Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth asks: Are you truly looking forward to eternity? 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: How can we think that we will enjoy an eternity in a righteous heaven if we have loved unrighteousness here on this earth?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

We’ve all heard that Jesus is returning soon. What are we supposed to do while waiting? Nancy addresses that continuing in the series "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 7: Encouragement to Persevere."

Nancy: I was talking with a friend last night about this whole matter of the return of Christ and how we need to wait for it and long for it. She said something that really caught my attention maybe because it’s something I could not say and I was challenged by her testimony.

She said, “Hardly a day goes by that I don’t tell the Lord that I can’t wait to see Him.”

And I looked at her and I said, “Really?” I can’t say that about myself. This is not something I think about nearly that often, at least haven’t in the past.

I said, “How is that true? What makes you think and feel that so often that hardly a day goes by that you don’t tell the Lord, ‘I can’t wait to see You.’”

She says, “Well it’s like when you miss someone you really love.”

And I thought that was such a precious description of this whole hope of the return of Christ, the one we really love. We have Him in a sense here. We have His Holy Spirit living within us. We have His presence.

But we don’t have Him in the way that we will some day. And so we long for that day when faith will be sight and prayer will be praise and we will be together with the Lord forever.

And so I want to pick up just one further day on the return of Christ using that four word phrase in Revelation 3 where Jesus said to the church in Philadelphia, “I am coming soon.”

And I’ve found myself in recent days just saying, “Jesus is coming soon. Jesus is coming soon. Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly,” just to tune my heart to be looking forward and anticipating His return.

Jesus went on to say to that church, “Hold fast to what you have. I am coming soon.” So what? “Hold fast to what you have so that no one may seize your crown” (Rev. 3:11). 

I believe I’m talking mostly to people who do believe that Jesus is coming back. You know that theologically, but maybe you’ve been like me that it hasn’t been something that’s been uppermost in your mind to the extent that you wish it would be. Or maybe it’s not something that’s really informed the way that you live at all and it needs to.

So we’re talking in this program and the last about the “so what” of the return of Christ. He is coming back. What difference should that make in our lives? What are the implications?

The one we looked at in the last program was the first “so what” It is that we should be longing for Him, eagerly awaiting, anticipating, expecting His return.

Now today I want to talk a little bit more about between now and then what’s the “so what.” What are we to be doing in the mean time? Jesus is coming back. He says He’s coming soon, but it’s been 2,000 years. For some of us that doesn’t seem soon. When it does happen, we’ll all agree it was soon. But right now it doesn’t seem very soon.

So what are we supposed to do and what about practical things like, “Should we undertake any long-term projects? Should you go to college if you’re in high school? If Jesus is coming soon, maybe just skip all that and stand there and wait for Him to come back.

Now, if you’re a senior in high school and you just heard me say that, I’m not suggesting you don’t go to college. That’s what I want to address here. How we should think about this in the meantime?

What about getting married? If Jesus is coming soon, why get married? Why have children? Why do anything that would take place over a long period of time like raising children or a long-term project?

People have asked these kinds of questions over the years. I mentioned in the last program that I have a sheaf of illustrations I have found in various places of people who’ve made predictions about the return of Christ and then acted in some very interesting ways while they were expecting this to happen.

Let me tell you about a couple others. In 1834 there was an American Baptist preacher named William Miller who is credited with the beginning of the Adventist movement of the 1830s and 1840s here in North America.

He wrote a 64-page tract entitled Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ About the Year 1843. In that piece he predicted that somewhere between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844—so within a year period of time—that a great trumpet from heaven would sound, Jesus Christ would catch up the faithful, and the wicked would be immediately destroyed by fire.

Well, this period of time came and went. March 21, 1844 passed without incident, which led him to embark upon further study, further discussion with his followers. So they adopted a new date which also proved to be mistaken.

One of Miller’s associates, a man named Samuel Snow, did some further study in the book of Daniel. You can go back and look at a lot of this—it’s very complex—about the seventy weeks. Daniel and Revelation provide a lot of fodder for this kind of discussion.

This associate determined that Miller had been off in his calculations. Well, that part was obvious. But he figured out why he thought Miller had been off and that Christ instead would return on October 22, 1844, which was the Day of Atonement.

Miller and Snow both claimed, “We know we’re right this time. There’s no possibility that we’re wrong.” They warned people that if they rejected this information, they would be eternally lost.

Magazines were printed proclaiming the coming of Christ October 22, 1844. Fifteen hundred “Millerites” traveled across the United States going from town to town proclaiming this date, that the return of Christ was going to be October 22, 1844.

