Billy Graham - The Second Coming of Christ
Now I want you to turn with me to the passage that Ralph Bell read to us. The third chapter of II Peter. I wish I had an opportunity to go verse by verse in this chapter because it‘s one of the most important chapters concerning the coming again of Jesus Christ. I want to speak on the day of the coming of Christ. "That day" it's called in Scripture.
Now when you woke up this morning, I want to ask you what were your expectations of today? Many people began thinking, Well, it’s going to be just an average day. Nothing unusual about that. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing much to look forward to. Just an average day. And then there may be the graduation day or anniversary day or promotion day or a day in which you retire, maybe a day in which you start your vacation, or maybe your birthday or the birth of a child. But tonight, I want to talk to you about a day that is unique in the history of the world. The day when the Bible teaches Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth. And that day is on God’s calendar.
The word of God says it will only happen once. And it’s going to come as a devastating shock for those that are not prepared. But for those who look forward to the coming of Jesus Christ, it’s going to be a day of great joy. The early New Testament Christians continued to talk about and look forward to that day, or the day, or the last days. These expressions are used throughout the New Testament. The last days. And we are living, I believe, in the last days. What kind of a day are we looking for? What’s going to happen on that day?
Well, first of all, it will be a day of revelation. II Thessalonians 1:7 says, "And to you who are troubled, rest with us. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels". He’s not going to come riding a donkey the next time. He’s going to come with the mighty angels of heaven. It’s going to be the personal return and appearance of Jesus Christ. After the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, the Bible says He appeared in person to his disciples, and to five hundred of His followers. But Jesus didn’t appear to Pilate. Have you ever wondered why? Or to Herod, or to the chief priests or those that engineered his crucifixion. He didn’t appear to them. Why? Because it was not the time. They’re going to see him on that day that is yet future.
Revelation 1:7 says, "Look, He’s coming with the clouds and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him. All the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him". Even the people that pierced him, even the people that engineered his death are going to see him and they’re going to be in a state of shock. The Scripture says in I Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven". In Acts 1:11 it says, "This same Jesus shall so come in like manner as you’ve seen him go into heaven". And they were watching to see Him go into heaven, His ascension. And it says He disappeared into a cloud.
I think it was a cloud of angels come to escort him back to heaven, because there were angels that came when he was born. They escorted him to earth. Now He’s going back to heaven after His resurrection and they’ve come to escort Him back. You know, before a great work of art such as a stature or painting is presented to the public, it’s usually kept hidden. People may know that the work is being prepared. They may even know the location, but they’ve not seen it. When the day of the presentation arrives, the artwork is covered by a cloth until the moment of unveiling. People come with great anticipation and the event is often preceded by a ceremony. When the covering is removed, the work of art stands unveiled, open for all to see. That day, the scripture says, it will be the unveiling of one who has been hidden.
Today is day in which Christ is hidden. He’s not here in person in the sense of his flesh. He’s not seen. "Whom having not seen, ye love," said Peter in 1 Peter 1:8. But in that day, He’s going to be revealed. You see, this is a day of faith. We come to him by faith, but then it’s going to be sight. We’re going to see him person to person. And I’m looking forward to that day when I see Jesus Christ person to person. To be able to fall at his feet and thank him for dying on the cross for me so that I could have my sins forgiven and I could go to heaven and spend eternity with him.
You know in eastern countries a man is presented, in many eastern countries, a man is presented on his wedding day with his bride. The first time he’s ever seen the bride is on his wedding day. She’s hidden under a veil. I can imagine the anticipation of those young men waiting to see what kind of a woman their parents picked out for him, to see his bride for the first time. We love Christ, but we’ve not seen him. He is hidden behind a veil. We long to see him in person. Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, the scriptures says. We will see Him with his mighty angels. What a day that’s going to be, when He comes like lightning from heaven, like a crack of thunder.
