Until He Comes
By Dave Breese
To avoid preaching on the return of Christ is to suggest by silence that there is no deadline against which we are to work for the Savior. Indeed, it is impossible to preach the whole counsel of God without a prophetic component in our preaching. This statement, Christ is coming again, should be the regular animated conversation of believers. How, for instance, can a church conduct a communion service without reference to the return of Christ? The Scripture says, For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you do show the Lords death till He come (I Cor. 11:26). At a communion service, a new Christian would certainly be expected to ask, Why do we do this? The answer is, We do this to show the death of Christ on the cross and we are invited to conduct communion services until the time of Christs appearing for His own. Certainly the communion service cannot be properly explained without reference to the return of Christ.
If the church at Thessalonica were asked the reason for the zeal with which they believed in Christ, followed Him, and became an example of the believers, they would certainly have responded, We are waiting 'for His Son from heaven' (I Thess. 1:10). Anticipation of the return of Christ and preaching on that motivational subject is one of the outstanding reasons that the Thessalonicans had a great church. They reached across the world with the Gospel because they believed in the return of Jesus Christ.
If a Christian individual were noted for living a Godly life in the days of the early church, onlookers may ask why. Why are you not promiscuous? the cynic might ask. The answer from the Christian was, I am looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:13). Yes, we notice again and again in the New Testament that belief in the return of Jesus Christ is tied to godly living, earnest testimony, successful witnessing and confidence toward God.
Effective individual Christians in the great churches of the New Testament preached the Gospel, prayed for sinners and brightly anticipated the coming of the Lord Jesus. The first announcement made to the early Church was This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11). What a joyous motivation this must have been! Upon hearing this, we can be sure that the members of the early church were greatly heartened and filled with anticipation. To know that their ultimate destiny was sure in the Lord Jesus would make it possible for them to face every other concern of life. They wanted then to go nowhere, to believe nothing, to be involved in no activity that they would not be proud to present to Christ upon the occasion of His return. The early Christians were marvelous people and conducted themselves as in a great program of spiritual warfare. This was certainly because they knew Christ would come again for them.
Does the Bible tell us of the attitudes of mind we should have when we think of the return of Jesus Christ? Indeed, it does! It tells us, first of all, that we should be waiting for His appearing. We have noted that the Church of Thessalonica was waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ! So were others! The Corinthian church was told by the Apostle Paul, You come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:7). Paul reminded us that when Christ comes He will be glorified in His saints, and... admired in all them that believe (II Thess. 1:10). That is an event worth anticipating, worth waiting for.
Beyond waiting, we are also reminded that we must be watching for the return of Christ. The Scripture says, You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober (I Thess. 5:5,6). Watching for the return of Christ certainly suggests a degree of concentration on this subject. When we are looking at the sky, we are supposed to see more than the deep blue of the vault or the billowy white clouds. We are to be reminded of the return of Christ. To watch for His return means to watch for His return. We must not be neutral as we anticipate that great day. The Scripture, advising against disinterest, tells us that we are to be looking for Him. The Scripture says, So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin to salvation (Heb. 9:28). When one anticipates a lovely event, like a reunion with a long-absent loved one, that one is looking. That one is standing on tip-toe, staring out the window and pays scant attention to other things. Looking for Christ should resemble a wife intently anticipating the return of a husband who has been away on business.
In an even stronger fashion, the Scripture indicates that we are to love His appearing. Speaking about his own future, Paul says, Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing (II Tim. 4:8). Even reading this emotional passage causes each of us to wonder how much and by how many has been wasted on the things of this world. True love has within it the element of preoccupation, the constant thinking about something as against possible interest. Who can deny that Christians, the church of our time, have such a myriad of interests, commitments, ministries, involvements, fascinations that these may well become the foliage that hides the Person who should be the first love of us all. To love the appearance of Christ in its essential meaning certainly means to love Christ Himself.
We are also advised to rest in the reality of the certain coming of Christ. When we are sure of the return of Christ, everything else is finally alright. If Christ is coming again for His own, there is little by comparison concerning which we shall worry. So it is that the Scripture says, And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels (II Thess. 1:7). In the same vein, the Apostle Paul, when speaking about the return of Christ for His own, says, Wherefore comfort one another with these words (I Thess. 4:18). Comfortwords of assurancethese are the words that constitute the promise of His coming. The promise of His coming is a commitment of greater value than almost all the other promises of life put together.
We, therefore, suggest to every discouraged Christian, to every despondent church that some new thought be put into the marvelous promise of the return of Christ. A study of the prophetic Word will bring other details about the end times. However, the core of it all is the blessed promise of the return of our dear Savior. We may look for Christ. When we love His appearing our lives will be transposed upward into a plane of light and reality. There will come a time, of course, when heaven will burst upon us in its totality. Then the shadow will give way to the substance, then will our feeble enlightenment be overwhelmed by the light of eternity. When we stand on that fair shore, we will regret no moments spent in advance contemplation of that wonderful hour.
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