“Jesus is returning soon!” That message makes some quake, some sneer, some yawn. A young man angrily told me how the teaching of his youth about the Lord’s return made him terribly fearful in his teen years, numerous times feeling that he had been “left behind.” The Blessed Hope was anything but blessed and hopeful for him. Many others eat up the books that create elaborate stories of wars, famines, and a world gone mad around the prophecy texts of Scripture. For others the promise of Jesus’ return is an escape, a way to avoid dealing with life as it, their attitude basically consigning this world to Hell while they wait for their Savior to show up and carry them away to heavenly bliss.
Here is what Peter wrote 2 millennia ago. “The end of all things is near.” (1 Peter 4:7)
What do we make of his statement? Was he mistaken? Or, did he understand something that we need to know as well? First, he is not wrong. A centerpiece of Jesus’ message was that He would return to the earth in glory and power. The totality of Scripture is about justice and reconciliation. God’s desire is to defeat the evil that convulses the world, that produces pain and suffering, the restoration of all things. How will He do that? With the coming of the Lord! Jesus told the band of disciples who clung to Him after the Resurrection that He was going to go and send the Spirit and that He would come back. In a vision that John had on Patmos, one full of strange images of cosmic warfare told in the book of the Revelation, Jesus says to him – “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12-13, NIV)
When we try to force dates on that promise we make a basic error that causes us to be foolish. Hundreds of times in the history of the Church, little sects of people with end time fever have set dates, retreated from the world to wait, and found themselves disappointed. Why do we so conveniently forget what Jesus said about this? “Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” (Matthew 24:35-36, NLT)
The return of the Lord is the hope of the Church.
No, we won’t be date-setters, spinning fanciful schemes around the hard to understand texts about His return. Rather, in faith, we will hold the promise. We will wait for the vindication of our sacrifice, the deferred justice for the martyrs, the full realization of the promises of God will come on that Day.
Meanwhile, we take our cue for the way we ought to be living from the rest of Peter’s text. “The End is near,” he wrote. He went on to tell us this, our word from the Word for today: “Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:7-10, NIV)
Be a thoughtful Christian, engaged with your world.
Be a loving Christian, connected to the family of God, sharing life.
Be a serving Christian, doing what the Lord equips you to do for His glory.
And, with John, we all say – “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20, NIV)
(a song of worship)
He’s coming on the clouds
Kings and kingdoms will bow down
And every chain will break
As broken hearts declare His praise
For who can stop the Lord Almighty
Our God is the Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power
And fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him
Our God is the Lamb
The Lamb that was slain
For the sins of the world
His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Every knee will bow before Him
So open up the gates
Make way before the King of kings
The God who comes to save
Is here to set the captives free
For who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord Almighty
Who can stop the Lord (Almighty)
Brenton Brown | Brian Johnson | Leeland Mooring
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