And then secondly, it will be a day of condemnation. To believers it’s going to be a time of ecstasy and joy and excitement and glory; but to those who do not know him, it’s going to be a day of judgement. God has placed within us a strong desire to see justice done in the world. We cheer when the good guys win and the bad guys loose on TV. We applaud the legal system when it brings to justice a person who has brought great harm to others. We applaud the legal system when it does something to bring about social justice in our communities. Yet many people refuse to believe that God will one day bring justice to this earth, but He’s going to do it and it’s going to be on his terms.
To every one of us, we’re going to have to face the judgement. God is perfect in love and justice. God is a god of love. Don’t leave here and let people think that God is not a god of love. The thing that I want you to remember most out of his whole crusade is that God loves you. No matter who you are, what you are, what your ethnic background is, how many sins you’ve committed, God loves you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. God is going to keep on loving you to the very grave. He loves you. He is a god of love. But He’s also a god of justice. And He’s going to bring people throughout the world to a place of judgement and bring justice to the world.
In II Thessalonians 1, the eighth and ninth verse it says, "In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting banishment from the presence of the Lord, from the glory of his power". Think of that. The revised standard version translates this verse as "exclusion from the presence of God". You see, what it really means is that we’re going, those of you that are lost, those of you that don’t know Christ as your Lord and Savior, you may be a member of the church and all that, but deep inside you’re not sure how you stand with God, and you may be lost.
To all of you, you’re going to catch a glimpse of Christ in His glory. You’re going to see all the glory and all the thrill and the joy of heaven for one moment and you’ll carry that memory throughout eternity, but you won’t be able to enjoy it. You’re going to be excluded from His presence, the Scripture says. I remember when I heard about that for the first time from a Greek scholar at Cambridge University. I remember the impact that made upon me when he said, "That’s what that passage means".
And I began to think about catching a glimpse of Jesus in all of His glory and all of His power and I was to be a part of it in heaven and I missed it because of my own lust or my own greed or my own pride or my own ego or because I wouldn’t surrender to Christ on the cross. It also is going to be a day of salvation, a day of salvation. That’s where we come to glorification. You’ve heard of salvation and sanctification. That is called glorification. Who are the objects of salvation? What is the nature of salvation?
II Thessalonians 1:7 says rest. This indicates that many inequalities are going to be ironed out. There will be perfect justice. The poor of the world will have their needs met. And many of the rich will become poor. You remember the rich man and the poor man Jesus spoke about? And the poor man died and went to heaven to be with Jesus and the rich man, who had no time for the poor, died and he went to hell. And there was a great gulf between them. And the rich man cried out. He saw Abraham and he cried out and said, "Come and bring just one little bit of water. Just touch my tongue with water and please go tell my brothers not to come to this place. It’s terrible".
Whatever hell is, it’s separation from God. Heaven is described in terms that indicate the important thing though is not going to be our joy. I’m going to jump up and down, if they’ll let me. I’m going to applaud more than the people of Albany. I’m going to applaud the Lord Jesus Christ until my hands fall off. I’m going to kneel until my knees will be filled with blood from kneeling and giving Him the glory and the praise and honor. But that’s not going to be the big thing.
The big thing is that Jesus is going to be so revealed in beauty and glory, in and through us, His saints, that the whole universe is going to stand and marvel that Christ could do such a thing by his death and his resurrection. That He could take sinners like you and me, who are opposed to God, who break his laws, who disobey him every day and He’s going to take us and make us into what He plans for the future. We’re going to share with him in reigning and ruling. He’s going to be so revealed in beauty and glory in and through his saints that the whole universe will stand in amazement.
You see, a craftsman is revealed by his work. Sir Christopher Wren was the designer of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. And I remember when we first went to London, the year after the war. Cliff Barrows with his wife Billie, and my wife and I went to England and we preached there for six months and the whole city was almost in ruins, but you could see St. Paul’s Cathedral standing in all of its glory. It had suffered a little damage, but not much. And Sir Christopher Wren had designed it. And inside the Cathedral there is a plaque to his memory. And it says, "If you seek the monument of Sir Christopher Wren, look about you. This is his monument".