By the time that date came, there were 50,000 followers who had bought into this and were following in this way of thinking. In the days leading up to October 22, a lot of them quit their jobs. They gave all their possessions to unbelievers to express that they really believed that October 22 is when Jesus is going to come back.

Well, October 22 thousands prayed, waited. I’ve read descriptions. Some of them stood on their rooftops in white robes waiting to be carried to heaven. Kim and I were talking about this last night, and she laughed and said, “It’s like they didn’t think Jesus could get them the white robe when they got there. They had to get one in advance.”

I don’t mean to mock people who were very sincere in their faith. But they were sincerely mistaken in the “so what” of the implication of the return of Christ. When Jesus didn’t appear as expected on that appointed day, both the leaders and the followers were left confused and disillusioned. In fact, October 22, 1844 became known within those circles as “The Great Disappointment.”

Another instance. Early in the 1990s there was a group in South Korea that published a book called Jesus Is Finally Coming: Are You Ready for the Rapture on October 28, 1992? On page 48 it said, “The Lord has revealed the exact time of the Rapture, October 28, 1992, at 24:00 hours, which is midnight Korean time.

As that date approached, 20,000 Christians quit their jobs, quit school, sold everything to prepare to ascend to heaven. Obviously, that date came and went as well. More great disappointment.

So what are we to be doing? We’re to be eagerly awaiting and longing for His return, but what are we supposed to be doing in the mean time? Do we sell everything? Do we quit school? Do we quit our jobs? Do we not embark on any long-term projects? Do we disengage from this world?

The answer is no; we don’t disengage. Jesus has put us here in this world with a purpose, and that’s what I want us to look at in the remaining moments we have today.

We’re to faithfully obey and serve the Lord until the very moment of His return. We’re to keep doing whatever it is He has given and called us to do until we hear that trumpet blast, until we see Him.

There’s a great illustration of this concept in Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Paul wrote to these believers in Thessalonica to clear up some misunderstandings about the return of Christ. Among other things, some Christians in that city had apparently quit working because they thought the end of the age and the return of Christ were right around the corner.

And when it didn’t happen, they became dependent on others to provide for them. Paul commanded them that they were to “do their work quietly and earn their own living” (2 Thess. 3:12). 

Now, in 1 Thessalonians Paul talks about the return of Christ. He encourages them to wait for it, look for it, long for it. But he says, “In the meantime keep doing your job. Keep doing what God has given you to do.” They were not to become a burden to others by disengaging from this world.

First Thessalonians 4 he says,

We urge you brothers to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one (vv. 10–12).

There’s another illustration of this in Luke chapter 19. The very words of Christ who proceeded to tell them a parable because he was near to Jerusalem and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. They thought that Jesus had come to bring the kingdom of God. They didn’t understand the First Coming separated from the Second Coming.

They thought He was going to overthrow the Roman government; the kingdom of God is going to appear. It’s going to happen right around the corner. What are we supposed to do?

And Jesus told this parable. He said, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas,” gave them each one of this unit of currency.

Now a mina was about three months wages for a laborer. So He gave them enough to occupy them, to keep them in business for a while. They thought his return was going to be immediate.

And Jesus said to them as He gave them this mina, “Engage in business until I come," and here’s something to get you started. Invest this. Get a return on it,  and "occupy until I come,” as the King James says. “Engage in business until I come” (vv. 12–13).

You see when the disciples asked Jesus, “When are you coming back?” Jesus told them, “I don’t know. Only the Father knows that.” And Jesus as a man did not know the answer to that question, but He was content to leave that in God’s hands and faithfully do in the meantime what it was that God had sent Him to this earth to do.

That’s our example. We’re to wait for Christ’s return, expect it eagerly. Second, we are to faithfully obey and serve Him until the moment of His return.

Then number three, we are to be encouraged and to encourage others with the promise of His coming. We’re to let that promise encourage us and we’re to encourage others with it.

The promise of Christ’s return is supposed to give us consolation and encouragement, comfort in the midst of our current trials. It’s an incentive to keep going, to persevere, to be faithful. And you see this concept throughout the Scripture.

James 5:8: “You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

First Thessalonians 4, a great passage:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (vv. 16–18).

Now what’s the next verse? "Therefore encourage one another with these words.” That’s something we’re supposed to be doing.

So when you’re standing at a funeral, speaking to the loved ones and the friends and counseling your own heart about the one who’s in that casket, whose body is in that casket; when you’re dealing with heartache and heartbreak and lost jobs and lost homes and prodigal children and aches and pains and all the things that are part of life on this fallen planet, encourage one another with these words. The promise: Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming. This life is not it.

