Thursday, 01 November 2012 14:07

The Powerful Return

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In 2 Peter 1:3-15, Peter portrays for us the reality of a spiritually laid table, and from this he follows that we have the foundation for a life of sanctification.

In 2 Peter 1:3-15, Peter portrays for us the reality of a spiritually laid table, and from this he follows that we have the foundation for a life of sanctification. He writes in verses 16-21, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Peter tells us of the reality of the return of Jesus here. In these few sentences, he makes it clear that we live in expectation of the return of the Lord, and should particularly heed His prophetic Word. He refers to the unique event of the transfiguration of Jesus (verse 18), of which he himself, together with James and John, was an eyewitness. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples…Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom…And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 16:24 & 28, and 17:1-5).

At the transfiguration we have a preview of the visible and powerful return of Jesus in glory. The text makes this quite clear, “His face did shine as the sun.” Peter writes in addition, “…when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Shortly before the transfiguration, Jesus pointed to His return and said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28). Directly afterwards, the transfiguration took place (Matthew 17:1-5).
This attitude which Jesus expects of His disciples is important at all times and has, therefore, great significance for the Church today. But as this is about His return in glory, the Lord is surely referring to Israel during the time of the Tribulation. Almost all the statements in Matthew 16:24-28 have a parallel in the book of the Revelation, where the time of the Tribulation before the visible return of Jesus is described (Revelation 6—19). Then it will be particularly important for people to deny themselves and to take His cross upon themselves. The discipleship and confession of Jesus will be particularly challenged at that time, and the believers will be tested and in need of much power (Revelation 12:13-17 and 13:7).
“Whosoever will save his life shall lose it.” Jesus does not mean here the believers in the Church, for a born-again person who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ will not lose his life in the sense that he will be lost. After the age of the Church this will be possible, however, which is why Jesus says in His end-times speech, “He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13). Those who want to save their lives in the antichristian time, by receiving the number of the beast, for instance, will be lost (Revelation 14:9-11).
“Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.” This statement reminds us of the many martyrs during the time of the Tribulation, who are described in the Revelation. They will overcome Satan and the antichristian beast, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death” (Revelation 12:11). These will all appear with Jesus and reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:2).
“What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” As at the temptation of Jesus, Satan will offer all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. The Antichrist will grasp them and pass them on to those who join his kingdom. But the souls that receive them will be lost for ever.
“What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” At no time will it be clearer that material things are worth nothing than at the time of the Tribulation. Everything will disintegrate under the judgment of God, and man will have to acknowledge that he lacks spiritual riches.
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27). The mighty return of Jesus will end the misery (Matthew 24:30 and chapter 25; Revelation 11:18, chapter 19 and 20:4; Daniel 12:3 & 13), and the remnant of Israel will recognize her Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). This believing remnant is prophetically portrayed by the three disciples, whom the Lord took with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration to reveal His glory to them (Matthew 16:28 and 17:1). Thus, there will also be a remnant at the end of days when the Lord returns in glory (Romans 9:27 and 11:5).
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” For us personally, this command means to live for Jesus with such devotion that we despise our own lives in comparison. It is about self-denial. We can only follow with the cross, never without (verse 24). We must put to death the tyrannical rule of our selfishness and carnality. This means letting go of in order to gain (verse 25). We should always bear in mind that Jesus is the greatest gain, and the salvation of our souls the greatest treasure. Therefore, there should not be anything which takes His place. We should rather lose in the world than with God (verse 26). We should long for the return of Jesus and strive to experience it. Some Christians really will not see death and will experience the Rapture; whether or not we belong to these, we do not know, but we will all experience His return whether we have died or are alive, and we shall all be revealed before Him and receive a just reward (cf. verses 27-28).

Jesus will return in reality. That which took place on the Mount of Transfiguration at that time is nothing more than a great and real foreshadowing of the return of the Lord. Peter maintains that they not only saw a transfiguration of Jesus on the Mount, but His return (2 Peter 1:16). Jesus Himself said clearly concerning His transfiguration, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). It becomes clear in the next verses what Jesus meant by this, “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart. And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2). “There be some standing here” refers to the three disciples, Peter, James and John. They saw the return of the Son of man through the transfiguration. Interestingly enough, the Lord Jesus is described in the Revelation exactly the same as on the Mount of Transfiguration, “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” (Revelation 1:16).
Peter is referring to the transfiguration when he writes, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty…And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16 & 18). The three disciples were not following fantasies, legends, hypotheses or hallucinations. It is rather the sober eyewitness account of a man who was allowed to see the majestic return of Jesus in a prophetic vision. We see also from this what a place the return of the Lord has in the biblical accounts. Peter wrote this letter about 35 years after the transfiguration, and was still deeply moved by the event. The Holy Spirit kept this fire burning in his heart.
John also showed deep emotion when he wrote at the beginning of his Gospel concerning the transfiguration, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). There was even a foreshadowing of this event at the time of Moses, “And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Exodus 24:15-17).

