010
The sun is darkened. There is no light from the moon. Yet every eye will see the coming of Christ. Are you prepared for His return?
Selected highlights from this sermon
Just as Satan and the Antichrist are mounting one last massive assault on Jesus, the Son of God will return to Earth.
The light from the sun and the moon will be darkened. Stars will fall. But everyone on the planet will see Jesus returning to the Mount of Olives. No one will miss it.
The eyes that wept over Jerusalem are now a blazing flame of fire as Christ returns to judge the people of Earth. And if you’re not with Jesus, your destiny lies in a lake of fire.
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Today I have the privilege of speaking to you about the most dramatic spectacular event in all of history that is still to take place. It is not only spectacular from the standpoint of earth but nothing like it has ever happened in the universe before, and nothing else like it will ever happen again. I’m speaking to you about the glorious return of Jesus Christ, and it’s an event that we can all look forward to, but also may I say that it is going to involve us? As a matter of fact, this return of Jesus will eventually affect all of the people on the whole earth who have ever lived, either directly or indirectly. And for those who are alive, the billions that are alive, what an event it is going to be.
I need to warn you in advance that parts of this are going to be shocking because we usually don’t think of Jesus in the way that I am going to preach him today, but if we accept the loving Jesus we need to understand that with that love there is also meticulous justice, so I invite you to open your mind and your heart to God and to His Word.
Now when we think of the return of Jesus, as I mentioned, it is best for us to understand it in two phases. In earlier messages we talked about the rapture of the Church when we are taken up. And if you look at 1 Thessalonians 4 you’ll notice that it is quite a different event than the passages we’re going to return to today because that is the glorious appearing of Jesus that takes place, and today we’re speaking about the glorious visible appearing of Jesus on planet earth and what an event that will be. Just hang on to your seats because you wouldn’t believe it unless it was in God’s Word.
Now let me say also that the reason for this is first of all to judge the earth. You will be surprised at the unstoppable tsunami of justice that is hurled upon the planet almost affecting our sensibilities, but also another reason is so that the Jewish people who are alive at that period of time will believe on Jesus. You remember Paul says, “And so all Israel shall be saved.” There is going to be a remnant of Jewish people who, when Jesus appears, will recognize Him as Messiah, and they will be saved, and they will go into what we call the Millennial Kingdom. You say, “Well, what’s the Millennial Kingdom all about?” I’m so glad that you asked. You’re a little bit ahead of me but I’m always glad when you are thinking, and the answer is in the next message in this series on the Millennial Kingdom, and I hope to answer at least a few of your questions at that time. Another reason is to show the absolute superiority of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of Lords.
Now before we open the Bible I have to ask this question: What will be going on on earth when Jesus appears? Antichrist will be in full bloom. If you were with us last time you know that the mark of the beast will be given to people, and if you don’t accept the mark you will be put to death. We talked about that. During the last 3-1/2 years he has awesome power and all that dwell upon the earth worship him except those whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life as we covered in the last message.
But antichrist (Satan governs him) reads books on prophecy. He knows what the Bible teaches. He knows exactly what it teaches. He probably understands prophecy a lot more than we do, and he knows that soon Jesus is going to appear, and what he wants to do is to initiate one more solemn massive assault on Jesus. And that’s why in the sixteenth chapter of Revelation (you can read this on your own) in verse 17 that’s the only reference to what we call Armageddon. The Armageddon, of course represents the Plain of Megiddo about 60 miles north of Jerusalem, and so the Battle of Armageddon is in full swing. What is the Battle of Armageddon? In the previous verses in Revelation 16 it says (speaking of the godless unholy trinity I spoke of in my last message) that the dragon (who is Satan), the beast (who is antichrist), and then the false prophet (who is representing the Holy Spirit) open their mouths, and from their mouths evil spirits come, and these spirits are sent throughout the whole earth to gather people together in Jerusalem. Now the reason that they give for the gathering might be varied. Maybe they’re going to say they are going to take on antichrist, but antichrist knows exactly why they are gathering. It says in Revelation they are gathering “to be there for the great war of God in the day of God almighty.” It will be a final showdown, a final massive showdown between Satan and Jesus, and that’s the situation into which Jesus comes.