Now that doesn’t mean we aren’t sensitive to people. It doesn’t mean we don’t sympathize with them. Jesus certainly knew how to weep with those who wept, and we are to weep with those who weep. But we don’t weep as those who have no hope.

We grieve as those who know that grief here is temporary. It’s short term. It’s limited. It may seem like forever, but it’s not forever. And we encourage one another with those words.

And then number four: Make sure you’re ready for the move. Make sure you’re ready for the move. What are we to be doing between now and the actual return of Christ? We are to be getting our hearts and our lives in order so that we are ready to face Christ when we do see Him.

Now again, as I was growing up this was something that was talked about a lot, maybe so much that we got kind of where we didn’t hear it. But you don’t hear much of this kind of talk anymore, at least I don’t. I can’t remember the last time I heard a message on the return of Christ.

Scripture talks about it a lot. So we need to remind each other that this is a motivation for godly living, that we are to be living in this eager expectation which makes us want to be prepared, ready for His return. And that should prompt us to holy living and an eternal perspective.

Let me just wash you in some Scriptures that have been washing me—the Word of God that deals with how we are to be getting ready to face Christ.

Titus 2 talks about the grace of God. And so many times a day we use grace as the license to sin. But Paul says to Titus, “No." The grace of God teaches "us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age." 

What motivates that? “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (vv. 12–13).

I think of Jonathan Edwards who as a teenager wrote those, I think, 70 resolutions for his life. And one of them was he resolved to live each moment of his life, each day of his life as if it would be the last. That’s having that focus.

So making choices today in every area of life—what I eat, what I drink, when I sleep, when I play, how I work, how I relate to people, how I forgive, how I deal with hurt, how I deal with disappointment, how I deal with weariness. Every area of life dealing with it in a way that if Jesus were to show up we could face Him with joy, ready and waiting for His appearing.

First John 2: “And now little children, abide in him” (v. 28). Now. Live in Him. Live in the atmosphere of His presence so that "when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming."

Why would I want to hold on to that sin, or let it hold on to me, if I knew that shortly I was going to face Christ? I think of times where I know I was doing something I shouldn't have been doing and somebody walked into the room, and I went, "Oh, I better turn that off. I better not be doing that."

Should I be more motivated by you walking into the room than I am about the thought of Christ walking into the room. Of course, He sees us. To live in the fear of the Lord is to live in constant, conscious awareness of His presence. But even more than that, to live in the realization that He is getting ready to walk in the room. He is coming bodily, physically. We want to be living in such a way that we will not have to shrink back in shame at His coming.  

First John 3, "We are God's children now and what we will be has not yet appeared. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is."

Every future promise in Scripture has with it a present obligation. The future promise is we will see Him, we will be like Him. So what do we do now? Everyone who does hope in Him purifies himself as He is pure. What we are to do now is to be getting ready for then.

Second Peter 3, "Since then all these things are to be dissolved . . . " This is talking about the Day of the Lord, the judgment of the Lord that is coming at the end of the age. ". . . what sort of people ought you to be now in lives of holiness and godliness." The future hope is not meant for us to put our heads in the clouds and live in la-la land. It's meant to make us have godly, holy lives now.

Since you know all these things are going to happen, what sort of people are you to be now? Living in "holiness and godliness, living for and hastening the coming of the God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:11–13).

How can we think that we will enjoy an eternity in a righteous heaven if we have loved unrighteousness here on this earth? If we are at home in sin here, if we are looking for ways to justify worldliness and carnality and fleshly living, how we can enjoy the world's entertainment and what we can get by with while we are "under grace"? What makes us think we are going to be comfortable in heaven where there is no unrighteousness?

You see, what we love here is an evidence of where our home and our heart really are. "Therefore beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace" (v. 14).

  • Reconcile those relationships.
  • Deal with that issue. 
  • Clear your conscience.
  • Restore that wrong. 
  • Return that thing that you stole. 
  • Make that issue right. 
  • Set it straight.

You can't set someone else straight, but you can deal with your own conscience. You can make sure your life is pure; that you are being diligent to be found by Him without spot blemish at His return.

And then one more verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Getting ready for the move.

Now Jesus says to this church in Philadelphia, “I am coming soon.” I hope that you’re anticipating that and perhaps a bit more ready for that today than you were before we started this series.

Let me just take a moment on the last part of that verse 11, Revelation 3. He says, “Hold fast to what you have so that no one may seize your crown.” Most translations say, “So that no one may take your crown.” I think that’s probably a better translation. “Hold fast to what you have so that no one may take your crown.”

