Looking Forward To His Coming
By Dave Butts
I love to talk and write about the return of Jesus to this planet. Not argue, mind you, though there are many Christians who think that’s what we are to do. From childhood I was taught to look forward to the return of Jesus. There are many passages of Scripture that speak of His Second Coming. Here’s my favorite:
"First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this "coming" He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same Word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him" (2 Peter 3:3-14).
"…as you look forward to the day of God..." Are you looking forward to the return of Jesus? I think a lot of Christians are afraid to say "no" to that question. They instinctively know that the answer should be "yes…of course I’m looking forward to His return." But in our heart of hearts…is that really so? Are we longing for His return?
All too often it seems that we have made our home here on this planet, and heaven is sort of a safety net to catch us when we die. Occasionally, the death of a loved one wrenches our sight off of the affairs of this world long enough to remember that there is a heaven. Most of the time, however, we find ourselves firmly ensconced in the daily matters of this life.
Some would ask, "What’s the problem with that? Do you want us to be so heavenly-minded that we are of no earthly good?" My problem is that the New Testament Church seemed to be far more focused on the return of Jesus than the Church today. And that focus served them well. It gave them a passion and urgency so that within a generation it was said of them, "They have turned the world upside down."
The emphasis on the Lord’s return is not for the purpose of speculation concerning dates or developing systems of what His return will be like. Those matters can be interesting, but can become distractions if we are not careful. Divisions that grieve the Lord can arise over various viewpoints.
The Apostle Peter instead gives us a clear, balanced picture of how a proper emphasis on the return of Jesus can impact the Church. It is first of all a matter of looking forward to His return. If repetition is a way of making a point, Peter hammers home the matter of looking forward to the Second Coming:
1. "as you look forward" – 2 Pet. 3:12
2. "we are looking forward" – 2 Pet. 3:13
3. "since you are looking forward to this" – 2 Pet. 3:14
This emphasis on looking forward to the return of Jesus is to have a practical impact on the character and lifestyle of the Christian. Peter asks the question, "What kind of people ought you to be?" and then answers: "You ought to live holy and godly lives…as you look forward to the day of God" (vv.11-12). In verse 14 he phrases it differently, but with the same result: "…since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him." Could it be that we do not look forward to Christ’s coming because we do not want to change our lifestyles?
There is one other lifestyle change that is encouraged by looking forward to the Second Coming. As we begin to realize that this world is temporary, we find ourselves more urgently involved in completing the task of world evangelization. Whether it is in sharing our faith with a neighbor or in giving financially to fund a missionary, we will throw ourselves wholeheartedly into this as a result of a life of expectancy.
Throughout our passage, we see the Lord’s concern for the lost. In 2 Peter 3:9 it is pointed out that He does not want anyone to perish, but desires them to come to repentance. Verse 12 includes the fascinating admonition that we may help speed the coming of the day of God. Most scholars believe that this means making sure we are involved in finishing the task of world evangelization. It fits well with Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
William Carey said, "If you want the Kingdom speeded, go out and speed it yourselves. Only obedience rationalizes prayer. Only Missions can redeem your intercessions from insincerity." Andrew Murray stated, "There is need of a great revival of spiritual life, of truly fervent devotion to our Lord Jesus, of entire consecration to His service. It is only in a church in which this spirit of revival has at least begun, that there is any hope of radical change in the relation of the majority of our Christian people to mission work.."
Are you looking forward to His Return?