Now for every verse of Scripture in the Bible that talks about the first coming of Jesus, there are eight verses that refer to His second coming, so I have many options but I have chosen three of the most prominent, and we’re going to look at all of them, and I hope that you have your Bible with you so that you can turn to them with me. All three passages describe the same event, but help us understand it from different points of view.
The first one is in Zechariah. I’m going to pick it up in Zechariah 14:1: “Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered.” There’s actually going to be warfare house to house in Jerusalem when all the nations are gathered there, and then you’ll notice it says in verse 3, “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle.” Now catch this: “On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.” Wow! Jesus is going to come back to the Mount of Olives. How appropriate that His feet shall stand there! In the days of Ezekiel the prophet, we learned that the Shekinah Glory left the temple area (Ezekiel said) and then it went through the Kidron Valley and it disappeared over the Mount of Olives. How appropriate that the Shekinah Glory which disappeared over the Mount of Olives should now return in the person of Jesus triumphant, the one who embodies the very glory of God.
Furthermore, it is appropriate because Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives, and you remember as the disciples were looking up as Jesus disappeared behind the clouds (and by the way He’s going to come back with clouds as we shall see) two angels were there who said, “Why do you keep gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who has gone up from you into heaven will likewise come back from heaven,” and this is that event–right there on the Mount of Olives. And that’s why I always say to people that if you haven’t had an opportunity to go to Jerusalem in this life, if you hang on to this message I’ll show you that if you are a believer you’re going to be there, and it’s going to be the best tour group that you’ve ever seen in your life, and Jesus is going to be your leader. I mean, it is just unbelievable. You read this and you say, “Lord, why not today?” but I have to finish this message first. (laughter)
Now, the Bible says Jerusalem is going to be the capital of the world, and if you read the rest of the fourteenth chapter it’s got all kind of symbolism. It’s talking about living water coming from Jerusalem. It’s talking about the name of God being inscribed on the bells of the horses, symbolic of the fact that God is going to be everywhere, and this is the Millennial Kingdom that I am going to be speaking about next time.
But there’s something else that’s going to happen, and that is what I told you earlier, that a Jewish remnant is going to believe on Jesus. You say, “Where are you getting that?” You know, that’s a good question. Whenever you hear somebody speak you should always say, “Where’s he getting that from?” So let me tell you. You have your Bible open to Zechariah 14. Go back a chapter or two to chapter 12. You’ll notice it says in verse 10, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him.” They are going to deeply regret that they misread the signals that they didn’t understand–that Jesus was the Messiah.
Look at what it says in Zechariah 13:1: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” Verse 9 says, “And I will put this third into the fire.” Two-thirds of the people are going to be killed, by the way, during the great tribulation. That’s what it says in verse 8. Horrendous things will happen. But notice verse 9 says, “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people;’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
This is just as Paul wrote in the book of Romans. And so all Israel, a generation of Jewish people that are alive when Jesus Christ comes, are going to believe on Christ, be cleansed from their sins, and will enter into the Millennial Kingdom, because after all, God even has some promises that he made to Abraham and to his descendants that haven’t been fulfilled yet, as we shall see next time. And of course, it’s not only Jewish people. There will also be Gentiles who will be there in the Millennial Kingdom, those who trusted Christ during those difficult days during the tribulation period.
So that’s the story from Zechariah. Jesus comes to the Mount of Olives. It is a spectacular return, but it’s also worldwide. For this we have to turn to the book of Matthew and you remember in a previous message I spoke on Matthew 24 when we were talking about the Great Tribulation, but now I pick it up at Matthew 24:27. Jesus is saying if someone says Christ is over here, don’t believe him or her. Don’t even go see the guy–somebody who says, “I am the Christ.” Don’t even go see the Imam or the man for whom some Muslims are waiting because they believe that he is the Messiah. When he speaks you don’t even have to listen to him because if it were the real Messiah, it says in verse 27, “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” That will become clear in a few moments. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heaven will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Talk about a worldwide event. The Bible says that every eye shall see Him. Now how can that be possible? People have said, “Well, you know if Jesus descends to the Mount of Olives, every eye can’t see him.” Well maybe television cameras would pick that up. I’m sure they might, but maybe the infrastructure has been broken and maybe we are without electricity. I can’t prove this scripturally but I would like to think that when Jesus begins to come out of heaven (and this will become clearer in another passage) that the sign of the Son of Man is going to appear, and of course, as the world turns on its axis over a period of days, they continue to see Jesus in all of His splendor and in all of His glory appearing and coming to earth. So in that sense, if it happens over a period of time, every eye will see Him, as the Bible says.