We’ve said that this church in Philadelphia was the faithful church. Jesus has no word of criticism for them. But that doesn’t mean He doesn't have some exhortation and counsel for them. He does.

This is an earnest word. There’s a sense of urgency. “Hold fast to what you have. I’m pleased with where you are, but don’t let it go. Hold fast. There’s a responsibility you have to fulfill. The opposition is not over. Satan still has a synagogue in Philadelphia. There are still adversaries.

"So you need to stand firm. You need to hold fast to the little bit of strength that you have and hold fast to your loyalty to My word and My name. And keep going through the open doors that I’ve given you, and don’t let the enemy rob you of your reward."

This says to me as I’ve been meditating on it that no matter how great a condition your life is in spiritually, we always need to be intentional about pressing on in our walk with the Lord. We never get to a place this side of heaven where we can afford to drift, where we can let down our defenses, let down our guard. Even if you’re faithful now, you still need to hold fast to what you have and keep holding on.

I find that as I get older sometimes I just want to relax my grip on eternal things. Now maybe that surprises you to hear that, but sometimes I just get tired of fighting for the faith and fighting my flesh and dealing with the world and the devil and these things. I’d just like to coast for a little bit.

You get to where you think, Not that I’ve arrived, but maybe I can just let down my . . . No! Hold fast to what you have so that no one may take your crown.

Now, we can’t hold on by ourselves. He’s the One who keeps us by His grace and power. We are able to persevere because He gives us persevering faith. We need to look to Him.

But the evidence that our faith is genuine, that it’s truly saving faith, is that it will persevere to the end.

Don’t let anybody take your crown. The concept here is not that someone might steal it from you, but that you might forfeit it, that you might give it up, that you might give it over to someone else by not holding it fast.

Those who fall away from the faith give evidence that they never had true faith. They will never be able to claim the crown, the reward, that’s promised to those who have genuine faith.

Are you ready for Jesus to come back? That’s the question I want to ask you as we put all this together. Over the last few days we’ve been talking about His soon return. Jesus says, “I am coming soon.” Are you ready?

If you knew He was going to return within the next twenty-four hours, the next three days, the next week, what would you do? What would you need to do if you knew?

Now, you don’t know, and don’t let anybody tell you that you do know because He hasn’t told us that. But He could. He could come back in the next three days. What would you need to do to be ready?

Who would you need to talk to? Who would you need to forgive? Whose forgiveness would you need to seek?

Some of you haven’t been tithing. You say, “This is a time of economic strain and stress. I can’t afford to tithe.” You can’t afford not to tithe, but that’s another series. We’ll get on that another time.

Some area of obedience, some area of addiction or indulgence, some area where you’ve been giving into your flesh, some secret sin, some hidden sin. Nobody knows what you’re doing on that Internet. Nobody knows the sites you’ve been visiting. Nobody knows the emotional affair that you’re carrying on in the workplace.

Don’t hold onto it. Let it go. Hold fast to what you have, the truth that you have in Christ, the faith, the Word, His name. The things that have become precious to you, hold fast to those.

Final verses of the Bible: Revelation 22: “The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ . . . He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon’” (vv. 17, 20).

And what’s our response? “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

Leslie: When you look forward to the return of Christ it will affect the way you live now. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us how. That message is part of the series "Letters to the Churches in Revelation, Part 7: Encouragement to Persevere.It’s one of many series we’re going through this year on the letters to the churches found in Revelation chapters 1–3.

On our listener blog a woman commented on the encouragement that these series from Revelation provide. She says,

Thank you Nancy for this message. What an encouragement! What a comfort to be reminded that God sees, He hears, and He knows. I plan to share this transcript with a friend who needs encouragement at this time in her life. Thank you again for your labor of love in studying the Scriptures, for letting God’s Word speak to you first and then sharing it with others.

You can find the transcripts this listener referred to at ReviveOurHearts.com, and you’ll find the listener blog underneath each day’s transcript. You can go to ReviveOurHearts.com today and leave a comment on today’s program.

The radio program and robust website are possible thanks to listeners who believe in Revive Our Hearts and want to partner with us to make it possible. Would you ask God what He might have you give this ministry? When you donate any amount, we’ll say "thanks" by sending Nancy’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

Mundane tasks and inconveniences will look a lot different after reading this book. When you read it now getting ready for November, you might experience the most meaningful Thanksgiving holiday you can remember. Ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call 1–800–569–5959 with a gift of any size, or take advantage of this offer by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you feel weak and powerless, God wants to display His strength through you not just now but forever. Encounter the God who provides strength for weak people, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you look forward to the Second Coming of Christ. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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

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

Join the Discussion