By Victor Knowles
The Mayans were wrong, dead wrong. I’m writing this article three days before December 21, 2012, the day the world is supposed to come to an end—according to the Mayan calendar. To be sure, the world as we know it will come to a fiery end some day (2 Peter 3:10). But Jesus said no one knows the hour or the day when he will return, not even angels (Matthew 24:36).
There are about 300 verses in the New Testament that serve as an AWS (Advance Warning System) in reference to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. C. S. Lewis said, “The idea which shuts out the Second Coming from our minds, the idea of the world slowly ripening to perfection, is a myth, not a generalization from experience.”
We know from Holy Scripture that the world will go from bad to worse before Jesus comes (2 Timothy 3:13). We know that the return of Christ will be audible (John 5:28), visible (Revelation 1:7), and spectacular (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). Yet the Second Coming will happen at a time when people are not expecting him to return (Matthew 24:42-44).
While some people will be caught completely off guard by the return of Christ, others are caught up and absorbed in theological speculation over the Second Coming. They spend much time, money, and energy debating the intricacies and implications of things like the rapture, the tribulation, and the millennium. The practical aspects of belief in the Second Coming are practically forgotten. When Jesus returns, will he find some of his people arguing and debating about millennial minutiae and tribulation theories?
Christians should be living each day in the scriptural light of Christ’s return. The doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ should have a practical aspect and a powerful impact on the way we live each day. How does the indisputable fact that Jesus is coming again help us in this regard?
Help with the Problem of Sin
Knowing Jesus is coming again is an urgent reason to repent of sin. Peter proclaimed,
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed to you, even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21, NIV 1984).
Sometimes entire congregations must repent! Jesus told the church in Sardis to repent, or “I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:3). Repentance is not a fixed act in the plan of salvation.
Christians in the first century referred to the return of Christ as “the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). It was this “blessed hope” that taught them “to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (v. 12). Knowing Christ is coming helps us say no to sinful passions.
The imminent return of Christ should have a purifying effect on our lives. The apostle John declared, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3). His coming means we get rid of impurities in our lives.
The first Christians knew that when Christ appeared, they would appear with him in glory. This was incentive for them to “put to death” their earthly nature: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:4, 5). The nearness of Christ’s return makes us want to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-14).
Help with the Difficulties of Life
Worry and anxiety is a hindrance to many people. Four important words precede the apostolic admonition not to worry: “The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). Then Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v. 6). One day when I was about 15, I was playing third base in a high school baseball game. I was having a very bad day. I had made an error at third, got picked off at first, and had struck out at the plate. But then out of nowhere a thought came to me that changed my day. “Jesus is coming again and everything is going to be all right.”
Some people find it difficult to pray or to love others. But the return of Christ is a powerful motive to prayer and brotherly love. “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7, 8).
Do you have a troubled heart? Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me” (John 14:1). Jesus has promised to return for us and take us to Heaven! “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (v. 3). These words of assurance should calm and comfort every troubled soul.
Help for Eternity
The doctrine of Christ’s return helps us get our priorities right and verifies our true citizenship. Paul said of the enemies of the cross, “Their destiny is destruction . . . Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (3:18-20). Are you getting your priorities straight? Are you eagerly awaiting his return?
Knowing Jesus is coming soon inspires us to be faithful to God and merciful to those who are in peril of going to Hell. “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 21-23).
Paul said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11, New King James Version). C. T. Studd said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”
When I went to Christian Service Camp, we had a “Morning Watch.” We were instructed to find an isolated place, read a relevant Bible verse, and then scan the skies for Christ’s return. It lasted only five minutes, but if you had not yet given your life to Christ, that was one long time! It was a powerful motivator in my conversion. Jesus said,
Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each one with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ (Mark 13:33-37).
Our Lord wants us to be faithful, merciful, and watchful.
Glad Day or Sad Day?
My father’s favorite hymn was “Is It the Crowning Day?” (George Walker Whitcomb). Each of the four verses begins with an important thought: “Jesus may come today . . . I may go home today . . . Why should I anxious be? . . . Faithful I’ll be today” The refrain says,
Glad day! Glad day! Is it the crowning day?
I’ll live for today, nor anxious be,
Jesus my Lord I soon shall see;
Glad day! Glad day! Is it the crowning day?
Will the return of Christ be a glad day or a sad day for you?
The hands on God’s prophetic clock are moving slowly but surely toward the midnight hour. What should be our response? In his classic book World Aflame (Pocket Books, 1977), Billy Graham makes four appropriate suggestions: prepare with urgency (Matthew 24:44), wait with patience (Hebrews 10:36-38), watch with anticipation (Philippians 3:20), and work with zeal (Matthew 24:46).
“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching” (Luke 12:37, NKJV).
Victor Knowles is founder and president of POEM (Peace on Earth Ministries), Joplin, Missouri. www.poeministries.org
Living within Sight of Eternity
“Living in Light of Eternity” by Francis Chan
Good Questions On Heaven & Hell
(Standard Publishing, 2011)
Be Ready (1 & 2 Thessalonians):
Living in Light of Christ’s Return
by Warren W. Wiersbe
(David C. Cook, 2010)
The Best Is Yet to Come:
Bible Prophecies Throughout the Ages
by Tony Evans
(Moody Publishers, 2000)