Notice that when He comes there are going to be all of these convulsions of nature. The sun is going to be darkened. Of course the moon will not be giving its light because the moon does nothing but reflect the light of the sun. The stars of the heaven are going to fall. I mean, you talk about a cataclysmic event; you have it here.
And then the scripture says that the tribes of the earth will mourn, and some will mourn because they recognize Jesus as the Messiah as we read in the book of Zechariah moments ago. Other people are going to possibly mourn over their sin and believe on Christ. Others are going to mourn in agony and reject Jesus, but all the tribes of the earth will be aware that Jesus has arrived bodily on planet earth, and that He has descended to the Mount of Olives which is next to Jerusalem.
Now, you’ll notice it says He sends His angels to gather His elect, and these angels who are asked by God to gather the elect (some of the Christians of course who have been hiding in caves or have been all over, and some of the Jewish people who are now believing in Christ) are sent to be God’s gatherers.
Now all of that seems strange to us. It seems so foreign to our sensibilities. But think about this for a moment. In Luke 16 when Lazarus died, it says that angels carried him into Abraham’s bosom. It says that the angels accompanied him. I suspect that when a Christian dies it is entirely possible that they see angels who take them to wherever Jesus designates they be, and that is to Paradise.
So the angels are sent to gather His elect from all over the world. The second coming, the glorious appearing of Jesus is spectacular, but let me say that the glorious appearing of Jesus not only is spectacular, but it is worldwide. As the lightning comes from one side of the sky and goes to another, so will be the sign of the Son of Man, which I interpret to be Jesus Christ coming Himself.
Well now we get to a passage in which you and I are intimately involved. If you want to know what we will be doing, if you believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, we’ll be in heaven during the tribulation, but imagine this. You, my friend, as a believer, are going to be a part of this glorious appearing. Of all the passages in the Bible that I love the most–it will also give you some chills–Revelation 19 is where we have a more detailed description of this same event–the return of Jesus, and we learn that it is a very victorious event. You have to see this now with your own eyes. Revelation 19:11 (and we’re invited to use our imaginations and I will comment on the text in a moment after I have read it) says, “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.” There’s no doubt as to whom that is who returns to the earth.
Now let’s look at the text more carefully. The means of transportation is a white horse. Should we take it literally? Possibly not! John is receiving this revelation and he would understand by this revelation that what we have here is the triumph of Jesus most assuredly-Jesus absolutely triumphant because in those days the Romans, as victors, always rode on white horses. And I think it was during Julius Caesar’s reign that he was allowed to ride on a chariot drawn by white horses. So what John wants us to understand is the triumph of Jesus, and He is depicted as coming on a white horse, totally victorious, with totally unquestioned authority.
So you have the white horse as the means of transportation. His name is Faithful and True. Now there are dozens of names that have been given to Jesus throughout the Bible that we could quote today. Why Faithful and True? It’s because He said that He was going to return, and here He is. He’s as good as His word. Amen?
Donald Gray Barnhouse, a pastor of another generation, said that there was an unconverted minister who was visiting a woman in the hospital who was about to die. You know that there are unconverted ministers, don’t you? And she was so assured of heaven that the young minister felt that it was his responsibility to warn her about being presumptuous about having that kind of assurance. And she said to him, “If, when I die, I find myself among the lost, God will have lost more than I will.” He said, “How so?” She said, “I would have lost my soul, but he would have lost his good name.” After all, if Jesus promises eternal life to those who believe on Him, is He believable? Are His promises true? Can you count on those promises even when judgment seems to be coming? Will He be there for you when you die, because He says “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you, and if you believe on me you’ll have eternal life?” Tell me. Will He be there for you? Yes, Amen. (applause) He is faithful and true.
