How Should I Recognize Jesus When He Returns?
Brother Li felt puzzled about whether one can recognize the Lord according to the’ form in welcoming His return, so he went to Brother Zhao to seek and explore it. On seeing Brother Zhao, he said without preamble, “The Bible says, ‘You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11). All along, most believers in the Lord think that the Lord Jesus will certainly descend in the image of a Jew when He returns, because He rose to heaven in the form of a Jewish person. And I also think so. But why did some brothers and sisters recently say that it was wrong and was delimiting God to have such understanding? So, will the Lord Jesus really arrive among us in the image of a Jew? If it is really not like this, then how can we recognize Him when He returns? I’m having difficulty seeing into these questions. Brother Zhao, you’ve been a believer for many years and are familiar with the Bible. Can you talk about your understanding?”
“It’s hard to say! What if the Lord comes back not in the image of a Jew? Understanding the verses from a literal perspective makes it easy for us to define God. Didn’t the earliest Pharisees make this kind of mistake? The Bible says, ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). After seeing this prophecy, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees employed their bountiful imagination, thinking that, the Messiah would come to wield political power, so without a doubt He would be born into a royal palace and be transcendent and extraordinary, with a commanding presence. However, when the Lord came to do His work, He was ordinary in outward appearance, like any other common man, and had normal humanity. He was born in a manger but not a temple, and grew up in a carpenter’s home. Seeing that the Lord Jesus’ external appearance and birth were not as they had imagined, the Pharisees denied and condemned Him, just as Jehovah God said, ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, my people does not consider’ (Isaiah 1:2-3). The Pharisees had believed in God and served God for generations, but when the Lord Jesus came to do work, they judged God only based on the Lord Jesus’ birth and external appearance instead of knowing God according to the Lord Jesus’ words and work. Because the external appearance and family background of the Lord Jesus didn’t fit in with their notions, and the work done by the Lord Jesus was different from that of the Age of Law, they treated the Lord Jesus as an ordinary person. Moreover, faced with the Lord Jesus’ work, they didn’t seek or investigate it at all, but carelessly judged and condemned it. When seeing many Jewish people hear the Lord Jesus speak, they became afraid that if all of the ordinary folk followed Him, then no one would follow them anymore. So, in order to protect their status and livelihood, they publicly and wantonly made up rumors about the Lord Jesus, and blasphemed, slandered and condemned Him, and they even joined forces with the Roman government to nail the Lord Jesus to the cross. In the end, they were cursed by God. The lesson of the Pharisees’ failure makes us understand that we can’t rely on our own conceptions and imaginings to understand the prophecies of the Bible, or even more so to define God’s image,” Brother Zhao fellowshiped.
Brother Li nodded thoughtfully.
Brother Zhao continued, “God’s image is not unchanging. Like during the Age of Law, God appeared to Moses in a flame of fire out of the middle of a bush (See Exodus 3:1-4). In the Age of Grace, the fashion of the Lord Jesus’ countenance was altered before His disciples, and His raiment was white and glistering. And His image was not the image of a Jew at all (See Luke 9:28-29). The Bible records, ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). God is Spirit, He is formless. He can rise to the highest place and can also be incarnated in the flesh, humbling Himself as a person. But no matter in what image He appears, His essence is still God Himself. Let’s read a passage of God’s words and we’ll understand this aspect of the truth. God says, “God being the greatest throughout the universe and in the realm above, could He fully explain Himself using the image of a flesh? God clothes Himself in this flesh in order to do one stage of His work. There is no particular significance to this image of the flesh, it bears no relation to the passing of ages, nor does it have anything to do with God’s disposition. Why did Jesus not allow the image of Him to remain? Why did He not let man paint His image so that it could be passed on to later generations? Why did He not allow people to acknowledge that His image was the image of God? Although the image of man was created in the image of God, would it have been possible for the appearance of man to represent the exalted image of God? When God becomes flesh, He merely descends from heaven into a particular flesh. It is His Spirit that descends into a flesh, through which He does the work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that is expressed in the flesh, and it is the Spirit who does His work in the flesh. The work done in the flesh fully represents the Spirit, and the flesh is for the sake of the work, but that does not mean that the image of the flesh is a substitute for the true image of God Himself; this is not the purpose