Jesus will return
Stanley M. Horton, Th.D., is professor emeritus of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Horton has enjoyed a multidecade career as an educator and theological writer for the Assemblies of God and the international Pentecostal community. His 1991 book, The Ultimate Victory (Gospel Publishing House, Springfield, Mo.), examines the return of Jesus Christ and the other events described in the Book of Revelation. Horton spoke recently with Scott Harrup, associate editor.
PE: You grew up among early-20th-century Pentecostals. They fervently believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes. Should that be the believerÕs expectation today?
HORTON: I believe it should be our expectation that He could come in our lifetime. The timing and seasons have not been given to us. Only the Father knows those. I believe there was a high level of expectation for the LordÕs return as the Pentecostal revival was spreading. They saw the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a sign that they were given power to spread the gospel to fulfill what Jesus said, that Òthis gospel shall be preached to all nations and then the end will come.Ó
PE: As you were writing The Ultimate Victory, did anything in particular about ChristÕs return grip your heart?
HORTON: The fact the Book of Revelation centers all its real attention on Jesus is an assurance that He is Victor and we are going to share in that victory.
PE: Christians continue to debate when Christ will return within the chronology of other end-times events. Why do you support the Assemblies of GodÕs view that Jesus will return before the Great Tribulation to take His church out of this world?
HORTON: I think one of the most important passages of Scripture has to do with the fact we are not appointed unto wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Even in the first part of the Tribulation, the wrath of Christ is being manifested in various ways. Both the Old and New Testaments make it clear that GodÕs kingdom will be brought in through judgment, but that kind of judgment that falls on earth is not intended for the Church.
PE: Christians have been dying for nearly 20 centuries without experiencing ChristÕs return. Does this invalidate JesusÕ promise?
HORTON: Not at all. God doesnÕt look at time the way we do. He is concerned about bringing many into the family of God. GodÕs mercy has given us all of this time leading to His return. Jesus promised, ÒI will build My church.Ó The assurance is there will be multitudes in the Church who will be saved. I think the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through the Pentecostal revival that has spread around the world is doing more than anything since the beginning of the Church Age to bring people into the Kingdom.
PE: How big a role should the promise of the Second Coming play when followers of Christ proclaim the gospel and present the way of salvation?
HORTON: I think itÕs important for people to recognize that God has a plan. The very first verse of Genesis puts the emphasis on Òin the beginningÓ because the nonbelieving world as a whole didnÕt see a beginning. They described history as going in endless cycles or spirals with no plan. The Bible emphasizes a linear view of history. It had a real beginning and it will have a grand confirmation. ItÕs important for us to assure people that God does have a plan and He has promised to fulfill it and He is able to fulfill it.
PE: YouÕre 89. Do you believe you could live to see JesusÕ return?
HORTON: That would be wonderful if I do. But if I donÕt, why, IÕll see Him anyway. IÕm thankful for the revelation that God has given us. It gives us hope to look beyond all of the troubles of this world.
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