The return of Jesus Christ is certain. It will absolutely come to pass, fulfilling every prophetic pronouncement to the minutest detail with meticulous precision. It's also a day that fascinates us. Our own culture has produced countless theories about the return of Christ as humanity tries to answer the disciples' question to Jesus: "[W]hat will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3).
"God will bring the work of salvation to perfect completion as He sends His Son to make all things new."
"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," Jesus answered (Matthew 24:36). Our Savior will come again. We have His word on it, but it is pointless to try to predict the day of His return like so many have before. As if it weren't dangerous enough to predict the exact day of His return, lately the pendulum has swung too far the other way so that many—even pastors—are denying the doctrine of Christ's second coming.
From cover to cover the Bible makes it absolutely clear that history will one day come to an end, that Jesus is coming back to take His children home and to punish the wicked. Just as the first coming of Jesus Christ was a historic event, so will the second coming be a historic event. God will bring the work of salvation to perfect completion as He sends His Son to make all things new. Therefore, anyone who denies or obscures or misinterprets the Truth of His second coming must be careful—for severe judgment is in store for those who abandon God's Word on the matter (see Luke 12:45-48).
TRAINING OUR MINDS ON CHRIST
In Luke 12:35-48, Jesus told His disciples a parable to demonstrate how they should conduct themselves as God's servants in light of His promised return—and His words are just as urgent for us today: "Be dressed ready for service" (v. 35). The original language translates more to the expression "gird your loins" because, at that time, men and women wore long flowing robes that had to be gathered up and tucked into a belt or sash for manual work or battle preparedness. Otherwise, these robes would trip you and cause you to stumble. Jesus is taking this idea and applying it to our minds. Like a free-flowing robe, our thoughts meander; we are easily distracted; we are bogged down by life's circumstances and struggles. But Christ wants us to tuck these things away, to allow everything we do—every decision we make—to be motivated by the promise of His return. He empowers us to do this as we keep our eyes on Him and pray like the psalmist: "[G]ive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (Psalm 86:11).
LIGHTING OUR WAY WITH TRUTH
Then in the very same verse, Jesus calls us to keep our lamps lit—to have plenty of oil to serve us in our watch for His return. Lamps, candles, and torches allowed people in Jesus' time to see what was hidden in darkness. This light is a symbol for knowledge, but it's not enough to have just head knowledge. Jesus wants us to use our knowledge to walk carefully through this life. Jesus wants the knowledge of His imminent return to motivate our steps. So we use this Truth, this light, to dictate our way—we use the light of the Gospel to expose the ground before us so that we keep in step with Christ. When we live in a state of watchfulness and obedience, we will not be surprised when He comes.
PREPARED TO BE FOUND FAITHFUL
When we ready ourselves mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, keeping our lamps lit and our minds fixed on Jesus, we will be like a faithful servant (see vv. 36-38). And because we do not know the hour when the Lord will return, we must be alert and ready for whatever comes, whatever the hour, for "the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him" (v. 40).
Scripture says that Jesus' return will be unexpected, like a thief in the night (see Revelation 16:15; Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10), so that those who are not watching for Him will be caught unaware. But there's another powerful picture that Jesus gives His people in Matthew 24:8. He describes the signs of His coming as birth pains. Now, when a woman goes into labor, she has been expecting this glorious day to arrive. This is very different from the thief in the night because the expectant mom has been thinking about and planning for this moment for months. She doesn't know exactly when the day will be, but she's readied herself and is watching for it. Likewise, the faithful believer has been watching and waiting: "But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief" (1 Thessalonians 5:4).
THE DAY OF CHRIST'S RETURN
Those who haven't given a thought to how they'll spend eternity—those who are too busy building up treasure on earth, who are distracted by too many responsibilities or worldly pursuits—will experience Christ's return like the thief in the night. It will be a day of judgment.
Don't misunderstand me. It will be a day of pain and suffering for the believer as well—these are labor pains, after all. But believers who have readied themselves, keeping the lamp lit and their minds focused, are prepared for both the trial and the joy to follow—the glorious day when Christ returns to make all things new.
Are you ready for that day? I pray that you will live your life here and now with that day in mind. Don't let it surprise you. Faithful believers who are ready for Jesus will be uniquely blessed, just as Paul said: "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8, emphasis added).
Let us today long for His appearing—and be ready when He comes.