Jesus’ Second Coming can’t be just a notion of a fantasy future. You must prepare spiritually for this real event.
[Gary Petty] It was the end of the world!
Tens of thousands of people believed that Jesus was about to return. All across New England farmers released their livestock, people literally threw away their money, thousands gathered in churches, homes and camped in meadows, anticipating the most dramatic event in history.
As night fell, the excitement and anxiety was intense. Believers sang hymns, prayed, talked with each other about what it must be like in heaven. At midnight, it approached and that feeling of expectation was almost unbearable.
Then midnight passed. Confused and stunned, people waited through the early morning hours until dawn revealed that Jesus hadn’t returned.
The date was October 22, 1844. The event is known as the Great Disappointment and it contains lessons for those who are still waiting for Christ’s return.
Are you anticipating the return of Jesus Christ? Do you struggle with how to live every day while anticipating this future?
Well today, we’re going to look at some prophetic signs of Christ’s return and talk about how to live while waiting for that incredible event, in “Preparing for Christ’s Return.”
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The Great Disappointment
[Gary] Are you anticipating the return of Jesus Christ? Are you struggling with how to live day-by-day while maintaining focus on His return? How are you preparing?
You know, we can learn a lot from the Great Disappointment, especially from their misunderstanding of biblical prophecy and the events that will lead up to Christ’s second coming.
Those anticipating Christ’s return, or advent, in the mid-19th century became known as Adventists. It was a major religious movement that crossed denominational boundaries. The aftermath was devastating on many of those who were anticipating Christ’s return.
One despondent believer, Henry Emmons, wrote:
> “…and dear Jesus did not come—I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for two days without any pain—sick with disappointment” (Millennial Fever, George R. Knight, p. 217-218.)
Another disappointed believer whose faith was shattered was Hiram Edson.
» “Our fondest hopes and expectation were blasted. And such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed [as though] the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept, and wept, till the day dawn” (Millennial Fever, George R. Knight, p. 218.)
[Gary] Many of those who believed that Jesus would return simply went back to their old lives. Some lost their faith entirely. Others searched the Scriptures to find out where had they gone wrong.
If those involved in the Great Disappointment had better prophetic understanding of what the Bible teaches about Christ’s return, they would have known that Christ wasn’t returning to earth on October 1844.
Let’s look at some prophecies concerning Christ’s second coming.
An important place to start is what is called Jesus’ “Olivet Prophecy” recorded in Matthew 24.
Here we have the often quoted description of what Jesus said it would be like before His return: “For nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:7-8 Matthew 24:7-8 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×).
Throughout history, people have observed wars, famines and disease epidemics and claimed that Jesus’ return was imminent. Many Europeans in the Middle Ages looked at the Black Death, economic troubles, famine and unending wars and concluded that Christ’s return was looming on the horizon.
But one specific statement of Jesus supplies vital information about the time before His return. We read this in Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days be shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×).
It is this global collapse into war, famine, disease pandemics and natural disasters that hadn’t happened in 1844. Actually, it’s easier to see how Europeans in the Middle Ages, faced with the devastation of the Black Death, thought that they were living in the time of the end. But even the horrendous events of disease, wars and famine that swept across Europe pale when compared with the disasters of the Olivet Prophecy.
Here’s one point those involved in the Great Disappointment misunderstood:
1. Christ’s return is preceded by a global collapse into chaos.
You know, the world that you and I live in today is unprecedented in history. The destructive power of nuclear and biological weapons, the speed in which diseases can be spread through mass transportation, the uneasy global economy where an event in one part of the world can affect everyone, the concentration of millions of people in tightly packed cities with limited food supplies—these all point to the prophecies of Jesus like no other time.
There is coming a time, commonly known as the Great Tribulation, where the world will be engulfed in such chaos and violence that humanity will be on the brink of total annihilation.
The Olivet Prophecy and the book of Revelation show that during this time of global disaster, people throughout the earth—from the crowded cities to the dirt farmer in the most remote area—will see Christ coming in the sky. It will be the most dramatic and frightening event in history.
