Right at the end of the Bible, in Revelation 22:20, we read, “He who testifies to these things (the Lord Jesus Christ Himself) says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ (To which John adds) Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Many professing Christians, let alone the general population, consider the bodily, glorious return of the Risen Christ to be impossible. If this truth is not rejected outright, its neglect in so many churches points to an uneasiness concerning this doctrine.
Perhaps this is because many North American believers engaged in crazy speculation about the future, particularly at the end of the 20th Century. When people looked away from the hype (understandably), they also turned away from the clear teaching of the Bible regarding the return of Christ.
There is a deeper reason for the neglect of eschatology (the study of last things) in the church. Unbelief. Specifically unbelief concerning the "weird stuff" in the Bible.
For instance, I was reading Joshua 10 the other day about “The Long Day of Joshua.” The sun and moon stood still so that Joshua’s army could keep on fighting for an extra day. Accounts like this, or Noah’s Ark or Jonah’s Great Fish or other Bible stories are just that – stories. Or are they? How can we moderns believe such things? How can we believe that the bodily resurrected Christ went up into Heaven (wherever that is) 2000 years ago and will return from there?
Critical theologians have redefined the resurrection over the past 200 years. They teach that resurrection was a spiritual concept, invented by the disciples to keep Jesus’ ideas alive at the dawning of Christianity.
That just won’t do. If we lose the bodily resurrection, we lose everything (1 Corinthians 15). I would also argue that if we lose the long day of Joshua or Jonah’s fish, we lose everything. If the Bible is God’s Word, it either is entirely or not at all (2 Timothy 3:16). If I lose Noah’s ark, I lose the gospel. The same is true regarding the future return of Christ.
When I have thoughts of, “That’s weird!” when I read the Bible, I fight unbelief with the truth of creation. If God made everything out of nothing by the power of his Word, what is too difficult for him? Consider Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Right at the beginning of the Faith Chapter, we have this foundation of creation.
One of the errors that modern skeptics make is to engage in what C.S. Lewis called chronological snobbery. “We modern people can’t believe in such things.” The fact is, the ancients didn’t believe these things either, unless God changed their hearts. Conversely, many people do believe today because God has changed our hearts.
If you are a professing Christian, don’t shy away from talking about the return of Christ. This is our great hope. People will think that we are crazy, but what’s new about that? Jesus promised that as they hated him, they will hate us.
If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, let me thank you for persevering this far through this post! I’m glad you are reading this. What I’m writing might be crazy talk to you, but consider your foundations. If you are a naturalist (no belief in the supernatural), how do you account for anything? Take a good, long look at your presuppositions and your assumptions about the world. Ask God to help you understand what is true, good and beautiful and eternal.
As for us Christians, if we contemplate what the Bible teaches about Christ’s return, we will be motivated to live godly lives (read 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 John 2:29-3:3). The world will hate us for this, too, by the way.
We are called to be ambassadors of God. We bring the Good News that God’s judgment of sin has broken into space/time history at the cross. All who trust in the forgiveness and righteousness of Christ secured for us by his obedient life, atoning death and bodily resurrection are safe from the terror of Christ’s return. We may welcome it and long for it. The question is, how much do we believe in this future reality? Does God’s love compel us to warn those who do not yet know this truth?
“Don’t judge” is the word of our day, but have you considered how genuinely loving it is to warn people of God’s coming judgment? Sure, we are not to be “judgmental,” but we are to be witnesses to the truth of God’s coming reckoning with those who disregard him and his Word. No matter when Christ returns, it will be “soon” in the calendar of Heaven. Consider also that the sure, righteous judgment of God will become immediate and personal at the time of our death, and who knows when that may be?
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27-28
As you “... grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), don’t neglect what the Bible says about Christ’s return. It is a great, sure hope and a powerful motivator for faithful witness in a world that desperately needs the gospel.