Behold The Bridegroom Cometh
The personal return of the Lord Jesus is the radiant hope and consuming passion of every true believer’s heart. Midst the prevailing darkness of this world that shall, even yet, become darker, the child of God is cheered by the glorious promise of the “Morning Star”, “the Bright and Morning Star” which will herald the approach of the Day of Christ.
In the New Testament there are over three hundred references to the coming again of the Saviour, or more than one for every chapter. The fact of His second coming is fundamental to the Christian faith. The certainty of the Lord’s return is given us by way of a statement from Himself.
Christ’s Personal Declaration
To the disciples He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself” (John 14:3). Careful study will show that this does not refer to His coming to the disciples after His resurrection, nor does it refer to His coming at a believer’s death, but it does point forward to His second advent when He will come for all His saints. Angels confirmed this promise, their testimony was, “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). It was revealed later that “He passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4:14 R. V.), also that “He was made higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). He will descend out of that very same place into which He has gone, as the apostle Paul intimates, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout” (1 Thess. 4:16).
The Apostolic Attestation
The five writers of the New Testament epistles, each have something to say about this thrilling event. Paul writes of the rapture; the expression “caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17) denotes rapture. Peter speaks of being an eye-witness of His majesty (2 Pet. 1:16), and surely that scene on the Mount of Transfiguration was but a fore-gleam of the majestic glory that will be seen when the King comes back. James in his letter emphasizes justice for the believer. He wrote, “Behold, the Judge standeth before the door” (James 5:8). John in his reference speaks of purity, “Every man that hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Jude alludes to the judgment of the world, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all” (Jude 14-15).
The Definite Implications
There are three specific results to the coming of Christ. First, in connection with the Lord Himself, He is coming as a Bridegroom for His Bride. How He must anticipate that moment when He shall take to Himself the one for whom He has waited, for whom He shed His blood on the cross of shame! He is also coming as the King for His kingdom, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). Isaiah the prophet tells us, “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa. 53:11).
Second, with regard to His people, when He comes “the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thess 4:16). This is resurrection! Corruption will lose its hold on the bodies of the dead and incorruption will take its place (1 Cor. 15:53). A blessed reunion will then be experienced for we shall be “caught up together with them” (1 Thess. 4:17). Loved ones, long since gone from our midst, will then be reunited with us who once mourned their loss. The redemption of the bodies of the saints will become an accomplished fact (Rom. 8:23).
In the third place, the coming of Christ will be followed by “the wrath to come.” This will be the portion of the unregenerate. To the ungodly the day of His coming is unforseen, “The day of the Lord so com-eth as a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:2). It will be a day unexpected, for “sudden destruction cometh upon them” (1 Thess 5:3). It, likewise, is a day unavoidable, “They shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3).
The coming of the Lord really takes place in two stages, although it is but one coming. Our blessed Lord will first of all come to the air for His saints, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). This will be followed sometime later, by His eventual arrival on Olivet, outside Jerusalem. “His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the east” (Zech. 14:4). Although He will be met only by His own in the air, yet when He finally comes to the earth, “Every eye shall see Him and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him” (Rev. 1:7).
The fact that He has not come, but is coming soon, is a sure test of the affections of His people. There are three things which test our love for a person far away: his absence, his distance, and his silence. May our hearts be kept in love with our absent but soon coming Bridegroom. His coming is also a truth teaching us to live suitably, “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). It also induces us to learn readily. The apostle writes, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren” (1 Thess 4:13); and to listen eagerly, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16). We are not enjoined to look for signs but to listen for sounds.
The cry already has gone out, “Behold, the Bridegroom com-eth” (Matt. 25:6). May our hearts respond, “Amen. Even so come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).