The Second Coming of Christ: Blessed Hope or Dreaded Nightmare?
There are several good reasons why the Apostle Paul described the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). It is a “blessed hope” because it will mean the end of all sin and suffering in our lives. No more battles with temptation. No more feelings of guilt when we fail. No more diagnoses of cancer or heart disease or arthritis. No more sadness upon hearing of the death of a loved one. No more funerals. No more anger or resentment or unforgiveness or lust or greed. No more jealous rivalries. No more division between Christians. No more friction between husbands and wives or parents and their children.
But even better than all these glorious truths is what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:10. There he tells us that “when” Jesus “comes on that day” it is to “be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” In yet another passage Paul says that when Jesus returns he will “transform our body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21).
And perhaps the most “blessed” thing of all in the coming of Jesus is what John said in 1 John 3:2.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
John recorded for us this same truth in the final chapter of the final book of the Bible, Revelation. In Revelation 22:4 he says: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”
It is a “blessed hope” indeed. But it is far from blessed for many. And it is not something for which unbelievers should “hope”. For them, for those who persist in their unrepentant idolatry and rejection and hatred of God, it is a “dreaded nightmare.”
It is in the sixth seal judgment of Revelation 6:12-17 that we see what the Second Coming means for the unrepentant and unbelieving. Here it is:
“When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”
My concern here is the reaction of the unsaved when they are confronted with the reality of the risen Lamb of God whose wrath is on display.
The first thing I see is that that judgment comes upon all, regardless of their status in society or their wealth or their influence. Kings and slaves alike are accountable to God. The manifestation of God’s wrath is a leveler of humanity. The rich and the powerful can’t appeal to their earthly achievements to escape judgment. Generals can’t call upon their troops to fight the Lamb.
But perhaps the most important and instructive thing for us to note is the reaction of all these individuals to the undeniable presence and power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Would it not be the easiest thing in the world, the most sensible thing in the world, for these people simply to stop and take account of what is happening and who it is who is bringing this judgment? Is it not the height of folly to think that you could hide from God in caves and under rocks? It is utter insanity and evidence of the spiritual blindness and foolishness of sinful man to think that he can escape the coming judgment of God.
They clearly recognize that this final judgment is being poured out by “him who is seated on the throne,” a reference to God the Father, and “the Lamb” who is clearly the Lord Jesus Christ. They just as clearly acknowledge that this is the final day of judgment (v. 17) and that it is inescapable. No one can avoid it. No one can stand against it (v. 17).
So why don’t they repent? All they need to do to avert eternal disaster is to bow in repentance before the Lamb and confess him as Lord of all. Their recalcitrant, hard-hearted determination to stand defiantly against Jesus all the way to the end, is repeated yet again in even greater detail in Revelation 9:20-21. And here we see that it isn’t the case that they weren’t given time and opportunity to repent, as if to suggest that these final judgments came too fast and did not provide them with the chance to bow the knee and believe and acknowledge their need of a Savior:
“The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk, nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts” (Rev. 9:20-21).
Observe that these individuals are witnesses to the first six trumpet judgments. That is what John is referring to with the words, “these plagues.” They see them. They suffer from them. There is no escaping or denying the reality of what is taking place. They survive them, but still refuse to repent!
There are still many in our world today who insist that human beings are by nature good. They are inherently upright and not sinful. But here we see a stinging indictment and refutation of that optimistic view of human nature. Could there be any more graphic and explicit description of what theologians call total depravity?
In the final analysis, they don’t want to look at God. “Hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne.” If it were not for God’s sovereign, saving grace and mercy, you and I would be numbered among these people. The only reason you desire and hunger for the opportunity to look on the face of infinite beauty and majesty and goodness is because God saved you: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
You and I look upon the Lamb and we see one who has been slain and whose blood “ransomed people for God.” We love the Lamb. The Lamb loves us. We will never have to suffer the wrath of the Lamb, because the Spirit has led us to put our confidence and faith in what the Lamb did for sinners on the cross.
By the way, does the image of a lamb filled with wrath strike you as odd? It seems to be a contradiction in terms. A lamb is by nature calm, docile, gentle, and easy-going. So, too, is the Lamb of God, until such time as unrepentant and defiant sinners spit in his face and mock him and ridicule his claim to be God. Yes, the Second Coming is our blessed hope, but for those who refuse to acknowledge and adore the Lamb, it is nothing less than the beginning of a dreaded, eternal nightmare.