Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: A bride-to-be wouldn't forget her upcoming wedding date, would she? Here's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: The fact is, I can go months without consciously thinking about the fact that Jesus is coming back.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Monday, October 16, 2017.

When you’ve been apart from someone you love, you count the days until you can see them again. Do you feel that type of longing for the return of Christ? Well, gain a sense of expectation as Nancy continues in the series, "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 7: Encouragement to Persevere."

Nancy: Because it’s such an important topic and theme throughout the New Testament, I want to come back again today and in the next session to what we started in the last session on the return of Christ, the Second Coming.

The phrase I’m picking up on in Revelation 3, the letter to the church in Philadelphia that we’ve been looking at, is just that short little phrase, “I am coming soon.” Four words, and what hope and promise and encouragement they give to those who know Christ; what fear and challenge they ought to be to the hearts of those who don’t know Christ. Jesus says, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have so that no one may seize your crown.”

As I’ve been reflecting on this whole thing about the promise of Christ’s return, and, believe it or not, in thirty years or more of teaching the Word, I have never taught on the Second Coming of Christ. I just think it’s about time to do that. So I’m making up for lost time this week in this series.

It occurs to me that there are a number of different responses people have to the promise of Christ’s return.

First of all, the Scripture talks about those who don’t believe it, those who deny it, who say there’s no such thing. Those people are referred to in 2 Peter chapter 3 as scoffers, and it says that “scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.” Now the reason they scoff, the reason they don’t believe is because they have sinful desires, and they want to be able to fulfill those sinful desires. They don’t want to be morally accountable to anyone or anything, so if they just say, “There is no day of reckoning. There is no day of judgment. There is no return of Christ.” Then they can live, so they think, the way they want to live.

So, “following their own sinful desires, they will say [these scoffers], ‘Where is the promise of His coming? Forever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (vv. 3–4).

These people foolishly believe that all things will continue just as they are today and as they have been for years and years. Certainly, if your glimpse of time is only what we can see here from earth over this short period of time, that would be a view that might make sense. But if you see things from God’s point of view and from the point of view from the Scripture, you see that’s a foolish way to live, and it’s a deluded way to live. But there are those who deny that Christ is returning. They are scoffers.

Then the other category is those who believe in the return of Christ. Among those who believe that Jesus is coming back, I have identified three categories of believers. There are probably others, but let me just highlight three in this session:

First is those who believe He’s returning, and they are obsessed with knowing details that God has not chosen to reveal to us, but they insist on knowing anyway, so they spend a lot of time on this.

I have here a file of pages and pages and pages of things I’ve pulled off the Internet of predictions, of things people have talked on from the first century on to current day. My file is called “Unfulfilled Prophecies,” because it’s people who made prophecies about the return of Christ that have proven not to be true.

For example, 1100 years ago many Christians in Europe predicted that the world was about to end and that Christ would return at the end of the first thousand years—the end of the first millennium after Christ. So, as A.D. 1000 approached, hundreds of pilgrims sold their belongings and flocked to Jerusalem to wait for Christ. They believed He was coming, but they became fixated on when and on details that God has not chosen to reveal.

I was talking with a friend last night about this whole matter of the Second Coming, and she said, “I remember reading that book back in 1988 called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988. Do some of you remember that book? It was written by a man named Edgar Whisenant who was a NASA scientist. He said that the rapture would occur some time between September 11 and September 13 in 1988. A lot of people were convinced, and that book sold over 4½ million copies.

When the predicted rapture failed to occur, Whisenant recalculated and followed up with predictions for various dates in 1989, 1993, and 1994, and, as you might expect, those books did not sell quite as well as the first one.

So these are people who believe that Christ is coming, but they’re fixated on knowing details that God has not chosen to tell us.

