Aug 27, 2011

Accepting Christ After His Return?

Tony GarlandBy Dr. Tony Garland

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Q. The men's group at the church I belong to will start a study of Revelation next month. I would like to reference your material. Is that OK?

I anticipate some reaction to the discussion of the Millennium. I myself have some questions.

  1. Will Jesus return to earth in a glorified state?
  2. If so, how could anybody not want to be part of his kingdom (I'm just saying that from a practical standpoint)?
  3. If he does not return in a glorified state, but visually returns to earth on the clouds, how could anyone deny that He is all powerful?
  4. And, if everyone sees He is all powerful, wouldn't unbelievers want to follow Him just out of fear if not love.
Therein lies my struggle.

A. Thanks for submitting your questions.

You are more than welcome to reference the material on the book of Revelation (or any other topic) from our website. In regard to the Revelation Commentary, the copyright is specifically written so as to encourage widespread use.

In regard to your other questions concerning the relationship between the return of Jesus and the millennial kingdom to follow:
  1. The Scriptures indicate that the “sign of the Son of Man” (Mat. 24:30 cf. Rev. 1:7) which is connected with the second coming of Jesus is globally visible and unmistakable. It seems likely that He will appear in a state of glorification (cf. Mat. 17:2; Mark 9:2).
  2. As you suggest, this sign will be both impressive and, to unbelievers, immensely fearful. Even John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, “fell at His feet as dead” when He saw the glorified Christ (Rev. 1:13-17). Yet we don’t see any indication in Scripture that those who have rejected Christ up to the time of His second coming repent or accept Him once they recognize their awful mistake. Nor are they given any opportunity to: quite the opposite. Upon His return, having taken up the Throne of David, Christ enters upon the sheep and goat judgment wherein those who have rejected Him will be sent away into “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:31-46). They will not be allowed to participate in the millennial kingdom to follow, but will undergo immediate judgment. So even if they were to all-of-a-sudden decide they've made a big mistake, Scripture gives no indication they are in a position to rectify their rejection at the time of His appearing. So whether they might now want to be part of his kingdom or not appears to be a moot point - their destiny is already sealed. It appears that those who haven’t responded before then are so hardened in their intense hatred of God that they will not even respond out of fear. Fear will not sufficiently motivate them to turn to Him upon His return any more than it failed to motivate them during the awesome judgments of the tribulation recorded in the book of Revelation which they recognize are directly from God (Rev. 6:16-17).
  3. However He returns, it seems clear that His power will be undeniable. However your question implies that people who reject God are “reasonable” and will respond when given suitable motivation (e.g., knowing God truly exists, knowing Jesus is truly the Messiah, seeing miracles, etc.). As if they simply lack the proper evidence. But Scripture teaches otherwise. Paul makes it clear that those who reject God do not lack evidence - in their heart-of-hearts they know God exists, but they choose to reject and pervert the truth (Rom. 1:20-21 cf. Psalm 19). Jesus also underscored the fact that people who reject God do not do so out of lack of evidence, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). During the events of Revelation, those who reject God are well aware He is all powerful, yet they remain hardened in their rejection of Him. These are the “earth dwellers” - those who accept the mark of the Beast and are unredeemable (Rev. 14:9-11), never having been written (perfect tense) in the Lamb’s book of Life (Rev. 13:8; 21:27). We underestimate the capacity of the human heart to harden against God when we believe that they will respond to Christ upon His return any more than they did during the awful judgments which preceded His arrival.
  4. Of those who experience His return, I don’t think any will deny that Christ is all powerful. Scripture indicates that every person who has ever lived will some day bow the knee and confess Christ as Lord (Isa. 45:22-25; Rom. 14:11; Php. 2:10). Notice what Isaiah says: “. . . And all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him.” (Isa 45:24). Those who reject Christ will suffer shame - they will realize their error. But there is no indication that they are afforded the opportunity to rectify their position upon His return. Scripture records that only believers will enter into the millennial kingdom following Christ’s return. At the beginning of this period there will not be a single individual who enters out of fear rather than love. It is only after numerous generations are newly born from this initial believing population that we see the development of a subset who reject Christ and are forced to remain in subjection to His global rule. One of the secondary results of the millennial kingdom (along with the binding of Satan and his subsequent release, Rev. 20:7-9) is to demonstrate, once again, that when left to his own devices man will continue to reject God - no matter the evidence of God’s righteous rule and how immediate it is. In this case, Jesus is ruling personally from Jerusalem, Satan is bound, and unbelief and rejection still develop over time to smolder under the rule of Jesus. It is my view that this is the time which Psalm 2 finds its specific fulfillment - it is then that God will have literally “set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6).
In summary, Scripture, inspired of the Spirit, makes plain that those who reject God know He exists - their noisy denials and incessant clamoring of a need for more evidence to the contrary. Although Christ’s second coming will be a fearful event for unbelievers, by then they will have knowingly rejected Christ (Rev. 14:6-7) through the entire tribulation period. Evidently, fear alone is not sufficient to bring them to repentance (Rev. 16:9-11). Moreover, those who have rejected Him up to the point of His return are not given an opportunity to subsequently participate as the millennial kingdom begins. Instead, the living nations are judged and Christ-rejecting goats are excluded from the millennial kingdom only to stand trail at the end of the period when the unbelievers of all ages get what they have always said they wanted: a chance to be judged by their own merits (sinful works). Unfortunately, they will realize too late that God’s doesn’t grade on a curve: His standard requires perfect sinlessness. Having not been found in the book of life of the Sinless One (the Lamb), they enter upon their final destiny, the second death in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

Related Links
What is the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming? -
Why do the Nations Rage - (Tony Garland)
View of Christ's Future Kingdom - Good News For Israel (Tim LaHaye)
Who Enters the Millennial Kingdom? - BPB (Tony Garland)
The Rich Man and Lazarus - (Hampton Keathley IV)