Jesus will return in power. “…When we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:16). “Power and coming” could also be called “powerful coming.” His appearing will shake the world more powerfully than any atom bomb. John Newton said in this connection, “As the stars are all hidden by the dawning of the day, all earthly pleasures will pale when Jesus is revealed.”1

Jesus will return as King. “…But were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). He will return as King of all kings (Revelation 1:5). The whole world will fall at His feet; His enemies will become His footstool (Hebrews 1:13 and 10:13). John Piper wrote, “If there were a king with unlimited wisdom, power, divinity and love for his subjects, the monarchy would be the best of all forms of government. If ever such a ruler would appear in the world, one without weaknesses, without foolishness, without sin, then no intelligent and humble person would ever want a democracy again.”2
Jesus’ rule will be without end; it will last for ever (Luke 1:33 and Daniel 7:13-14). The election has taken place once and for all, and there with never be a new election. He will return with all the honor and glory of God, “For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am will pleased” (2 Peter 1:17).
Jesus will return as the One to whom Moses referred and all the prophets pointed. Moses said, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15). When Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, the voice of God came from heaven and confirmed these very words of Moses in a unique way, “And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:3-5).
We hear so many voices today. Jesus is the only One, however, who is worth listening to; who has something to say to us; who does not owe us any answers; who is credible; in whom we find counsel and help; in whom we may take refuge; and from whom we have nothing to fear. It is strange how people long for truth, an end to violence, peace and justice, harmony and love for one’s neighbor; but Jesus, who lived out all this, who taught it and promised it in His kingdom, is undesired. Only a demonic power can be behind this, which has the world in his clutches and blinds it.

Jesus will return as God. The transfiguration is a confirmation of the divinity of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is consistent both in Matthew’s Gospel and in the second letter of Peter. What is Jesus, if He is the Son of God? He can only be God, for He was not created but “begotten”; not in a human sense, for He is without beginning. Just as the begotten man is a man, so the “begotten” Son of God is God. As every human father has a beginning and an end, every newborn person has a beginning and an end. That which began at conception ends with death. God the Father, however, has no beginning and no end. He is always the “I am”: “I am that I am.” As God has no beginning and no end, the Son also has no beginning. He is from eternity God the Son.
The Jews understood this clearly, better than many Christians, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). The claim that He was God’s Son means being God (cf. John 10:33 & 36). Peter put all the emphasis on this fact when he wrote in the introduction to his letter, “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1). Jesus will return as God, in divine majesty with honor, power and glory.
What effect does this exalted truth have on our faith lives? We should hold fast to Biblical prophecy till the Lord comes for His Church, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). As we have already seen, Peter spoke in the preceding verses of the return of Jesus in glory, which was already testified to by the Old Testament prophets, and which the apostles saw  prophetically on the Mount of Transfiguration and proclaimed later in their writings.
Peter emphasizes so vehemently the absolute certainty of the prophetic Word, and the absolute urgency of heeding it and holding fast to it, because his letter is an end-times letter. This is, so to speak, his testament shortly before his death, and therefore a legacy. Peter foresees the danger of the end times in neglecting prophecy. It is actually a paradox that in the time when it is most necessary, prophecy is heeded so little.
We are living in a dark world, and the only reliable light is the Word of God concerning the return of Jesus. We should not neglect to orientate ourselves to this Word, to hold fast to it, to live in accordance with it, to search in it, and to let it shine until the new day dawns and the Lord Jesus returns as the morning star.
                          (MR0712/520)


ENDNOTES
1     factum 07/9
2    factum 07/9, p. 20
Read 1362 times Last modified on Thursday, 29 November 2012 14:04
Norbert Lieth

Norbert Lieth has amassed valuable experience at several missionary assignments in South America, after graduating from Bible college in Uruguay. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Midnight Call Ministries, which has its international headquarters in Switzerland. 

A central theme in his worldwide ministry is the biblical prophecy found in Scripture, from which the imminent return of Jesus shines forth. He has written numerous books, of which several have been translated into other languages.

1-800-845-2420

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