The monument of our Lord Jesus Christ's work on earth at the cross and the resurrection is going to be you and me. All of those who know Christ, the body of Christ. We are his workmanship. When the universe looks upon His glorified church they will marvel at His beauty. They’re not going to think of you and me. They’re going to think of Him. All of our thoughts are going to be centered in Him. The universe will be impressed not by us but by Him who could accomplish all this. Christ will be the center of heaven. And in hell, wherever you look, you’ll never see him. "This is the day that the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it," the scripture says. There is going to be a day when Christ comes back.
Now today when He’s coming is a secret. According to a recent New York Times article last year, the United States government created 6 million, eight hundred thousand classified messages and documents. Now that’s a lot of secrets. And, of course, we all know that those secrets have leaks. But God has one secret that He’s revealed to no one. No one. And we’re not even to speculate about it. And that is the day and the hour of his return. We don’t know. But Jesus, before His death, took His disciples to the mountain and they privately asked Him, Lord, when are you coming and what are going to be the signs of Your return? What can we look for just before You come back? What will be the indicators of Your coming again and the end of the world? Or the world system as we know it, which is dominated by evil.
And Jesus replied, "Not of that day nor hour knoweth no man, not even the angels. Only my Father knows". But He stated clearly to the disciples that at the time of His coming again there would be signs that we’re to look for. And what are some of the signs that He left? First, He said there will be wars and rumors of wars. Doesn’t that sound like the headlines of our papers all the time? Wars and rumors of wars. Oh yes, we had a wonderful time of peace seemingly break out in the world. And I’m thrilled at what’s been happening, but even with all of this peace that’s broken out, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a dangerous world.
The Economist in London the other day ran an editorial and said the world is still a dangerous place. The end of the cold war and new the relaxation between East and West have tempted some to believe that peace is the order of the day. The Economist said it is it not. We get rid of one big source of tension; the world still has a lot of little ones. Neither hatred, intolerance, nor aggression, nor even the clash of ideas died in the changes that took place last year and this year. Peace is breaking out, but so is conflict. Then the second thing He said, "Many will come in my name saying, ‘I’m Christ’".
I’m told there are more than 400 people in Los Angeles alone that claim to be Christ. He said there will arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders. Many people today are teaching that we are god. All you have to do is get in touch with the power that is within yourself. Unleash it and you can solve all the problems of life.
And then thirdly, Jesus said the masses will be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this life and so that day will come upon myriads of people unawares. In other words, we’re going to be having such a good time and be in all of our parties, going to all of the night clubs and the excessive drinking and drug use. The sex and violence are major threats to the current generation, it's said. And they are major threats, but Jesus predicted all of that. He said they will be living like in the days of Noah, eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, exchanging wives. And that’s all going on today on a scale we’ve never known before.
The social critic and author Tom Wolfe commenting on the 1980s called it a decade of money fever in which the idea of sexual immorality came close to vanishing. Where are our moral values? We go to the talk show people and they tell us what the moral values are at that present moment. And I know one of those people and have known him for a long time. And he used to have strong moral values, but over the years, he himself has succumbed until now, when you watch him on television you see he has slipped a long way from where he used to stand. Jesus made it plain. There would be untold wealth and greed and overindulgence as we approach the end of the age. One newspaper columnist called our American lifestyle a Babylonian existence.
And then fourthly, Jesus said there would be famines in many places and pestilences. Not universal, but in different places, He said. And much of the famine in the world today is man-made, the result of political struggles and civil war. Look at the famine in Monrovia, Liberia tonight. Five hundred thousand people jammed into that town. There’s no water. The water has been cut off for ten days. There’s no food, there's no rice, and disease is breaking out. What’s going to happen? And that’s happening in many parts of the world. It’s happening in places in India and it looks like war between India and Pakistan is very, very close. And we see all of these things taking place now. And they’re all things Jesus predicted would be happening just before he comes. American’s spend billions of dollars annually on reducing programs when the rest of the world are just trying to get enough to eat.
