We’re concluding our three-week look at the return of Christ. There are a lot of passages in the Bible regarding this event. And I didn’t want to go on and on with it, but I felt led to keep it short, sweet, and simple.
In fact, the three sermons are ones that we’ve looked at before, only not in a series, and I’ve felt led to do these together in a series. I’ve tweaked them a little bit from when I first preached them. Today’s sermon I did two years ago for Palm Sunday, and I’ve kept a lot of the Palm Sunday aspect to give you an example of Jesus’ first triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday compared to his triumphal return at his second coming. I thought it would go well with Memorial Day weekend since we honor those who have fallen in service, and Jesus’ triumphal return will be during a time of war––the great final battle of armageddon.
I’ve said that I didn’t want to get into the timeline of events when it came to Jesus’ second coming because there is some disagreement among that, and I would rather not try to confuse anyone or get boggled into that particular topic. But to give you a little bit of clarity, the event that we will be talking about today will either be part of the rapture––we will be caught up at the time that Jesus returns on a white horse––or we will be caught up, then either three or seven years later, return with Christ when he comes on a white horse. That’s part of the confusion that people have regarding the timeline, the Bible isn’t specific about that. But what we know is that we will be caught up to meet the Lord, according to 1 Thessalonians 4; and––either at that time or later––Jesus will return on a white horse, as we will read from Revelation later today.
Before we do, let’s take a look at another scripture this morning. Matthew 21:8-11.
As you’re turning there, the late Dr. John Kelman was ministering in New York City, and he asked one of his church members the question, “What is your solution to the present world unrest?” His answer, “A dictator.”
”But,” argued the great preacher, “your Dictator would have to be a superman one with perfect understanding of civic and economic problems, and with genius to meet the opposition and resolve the fears of those who doubted and opposed him.” “I know it,” was the quiet answer; “but we are looking for such a Man, and we have Him in view. His name is Jesus.” Commented Dr. Kelman, “The thrill of that answer will never leave me.”
Unfortunately, a dictator will arise. One that the World will rather have than Jesus. But when Jesus returns, he will squelch that antichrist––which the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 calls the “man of lawlessness,” and the true Christ will reign.
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
This is pretty cut and dry. This is Jesus’ first triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But when he comes again, it will not be on a donkey of peace, but on a white horse of triumph.
The first time he entered Jerusalem, of all things, Jesus entered on a donkey. Not the typical way you might expect a king to enter his territory, is it? You might expect that Jesus would have entered Jerusalem on a white horse. Maybe even a black horse. A polka-dot horse. Any horse. But not a donkey.
But it was prophesied by Zechariah about 500 years before Jesus did that, that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem on a donkey.
It can be found in Zechariah Chapter 9, verse 9:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Jesus is using this moment to tell the people of Jerusalem a couple of things without using words:
- That he is fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy, which they probably would have known about. Therefore, Jesus is claiming himself as The Messiah–he is accepting that role and his fate. Just as he did again in the Garden of Gethsemane.
- He’s telling the people that he is not the warrior king that they were expecting him and treating him to be. Riding on a donkey was a symbol of peace. Riding a horse was the symbol of war. A white horse, specifically, was a symbol of triumph. And, the people laid before him the palm branches because the palm branches were traditionally used to lay down as a pathway for the entrance of a warrior king. And waving palm branches was used as a mark of rejoicing.
So, while the people are saying one thing–who they perceive Jesus to be–Jesus is saying another. He is actually telling them, right in front of them, who he really is. And isn’t. Sound familiar? Things haven’t changed much, have they?
I know I’ve been talking a lot about false teaching permeating the Church, and I hope you’re not sick of hearing me say this, but how much do we hear who people think Jesus is, regardless of who Jesus told us he actually is? The Bible is the biggest selling book of all time. It’s available everywhere. You can pick up a King James Bible for a dollar at Dollar Tree. You can read any translation online for free. There are churches on every street corner. When we visited friends in South Carolina last November, we were amazed at how many churches there were down there. Access to preaching is available 24/7 on tv, on radio, on satellite radio, on the internet. Christian books and movies and music are available to order at the touch of a button.
Jesus is telling us exactly who he is right in front of us, but our culture wants him to be someone else. It reminds me of the story of Lazarus and The Rich Man. Remember, in the story, what Abraham told Lazarus?
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
That was a prophetic statement Jesus gave about himself. Some people didn’t listen, even after he rose from the dead right in front of them.
