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The Believer's Hope

One of the reasons given for the Lord's choice of the Twelve was 'that they might be with Him' (Mark 3:14). He appreciated their human companionship and on some special occasions took Peter, James and John to accompany Him. It is sad that, in Gethsemane, the eleven disciples were overcome with sleep which led Him to reprove Peter: '"What? Could you not watch with Me one hour?"' (Mat.26:40). Previously, in the Upper Room He had said, '"With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer"'(Luke 22: 15). The Cross cast an ominous shadow over that gathering and the Master realized that what He had to say about His imminent departure would have a profound effect on them. He gave significance to the emblems bread and wine, as a means of remembering His sacrificial death which was shortly to take place. To reassure them He divulged the secret of His second coming and promised to 'pray the Father' to send the Holy Spirit to indwell them.

During the Lord's public ministry, when speaking to the apostles, the title He most frequently used of Himself was 'the Son of Man'. This was particularly true when speaking of His coming to earth in glory: '"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory"' (Mat.25:31). But in the Upper Room His ministry was direct and in the first person. When the traitor Judas had left the supper table, the Lord felt free to speak of some of the matters on His heart: '"Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer"... Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going? ... I go to prepare a place for you 1 will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also"' (John 13:33-14:3). The Lord's second coming will be in two phases or stages. He comes first to the air in fulfilment of His promise, '"I will come again"'. After an interval He will return to earth as Son of Man to judge the nations and establish His millennial Kingdom.

The enabling shout

In the Upper Room the Lord had said, '"I will come again"'. The personal nature of His return is emphasized by Paul, 'For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven'. The writer believes that three audible signals will announce the Lord's descent into the air. He comes 'with a shout, (loud command NIV) with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God' (1 Thes.4:16). The Lord descends with a shout of command. The word translated 'shout' or 'loud command' was used to describe the call of the ship's master to the rowers and the commander's order to his troops, conveying authority and urgency. When the Lord commands, He gives enabling power, so that both the dead in Christ and all living believers will respond to His clarion call in a reunion which will never be followed by separation: 'And thus we shall always be with the Lord' (4: 17). The joyous hope of reunion in resurrection is based on the truth 'that Jesus died and rose again' (4:14) The order is: 'Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming' (1 Cor. 15:23). The Lord's second advent is the believer's great source of comfort, hope and spiritual strength for service, it also provides assurance of an eternal future with Him.

Final deliverance

As believers, we are waiting for 'the redemption of our body' (Rom. 8:23), for there is a great deal in our present experience to stir a longing for the deliverance that the Lord's quickening shout will bring. Paul wrote of 'the law of sin which is in my members constantly warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity'. This led him to call out, 'O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?' (Rom.7:23,24). The Lord's advent will bring deliverance from the very presence and effects of sin. The change that will take place will be of split-second duration; it is a transformation from corruption to incorruption and from mortality to immortality. Then the Saviour who 'formed our ruined souls anew' 'will transform our lowly body, that it may he conformed to His glorious body' (Phil.3:21). Every believer will then have a body similar in nature to the Lord's own resurrection body, but there will still be individual differences to ensure personal recognition.