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When Christ Returns

The greatest event of the ages is about to transpire. The tragedy is that the world is so distracted and filled with fear that men are unable to realize it. Joy seems to have fled, and nations cringe before what seems to be an inevitable catastrophe. Truly, our Lord's prophecy is being fulfilled. Nations are in distress, and "Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Luke 21:26. Heart disease as a cause of death has moved from sixth place to first place among civilized people. The Scriptures declare that men's hearts would be failing them. The strain of living seems too much for the human system today.


It is claimed that in many of our large cities, such as New York, one person in every eighteen or less is receiving or has received psychiatric treatment. Some try to drown their fears in drink and drugs. Drug addiction has increased 1,000 percent in the past five years.


But why are men afraid? The Lord says it is because they are "looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken." The discovery of that heaven-shaking power, nuclear fusion, opened a new era of the world. It has etched itself into human thinking more deeply than anything else in history. Men are bewildered as they contemplate the enormous possibilities of this smashing, shattering, pulverizing, disintegrating force which is millions of times greater than the force of gravitation.


Little wonder, then, that men are fearful! One writer recently declared that "no terror since the black death swept medieval Europe in the fourteenth century has equaled the threat which broods over civilization in the twentieth century." With a sense of impending doom, a feeling that something tremendous is about to happen, men are worried and distressed. How tragic that the ripened fruit of centuries of scientific research is the development of a force which enables the race to commit suicide! Of course, atomic energy could be an untold blessing, but not in the hands of wicked men.


William Vogt, associate director of Science and Education for the office of Inter-American Affairs, wrote a book entitled, The Road to Survival, in which he says, "The handwriting on the wall of five continents now tells us the day of judgment is at hand."


Thinking men and women everywhere are serious as they look into the future. Bertrand Russell, one of the world's best-known philosophers, painted this dark picture: "Utter and unrelieved gloom awaits us. It is likely that during this present generation, all of our large cities in every part of the world will be wiped out." Strange and bleak philosophy!


How different is all this from the kind of talk we listened to a generation ago. At the turn of the century, educators, journalists, and statesmen were looking forward to a world without war. "Men have grown too wise to fight," they said. But no one talks like that today. The roseate hopes of peace were buried a few years ago beneath the ruin and rubble of some of the greatest cities of the world. Scientists, editors, and educators have turned evangelists and are preaching the grim message of despair unless men repent.


Some declare we need an ark to save at least a remnant of our generation, but not an ark such as Noah built. Instead, it will need to be some deep cave somewhere in the earth where a favored few might be sheltered from the storm of radioactivity which will result from the use of the H-bomb. They go so far as to suggest the kind of people who ought to be preserved: a leading scientist or two, a prize fighter, a band leader (one might wonder what he would do without a band!), and of course, some of the leading movie stars! Sound amusing? It is a pathetic commentary on the thinking of our time.


How will things end? When we seek an answer from certain scientists, we are astounded at some of their suggestions. Not long ago a lecturer declared that the sun and moon and stars, the Milky Way, and Orion, and all we see are the results of an explosion of an atom. He says that the explosion is still going on! In fact, we are in the middle of the explosion! It will go on and on for a few million years, then all will be dark again! Another lecturer in Chicago declared that seventy million years from now, the world will blow up with a terrific explosion.


It is relieving to turn from these pessimistic predictions to the clear word of Scripture. Every human attempt to solve the world problem has ended in failure. We fought a war to end war, but the world is immersed in war again today. Only a mighty, divine interposition can meet our need. Left to himself, man will destroy himself and the planet it seems. But God has not left it with men to determine the future of our world. Looking down the centuries to our own day, the prophet declared, "the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest ... destroy them which destroy the earth." Revelation 11:18.


Man may have in his hands the power by which he can literally destroy the earth, but God will not permit it. This earth was not created to be destroyed, but to be inhabited. It is true that sin came in and interrupted God's plan, but in spite of man's failure, this earth will be "filled with the knowledge of the Lord" and peopled by righteous beings. What we are seeing today are but omens telling us that soon, very soon, the kingdoms of this world will become "the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever." Revelation 11:15.


Jesus said, "when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Luke 21:28. Then to emphasize it still more He said, "This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled." Verse 32. And what is to be fulfilled? The coming of the Lord. In verse 27 we read, "And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."


