Light of the World
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:1-3).
The climactic event of all history, the return of Jesus, has been called "the key that unlocks the Bible." To the people of God, the coming of Christ brings deliverance from the prison house of death and sin. In his letters, the apostle Paul speaks of Jesus' second coming no less than fifty-ive times. The plan for mankind's redemption would not be complete without Christ's return to this earth. It is a matter of prophecy, not history. The Bible calls the return of Jesus "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13), for it holds out to Christ's followers the happy prospect of a new world and the promise of enduring happiness and security. When Jesus returns, all the righteous dead are raised to life and the living righteous are translated (see 1 Corinthians 15:50-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
This blessed hope was cherished by God's children in Old Testament times as well as in New Testament times. Enoch, only the seventh from Adam, saw in vision the coming of our Savior.
"See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone" (Jude 14, 15).
The patriarch Job, sick with his plague of boils and saddened by the loss of his children, clung to the hope of final restoration and exclaimed with unshaken trust:
"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. . . . In my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyesI, and not another" (Job 19:25-27).
One writer said:
"The coming of Christ to usher in the reign of righteousness, has inspired the most sublime and impassioned utterances of the sacred writers. The poets and prophets of the Bible have dwelt upon it in words glowing with celestial fire" (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 300).
The psalmist sang of the power and majesty of Israel's coming King (see Psalm 50:2-4; 96:11-13). The prophet Isaiah described the wonderful resurrection morning in the most beautiful language (see Isaiah 26:19; 25:8, 9). Habakkuk, one of the minor prophets, taken away in rapturous vision, beheld the return of Jesus (see Habakkuk 3:3-13).
In the New Testament, Paul, Peter, James, and John held forth the coming of the Lord Jesus as the final hope of the whole world (see 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23, 50-55; 2 Peter 3:9-13; James 5:1-8; Revelation 14:14). And the champions of the Christian church from apostolic days down to our own generation have cherished the bright vision of Christ's return.
What does Jesus' coming mean to us who are living today? What does it mean to you and to me? These are the last days of time. The prophecies of Jesus (see Booklet 21) indicate that He will return to this earth very soon, so this hope should mean more to us than it has to any other generation.
Now, let's return to the scenes following the resurrection of our Lord and follow Him in the final events of His earthly experience and on through the Christian centuries to that final hour when He will return.
ASCENSION TO HEAVEN
"He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:5-7).
Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives (aee Acts 1:2, 3).
"When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven" (Luke 24:50, 51).
"He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand there 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 1:9-11).
Notice that when Jesus was taken up, "a cloud hid him from their sight" (Acts 1:9). And the angels who lingered to speak words of comfort to the disciples said:
"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).
It was not a spirit or ghost that was taken to heaven. Christ ascended to heaven in His resurrection body, the same body in which He had appeared to the disciples on the day of His resurrection, when He said, "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39; see also Philippians 3:21).
On the morning of the resurrection, Christ came forth bodily from the tomb, and He ascended to heaven in that same body. At the time of the ascension the angels said to the disciples, "This same Jesus . . . will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). He will come again literally, personally, physically, and gloriously with clouds of angels accompanying him (see Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11; Matthew 24:30, 31).
MINISTRY IN HEAVEN
"He [Christ] entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12). Jesus had died once for sin. That was enough to save all who will accept His gift. He now offers His own sacrifice before God as the means by which all who believe on His name might be cleansed of sin, for "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). We may, therefore, come directly to God through Christ without any earthly intercessor, for Christ is now the intercessor between God and humanity.
"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them" (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus said, "I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name" (John 14:12, 13).
No minister or priest has been delegated to do Christ's mediatorial work. Only Christ can forgive your sins and present your case before God. Therefore, He alone should hear your confession of guilt. Go to Him in the secret place of prayer and talk to Him all alone as to a friend. Surrender yourself to do His will, and He will graciously forgive your sins. Pray in His name, do His will, and your prayers will be answered.
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).
As our Priest and Mediator, Christ's work of intercession is now going on in heaven. By His intercession He draws heaven and earth together. Through the work of His Holy Spirit, whom He has sent to be His representative in this world, He makes His atonement effective in human experience for all who believe on Him. For some two thousand years, He has been our Mediator in the courts above. How long He will continue that work of intercession, no one knows, but some day soon, just before He returns, it will cease. Then the door of mercy for sinners will be closed forever.
HAPPENS WHEN CHRIST ENDS HIS WORK AS MAN'S INTERCESSOR?
"The time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy. Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done" (Revelation 22:10-12).
When this divine decree goes forth, human probation will end. Every case will have been decided for life or for death. Christ will have finished His work of mediation and the blotting out of sins. Every case is now sealed for eternity. The guilty are irretrievably settled in rebellion. It is now too late for them to be saved. The prophet Daniel describes the scene that follows the close of probation:
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your peopleeveryone whose name is found written in the bookwill be delivered" (Daniel 12:1).
This time of trouble is the time of God's divine wrath (see Revelation 15:1; Revelation 16). It will be similar to the awful time of judgment that came upon Egypt when the ten plagues were poured out upon that land. As the climax of those plagues, a single angel destroyed all the first born sons in Egypt and filled the land with mourning (see Exodus chapters 7 to 12). The power of the heavenly messengers of wrath is great. In Hezekiah's time, one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night (see 2 Chronicles 32:21; 2 Kings 19:35).
