I love to read the Scriptures. There is so much in God's Word that captivates the mind. We see both the good and the bad of mankind's relationship and interaction with our Creator God and we learn what we need to be insured of our salvation.
Some approach the Bible in a purely academic way which, of course, can lead to missing out on the great spiritual lessons and revelations that the Lord longs for us to discover and embrace. Others are aware that we must approach the Bible with a spiritual viewpoint because it takes spiritual discernment to understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:14). It is in the Bible that we learn about sin and the cure for it, we learn of God's great love for us and how deeply He wants to save all who will embrace Christ as both their Lord and Savior, and the Bible reveals God's will regarding every aspect of life and it even gives us hope for a better world.
Sadly, far too many folks approach the Bible with a selective mindset; meaning that we pick and choose what we will allow to shape our Christian experience. This way of thinking could be likened to walking through the grocery store and only selecting the items that we want. But is God's Word a spiritual emporium displayed for us to pick and choose what catches our fancy? Or could it be that the Lord expects us to embrace even the portions of Scripture that challenge our ideas and demand that we take a hard look at our choices? I am convinced that we must allow all of Scripture to shape our Christian experience. This must be the case even if what we find flies in the face of popular teaching within Christian circles.
One of the most exciting ideas found in the Bible is that Jesus is coming back a second time to take His redeemed to heaven with Him. In John 14:1-3 Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them and He promised that He would come again to gather them up along with all who will give their hearts to Christ. Many Christians are elated with the idea that Jesus will come a second time and this blessed hope (Titus 2:13) fuels our zeal to both love and serve our soon-coming Savior. The question becomes, "How will Jesus return the second time?" Most Christians are aware that Jesus came as a babe in a cattle manger the first time around, but what does the Bible teach about His second coming?
This is a great question and the Bible gives us a clear answer. In Revelation 1:7 John was shown that every eye would see Christ when He comes; every eye, not just the righteous. In fact Revelation 6:15, 16 tells us that the wicked are so afraid of Christ's return that they would rather be crushed by mountains than be forced to look upon the Lamb of God.
So if every eye sees Him what will it look like? According to Jesus in Matthew 24:30, 31 He will come back with "power and great glory" and the angels will descend with the "great sound of a trumpet" as they gather up those faithful to Jesus. In this same passage Jesus points out that the wicked will mourn because of His coming. Truly, every eye sees Him but not all will be happy with what they see.
Regarding this glorious event, Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers and told them what he had learned from Jesus. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16 Paul said that Jesus will descend with a shout and the voice of an archangel while the trumpet sounds to announce His coming. Jesus' shout is more than a call for attention because when He shouts the righteous dead resting in their graves burst forth to newness of life and they are immediately joined in the sky by the living saints. What an amazing scene to behold, Amen? I certainly want to be among those that are glad Jesus has returned, don't you?
Despite the Bible's crystal clear teaching that Jesus comes back in such a personal, glorious, and triumphant manner some people get the idea that when Jesus comes back it will be a big secret to most of the world and that the redeemed are silently stolen away to the confusion of the wicked. Why would people be confused when Jesus' and Paul's words are so very clear?
The passages of Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39-40, 1 Thess. 5:2-4, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, and Revelation 16:15 all speak of Christ coming like a thief in the night when He comes the second time to gather His redeemed. People read these passages and get the idea that Christ has to come and steal that which already belongs to Him (1 Cor. 6:19, 20).
However, when Jesus says that He is coming like a thief He does not mean that He is coming to secretly steal away His own people. All He means is that His coming will be a great surprise to those who are not watching and waiting for His return. Consider Jesus' words regarding this concept of coming as a thief from Matthew 24:43, 44: "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (emphasis supplied)
You see friends, it has nothing to do with Jesus coming secretly to steal away His people. He is simply urging His followers to be ready and watching for His appearing so that they are not caught unaware like the world who does not know Him.
As you study the Word of God, friends, make it a point to let the Bible have the final say. Don't pick and choose what you think you need. Embrace the whole of Scripture so that when Jesus does come the second time around you will not be left behind with the wicked who cry out in despair and are destroyed by "the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8).