Now let’s look at His appearance. Oh by the way, you’ll notice that it says, “In righteousness he makes war.” Remember that everything in this passage, though it becomes very gruesome, is righteous and true and just. Now notice what it says in verse 12: “His eyes are like a flame of fire.” We have to stop there. These are the eyes that were born in Bethlehem that had to adjust to the dim light of a stable. These are the eyes that wept over the city of Jerusalem. These are the eyes of compassion that all of us associate with Jesus, but these are the same eyes. They are of the resurrected Christ, of course, but this is the same Jesus as painted in the New Testament as we look at his life and death and burial. It’s the same Jesus, and now his eyes are like a flame of fire.
As He’s coming people say, “God didn’t see what I was doing. I did it in secret,” and His eyes will pierce them and they all will know that He can see right through them. These eyes are symbolic of the omniscience of Jesus. Nothing has escaped His sight or His knowledge. The Bible says, “All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Wow!
So His eyes are like a flame of fire. You’ll notice that it says on His head are many diadems. You say, “Well how could He wear many?” Actually many of them were like headbands filled with jewels and other expensive ornaments. When one king conquered a country he would then take the diadem of the other king whom he conquered, and he would wear it because that would now be symbolic of the fact that he conquered him. Jesus has many diadems. Do you know why? Every country and every kingdom of the world is His and all the diadems of the world are on His head. (applause) Jesus has many diadems.
We continue. You’ll notice that it says He has a robe dipped in blood. That robe is not a robe symbolizing His death, but it is a robe dipped in blood of judgment as the book of Isaiah makes very clear. Garments dipped in blood are symbolic of the fact that judgment is coming to planet earth, and it is a very, very severe judgment. But now I want you to notice this. I told you that you would be involved in this if you are a believer. Notice what the text says: “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.” Who are these armies of heaven arrayed in fine linen? Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. Earlier in the chapter you will notice that it talked about the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and it spoke about those who were arrayed in fine linen, and it’s talking about believers. It is speaking about those who are arrayed in white because their sin has been covered by Jesus Christ’s death, and because of that they too are able to come with Jesus, and the Church which has been raptured in heaven now returns with Jesus, and look at the text. I’m not making it up. We get the same means of transportation as Jesus himself. We too come with white horses, however symbolic that meaning may be. We get to come and to return with Jesus. We participate in His victory. We follow Him to victory as He descends to the Mount of Olives and begins to slay those who have been His enemies. We are there too, and we get to participate.
Now there’s no evidence that we do any fighting, and the reason that I think we don’t have any weapons, and the reason that we don’t have to do any fighting is because Jesus actually does it all. Jesus slays the wicked, and how does He do it? Does He take a sword and kill them one by one? No, the Bible says the sword that comes out of His mouth is the Word of God. He does it by His command, as the text says in the last verse. It talks about Jesus, the Word of God. He speaks it and it happens. Think of the power of Jesus. Think of the fact that when He was here on earth and a storm was taking place on Galilee, He spoke to the storm and said, “Be still,” and there was calmness. The wind stopped blowing.
Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus and says, “Lazarus, come forth,” and he’s coming out staggering, but he’s alive and he’s there, even though he was laid in the grave four days earlier. It is by the command of Jesus that he fights.
I told you last time that in 2 Thessalonians the Apostle Paul helps us to understand how Jesus fights and how he destroys the wicked, and it says this: “He destroys them by the breath of his mouth.” Poof, and they are gone. All the enemies that have been arrayed against Him find themselves helpless in the presence of Jesus, and He comes, and the Bible says that on His robe and on His thigh is written King of kings and Lord of lords. Don’t ever put Jesus on the same shelf as Muhammad or Krishna or Buddha or any of the other prophets. Don’t ever put Him on the same shelf. This one is King of kings and Lord of lords over all the prophets of the world and over all the religions of the world. (applause) In the New Testament when we think about Christmas we discover that Jesus came to redeem. Now Jesus comes to judge.