The return of Christ in glory has been the polestar of the church through all the centuries. The apostle Paul calls it "the blessed hope," and such it truly is, for it has guided the people of God through their long night of wandering. The Bible is filled with the promises of that coming day of glory. David said, "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." Psalm 50:3. But two thousand years before David wrote, Enoch caught the vision of that day of splendor and cried: "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints," or "ten thousands of his angels," as other versions read. Jude 14.


John, in the book of Revelation, says, "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him." Revelation 1:7. Christ Himself declared that men would "see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30.


The return of our Lord becomes more real as we in imagination take our places with that group of men whom Jesus led forth to the Mount of Olives. We listen as He gives His final commission. These men are to carry the gospel to all the world. Then, raising His hands in blessing upon them, He slowly, silently, parts from their midst. Awestruck, they watch in wonder as they see their Lord ascending. Higher and higher He goes, until at last a cloud receives Him out of their sight. But they are still standing, gazing toward heaven. It is a moment filled with emotion, too solemn for words. They are straining to catch one last glimpse of Him for whom they have sacrificed their all. Suddenly the silence is broken. Two angels are beside them. They have been sent back to bring a word of comfort and confidence to those watching disciples. Listen as they speak: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:11. Yes, the very One that went away is the One who is coming back again.


Jesus said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself." John 14:1-3. Wonderful words!


Yes, He is coming back, and coming in our own generation. The world will not be looking for Him, for we read, "as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all." Luke 17:26, 27.


Jesus believed that the world was once destroyed by a flood. Do you? Some scoff at the flood story today, but did you know that even their scoffing has also been foretold in prophecy? The apostle Peter declared, "... there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." 2 Peter 3:3, 4.


Foolish mutterings! Nothing continues as it was. The world is so different today from what it was even a couple of generations ago that if our great-grandfathers were to rise from their graves, they would scarcely know the place in which they lived and worked. Things are certainly not continuing as they were. The change is so rapid that even in New York, the fastest-moving city in the world, one cannot keep up with the changes of our day. No, things are not continuing as they were, and those who ridicule the Bible always make themselves foolish in the end. People back in Noah's day didn't believe a flood was coming, but it came.


They were ridiculing Noah, but he went on preaching and pleading for men to be saved. He preached for 120 years, but everything went on apparently the same. Then one day the sun rose and life seemed as usual, everything was serene, but the door of the ark had been shut, Noah's work was done. The multitudes were still scoffing. Then all at once a strange light appeared. Suddenly there was a roar, as of a hurricane. The earth trembled. "Crash!" went the rocks in convulsion. "Boom!" went the bursting heavens. Giant cedars bent and snapped in the gale. And the moan of the wind was like the moan of a dying world.


Where can one go when the ocean slips her cable? There is nothing to do but to sit down in dumb, white horror, to die. "And knew not," said Jesus, "until the flood came, and took them all away." Catastrophe overtook them suddenly, and they were swept away.


A few years ago in the Santa Clara Valley of southern California the farmers had all gone to bed. Their apricot orchards were all bursting into bloom. The dairy herds were resting in the alfalfa meadows. The night was beautiful. Just above the valley was the great Saint Francis Dam. Behind it, millions of tons of water were conserved for irrigation in the long, hot summer months ahead. Suddenly the sleepers were awakened. Startled, they heard a roar like an avalanche. The dam had broken. Down the hillside leaped that mighty cataract, sweeping everything before it. When morning light broke, the horror of the scene was indescribable. Homes gone, only mute skeletons of what had been. No orchards, only nude, uprooted trees. No meadows, only sand and rock-strewn wastes. Bereaved families, distracted with grief, looking for loved ones. In one short night the countryside had changed from prosperity to tragedy.


The coming of the Lord will be as unexpected as that. Dear friend, here is news: that day is right upon us! Soon there will be no place for the governments of this world, for the government of an eternal kingdom will be upon the shoulders of our Lord and everlasting King. And a recreated earth, in sparkling splendor, will be His headquarters. But best of all, He has a place for you in that kingdom if you have accepted of His grace and love. "Whosoever will may come." Make that promise a reality in your life now.



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