Now, it’s become the complete opposite of what the people in Jerusalem thought 2000 years ago. They wanted a warrior savior, but today, people don’t want or feel the need for, nor even know what a savior is. I sometimes think back to when Evelyn was little and we would say our bedtime prayers and I would ask that she would come to know Jesus as her Lord and Saviour.
And in her little two or three-year-old voice she’d say, “What does savior mean?” And I’d have to try to explain it to a three-year-old as best as I could. I’d say it was like a hero. That seemed to satisfy her enough.
But today, people don’t want a Jesus who is a messianic hero who has the power to save them, they want a man who taught all about love and peace and acceptance and confirmation. It’s as if Jesus’ life–even the Bible itself –can be summed up, in their opinion, to: Be nice. Be kind. Love one another. God loves you just the way you are. Don’t change a thing.
No Messiah. No sin. No repentance. No judgment seat. No savior. And to some, even the cross only means that even the nicest, best, most loving people have to suffer unjustly too. I remember my high school art teacher, who had wanted to become a minister before becoming an art teacher, saying that. Jesus died on the cross to show us that everyone has to suffer.
In today’s culture, Jesus has become whoever and whatever you want him to be. A good teacher, a rabbi, a rebel, but not God. Not Messiah. And certainly not judge.
Last week, I talked about Richard Rohr, the Franciscan Priest who penned, The Universal Christ. Here’s a quote from an interview. He said, “What we used to think was an airy-fairy, new age statement is now the Gospel! Now we know that Jesus’ prayer in John 17, that all may be one, has been answered! It all is one! And many of us are ready to have the eyes to see it.”
Did you hear that? According to him, there’s been this great awakening. Forget the past 2000 years and Billy Graham, the New Age is now the gospel. You see, just like the multitude who laid their palm branches before their king riding on a donkey, there are a lot of people today who make Jesus out to be what they want him to be. Yet, Jesus is making it plain and simple who he actually is, and who he’s always been. He is what the scriptures of the Old Testament say he is; He is who he said he is and proved himself to be in the New Testament. He’s right in front of our eyes, yet many people’s wishful thinking has him as someone else.
You wonder how people can carve idols and make their own god, they’re now doing that with Jesus. And with that, coming back to the end times, you can see how people will want an Antichrist, a reverse Christ. Someone who exemplifies what they want––a person of love without conviction. Acceptance of all people, except those who have the conviction of the real Christ. And someone who may promise peace, and will deliver peace until he has the whole world under his thumb. It will be especially bad for God’s people and the Jewish nation. And the way in which some influential people are responding to the recent attacks on Israel, the world is readying for such a person who will promise peace in the middle east but be on the side of the Palestinians who want to destroy Israel.
This antichrist will be a christlike figure who will arise from a Godless people as a religious figure for a Godless people. The antichrist will be a ruler for an antichrist society and cultivated by Satan.
Even back in the late 1800s, J.C. Ryle said:
Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to be side by side in time, but will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own, as truly an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple. The hands of your own fancy and sentimentality have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and beside the God of the Bible, there is no God at all.
Yes, Jesus is, and was, a man of peace; a man of love. He did ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbol of peace, not conquest. And John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” But the promise that is coming is the promise of Jesus to return riding a white horse of conquest into Jerusalem. He will take back what is rightfully His. He will squelch the Antichrist and his followers. And Jesus will set up his rightful throne in Jerusalem––in fact, a new Jerusalem.
Let’s take a look at that. This is the second set of verses we’re looking at today. This is from Revelation 19. If you have your Bibles, you can turn with me there. I’ll read from verses 11 through 16.
It’s a passage that doesn’t stop and move onto other subjects like other parts of the Bible. This is part of John’s overall vision, and so goes on throughout the rest of the chapter. In fact, the prophetic vision continues throughout the next three chapters until the end of Revelation. And just so you’re aware, the third set of verses we’ll be looking at is also in Revelation, in case you want to leave your Bibles open there. But for now, let’s take a look at chapter 19, verses 11 through 16.
As you’re turning there, this is what Gotquestions.org had to say:
What a vivid contrast we see in Jesus’ return with all His angels, as compared to His entry to Jerusalem upon a donkey! He is no longer riding a humble donkey. Jesus will return on a fiery white charger, bringing judgment, just as He had promised.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords.