Then there are those, and I think this is probably the largest group of Christians, based on my little unofficial surveys while I’ve been studying this. They believe that Jesus is coming back. They believe what the Scripture teaches that He’s coming soon; it’s going to be unexpected. All the things we’ve been teaching on this, they believe it intellectually; they believe it theologically, but they are not gripped by it, and this belief makes no difference whatsoever in their everyday life. They don’t think about it a lot. On a day like this when we’re talking about it, yes, they think about it, but they don’t think often about the return of Christ. They live, for all practical purposes, as if there were no such thing.

Now, let me say that Satan doesn’t really care which of these above categories you are in—you deny that Christ is coming back, or you believe it and you obsess on the details and the dates that Jesus hasn’t revealed, or you believe it in your orthodoxy and your theology, but it doesn’t make any difference in your daily life. All of these categories can serve Satan’s purposes.

What concerns him, and what thwarts his purposes is when we fall into this last category, and that is those few who not only believe it, but it impacts the way that they live.

I’ve really been challenged on this myself because I will say that, though I live my life, I try to live my life in light of eternity and in light of what I know is the Christian hope. The fact is, I can go months without consciously thinking about the fact that Jesus is coming back.

Now when I was growing up, you couldn’t do that because people were talking about it all the time.

I was talking with a couple about this last week, and they were saying—they’re my age, and they said, “We grew up hearing about this all the time, but now kids aren’t being taught this. They aren’t learning about it in church. It’s not something we talk about a lot.”

I think the enemy has had a part in that. If he can’t get you obsessing over it, he’ll get you forgetting about it, or really not consciously thinking about it, and both of those are dangerous.

So I want to talk, in this session and the next, about the “so what” of the Second Coming. What are the implications for our lives? What difference should it make? I want to talk about one “so what” today and then three others on the next program.

Here’s the first way that the knowledge of the Second Coming of Christ should impact us: We should be eagerly waiting for His return.

I can talk up here in the North about waiting for summer when you’re in the middle of a long winter, or waiting for some event that’s on the horizon, but it’s not something that you really think about a lot—like, waiting for your kids to grow up. It’s a long way down the road, so it’s not something you stop and think about every day.

In the Scripture, when we talk about waiting for the Lord, waiting for His return, it’s not something that’s passive. It’s an active term. It’s an expectant term. It means leaning forward, leaning into this, looking for it, longing for it, eagerly awaiting, you can hardly wait for it to happen—like a women who’s in her ninth month of pregnancy. She’s waiting for that baby to come, or some other momentous occasion. You talk to these gals who are engaged, and they can tell you it’s like 243 days or 11 days and 9 hours—there’s a sense of expectancy.

When I have to travel, I’m not one who loves to travel, and when I do, I’m always looking forward to getting back home. All of these give, I think, just a little picture of what God intends to be our mindset toward the return of Christ.

Philippians chapter 3, verse 20, says it this way: “Our citizenship is in heaven." Our passport is stamped “heaven.” That’s where we belong. That’s our country. We are foreigners here. We are strangers here. We are pilgrims here. We are headed home, and home is not here. Home is in heaven. Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it—that is from heaven—we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s an intensive type of waiting. It’s expecting, looking for.

It includes making this our hope but also being patient while we wait for it, but we’re focused on it—not obsessed with details that God hasn’t revealed—but at the same time consciously, conscientiously waiting for that moment.

Titus talks about it: “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13).

This series has been a good one for me. It’s taken me back to some things that I just don’t think about often enough, that I’m just not calibrated to be remembered. I try and live a holy life. I try and please the Lord. I try to be seeking Him, but there’s something about keeping our eyes also on the finish line that is motivating and encouraging while we’re plodding through life here on this planet.

This should be the heart cry, the longing of every believer in every age: This world is not my home I’m just a passing through. I’m waiting for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament God’s people lived with the expectation and the anticipation of Christ’s first coming, and we sing about that in hymns like, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.”

They had those prophecies, “He’s coming. He’s coming. He’s coming.” And then for 400 years there was silence. But they still had in their hearts that hope, that longing, “When will the Messiah come?” Of course, when He did come, most of them missed Him. They were looking for something different than what it turned out God actually had in mind, but they anticipated His coming.