And then He said iniquity shall abound. And He was talking about sex perversions. Yes, I’m not going to go into that tonight because we don’t have time, but the daily crime rate staggers us. The young women that are being attacked today and raped is forty percent greater than it was a year ago. Something has happened. It seems like some terrible, evil spirit has been let loose, and he has. It’s the devil. Somebody asked me what’s wrong with the world. I said, "Sin is wrong with the world". and the devil is flaming the fire or fanning the fire, and that’s what’s happened. We ask ourselves, have our moral values gone completely? Almost, so that even Christians today are confused, and we become worldly Christians instead of Bible reading Christians, studying the scriptures and praying in our homes. We sit in front of that little box and get our moral values from there.
And then he said, there will be an increase in earthquakes. There are some six thousand earthquakes detected throughout the world each year. The average death toll from earthquakes in the 20th century has been twenty thousand people every year. In Armenia in 1988 there were twenty-five thousand. In Iran, a few weeks ago, there were fifty thousand. Earthquakes are increasing. In II Peter He said since everything will be destroyed in that day, what kind of people ought you to be? We now have the ozone effect.
Everybody is getting concerned about the environment. They ought to be, because in this passage of scripture it teaches that the earth is going to melt. It’s going to fade away. Something is going to happen. Some climactic thing is going to happen, and it seems to me that what we are reading about in the ozone effect is the thing that Peter is talking about. And he said, since everything will be destroyed and changed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God, and speed its coming.
The Christian is not a dropout from life. On the contrary, it is believing that Christ will return that gives us the confidence and the courage to live as we should today. Knowing that Christ is coming back makes me want to work that much more. I want to feed more people. I want to preach to more people. I want to help more people who are starving and homeless. It encourages us. It’s an incentive to get out in society and do the best we can. We know that the whole world is not going to be saved, but coming out of the world are going to be people who will be saved, because we look for a new heaven and a new earth as God has promised. And we live boldly for Him in the context of our lives today.
The Bible says there is a day coming when God will shake the heavens and the earth. It will be a day of salvation for those who know Christ. It will be a day of judgement for those who don’t know him. Are you prepared? The scripture says, prepare to meet thy God. Have you prepared? You say, "Well, what do I have to do to prepare"? Yes, you go to church once and awhile. You’ve been baptized. You take communion perhaps. You’ve taken your vows in the church, but deep inside you’re not sure how you stand. And you want to be sure before you leave here.
This crusade will be over in a few minutes. This phase of it, at least, because it’s going to continue in churches and it’s going to continue in all the great follow-up work that’s being planned; but, you need to make a commitment to Christ today. Today is the day of salvation. Now is the accepted time. The scripture teaches you can harden your heart. God is giving you another moment, another chance to say yes to Him. I’m going to ask you to do something we’ve seen the last two nights over two thousand people do. I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat and come and stand in front of this platform and say, by coming, I surrender my heart to Christ. I want to be sure. I want to have the assurance that I’m saved. That I’m going to heaven. That I’m going to be prepared to meet Christ when He returns.
You say, "Why do you ask me to come forward"? Every person that Jesus called in the New Testament, he called publicly. He said, "If you’re not willing to acknowledge me before men, I’ll not acknowledge you before my Father which is in heaven". There’s something about making that public commitment that he has ordained for us to do. And I’m going to ask you to do that right now.
Hundreds of you that God is speaking to. If you come from up here it will take you a couple minutes, so start now. God is speaking to you. If you are with friends or relatives, they’ll wait on you. If you’ve come in a bus, they’ll wait. There’s plenty of time. God is speaking to you. You come. Quickly. And after you’ve all come, I’m going to say a word to you, have a prayer with you, give you some literature to help you in your Christian life. Just get up and come right now, from up here and all around.
To you that have been watching by television you can see that hundreds of people are coming here in Knickerbacker Arena in Albany, NY. What a wonderful sight this is and Ralph Bell who has been preaching night after night before I came has seen hundreds of people come to Christ as he’s preached as well. There’s been a great spiritual hunger here and a great move of the Spirit of God. And I’m asking you to receive Christ into your heart wherever you are. In your home, maybe a nightclub or maybe a hotel room. You can say yes to Christ. God bless you and help you to make that commitment tonight. And be sure and go to church next Sunday.