Looking Forward To His Return
By Dave Butts
"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… 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 3:10-12, 14).
Are you looking forward to the return of Jesus? Many Christians would automatically reply, "Of course!" But is that an honest answer, carefully thought through and borne out as true by our actions? Many times we answer how we think we ought to answer rather than how we actually feel.
Do you want Jesus to return soon? Are you praying according to Scripture, "Come soon, Lord Jesus!"? Could it be instead, that most of us would pray in our heart of hearts, "Not yet, Lord Jesus. Not yet!"?
Why would Christians, those called to be the Bride of Christ, not desire passionately to be united forever with their Lord? I believe there are a number of reasons for this:
1. Concern for Unsaved Loved Ones
I put this first because I believe it to be the best of the possible reasons. All Christians have loved ones who do not know the Lord and who desire greatly for their salvation. For this reason, instead of longing for the Lord’s return, many find themselves asking the Lord to delay His return.
The problem with this is two-fold. First, the Christian is commanded to look forward to the Day of the Lord. It’s hard to look forward to something when, in fact, you are dreading the possibility of being separated from loved ones for eternity. The second, and perhaps most critical problem is that it demonstrates a lack of trust in the Lordship of God’s timing. Scripture already teaches us that God is not slow concerning the End, but is delaying because He wants people to come to repentance. We must take Him at His Word, believing that He knows when the full measure of the harvest has come in, and when it is time to bring down the curtain on this current age.
When we pray, "Come soon, Lord Jesus!" we are expressing our faith in His omnipotence and sovereignty. And until He comes, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to share our faith and lead others to Christ.
2. Love of This World
Christians often struggle with the imminence of heaven because they are too much at home in this world. That is especially true of those who find themselves with an abundance of possessions and privileges. If we are not careful, we can find ourselves grieving over the very thought of leaving "all of this." Here is an indication of a clear lack of understanding of both the beauty and majesty of heaven, as well as a lack of love for the presence of the Lord.
One very subtle type of this error can be found in those not longing for heaven because of their love of ministry on earth. They rationalize, "But Lord, I’m not done yet. There is still so much left for me to do." When will we be done? Again, if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves more in love with serving God, than with loving God Himself.
The Apostle Paul certainly loved serving the Lord, but he loved the Lord more than his service to Him. Paul spoke of his desire to be with the Lord as "better by far" (Philippians 1:23). He was willing to remain on earth and serve if that was what the Lord wanted, but his true desire was simply to be with the Lord. This is the attitude that we must develop.
3. Lack of Personal Holiness
I believe, tragically, that the most common reason Christians do not desire the coming of the Lord is their lack of personal holiness. The passages from Second Peter at the beginning of this article stress that in anticipation of the Lord’s return we are to live holy and godly lives. In addition we are told to be spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Herein lies the problem. We are not ready for Jesus’ return because our lives do not match up with the clear commands of Scripture.
We can have growing local churches and still not be ready for the Lord’s return. We can have Bible studies and small groups and still not be ready for the Lord’s return. We can have inspiring programs and conferences and still not be ready for the Lord’s return. It is only as the very life of Jesus Himself begins to be demonstrated in us through holiness and godliness that we will find ourselves in eager anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ.
The life of holiness is not the perfect life. Many believers fall into a trap over this issue because they know the impossibility of attaining absolute perfection in this life. Therefore, they rationalize that there is no use in striving for holiness. Holiness, according to the best scriptural sense of the word, means to be set apart for a purpose. Christians are those who have been set apart to love, serve and worship the Lord. Those who take this seriously will endeavor to put aside any sin that hinders them from a life lived fully for God.
When sin enters in (and it will), there should always be an immediate grief over the sin leading to confession (agreement with God) and repentance. The life of holiness for the believer is as much about knowing what to do about sin in his or her life as it is in avoiding sin. True grief over sin leading to confession and repentance will train a Christian over a period of time to hate sin and attempt to avoid it at all costs.
Holiness is a process that is perfected only as we shed this fleshly body and stand before our Lord face to face. Longing for holiness and depending upon the Spirit of God to lead us away from sin and toward the Lord will create in us a great desire to see Him in the splendor of His holiness. We will find ourselves at peace with Him, our sins covered by the precious blood of Jesus, creating within us the ability to look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.
If you see yourself reflected in any of these areas listed above, would you pray for a complete change of heart "…while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…" (Titus 2:13)? Come soon, Lord Jesus!