As New Testament believers we look back with joy and gratitude and thanks on that fulfilled longing because Christ has come. But we too look forward with longing, expectation, and anticipation of His second coming, His return to this earth.

Now, I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last week or so and just asking myself, “What keeps us from longing for, waiting for, eagerly expecting His return in the way that I know we should?”

You can make your own list, but let me just give you some things to get you started. In no particular order here, but these are some things that came to my mind.

We are very preoccupied. We are tied up with so many other things, concerns, priorities. We’re busy. We have our minds on a lot of things. We’re distracted. We have so many things that consume our attention that are here and now.

People are talking about the economy constantly, about the current administration, about current political issues, world events. Those are the things, when you turn on the Internet or turn on the news, that just grab your attention—not to speak of the things in our everyday lives that don’t make headlines but that consume us, that preoccupy our attention, our time, and our focus. They consume us so that we really don’t have time or space to ponder the fact that this isn’t all that there is, that there is something else coming.

We have that constant stimulation and noise that this electronic age has made. Ubiquitous is the word. It’s always there; it’s everywhere.

One of my biggest concerns about this very plugged-in generation is that they don’t know how to be quiet and think. Most of us now are too far in that direction ourselves. Even if you’re older and you’re not into all the technologies, you can’t live life without technology today, so it happens. We always have to have the headphones, the earphones, the iPods, the radio, the television, the Internet—always connected, always getting bombarded with stimulus so we don’t have space in our hearts to think about things that really matter.

Here’s another reason, and I know this, for those of you who are list takers, I’m not making these easy to jot down by numbers, but something that I think plays a big part in this is that so many of us have all our critical needs met and many of our wants.

I know in this economy there are some listening who really are strapped, and I want to say this with all due sensitivity. There may be some in this room who may be facing dire economic straits, but the fact is, in this country, compared to many other countries around the world today, when we talk about a depression, it’s relative. We still know that we’re going to have something to eat today. Most of us still have a roof over our heads and clothes to wear.

So because we have so much, everything we could want and need, we’re stuffed. When you’re stuffed, you’re not hungry for more. You don’t long for more. It’s after you’ve been fasting that you can really enjoy a feast.

For those of us who are sated with what the world has to offer, it’s hard to get up an appetite for something like the return of Christ.

Another reason is that we love it here. We’re enjoying ourselves too much. We live in a culture that has emphasized pleasure and entertainment, and we’re saturated. We have games coming out of our ears and athletics, sports and computer games. We can have fun all the time, so why would we want to leave?

What changes this is when tragedy comes into your life and you have heartache upon heartache upon heartache. Then you begin longing for something different, for something more. As long as we’re enjoying ourselves a whole lot here, our hearts are going to be attached here.

One of the reasons God sends and allows affliction to come into our lives is because it causes our hearts to become detached from this earth and attached to heaven.

Another reason I think some of us don’t long for the return of Christ is that we’ve been disappointed and maybe even feel that God has let us down, so we don’t dare to hope that things could ever really be different. We get too focused on the problems and on the pain surrounding us, and we have a hard time lifting our eyes up to see that our redemption is drawing nigh.

Or just simple unbelief. We can’t believe that things really could be different. We’ve grown accustomed to living with tears and sorrow and pain and night and darkness and death. It’s like a fairy tale almost to believe what Scripture says. Oh, intellectually, theologically we believe these things, but they don’t really compute with us because we’ve become so focused on the problems here.

How can we cultivate greater longing for His return? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself as I’ve been in this series. How can we fuel or stoke our passion for Christ and for His return?

Here’s just a few suggestions that you may find helpful—this is something that I’m still very much in process of myself, but let me suggest that:

We need to evaluate where our focus and our affections lie. Stop and take stock: “Am I really focusing my time, effort, heart, and attention on temporal things or on eternal things; on physical realities or spiritual realities?” Evaluate: “Where’s my focus? Where are my affections?” That’s been good for me to do that as I’ve been preparing for this series.

