I’ve known about the Second Coming of Jesus ever since I was a boy. Primarily because every first Sunday of the new year, my dad would preach a sermon that announced, “This may be the year that our Lord will return!” I recall, like it was yesterday, the trauma that statement struck in my heart when I was 6 years old.
I wondered, What if my dad is right? Everyone in my family would go to be with Jesus, and I would be left behind!
So when we got home from church, I asked my dad how I could be included in that event, and that day my dad led me to the Lord as my Savior. But through the ensuing years, while always believing the promise of His coming, I admit that for the most part it was a Biblical truth that had minimal impact on my everyday life.
Until more recently.
Given all that is happening in our world, I find myself thinking Lord, haste the day! The promise of Him coming again to judge all that is wrong, to deal the final blow to Satan and his hordes, and to launch His emerging new world order—where there is no sorrow or death and where all things will be made new—is a compelling, wonderful thought. And not only is it a wonderful thought, but when fully embraced, it has life-changing ramifications for us today.
Writing to a church living in a dark and hostile culture, John the apostle focuses his readers’ attention on the impact of Jesus’ return when he writes, “Beloved, 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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). Simply, when we fully embrace the coming of Christ, we become hopeful people motivated to pursue pure lives!
The Biblical sense of hope is different than how we normally think of the concept. Typically, we might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain on our vacation.” But that hope is not for sure. It’s merely wishful thinking. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is not a “hope so.” It is grounded in the belief that what we are looking forward to is something that will really happen. Believing the Word of God is true and that Jesus’ teachings are credible, His return is not a matter of “hope so” but a certain reality we look forward to.
And, the certainty of the Biblical hope of His future return has relevant impact on life in the present. We live in an increasingly dark culture where our dearest values and virtues are at best dismissed and at worst despised. Increasingly marginalized and often canceled as Christians, we fear that we have lost and that evil will advance without restraint—which leaves us prone to a despairing sense of hopelessness. And to a watching world that also thinks we are the losers, hopelessness makes us look like the losers we mistakenly think we are.
But, being certain of His return cancels our sense of hopelessness. It makes us hopeful people who are confident that in the end we are not losers at all. His return initiates His victory over Satan and proves the point that He, King Jesus, ultimately wins. And because He wins, we win too. His return gives us the certain hope that we are not part of an old-fashioned, out-of-date world order like many in today’s culture assume. Rather, we belong to an emerging victorious world order that is free of evil, sorrow, shame and guilt, and is blessed with a robust sense of righteousness, peace and joy where all things are new (Romans 14:17; Revelation 21:1-5).
This hope reminds us that life is like a feature-length film with God as its director. Freeze-framing the film in a dark moment always leads to hopelessness. But as followers of Jesus, we let the film roll, knowing that in the end He returns as the victor, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16) and that we will, as John says, be forever locked into an eternal likeness of Him.
Given this great hope, it’s no wonder that John wants us to be busy getting ready for the grand event! And getting ready is all about purifying our lives in anticipation of meeting the perfectly pure Jesus when He appears. According to the Collins English Dictionary, “If you describe something … as pure, you mean that it is very clear and represents a perfect example of its type.” Our “type” is the pure Jesus, and our purity is an example of Him. Granted, we are all victims of the fall, and a perfect purity in every area of our lives is not yet possible.
Someday, at His return, we will be perfectly pure … but not now. However, followers of Jesus who believe that at any moment He will return seek to ready themselves with a growing purity that is increasingly more like Him and less like our fallen selves. Pure in our love for Him and pure in our love for others, even our enemies and those who spitefully use us. Pure in our morals. Pure in our allegiance to the truth. Pure in our generosity. Pure in our humility. Pure in our ethics. Pure in our pursuit of justice. Pure in compassion for all. The pursuit of purity, as He is pure, is the pursuit of hopeful people who can’t wait to see Him face to face!
I can’t help but think of John 14:1-3, where Jesus speaks to a group of traumatized disciples who are about to be left in a hostile world without Him. He comforts them by saying that though He is going away to prepare a place for them, He will come again and receive them unto Himself. The imagery is reflective of Jewish marriage customs of the day. In that culture the groom-to-be would strike a marriage agreement with the father of the bride and then go back to his father’s house to prepare an apartment for him and the bride to live in after they were married.
Meanwhile, the bride-to-be would wait in her father’s house, preparing for the day that her lover would come to take her to the wedding—having no clue as to what day or what time that would be. When the groom finished preparing their home, he would start through the village with his friends, and as they walked, other villagers would join the entourage crying out, “The bridegroom comes! The bridegroom comes!” Hearing the shouts, no doubt the bride’s heart would be racing, knowing that the moment she had hoped for had finally come. And you can be sure that she had used the time in waiting getting herself ready for that very special day.
We, too, are waiting for a very special day!
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). ©2022 Joseph M. Stowell
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Joe Stowell is a bestselling author who served as a pastor before leading Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and later Cornerstone University in Michigan, from which he retired in 2021.