Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again! Coming off Easter where we’ve just remembered Great Friday. An Easter where we’ve just celebrated: Christ is risen. It seems only fitting to ask: what’s next? Answer: We’re waiting for Jesus to return.
A survey was done amongst some American Christians a few years back. And of those Christians, 28% said Jesus probably won’t return and 14% said “they don’t know. That means 42% of Christians have no certainty that Jesus is may coming back! Wow!
Today is about correcting that, about ensuring that 100% of us here today, whether you’re inside or outside the circle of faith. That just as certain that Jesus died on that cross and just as definite that Jesus walked out of that tomb. Today, we can order our lives with the same certainty, that Jesus is coming back again. That’s where the timeline of our world is heading. No ifs. No buts.
Now if you’re looking for an exact date on the when Christ will return and if you’re like me, and you live life based on your diary. You know, if it’s not in the diary, it’s not happening. Well then I’ve got bad news, the Bible refuses to give us a date.
As a pastor, it’s my responsibility to guard you from error and false teaching. So, anyone who claims to know exactly when, the time or day, when Jesus is coming back, anyone who says they’ve had a personal revelation when Jesus is coming back, then don’t believe a word of it!
That Christ will return, that’s a certainty. The exact date, that remains a mystery. Take a look at Acts 1, Jesus has just got out of the grave. He’s hanging around, eating with the apostles. Telling them they’re about to receive the Holy Spirit. They question Jesus - now that you’ve died and risen again. Is it time for the kingdom of Israel to be restored?
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. ~Acts 1:7 (NIV)
The apostles, and by extension us, are well and truly put in our place. Jesus says: “you’re on a need-to-know basis. And you don’t need to know” Not even Jesus himself, when he was here on earth knew. When asked when he would come back…
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. ~Matthew 24:36 (NIV)
But what the Father without a doubt does want us to know, what he has told us is the following:
Now, it’s worth emphasising that the same Jesus who went up into heaven, he’s the same Jesus who’s coming back. Back in Acts 1, after Jesus has ascended to heaven the crowd’s still standing there, they have probably got sore necks from all their sky-gazing, then two angels appear saying this.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” ~Acts 1:11 (NIV)
Back before corona, back when you could hop on a plane and travel overseas, Teresa and I went to Vietnam for a holiday. As you wander through the shops and markets, everyone’s selling the same stuff, it’s all fake brands and labels. So instead of Puma, it’s Ruma, Snoopy becomes Spoony, Dolce and Gabbana becomes Dolce and Banana. But all the shopkeepers, have this line you hear time and time again: “Same, same but Different”. It’s such a common phrase, I’ve seen a t-shirt with that same line across the front.
Well here in Acts 1:11, to borrow that Vietnamese phrase: When it comes to Jesus’ return, it’s “Same, same but different”.
The same Jesus who went into the tomb is the same Jesus who three days later, popped out again. That Jesus? He’s the same Jesus who’s coming back.
From other parts of the Bible, we know that, when Jesus returns it’ll be
When it comes to Jesus returning. It’s not a matter of IF, but when. Which then leads to our next question: why will Jesus return? Plenty of things will happen when Jesus returns but the one stand out thing we come across again and again in the Bible is this, when Jesus comes back, he will judge the living and the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus we celebrated last Sunday achieved many things. Death has been defeated, God comes good on his promise, hope has been restored, heaven is assured, eternity is on offer. Oh…and one other thing.
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him [that is, Jesus] from the dead.” ~Acts 17:31 (NIV)
The resurrection was God’s rubber stamp, God’s way of saying that Jesus is God’s hand-picked judge.
Now I get that in our day and age, you may be thinking this today, this idea of judgment, is a tough pill to swallow. Siding with Jesus on this one doesn’t exactly make you the most popular person in the room. When I’m sharing Jesus with others, it’s so easy to sidestep judgment, to leave this heavy word out, I know I have before.
Whereas up until a decade or so ago, the most popular Bible verse was John 3.16. now it’s become Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
Judgement has become a dirty word and I suspect, a big part of it is as that Matthew verse is picking up. We have this feeling, that when it comes to judgment we think ‘what gives you the right to stand in judgment over me?’ Well, that’s why we need to hear the heavy word directly from Jesus. Hear Jesus directly, for yourself, from our Bible reading Jesus says
Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, ~John 5:22 (NIV)
And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. ~John 5:27 (NIV)
It’s pretty clear isn’t it that underneath Jesus’ name is his job-title and it reads “Judge”. Not even God the Father has that next to his name He gives it to his Son.
From John 5 we can also discover a couple of other things about the nature of Jesus’s judgment. First, being in the grave, being cremated doesn’t excuse you from judgment.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. ~John 5:28-29 (NIV)
When Jesus returns, every single person will face judgment. If Jesus is powerful enough to move people from death to life spiritually now you can be sure he’s powerful enough to make the physically dead alive again for final judgment. Judgment awaits both the living and the dead.
Second, this is a judgment for both believer and unbeliever, no one is off limits. That’s what verse 29 is referring to by those who do good and those who do evil, Jesus is not saying that if you’ve done at least 51% of good things in your life, that you’ll scrape through and survive. No! God’s pass mark is 100% and it’s a pass mark that you and I time and time again fall short of.
