Many churches today downplay Jesus’ return because they are afraid of looking like “fundamentalists.” But far from being an obscure detail of Christian theology, the second coming is intensely practical. Expecting Jesus’ imminent return produces four changes in us:
Apocalypse-obsessed churches may be wrong in many respects, but they are right to eagerly expect Christ’s return. The New Testament writers all strain forward to that day. But do we?
At my home church, the pastor would end each service by saying, “Maranatha,” meaning, “The Lord is coming.” We would respond, “And it could be today.” We could use some of that attitude. This may be our last chance—to share the gospel, to forgive, to repent.
If you know the world has an end—and that it could be soon—that rearranges your priorities. Yet so many of us are consumed by vacations, hobbies, and bucket lists that our actions tell the world, “The end is not soon and the mission is not urgent.”
When the Master returns, I want to have invested my talents to the fullest. Sadly, many in the church on that day will hear Jesus’ chilling words: “Why didn’t you invest what I gave you for my kingdom? Away with you, you worthless servant.”
Power to Forgive
When people wrong us, we long for justice. As Tim Keller puts it, we run to the judgment seat and help God mete out retribution. But we were never meant for that seat. The more we sit in it, the more we see the worst in others, and the more blind we become to our own sin.
On our own, we are powerless to keep ourselves from running to that seat. Only by knowing that Jesus is coming back can I be content to stay off of it. I can endure injustice now because He will set things right then.
Hope in Suffering
Jesus says He will return “in clouds” (Mark 13:26), echoing those times when God appeared in the form of a powerful cloud—leading His people out of Egypt (Ex. 13:21), giving them the law (24:16), and filling the temple (2 Chron. 5:14). This “glory cloud” signified that God is coming to undo the effects of the fall.
Jesus promises that He will return with power and glory. So, the suffering in our lives cannot last forever. As Cornelius Plantinga says, “The return of Christ is good news for people whose lives are filled with bad news.”
So if your son just died of cancer, if your marriage just dissolved, if your body is racked with pain, then Jesus is saying to you: “There is reason to hope even in the midst of the darkest valley. Lift up your eyes—I am coming back, and it might be today.”