What Difference Should it Make?
September 1, 2009 - Few truths in the Bible are clearer: Some day this present world will come to an end, and Jesus Christ will come again to establish His Kingdom of perfect peace and righteousness. “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
by John Akers
This is a profound and sobering truth, and yet our world largely ignores or scorns it. Tragically, many Christians even overlook it or pay it little heed. Preoccupied with the incessant demands of daily living, they seldom think about the angels’ promise after Jesus’ ascension: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The Forgotten Truth
Why is this truth so often overlooked? Why do we lose sight of its reality or become confused about it?
The problem isn’t new; even in the first century some Christians pushed the truth of Christ’s return to the back of their minds. Other people cynically dismissed it: “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” they sneered.
“Everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). At the opposite extreme, some claimed Christ had already returned, while others apparently quit working and sat around waiting for Christ’s return, convinced He was coming at any minute (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3; 3:11-12).
But these individuals overlooked two important facts. First, they forgot Jesus’ repeated promise that He would return and that the whole world would witness it: “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). Second, they forgot Jesus’ warning that, while His return is certain, the exact timing has been hidden from us: “No one knows about that day or hour” (Mark 13:32).
The same can happen to us. Preoccupied with our problems, absorbed in our daily routines, focused on our own plans for the future, even immersed in worthy causes—we can easily lose sight of what the Bible calls “the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Has this happened to you?
A Daily Reality
Instead of relegating Christ’s return to a forgotten corner of our minds and only dusting it off occasionally when we happen to think of it, the Bible urges us to keep its truth before us every day. Let Jesus’ command burn itself deeply into your mind and soul: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).
This has been the hope of Christians throughout the ages—especially during times of persecution or stress. As Christians in the first century faced the brutal oppression of pagan Rome, the Apostle John fervently prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). In the midst of the plagues and conflicts of the Middle Ages, Christians cried out repeatedly for Christ’s return.
Some years ago, when Billy Graham first preached in Moscow, he met with a group of believers who had been severely persecuted by the atheistic Soviet government. Their conversation had one theme: their hope in Christ’s return. No matter what trials they faced, they were confident that some day Christ would come again, and the heavens would ring out with the declaration that “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Is this your hope?
Steadfast in Our Faith
The question remains, however: Even if we believe in Christ’s promise to return, what difference does it make? What difference should it make?
First, the promise of Christ’s return should make us steadfast in our faith.
Have you ever asked yourself why your faith seems so strong one day and so weak the next? There may be many reasons for this—but often the cause is our tendency to be ruled by our circumstances or our emotions rather than by the truth of God’s Word. It’s easy to feel close to God when everything is going well. But what happens at the first sign of trouble? We become unsettled and filled with doubt, wondering if God has abandoned us, and we fall back on our own wisdom and resources instead of His provision.
But when we focus on Christ instead of our circumstances, when we remember that some day He will return and overcome all the things that alarm us, then our faith remains steadfast and strong.
Second, Christ’s promise to return should make us disciplined in our lives.
Ask the average nonbeliever what he or she thinks of Christians, and you may well get this answer: “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.” Although their charge may be unjustified (or simply an excuse for their continued unbelief), it still contains a painful truth: Inconsistent living on the part of Christians is a major barrier to the advancement of the cause of Christ.
But the fact of Christ’s return gives us a desire to live for Him every day: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12). Do others see Christ’s love and purity and compassion and patience in your life?
Third, Christ’s promise to return should make us diligent in our witness.
Jesus warned, “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4). All around you are people who face a Christless eternity because they do not know Him. Are you praying for them and asking God to use you to reach them with the Gospel?
Never have the spiritual needs of our world been greater. Never have Christian organizations had more opportunities to reach our world for Christ. Be diligent in your personal witness, and be sacrificial in supporting those whom God has called to take Christ’s message to the ends of the earth. The fact that Christ will return gives urgency to our witness.
Confidence in the Future
Finally, the promise of Christ’s return should make us confident in the future.
Never forget: Some day all the problems and conflicts that rip our world apart will be over. For the Christian there is hope—because of Christ and His return. No matter what we face, no matter what sorrows or heartaches come our way, some day they will all be over because Christ will reign.
Let the truth of Christ’s return fill you with joy, peace, thankfulness and hope every day. Whether we meet Him in death or when He comes again, all will be well because of His victory over sin and death and hell and Satan. “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).