That’s essentially what sin is. Sin isn’t just murdering someone or swearing, it’s to miss the mark.
Now if you’ve been listening carefully, you would have heard Jesus say in verse 29 that those who have done good will rise to live. So, doing good deeds gets you into heaven after all!
Well, in the context of John, the whole reason why John writes John, is to drive us to the one and only good thing we can do.
Believe that Jesus is really is who he says he is, that he really is the way, the truth, and the life. That he and he alone is God’s way to God. Believe he is the good shepherd, the one who has laid down his life for the sake of his sheep. That he is the bread of life, that Jesus is the one who will truly satisfy. That we will never thirst or hunger in our souls thanks to his life-giving message.
Third thing we learn from John 5, is that Jesus’ judgment is perfectly just.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. ~John 5:30 (NIV)
There’s no hint of unfairness whatsoever here! And that’s because there’s no power trips, no egos, He judges justly in order to put a smile on his Father’s face, the Son does exactly what he’s told.
Whereas the best our judges can do is deliver a verdict “Beyond Reasonable Doubt”. With Jesus as judge, it’ll be with complete and utter justice, he’ll give each and everyone of us what we deserve, there’ll be no missing evidence, no dodgy decisions, no split juries, no hung juries. Jesus himself will be judge, jury and executioner.
I remember hearing the story of a Christian being shown a house by a real estate agent and during the conversation, the agent said that line we’ve all heard. You know, that there’s only two things that are certain in life, death and taxes. Well, the Christian, quick as a flash, replies ‘There’s three, Death, Taxes. and accountability.’ When Jesus returns, accountability will fully and finally be carried out.
Now you ask any person, and they’ll all agree that accountability is a good thing. It’s why, as painful and shocking as they are, we need to have Royal Commissions, to shine the light on wrongs that have been horribly committed, on injustices and to make amends. It’s one of the roles of the media, to bring dodgy, corrupt dealings to the attention of the public.
We want to see accountability, at the end of the day, it’s a good thing. Deep down, it’s what we all want because we still live in a world where criminals might get let out of jail early. Older siblings get away with stuff behind their parents back [Can you tell I’m a younger sibling?] That person who cheated you at work might get away with it. But with God, on that judgment day, nothing escapes his gaze. He’s the one who’s in control, he is fair. What a good God, for him to judge is the loving thing to do.
Can you imagine life without a judgment day? That we all went through life, you’re born, you live, you die, that’s it. Whether you love or hate, whether you stole or gave, it makes no difference whatsoever, it’d all be meaningless. Trying imagining how our society would function without any accountability. We’d be in complete and utter chaos wouldn’t we! See I for one am glad there IS a judgment day because it reflects God’s very own character. He holds people accountable! Everyone is answerable to how they’ve treated the God who knit them together in their mother’s womb.
Now there’s one more thing that we discover in this John passage. Jesus hasn’t just been given authority to judge, He’s also been given authority to give the gift of eternal life.
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. ~John 5:24 (NIV)
I celebrated my birthday yesterday and you get to my age and the presents begin to dry up, but that’s OK. Gifts aren’t a big love language of mine. I mean, sure I’ll happily take them but I’m more of an acts of service kind a guy. Having said that, plenty of awesome gifts have come my way over my lifetime. One of my favourites was a plastic cricket set I got for Christmas when I was about 8. Man - my brother and I used that pretty much everyday for the next few summers. But let’s face it, nothing, even if you put all past, present and future gifts, birthday, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Anniversaries, put all of them together and they still won’t get anywhere close to the gift Jesus gives.
It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, whether you finished school. No matter what your past is, no matter how good OR bad it is, Jesus gives you and I the gift of eternal life. The great news is we are spared from getting what we deserve on judgment day, the pressure’s off, we don’t have to clean ourselves up first, to make ourselves good enough and acceptable to God first. As far as God’s concerned, it’s come as you are.
I remember asking a man, “what makes you think you’ll be OK when you meet Jesus” And his answer was “I haven’t done anything to offend the big fella. I think I’ve treated him the way he wants to be treated” See this man had failed to grasp how it’s not about what he’s done. No - it’s about what Jesus has done for us. If you could save yourself, have a think about it, why would God let his own Son die the most brutal of deaths? Why?
Now the big question I want to tackle last is the big 'so what' question. Jesus is returning... so what?
You may have heard of the book, 7 habits, habit 2 is, begin with the end in mind.
Martin Luther, the great Reformer expresses it better. He says: “Live as if Christ died yesterday. Rose this morning. And is coming back tomorrow”
That’s not a bad place to start because AS you and I know, we live in an uncertain world. The past year and a bit has taught us that things can change very, very, quickly. Cancellations, Snap lockdowns, Borders closing, Delays.
Questions like: Will I still have a job? Will I get a diagnosis I don’t want to hear? Will my baby make it to full term? The anxiety, the uncertainty can be at times too much! But it is worth asking, if you knew Jesus was coming back at 8:54 tonight, what would change?