Then we need to think often about what will be ours when Christ returns that we don’t have and can’t have now. What will it be like? Meditate on descriptions in the Scripture on the new heaven and the new earth, a place where there’s no more pain, no more death, no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more night. The promise of 1 John 3 that, “When He appears, and we see Him, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is" (v. 3, paraphrased).

Don’t just let that stuff go in one ear and out the other, “Yeah, yeah, I know that, heard that, seen that, done that, been there.” Stop and think. Ponder. What does it mean? What will it be like? I think that sense of what He holds out for us will remind us that what we have here, as wonderful as it may be, doesn’t light a candle to what He has coming for us.

I was talking with some friends the other day who were on vacation in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. They’re having a great time, and I’m thrilled they can do it. One of them sent an email and said, “You need to come with us next time.” That sounds great, but it’s just not the season for me to be doing that right now.

Well, I was working on this series, and I started thinking. I went on the Internet and saw the resort where they’re staying, and it’s beautiful, especially with some of the colder weather here. It looked very attractive, but then I made my mind go to what’s ahead for me.

I may or may not ever get to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. If you can go there, that’s great; if I can go there, that’s great. Whether we do or don’t get there, whether you do or don’t get that addition on your house, or that new or bigger house, or that new or bigger whatever; think about what He’s got in store for us up there, then, in eternity.

The home, the greatest vacation spot on the planet is a slum compared to what’s coming. We need to just remind ourselves of these things—not that we can’t enjoy and use what He’s given us here, but we don’t have to have those things. We are blessed if we don’t have them because of what we do have coming.

Then we need to think about what those who are in Christ will escape when He returns—not only what we will have when He returns, but what we will escape when He returns.

Second Peter 3 talks about this: “The wrath of God on unrepentant sinners; the world burned with fire.” The judgment of God that we are going to escape ought to make us long for His return.

Then let God use disappointment and loss to cause your heart to look forward to the things that He has in store for you. It is those hurts and burdens and pains of life that God uses to remind us “this ain’t it.” This is not the end. He has something in store for us that is much more wonderful.

It was just a few weeks ago that I was actually in this very room, believe it or not, for the visitation and viewing of a dear friend who had gone to be with the Lord after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. There were a lot of tears. This is a family that’s very close to our ministry, and a husband and daughters left without wife and mom. Those things, they’re just hard, hard, hard. I’ve been at a lot of funerals over the years—you have, too—and it’s big losses and little losses, big disappointments, little disappointments, but they cause our hearts to become more detached to earth and more attached to heaven.

The more we get caught up in enjoying the pleasures of this life—and it’s not wrong to enjoy them—but the more we get caught up in that, and the more we neglect our relationship with Christ and with eternal values, the less we will find ourselves longing for and being conscious of His return.

Which leads me to say this—and this has been a challenging and sobering conclusion to me as I’ve been working on this passage: The degree to which we long for Christ’s return is probably a pretty accurate measure of our spiritual condition.

So—what’s your spiritual temperature? Are you longing, are you waiting for His return? And if not, why not?

Leslie: When you’re apart from someone you love, you can’t wait to get back together.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been instilling in us a longing for the return of Christ. That message is a part of the series "Encouragement to Persevere."

We’re devoting one series to each of the letters that open the book of Revelation. For more details on this series, or any of the others, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

In the book of Revelation we read about the ultimate triumph of the gospel. When you reflect on this hope, it will lead to a great deal of thankfulness, and that’s what Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says in her book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. This book will show you why the topic of gratitude gets so much attention in the Bible. When you understand this, you’ll approach the challenges in life differently. Others will notice your joy and want to be around you more.

We’ll send you Nancy’s book Choosing Gratitude when you make any size donation to Revive Our Hearts. Your gift will help us continue broadcasting, and we need to hear from you. Ask for the Choosing Gratitude when you call 1–800–569–5959. You can also donate and get that book at ReviveOurHearts.com.

We know that Jesus is coming soon, so what are we supposed to do while we wait for Him? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth describes the attitude and behavior of those who are hoping in the return of Christ next time on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you anticipate your Savior's return. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.