Holy angels exercise destructive power when God commands, and evil angels exercise the same power when God permits. The unseen forces of Satan are now organized and ready to strike. These forces of evil are only awaiting divine permission to spread ruin and terror everywhere. When Christ's work as our Mediator ends and the signal is given, the awful plagues described in Revelation 16 will be poured out upon the earth.
Can you see that already a few drops of God's wrath have fallen upon this wicked world? There are terrible hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes. But the earth will reel under the impact of disasters far worse than these. In vision, the prophet John heard a voice from heaven saying:
"But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short" (Revelation 12:12).
As the Spirit of God is withdrawn from the earth, Satan's power increases. His rage reaches its climax in this fearful time of trouble. It is the time of God's wrathHis "strange work," as the prophet describes it (Isaiah 28:21).
During this time of trouble, many of the wicked lose their lives. But those who have followed Jesus are now protected by heavenly angels. God has given this promise of deliverance:
"Then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone" (Psalm 91:10-12).
CLIMACTIC EVENT OF THE AGES
Now the greatest hour of history has comethe hour when all the world is to look upon the King in His glory (see Revelation 1:7). As Christ appears in the opening skies, the prophecy is fulfilled:
" 'The heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31).
The heavens are shaken as the King of glory descends the blazing sky. The mountains tremble. The very surface of the earth heaves and swells as its face is torn and broken by the mighty disturbance (see Isaiah 24:1-5, 19, 20; Revelation 16:18). The oceans rise and fall in the raging fury of a worldwide earthquake.
In the midst of all this upheaval, God's children are safe, guarded by the angels, but it is a moment of deepest despair for the wicked.
"Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty" (Isaiah 13:6).
Desperate with fear, millions of sinners call to the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from the face of the One who sits upon the throne (see Revelation 6:14-17). Money and riches mean little now.
"In that day men will throw away to the rodents and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship. They will flee to caverns in the rocks and to the overhanging crags from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth" (Isaiah 2:20, 21).
The faces of the Christians who have stood the test are blanched with paleness, but there is hope in their hearts. They know that the time of deliverance is near. Up to this moment the wicked have taunted them and tried to destroy them, but as Christ appears in glory, the enemies of God's people are consumed by the brightness of His appearing (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8; 2:8). At this time, Satan is bound for one thousand years (see Revelation 20). This is the beginning of the millennium.
John describes the scene of Christ's great victory as He rides forth a mighty conqueror:
"I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one 'like a son of man' with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand" (Revelation 14:14).
The sickle represents the harvest, or the end of the world (see Matthew 13:39), when the wheatthe righteousis gathered to heaven and the taresthe wickedare burned with fire (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Now the time has come for the righteous dead to be raised and the living righteous to be translated to heaven.
"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
What a wonderful day! The change from mortality to immortality happens "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52). Children will be reunited with their parents. Then the ransomed of all ages will be caught up with a song of gladness and carried to the city of God, the New Jerusalem, to that "third heaven," which Paul describes as "Paradise" (see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). There old friendships will be renewed and families reunited.
At last God's children are at peace. They enter the city of God and stand victorious on the sea of glass before the great throne. John describes the glorious celebration as they unite their jubilant voices in the great glory song of Moses and the Lamb (see Revelation 15:3).
And for the victorious Christ, it is a scene of consummate joy and satisfaction. "After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11). All the ransomed hosts of God recognize that they are there because of His great sacrifice for them. Throughout the ages of eternity, they sing His praises in the song:
" 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' " (Revelation 5:12, 13).
What a day that will be! And soon it will come. We are almost home. The journey of life is almost over. "What! Are we almost home? Yes, the certified Word of God assures the traveler that the journey is nearly finished, and the harbor just ahead. Then what wondrous surprises! Think of
on shore and finding it heaven!
All of this is possible for youthrough Christ, the Light of the world. In this Bible course, the plan of salvation has been opened before you as a way of escape from the darkness of sin and its consequences. Stretching before us in eternity will be that life which measures with the life of God. This blessed hope gives meaning to human experience and shows us clearly the way through the impasse ahead. "I am the light of the world," said Jesus (John 9:5). "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25).
This world is but a preparation for the happy life that stretches endlessly before you. It is our prayer that these booklets have helped you to make decisions that will prepare you for God's eternity.
Heaven will be cheap at whatever price we may have to pay for it, for we will be there forever with Christ and with God. John said, "I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple" (Revelation 21:22).
"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36).
Is there anything more important than to respond to the love of God by being obedient to Christ and His commandments, and to join His people in their march to the city of God? Just now, will you quietly drop to your knees and prayerfully settle the question: "Where will I spend eternity?" Ask yourself, "What will I do with Jesus?" May God give you grace to answer this question and to accept Jesus fully as your personal Savior and to walk in His light (see 1 John 1:7, 9). God bless you now, and may we all meet with our loved ones and with our Savior in the city of God where all our dreams will come true.
manuscript author: Beatrice S. Neall