According to the book of Revelation, armies will gather to repel this invasion from outer space.
Which brings us to a second point the people of the Great Disappointment misunderstood:
2. There will be human resistance to Christ at His return.
The apostle John records his vision of this event in Revelation 19:
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:11-13 Revelation 19:11-13 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a clothing dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
American King James Version×).
Earlier in his life, John wrote in his gospel that before Jesus came to the earth the first time, He was known as “the Word.” So here in Revelation, John is describing the return of Jesus Christ.
Let’s continue: “And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Revelation 19:14-15 Revelation 19:14-15 14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him on white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
American King James Version×).
John received an amazing vision! Christ in all of His glory, shining like the sun, destroying the armies gathered to resist Him.
Now we are sort of faced with a question—a question that eluded the seekers of the Great Disappointment: Where will these armies gather to fight against Christ?
Now I’d like to help you better understand this topic.
Our study aid, Christ’s Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like will help you explore Jesus’ promise to return and set up His Kingdom on earth! At that time, He will replace all human governments with His own Kingdom of peace and joy.
Discover what Jesus’ reign on earth will look like and how you can be there to see it. Order your free copy of Christ’s Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like by calling: 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online to BeyondToday.tv .
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Preparing for the Return of Jesus Christ
The Adventist movement of 1844 wasn’t a denomination, but an ecumenical movement. Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and others were not only disheartened when Jesus didn’t return, but some of them found themselves ridiculed by their neighbors. In New York, some Adventist meeting halls were destroyed.
Where had their calculations gone wrong?
Now, we’ve looked at two prophecies that those involved in the Great Disappointment failed to understand: Christ’s return is preceded by a global collapse into chaos that brings humanity to the brink of total annihilation and that there will be human resistance to His rule. The book of Revelation describes how Christ will destroy entire armies that gather to fight against Him.
So this brings us to a third prophecy that is central to understanding Christ’s second coming: Jesus is returning to the Mount of Olives to establish God’s Kingdom on the earth.
The believers in the Great Disappointment thought that Christ was going to take them to heaven and immediately destroy the earth with fire.
Well, there is an important Old Testament passage that when coupled with the Olivet Prophecy and the book of Revelation gives us a clear picture of Christ’s return. So let’s look at this remarkable prophecy. It’s in Zechariah 14. Here’s what it says:
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem…Then the Lord will go forth And fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand”—now listen to this—“on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley” (Zechariah 14:1-4 Zechariah 14:1-4 1 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×).
In this passage, we discover exactly where Jesus Christ is going to return—to the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem. It is outside Jerusalem that the armies will gather to fight against the Prince of Peace. Zechariah 14 reveals that Christ won’t destroy the earth, but will set up God’s Kingdom in Jerusalem to rule over all humanity.
Those involved in the Adventist movement of the mid-19th century could have avoided their error if they had understood just these three biblical prophecies, and there’s lots more.
After the Great Disappointment, they returned to everyday life and it wasn’t easy. They struggled with their faith, many had closed their businesses, took their children out of school, sold their property, and they faced scorn from neighbors. Picking up the pieces of their lives was a hard struggle.
Those who suffered through the Great Disappointment aren’t the only Christians who have expected Christ’s return and were disillusioned when it didn’t happen.
So how do we, those who are still looking ahead to the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth, how do we keep our focus on that future while living in an increasing secular and anti-biblical society? How do we stay focused while dealing with the day-to-day issues of family, and job, and finances, and health and stresses of the modern world?
Well here are three steps you can take to stay focused on God’s future while staying engaged in daily life.
You know, when Jesus was eight days old, His parents took Him to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised. And Luke records the event:
There was this old man in Jerusalem who was eagerly waiting, he anticipated the coming of the Messiah. His name was Simeon. God revealed to Simeon that he would see the Messiah before he died. When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon knew that God had kept His promise.
Simeon walked up, took the Jesus-child in his arms, and praised God, saying: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:25-32 Luke 2:25-32 25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was on him.
26 And it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word:
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 Which you have prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
American King James Version×).
Simeon is an example of someone who anticipated the first coming of the Messiah.