or the significance of God become flesh. He becomes flesh only so that the Spirit may find a place to reside that suits His working, the better to achieve His work in the flesh, so that people can see His deeds, understand His disposition, hear His words, and know the wonder of His work. His name represents His disposition, His work represents His identity, but He has never said that His appearance in the flesh represents His image; that is merely a notion of man. And so, the crucial aspects of the incarnation of God are His name, His work, His disposition, and His gender. These are used to represent His management in this age. His appearance in the flesh bears no relation to His management, being merely for the sake of His work at the time. Yet it is impossible for God incarnate to have no particular appearance, and so He chooses the appropriate family to determine His appearance. If the appearance of God were to have representative significance, then all those who possess facial features similar to His would also represent God. Would that not be an egregious mistake?” (“The Vision of God’s Work (3)”). From God’s words we know that the image of God’s flesh is unremarkable. It has no representative meaning and has nothing to do with God’s management. God’s appearance in the flesh can’t represent His disposition nor His inherent identity. Of course it is even less capable of indicating God’s essence, so we cannot know God’s identity by judging from His image in the flesh. As we all know, people of that time who followed the Lord Jesus saw Him or interacted with Him, the twelve disciples were even with Him day and night, but only Peter recognized the identity of the Lord Jesus under the direction of the Holy Spirit, other people seeing the Lord Jesus with their own eyes did not recognize He was God incarnate Himself. Disciple Judas, who had followed the Lord Jesus for years, actually sold out the Lord Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. If he had known the Lord Jesus was the Messiah, would he have dared to do this? So, we people know God not from seeing the face of God incarnate. The image of God incarnate is not the path for men to know God. The key to knowing God is to know God’s essence, meaning to know God’s work, words, and disposition. Moreover, we absolutely can’t treat God’s appearance in the flesh as His true image and can’t draw a conclusion that, since God was in the image of a Jewish man, then He will be like this forever. If we define God this way, then we won’t accept the Lord when He returns not in the image of a Jew in our imaginations. Thus, we will easily make the same mistake as the Pharisees and miss God’s salvation in the last days.”
Feeling what Brother Zhao said made a lot of sense, Brother Li nodded and replied, “Yes. God’s image indeed cannot be defined by us humans. Now I can see that my view that ‘The Lord Jesus will return in the form of a Jewish person’ isn’t tenable. Then, how can we recognize the Lord Jesus when He returns?”
Brother Zhao nodded his head and continued, “The key to welcoming the Lord’s return is being able to hear God’s voice. We all know that, during the time the Lord Jesus worked, many of those who followed Him all recognized from His word that He is the promised Messiah. Just like the woman of Samaria, when the Lord Jesus said to her, ‘For you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband’ (John 4:18), she recognized that the Lord Jesus was the coming Messiah, because the Lord’s word revealed her secrets buried in her heart, and she knew that only God can know man’s innermost secrets. Then she happily gave the people in the city testimony of the Lord Jesus. As a result, many Samaritans came to hear the Lord Jesus’ sermons with a humble heart, and finally they obtained the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and recognized the Lord through His words. Just as they said to the woman of Samaria, ‘Now we believe, not because of your saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the, the Savior of the world’ (John 4:42). There’s also Nathanael. When the Lord Jesus said to him, ‘Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you’ (John 1:48), he recognized that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah. From all this, we can see that we must know God from His words, not His external appearance. In the matter of welcoming the Lord’s coming, we should pay attention to hearing God’s words, like the woman of Samaria and Nathanael. In this way, we can welcome the Lord. Just as the Lord Jesus said, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’” (John 10:27).
At that moment, Brother Li said excitedly, “Oh! Now that you’ve said it, I suddenly remember that the Lord Jesus prophesied, ‘I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come’ (John 16:12-13). ‘He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches’ (See Revelation 2-3). From these prophecies, I see that the Lord Jesus will speak and utter His words when He comes back in the last days. So, when someone testifies to us that the Lord has returned to speak and do His work, we should listen out for God’s voice. This is because only from God’s words and work can we recognize the Lord, welcome the Lord’s return, and follow the footprints of the Lamb.”
Brother Zhao nodded and said, “Yes. Thank the Lord for His guidance.”