There’s one other thing I want to point out before I summarize this for us. You’ll notice it says in verse 17, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice (This gets gruesome now; I warn you.) he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, ‘Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings” and all those others. Wow! A couple of things! First of all, the angel invites the birds of the heavens to come because the vultures (remember the words of Jesus about the carcasses?) are going to have lots to eat, and notice that the angel proclaims this before Jesus has slain anyone by the word of His mouth. The angel knows that this is a done deal. It’s not true that battle has taken place yet. The battle isn’t over but, hey, the battle is over. Jesus has come. The battle is over, and so what happens here in this text is the angel announces it ahead of time that Jesus has come, and then the beast and the false prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire.
There is a message in this series on the great white throne judgment and we will talk about hell at that time, but the reason that they are instantly cast into the Lake of Fire, getting ahead of everybody else is because of their influence. Remember this: The sufferings of hell are not the same for everyone-by no means. Those who knew better and then misled others, their suffering is going to be greater. The impact of that and the import is unbelievable, but we’ll get into that when we talk about the great white throne judgment.
What I’d like to do is to just summarize a few ideas in your mind. The first is this. In terms of lessons I want to say a word about this Jesus that we’re talking about. You know the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem who is loved by everybody? Oh, isn’t that ever sweet? Here’s a little baby, and he touches our heart at Christmas, and all of us rejoice in that, and I preach on that all the time, and we love the Christmas story. Remember that there’s more to Jesus than just the loving Jesus who perhaps is the one who is misinterpreted today as a Jesus with endless compassion. He does have endless compassion, but He’s also a Jesus of judgment. Perhaps I could put it to you this clearly. It is not possible for us to overestimate Jesus Christ’s hatred of sin. That’s why you have such a tsunami here of judgment taking place. But having said that I want to also say that it’s not possible for us to over-exaggerate Jesus Christ’s love for all those who believe on Him. In fact, His love for them is like the love that He has for His father, and His father has for Him. It is absolutely overwhelming the love that Jesus has, as we see in John 17.
So when you talk about Jesus you can talk about the compassionate Jesus, and well you might, but remember it says in 2 Thessalonians that when He returns, and it is speaking of this event, He will return in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel. That’s the same Jesus, and we need to keep that in mind.
Second, I want to say a word about salvation. This is very crass in a sense and I’ve debated as to whether or not I should say it, but I am going to say it. In this passage in the 19th chapter of Revelation there are two suppers. There’s the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and then, as the angels said, there is the Great Supper of God. There are two suppers but two different destinations–two different kinds of people. There are those, you see, who are clothed in white. They attend the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and then there’s another supper here and I guess, to put it a little more clearly than I should, you either participate in the Supper of the Lamb, or for the birds, at least, you become the supper. That’s what the text is saying. And, you know, what makes all the difference is the white robes. You see we have the robe of righteousness credited to us and we stand clothed in that righteousness.
My friend, have you ever even thought of the amount of sin that is covered by the white robe? I’m thinking about you, by the way, and I’m thinking about myself. Think of the difference it makes when you are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and you go into heaven as if you are Jesus because it has nothing to do with you really. It is the free gift that Jesus gives to those who believe on Him. (applause) Isn’t that amazing?
So, my friend, if you’ve never believed on Jesus, please, after this message, don’t think that you will have an excuse when you stand before God. You won’t. I’m inviting you to get a robe–a white robe. Jesus will give it to you if you come to Him. So please don’t say in the Day of Judgment, “I didn’t hear and I didn’t understand.” I’m helping you to hear and I’m helping you to understand.
There’s a final word and that is the obviously two different destinies here, and we’ll talk about that in another message. Here you have the saints who are with Jesus forever, and then you have those who are in the lake of fire forever, and the division is eternal and endless all because some trust Jesus and receive the free robe, and others say, “I think I’ll stand on my own,” like one man told me on a plane. He said, “I’m going to do okay.” I’m going to stand on my record.” My dear friend, you stand on your record and you’re not going to do okay. You have to stand on Jesus Christ’s record.
Now, friend, do you understand why we sing, “All Hail, King Jesus, all hail Immanuel, King of kings, Lord of lords, bright morning star? Throughout all eternity I’ll sing His praises, and I’ll reign with Him through all eternity. Amen. (applause)