You and I live in a wondrous time. We live between the two great salvation events—the first coming of Jesus the Christ as the Savior for humanity and His second coming to set up God’s Kingdom on the earth. Our time in salvation history needs to be central to our daily lives.
When faced with the injustices and sufferings of daily life, you should remember that the time is coming when Christ will stand on the Mount of Olives to bring mercy and justice, to eradicate poverty and violence, to bring all humanity to their God. You can experience hope by anticipating the future. Now you can only maintain that anticipation through daily prayer and Bible study. Anticipation is flamed by daily communication with your God.
So how else do you stay focused on the future of Christ’s return? Well, number two is: Preparation. So first is Anticipation. Number two: Preparation.
The second coming can’t be a nice idea of a fantasy future. You must be spiritually preparing for that event. What you learn from the Bible must become an integral part of your daily life.
Jesus taught: “Blessed are those [servants] whom the master, when he comes, will find watching, 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 [the] house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour [when] you do not expect” (Luke 12:35-40 Luke 12:35-40 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36 And you yourselves like to men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately.
37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: truly I say to you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39 And this know, that if the manager of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
40 Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not.
American King James Version×).
This is a stern warning from Jesus Christ. Many people will believe in His return, but will not be prepared for His return.
Let’s face it. Are you living a pseudo-Christian lifestyle, a little Christmas, a little Easter, a little gospel music, but when it comes to honesty, your marriage, your Friday night partying, your real, daily obedience and worship of God, you are in fact no different than the non-Christian that lives next door?
Well then Christ’s return is going to catch you unaware. It is time to wake up, watch, and be prepared. It’s time for a spiritual lifestyle change.
So here’s another way to stay focused on Christ’s return: This is number three: it’s Declaration.
Now what do I mean by declaration?
I’m not saying that you should go door to door and try and convert all your neighbors. But, if you are anticipating and preparing for Christ’s return, then you will by your very actions declare that you are a citizen of the coming Kingdom of God.
You can’t hide your light under a bushel. We must, through our Christian example, declare Christ’s return until He stands on the Mount of Olives.
Now we’re going to expand on the ideas of anticipation, preparation and declaration but first, I want to remind you about today’s free offer.
Lasting peace and prosperity is on the horizon! To help you anticipate and prepare for this wondrous event we’re offering you a free Bible study aid: Christ’s Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. This important study aid will provide you with many more details that we just don’t have time to cover during today’s program.
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We’re joined by fellow Beyond Today presenters, Steve Myers and Darris McNeely. Today we’ve been discussing the Great Disappointment and how Christians who desire Christ’s return can avoid falling into the same difficulties those people did in the 19th century.
Now, we’ve covered three courses of action: anticipation, preparation and declaration.
How do you use these three focal points to keep your life focused on the return of Jesus Christ?
[Steve] I think starting with anticipation—it brings it home to what do you do every day? What are you looking forward to? That anticipation of the return of Christ. The anticipation of the resurrection.
When you consider that Christ is going to return, the graves are going to be opened, those faithful members of His family, and they are going to meet Christ in the air—I mean what an amazing thing—and those that are alive at the same time! It’ll be an amazing thing. Can you just envision that? I think it can give us an anticipation that just can’t be beat.
And so it should then frame how we live our life. Peter wrote about that very fact. That we have a living hope because of the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3 1 Peter 1:3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
American King James Version×). And so, it changes the way that we live.
[Darris] Yeah, I have heard about the return of Christ ever since I was a young man, my mother began to talk to me about it. She had been taught that as a child. She taught me about it and I began to learn it from the Scriptures. And of course, through the years, we have all been exposed to people who have made predictions about the return of Christ—as you said the Millerites and the Great Disappointment—who anticipated too much and set dates and have always been disappointed.
Everyone, everywhere, no matter what their faith, their religion, that has set dates have been disappointed. And, I knew that from the study of the subject and I came across a line a number of years ago, it’s well known: If I knew that Christ was coming tomorrow, which I don’t, but if I did, I’d plant a tree today. And I think that has helped me to frame this proper approach to anticipating Christ’s return and to look for it—by getting on with my life. And you know that it is out there. You know that as a believer, if you believe the words of Jesus that is what He said would happen, but you have to get on with your life.
