With the Ten Days of Awe drawing to a close, we turn our attention to the future. We look to a time when everything that went wrong in Genesis 3 will be made right to Revelation 21. The fall’s effects will no longer hold its influence over us. God’s plan of salvation will finally see it’s full realization. The current heavens and earth will give way to complete and permanent restoration. We will participate in the greatest party this universe has ever seen – the wedding supper of the Lamb!
But first, something has to happen. An event must occur that has been anticipated for hundreds and hundreds of years. Jesus must return.
The details of this event have been fiercely debated throughout church history. What has not been debated, however, are three basic facts surrounding Jesus’ return.
- Jesus will return suddenly
- His sudden return should be eagerly anticipated
- We do not know when his return will be
Today, we’ll examine each of these points to build a small picture of what it means to live in an age between Jesus’ first and second coming.
Jesus spoke frequently about his return. “You also must be ready,” he warned his disciples, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Mt 24:44).” In Acts 1:11, we are told that Jesus will return in the same way that he ascended – in a spectacular event that will be obvious to all who witness it.
It will be, as Paul describes, “like a thief in the night (1Th 5:2).” This is not to say that Jesus will sneak to earth through a cosmic window and quietly steal people away; rather, Jesus’ return will be sudden and when we least expect it like a thief who comes after midnight. Also, like a thief who physically appears, so will Jesus’ return be personal and bodily in the same way that the disciples saw him go to heaven.
His sudden return will mark the beginning of the end of sin’s power. Jesus is coming a second time with a different mission. The first was to deal with sin, but the second is “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (Hb 9:28).” For this reason, we should eagerly ancitipate his return!
James wrote, “the coming of the Lord is at hand (Jm 5:8).” We should always be anticipating that day. In fact, as we are living lives that are striving to become more and more Christ-like, we should also be “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Ts 2:12–13).”
In a part of the world where we enjoy great securities, health, and wealth, awaiting his return can sometime fade into the background. The more we are engaged in enjoying this life, we often forget about the life to come. Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the gifts God gives us in this life, but they pale in comparison to the gifts we will receive in the next life.
Perhaps it is actually easier for Christians who experience suffering and persecution to eagerly anticipate his return. To them this life is filled with troubles, worries, and evil. They cry aloud with suffering brothers and sisters, “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”
In some way, then, the degree to which we anticipate his return may help us gauge our attachment to this world. We are sojourners and aliens in a foreign land, but do we view ourselves as such? Do we look forward to the day when we will go home to where we really belong? Or do we see this world and this life as our home?
NO MAN KNOWS THE DAY OR THE HOUR
So, when will his sudden return occur? Well, no one knows. In fact, Jesus tells us that the “day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Mt 24:36).” So, not even the Son is privy to the hour of his own return!
What this tells us is that anyone who claims to know specifically when Jesus will return should automatically be considered wrong. Time and time again, people come forward to claim they have unique insight into Jesus’ return, insight that Jesus himself is not aware of according to Mt 24:36. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have officially predicted Jesus’ return five times only to be disappointed over and again.
The most recent famous example is Harold Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster, who claimed Jesus would return on May 21, 2011. When this failed to pan out, Camping pushed the date to October 21, 2011. He later apologized for his false teaching. Regardless of false prophecies, Jesus will return at any moment.
This fact leads some people to ask whether or not it is wise to invest in any long-term projects, plans, or careers. After all, Jesus could arrive at any moment and we don’t know when! This misses the point of precisely why God has opted not to tell us Jesus’ actual time of return. If we knew when Jesus would return, we’d disengage from imaging him to the world through relationships and community. Jesus wants us engaged in following him, no matter where we are in the grand timeline, right up until he returns.
Take time to reflect on the coming event of Jesus’ second coming. Since Jesus could return at any hour, how does that affect your life? Do you now eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return? Are you ready for his return today?
Closing out the Ten Days of Awe with today’s celebration of Yom Kippur, we say with John in Revelation 22:20, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”