Critics have denied it. Cynics have laughed at it. Scholars have ignored it. Liberal theologians have explained it away, and fanatics have perverted it. “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4), many still shout sarcastically. The return of Christ to our chaotic planet will continue to be attacked and misused and denied. But there it stands, solid as a stone, soon to be fulfilled, ready to offer us hope and encouragement amidst despair and unbelief.
These facts from biblical prophecy about Christ’s return may surprise you:
· One out of every 30 verses in the Bible mentions the subject of Christ’s return or the end of time.
· Of the 216 chapters in the New Testament, there are well over 300 references to the return of Christ.
· 23 of the 27 New Testament books mention Christ’s return.
· In the Old Testament, such well-known and reliable men of God as Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, as well as most of the minor prophets mention Christ’s return in their writings.
· Christ often spoke specifically about His own return to earth.
· Throughout the centuries, Christ’s disciples and followers have adamantly believed, written, and taught that Christ would someday return to earth.
The Bible teaches it. The Lord Jesus stood upon its truths. The apostles declared it and wrote about it. The creeds include it and affirm it. Yet, somehow the promises of prophecy seem so far away. We think, “Okay, swell Jesus is coming back. But what do I do in the meantime?” I can hear a dozen or more pragmatists asking that question.
The writers of the New Testament lived with such an awareness of the Second Coming of Christ that they wrote about how it affected nearly every aspect of their spiritual lives. By the way, this doctrine is called the “immanence” of Christ’s return. The word imminent means “likely to happen at any moment; impending.” When we speak of the imminence of Christ’s return, we mean that He could come back at any moment. There is nothing more in biblical prophecy that needs to happen before Jesus comes again.
When we have heard and understood the promised return of Christ then we cannot keep living our lives the same old way. Like the news of an incoming hurricane or an ultrasound that shows a baby in the womb, future events have present implications that we cannot ignore.
The return of Christ should inspire us to live holy and pure lives before God (1 John 2:28). If Jesus were to return today would you be embarrassed at the sin in your life? Not only should we renounce sin in our lives as John advocates, but the return of Christ should keep us from judging others (1 Cor. 4:5), motivate us to love others (1 Thess. 3:12–13), give hope to those in grief (1 Thess. 4:18), inspire us to fervently pursue ministry opportunities (2 Tim. 4:1–2), remind us to worship frequently with other believers (Heb. 10:24–25), encourage us to remain faithful (James 5:7–8), and give us a renewed vigor for evangelizing the lost (Jude 21–23).
Finally, waiting on the return of Christ helps build our faith. In one of his articles, Christian author Philip Yancey gives a powerful illustration of how this works. In a German prison camp in World War II, undiscovered by the guards, some Americans built a homemade radio. One day news came that the German high command had surrendered, ending the war. Because of a communications breakdown, however, the guards did not yet know this. As word spread among the prisoners, a loud celebration broke out. For three days, they sang, waved at guards, and shared jokes over meals. On the fourth day, they awoke to find that all the Germans had fled. Their waiting had come to an end.
Yancey makes this application: “Here’s the question I ask myself: As we wait, why are we so often fearful and anxious? We can, like the Allied prisoners, act on the good news we say we believe. What is faith in God, after all, but believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse?”
I think he makes a valid point. Just like Noah, Abraham, Moses and David who had to learn how to wait on God, so too we must trust God’s promises and live as if they are set in stone. We live the Christian life from a point of victory, knowing that the fate of the world has already been decided and that Jesus is returning one day to right all the wrongs.