|Topical Bible Study||October 1961|
God’s Plan for Man—Lesson IX
Christ’s Promised Return
THE disciples of Jesus confidently believed that their Master was the promised Messiah, and that he had come in fulfillment of the Old Testament promises relating to the establishment of a powerful government that would extend its sphere of influence throughout the whole earth. (Isa. 9:6,7; Ps. 72:8; John 1:41,42) For this reason they were greatly disappointed when Jesus was arrested and cruelly put to death. They did not then realize that Jesus was giving his flesh for the life of the world.—John 6:51
It was not until later, through the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit that the apostles and other disciples in the Early Church learned that their kingdom hopes, which were centered in Jesus, would only be realized as a result of his return to earth in what has come to be referred to as his second advent. However, even before his death Jesus told his disciples that he was going away, that he would return, and that they would then be with him again.—John 14:3; Matt. 16:27
After Jesus’ resurrection, when he appeared to his disciples for the last time before returning to heaven, they were much concerned over their hope of the kingdom. However, Jesus then gave them a commission to be his witnesses, and when he left them, two angels appeared and gave them assurance that Jesus would return to them.—Acts 1:6-11
In a sermon Peter preached shortly after Pentecost he spoke of Christ’s return, and associated the event with what he described as “times of restitution of all things.”—Acts 3:20,21
The hope of the return of Christ to establish his kingdom and to reward his followers was very real to the members of the Early Church. It was a source of comfort and spiritual strength to them as they sought to bear witness concerning Jesus to a hostile world.—Titus 2:13; I Thess. 4:16-18
The brethren of the Early Church did not understand that the return of Christ was many centuries away. The general expectation then was that he would return very soon. Many of the promises gave them this viewpoint, for they did not take into consideration that the promises were based upon the divine viewpoint of time.—Ps. 90:4; II Pet. 3:8,10; Rev. 3:11; 22:17
These brethren were in the difficult position of sponsoring the cause of a Messiah who had been put to death by his enemies. They understood why he had died, but the unbelieving world did not. True they proclaimed the fact that Jesus had been raised from the dead, but to this had to be added that he had returned to heaven, which would seem incredible to an unbelieving world.
It was difficult to obtain acceptance of a message like this, and the faith of the brethren was sorely tried. To them, therefore, the return of their Lord was the center of all their hopes, and they longed for the time when he would appear.—I Pet. 1:7,8
Why was the death of Jesus such a great test to his disciples’ faith?
How and when did the apostles and other disciples in the Early Church learn that Christ would not establish his kingdom until his second advent?
What assurance was given to the disciples by two angels following Jesus’ ascension? Quote the promise.
With what great work did the Apostle Peter associate Jesus’ second coming?
Quote texts of Scripture to show the importance to the outlook of the Early Church of our Lord’s return.
Did the brethren at the beginning of the age realize that the return of Christ was so far in the future from their day?
Explain the situation that was such a severe test of faith to the brethren of the Early Church, and relate this to the hope of Christ’s appearance.
“The Divine Plan of the Ages,” pages 93, 94.
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
An important object of Jesus’ first advent was to die as the Redeemer of the world from death. He comes the second time as the Deliverer, to restore mankind to life.