You have to live righteously. You have to prepare for and plan for a family, for a job, for a career, for retirement, and live your life in the length of a tree—the life of a tree. And it takes a long time for a tree to grow. You plant a tree knowing that you’re going to have to watch and see that come to fruition in your lifetime and if not, then someone else will even enjoy what you have planted. So, that’s to me how I have looked at anticipating with a balanced approach.
[Gary] You know, someone told me years ago, a wise man said, to live every day as if Christ was returning tomorrow, but plan your life as if He wasn’t coming back for 100 years. And I have told my kids, I have lived my whole life since I was a very young person, anticipating the return of Jesus Christ, if He doesn’t come back in my lifetime, the last thing I plan to say to them before I die is, “Be prepared cause He’s coming.”
So how do we prepare? How do we keep focused by preparing? What do we do?
[Steve] It’s interesting how those two things fit right together, anticipation and preparation. Because I don’t know that you could have one without the other—if you are going to be balanced. That you’ve got to be preparing. You’ve got to be putting on the character of Christ. You have to be putting His ways into practice, because one way or another, Christ is going to return. And whether we are alive at that moment—like the Millerites thought they would be—whether we’re not or we’re already dead, we have the hope of the resurrection. And so if we’re not prepared, He says, we’re not going to be there.
So we’ve got to be putting on the character of Christ. We’ve got to be doing those things that Christ did. The apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 1 Corinthians 11:1Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
American King James Version×). So we’ve got to be putting on the character of Christ—Philippians 2 talks about that as well, the mindset that we’re supposed to have is the attitude and the mind of Christ Himself. So we can look at ourselves and say “well, where am I? Am I really preparing to be with Him? Well, I better be acting like Him now if I’m going to be there.”
[Darris] The way Peter put it in 2 Peter 3: Seeing that all these things will come to pass—and he was talking about the events of the end of the age—what manner of person ought we to be? (2 Peter 3:11-14 2 Peter 3:11-14 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hastening to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
14 Why, beloved, seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
American King James Version×). In other words, how are we to be living our life today understanding that there is a day of judgement, Christ is going to return, all will be accounted for? You live with that reality, you believe it, therefore live righteously today.
What type of person should we be? We should be a righteous person striving to obey God, serve, love our fellow man, building character, developing righteous character and doing those works in our own life that reflect the Word of God, the law and the teachings of God. And the rest will take care of itself.
The Father knows when He is going to send the Son and it’s in His time to do that, and we don’t have to set dates. We don’t have to exalt ourselves with vanity thinking that we’ve got some special insight into the prophecies, into the Scripture or have worked out this intricate timeline. That’s not what God wants. Build character, obey God, He’ll take care of the rest.
[Gary] You know here on Beyond Today , we’re really centered on declaring the return of Jesus Christ. That’s why we do this.
[Gary] That’s why we do this program. How can other people that believe and want Christ to return, how can they declare it? What can they do to declare it?
[Steve] Well, I think by their example. How do you live your life? What do you do? What is your mindset? How do you treat others? Are you putting on those fruits of the spirit? Do you have love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, all of those traits should be growing and developing like that tree that you talked about. They should be expanding and growing and becoming more and more about who we are.
[Gary] So it’s not pulling away from everyone, it’s actually letting your light shine and being involved—very much so. Okay.
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[Steve] Hi, I’m Steve Myers. I’m the pastor here at the United Church of God Cincinnati East congregation. I’d like to welcome you to come and join us on this great spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Click on the “Congregations” tab to find a church near you. We’re committed to growing in our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ as well as fellowshipping with each other.
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[Gary] We can learn a lot from the Great Disappointment. It’s not easy to stay spiritually focused with our time restraints, problems and entertainment possibilities of everyday life. It sort of drains us of energy and a clear vision of God’s plan for humanity.
Remember our three steps from today’s program: anticipation, preparation and declaration.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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