Did Jesus Stand Us Up?
Jesus was supposed to return at 6pm in your time zone on May 21, 2011. If you are reading this either you were “left behind” or he didn’t come back.
Ever since Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, every generation has had someone who claimed to know exactly when Jesus is coming back. Like every prior prediction, the most recent one was wrong. So, your pets can rest assured they’ll be with their owners a little longer. There is no need to worry about what After the Rapture Pet Care will be like.
A Certainty & Hope
While giving us lots to joke about, these false teachers and their doomsday silliness cause many to trivialize the return of Jesus and neglect the certainty and hope associated with it. While we do not know when it will be, here is what we do know about Jesus’ return:
1. His return is real
Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven. Since the ascension, the return of Christ has been a key belief in Christianity. The Nicene Creed states: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
2. His return is certain
Instead of saying that the return of Jesus is imminent, Anthony Hoekema suggests that we say it is impending. It is certain to happen. We don’t know when. We live in constant expectation and readiness for Jesus’ return. Spurgeon goes one step further by saying, “I do not think we should be so certain of death as some Christians are, because the Lord’s coming is much more certain than our dying.”
We can look joyfully to Christ’s first coming and we can look forward with anticipation to his promised return.
3. His return links past and future
The greatest event of redemptive history is not in the future but in the past. Since Christ won a decisive victory over Satan, sin, death, and hell, the events related to his future return must be seen as the continuation and completion of his redemptive work that commenced during his earthly ministry.
4. His return brings encouragement
In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Paul says the return of Jesus brings comfort and encouragement to those who trust Christ. The source of comfort and encouragement comes from the fact that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). This encouragement continues forever: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev 21:4–5).
5. His return offers security
If you trust Christ, there is no judgment or condemnation for you on judgment day. All the judgment you deserve went to Jesus on the cross. God now uses shocking words and phrases to describe those who are his: redeemed, forgiven, made righteous, new creation, God’s workmanship, reconciled to God, saint, chosen, holy, beloved, child of light, not darkness, pure, blameless, glory of God, holy, blameless, above reproach, and the righteousness of God. By faith we are “in Christ” and as such we are seen as he is. Jesus’ righteousness, holiness, and blamelessness are imputed to us. Therefore, you are secure in Christ on judgment day.
Always Be Prepared
In light of these facts, we must be prepared for the possibility that the return of Jesus may be a long way off, because the New Testament leaves room for that. But to affirm that the return of Jesus is far off is to claim too much. The exact time of Jesus’ return is unknown to us. Neither do we know exactly how the signs of times will intensify. This uncertainty means that we must always be prepared.
Between Two Comings
Christ came to inaugurate his kingdom. His return brings the consummation of that kingdom. The kingdom of God is present in one sense, but it is also not yet fully realized. We now live between two comings. We can look joyfully to Christ’s first coming and we can look forward with anticipation to his promised return.
- Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future
- George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom
- Stanley J. Grenz, The Millenial Maze