Whenever someone gets a serious medical diagnosis with a short timeframe to live, the doctors will always use the language of “get your affairs in order” So, let me ask you, are your affairs in order for when the Lord Jesus returns? Because he could well return at 8:54 tonight, it could happen before or it could happen after.
Now it’s worth saying, the one thing you must get right before Jesus returns. Ideally ASAP. Is to make sure you know where you stand with Jesus. Remember that Acts 17 verse from the start? Where I said Jesus’ resurrection is God’s rubber stamp for Jesus to be the judge of all the world. Well, the sentence before that one says this:
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. ~Acts 17:30 (NIV)
Hear the command from God. A command for your good. Repent, come clean and stop turning your back on God. Instead, it’s time to take the hand of Jesus and let him call the shots in your life.
Repentance is a conscious, deliberate commitment to stop living your way and start living God’s way. That invitation of repentance won’t hang around forever. It’s got a use-by date. The only reason why Jesus hasn’t already returned is so you could take the hand of Jesus.
I repented in December 1997 and boy, am I glad that God was patient and Jesus didn’t return in November 1997.
Friends, the two best days in your life are the day you know you’re not a Christian and the day you become one. I’d encourage you to try and merge those two days into one!
Now if you’re someone who has done that big R - repentance. How does Jesus’ return impact you tomorrow? Well, on the one hand, we wait.
We’re waiting for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. ~Titus 2:13 (NIV)
Waiting is such a central part of life isn’t it. We wait for:
I suck at waiting, but the waiting that is God-glorifying. The waiting that is God-honouring, is expecting and is shaping our lives, in readiness for Jesus to return.
Those of you who’ve been in my small group will know that my regular prayer point revolves around screen time discipline. Where one scroll turns into 20 minutes of my life I won’t get back. Where the Youtube vortex sucks you in so that next minute you know, it’s midnight. I don’t know about you, but I feel the weight of what John Piper says:
John Piper — 'One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.'
Instead of screen-time regret and guilt, I want to redeem that time by pursuing what Paul says “is better by far”. That is, craving to be with Jesus.
On Monday just gone, a number of us celebrated the wedding of Lydia and Daniel. It was my very first Assyrian wedding and it was fantastic. 10 years I’ve been at MBM and I finally got to see an Assyrian reception and man, it was loud. Like ringing in your ears loud!
It made me think about Teresa and I leading up to our wedding. Both of us, independent of each other, remember thinking to ourselves “Jesus, please don’t come back yet because I want to get married first!” It sounds stupid I know, but really, that was a litmus test for us. We were shaped more by the pleasures of this world than the pleasures of the world to come. We were looking forward to the union between Dan and Teresa more than the union between Christ and his church.
I’ve got plenty of things on my bucket list and I suspect you do too. The question is, deep down, is that what we spend our time daydreaming about. Is that what we’re saving our money for? Is that what we find satisfaction in? Getting as many of those things ticked off the bucket list?
So what does waiting well look like? Well, it’s not my place to prescribe what that looks like in your life. I’ve shared some of my struggles. My encouragement would be to chat with those who know you. Maybe ask a trusted friend to ask: what do they observe in your life? What are the sort of things that come off your lips?
But one thing I can tell you is what waiting well doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like sitting back kicking the feet up waiting for heaven to roll around, spending these last days - with little or no interest in living a life worthy of the Lord.
In the Christian life, sure it’s come as you are but it’s not stay as you are. So pursue growth, get to know the God who loves you, who died for a better you.
The fact you can call the judge of all the earth your dad means you’ve been set free to serve him. Not from a place of guilt or from trying to win him over, you can begin a flurry of good works out of thankfulness for what he’s done.
Those of you who’ve been along to our Belonging, you will have heard of us talk about how as a church, we see ourselves like the lifeboat. The coastguard rather than the ocean cruise liner where you plonk down your $1,000 bucks and pig out on all you can eat buffets. No - for us waiting well means that by 2025, by God’s grace, we’d love to see 1,500 here at Rooty Hill growing in faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Under God, our big prayer is to see 1,000 new disciples won for Jesus from among the nations of Sydney’s West. So far, we’re sitting on just over 400. And God willing, with MBM Parramatta kicking off in May, we’re hoping to see a new bunch move from death to life.
But for the majority of you who’ll still be churching here in Rooty Hill, this is an opportunity for you too. To step into so far 50 or so gaps that will be created by Parramatta. And that’s not including the additional 50 opportunities that are already there.
And the third goal is to bless other churches and their leaders and what an encouragement it was to hear - back on our 30th anniversary - about the way Sandy’s kid’s ministry has been such a blessing to other churches - both here and abroad.
Now Jesus may well return between now and 2025. That’s fine.
At the end of the day, we’re simply expressing God-desired outcomes. It’s only by God’s grace we’ll see these things happen. But one things for sure we’re not going to sit around on our hands. We’re not going to die wondering, we’re not going to have regrets. Instead - we’ll wait for our blessed hope. Because we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. All thanks to a most-blessed God and Savior, Lord Jesus.