My fifteen-year-old was practicing driving one night. I was riding shotgun, my senses on high alert, when she suddenly exclaimed, “I can’t wait to get my license. Only sixty-three more days. I’m so excited!” And she bounced up and down in the driver’s seat. Not recommended!
I laughed at her exuberance. But then a thought struck me, Why don’t I have this same kind of enthusiasm for Jesus’ return? Why am I not bouncing up and down (figuratively-speaking), waiting in heightened anticipation of His blessed appearance?
That thought made me sad, because I don’t.
Perhaps it’s because I don’t—and can’t—have a definitive countdown for His return. I can’t tick off the days on an actual calendar like my daughter can for getting her license. Perhaps it’s because I live too much in the here and now, with an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mentality, and not in exuberant expectation of the hereafter.
But I can—and should! Because I have full assurance that He is going to return; it will happen. Someday. I just don’t know when. And I’m not the only one who doesn’t, for Matthew 24:36 says that the angels and even Jesus Himself don’t know.
So given this, how do we, His beloved Bride, recapture that joy, that sense of exuberance, that eager anticipation? Because, frankly, Christ’s return is infinitely more exciting than getting a driver’s license (sorry, sweet daughter) . . . or getting anything else for that matter.
To cultivate excitement, we must understand the full nature of His coming, beyond Revelation’s mysterious and terrifying images of heaven opening, Jesus descending, eyes blazing, seals breaking, trumpets blaring, beasts roaring, angels flying, mountains splitting, dead people rising, people soaring, nations mourning, fire raging.
Yes, the Day of the Lord (for those of us who will be here) will be a terrible time, as Zephaniah 1:14–18 confirms; it will be a time of “wrath . . . distress and anguish . . . ruin and devastation . . . darkness and gloom . . . clouds and thick darkness . . . trumpet blast and battle cry.”
But that is not all it is. Thankfully it’s much more!
First, Jesus’ return is our hope. And not just any hope, but “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Blessed, makarios, translates “happy, to be envied.” Those of us who are in Christ—who have appropriated God’s free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on the cross (Eph. 2:8–9)—are to be envied above all others, for our happiness lies in the fact that we will see God again, face-to-face. Jesus’ return will usher us, as dearly-adopted children, into our Father’s presence, forever. That is the hope we cling to, and, yes, it should make us happy.
Second, Jesus’ return is the day of vindication. All those who opposed Jesus and murdered His faithful messengers will finally be “crushed” (Rom. 16:20), and they will be bowed under the weight of His wrath, His glory, and His majesty. Born first as a helpless babe, Jesus will come back as the conquering King, arriving with all the hosts of heaven to vanquish His enemies and make a “footstool” of them (Ps. 110:1).
Finally, Jesus’s return brings our deliverance from this present world of sin, corruption, and evil. When Jesus returns, His children will know true freedom, true life, true joy. There will be no more “death . . . mourning . . . crying, nor pain” (Rev. 21:4). We will only know banquets and blessings, rewards and rejoicing, all while basking in the presence of the Divine.
So practically speaking, what do we do until that time?
1. Desire it. Pray for it.
Second Peter 3:12 tells us to “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (NIV). Other translations say “hasten” or “hurry.” Hasten, speudó, means, “desire earnestly, urge on.”
Unfortunately, though, the Church today is not as desirous of Jesus’ return as it should be. Rather it has grown dull and complacent, with the world holding too much sway over it. Pastor John Piper poignantly asks:
Do we eagerly long for the coming of Christ? Do we want to see his kingdom established and do we want to be reunited to him in closer personal fellowship? Or do we want him to wait while our love affair with the world runs its course?
Good questions to ask ourselves (myself included)! We should be more like the apostle John, who, upon seeing the glorious reality of heaven, prayed earnestly, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).
2. Be prepared, wait, and watch for it.
Thieves don’t announce when they’re going to rob someone. They just show up! It’s not surprising, then, that the Day of the Lord is likened to “a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). No one knows the hour or the day He will appear. And sadly, many on earth will be unprepared, spiritually lost, not saved, and “without oil” like the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1–13.
In that parable, the other five virgins were wise; they were prepared with “oil.” Secure in that fact, they waited eagerly, and they watched expectantly for their Bridegroom. And when He finally came to collect them, they were more than ready.
So it must be with us whom Jesus has saved. But until His return, we are to . . .
3. Live in light of Jesus’ return.
Peter asks an important question in reference to Jesus’ return: “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God?” (2 Peter 3:11–12).
Thankfully, he gives us the answers in verses 14–18:
- Be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish (aspilos, “undefiled, pure, unstained; figuratively, fully acceptable”).
- Be at peace with both God and others (shalom, “at ease, favorable, on friendly terms, secure with”).
- Don’t be carried away with the error of [sinful] people so as to lose your stability (stereóma, “support, strength, firm foundation”).
- Grow in the grace (charis, “favor, kindness”) and knowledge (epignósis, “discernment, recognition”) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
4. Help others believe in Jesus.
Jesus’ delay in returning is not a broken promise, but a blessing. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” and “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:9, 15).
Jesus’ tarrying is a good thing. A very good thing! He is waiting to give more people the opportunity to believe in Him as Savior and Lord and thus escape eternal damnation.
Our role and responsibility, in the meantime, is to help bring about the salvation of others, as much as is possible, with the Holy Spirit’s help. How?
- By taking up the charge of the Great Commission, to go . . . preach . . . teach . . . baptize (Matt. 28:19–20).
- By acting as planters and waterers of the good news of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:6).
- By acting as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
We may not be able to count down the days until our glorious King returns, sweet sisters, but we can certainly begin to renew our joy and hope for it. With the excitement of my teenage daughter, our hearts’ cry should be that of Isaiah 64:1: “Oh, that you [Jesus] would rend the heavens and come down!”