“Jesus is coming back soon. Look busy!” I found the sign in the warehouse a bit amusing, since “looking busy” doesn’t usually fool too many people, and it sure won’t fool Jesus.
You may have heard an exasperated person at your job say, “we need a come-to-Jesus meeting!” Fascinating phraseology, since most people who say it or hear it probably aren’t thinking about preparing to meet Jesus, just resolving a procedural or personnel problem.
Every Easter Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The affirmation “He is risen!” is responded to with “He is risen indeed!” But what happens next? If Jesus really rose from the dead, is he coming back? If so, how? when? If his disciples and early followers like Paul thought he might return in their lifetimes, why isn’t he back yet? As II Peter 3:4 says, “Where is the promise of his coming?”
A few verses later Peter explains that God has his own timetable, and this divine delay is based on God’s love and mercy: “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:8-9)
Who said Jesus was coming back? First of all, Jesus himself. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
How will Jesus return? Two men, whom most believe were angels, tell us in Acts 1:9-11: “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Thessalonica, adds more detail: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (I Thessalonians 4:15-18)
When will this happen? Christians have different ideas about when Jesus will return, but no one knows for sure, except God himself: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33)
How should we then live? In joyful anticipation of his return: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14).
Jesus’ resurrection and promised return gives us great hope. Let’s do our best to love our neighbors and be salt and light.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart”. (Galatians 6:9)
Maranatha! Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!
• Guy Crockroft is Executive Director of Love Inc, Juneau. Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.