Now, it’s easy to get caught up in the drama of this. And I don’t want to do that. That’s why I cut it short. What I want to do is compare Jesus’ first coming with his second. The first time, he came as the Prince of Peace, the second time he will come as the warrior king that the Old Testament prophets foretold; and what the people of Jerusalem, and even today’s Jewish people, are expecting their Messiah to be.
It’s kind of like the old saying, “Is that a threat or a promise?”
Today in the Word said: Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ’s first advent, so both testaments are filled with references to the second coming of Christ. One scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to Christ’s second coming in the Old Testament, where 17 books give it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second advent of Christ–an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first advent, there are 8 which look forward to His second!
So, going back to that question, “Is that a promise or a threat?” It’s actually both, depending on whether or not you are on God’s side. For us, it’s a promise that we can look forward to. That’s a promise that we have in Christ. He is coming for His people. And when he comes, he will not be the Prince of Peace that he was when he came the first time. That’s another promise. And a threat. And it’s not something that we should gloat about. Jesus told us that we have a duty to tell the whole world about this event. We all know at least one person who needs to hear.
In Warren Wiersbe’s Meet Yourself in the Psalms, he tells about a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon. The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before had saved his life; so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience. But the words from the bench silenced his plea: “Young man,” the judge said. “Then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged.” One day Jesus Christ will say to rebellious sinners, “During that long day of grace, I was the Savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your Judge. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!”
That’s not something I want to hear. We know that when Christ returns, not everyone will be saved, but the invitation is open now for everyone. If you still have your Bibles open to Revelation, turn with me to Chapter 21.
I know that we’ve hit on some heavy topics. There’s just no other way to tell the promise of Christ’s return without getting heavy about it. But as much as his triumphant return is a day of wrath, it is also a day of rejoicing.
To conclude on a more positive note, let me read to you one more passage from Revelation. If you still have your Bibles open, this is from Revelation 21:3-7. As you’re turning there, let me read to you something from Dr. John MacArthur:
“For all who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, His coming will mean heaven for all eternity. Unlike Satan’s defeat, justice for the martyrs, and death for Christ rejectors, our gift of heaven will be totally undeserved. That is because we are under God’s grace. In ourselves, we deserve the same fate as they; but in Christ we are granted forgiveness, redemption, holiness, and life everlasting in the presence of the unfading glory of our Lord.”
Scripture: Rev. 21:3-7
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
That, too, is part of the promise. We’ve all heard of ‘Heaven on Earth.’ This is it.
God does a complete makeover of Heaven and Earth, and God and His people will dwell there. In verse 11 John says, “It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
And this is where it talks about the streets of gold, pure as transparent glass.
And the size of The New Jerusalem is huge. The Bible gives us specific dimensions, but it’s hard to picture in our minds what that looks like. To give you an idea, if you were to start at the top right-hand corner of the wall of the city at about Syracuse, you’d follow it south all the way down to the southernmost point of Florida. Then, cross westward into the middle of Mexico, then north to about where Wyoming and Montana meet. And then eastward from there, back to Syracuse again. That’s the size of just this one city.
You and I have that promise to look forward to. As we close, I was invited to a men’s breakfast a couple of years ago that was put on by the Dansville Foursquare Church. There, some of the men shared their testimonies. Do you know how many men had no interest in God whatsoever growing up? But somehow, God got ahold of them. And it was through other people. It was through other people’s lives. Not people badgering them to come to Christ, but living the Christian lifestyle and finally, they realized that they, too, needed that lifestyle. They came to the conclusion that they needed Christ. The Christ who is the Prince of Peace, not the judge.
We are not to badger people, we are not to over-evangelize. We are to wait for those times when the door to their hearts are open. As the Apostle Peter said, we are to have a ready answer for those who ask about the hope that is within us.
And we are to invite everyone we know to receive Christ as their savior, their hero. Do you know the number one reason why people don’t go to church? This is not just based on observation, it’s actually statistically proven. It’s not because they’re not interested, but believe it or not, it’s because they don’t feel like they will be welcomed. Do you know the number one thing that would convince them to go to church? Statistically speaking, simply being personally invited. We no longer live in a world where people just go to church. Nowadays, people come to church because they’re invited.
It’s our job to make sure we invite people to come to church. We can’t expect them to come just because the doors are open.
In fact, Revelation ends with that invitation to everyone. Revelation 22 verse 17 says, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
Who is on your mind right now who needs to be invited? Who can you pray for, that God would call out to? And how can you make yourself ready to have an answer for the hope that is within you when they ask you about who this Jesus is to you.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on First Baptist Church of Watkins Glen