"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, for which the Lord, the righteous Judge will reward to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing."
(2 Timothy 4:7-8)
The scripture above tells us a lot. Think of a "good fight". This image brings to mind a boxing match, which is often more of a battle of endurance than anything else. If you watch a boxing match, by the end, the fighters are so tired that they can barely keep their hands up; they can barely swing due to fatigue, but they keep battling with whatever strength they have left.
Think about a race; particularly a distance race, which is clearly referenced here. By the end of the race it's also a battle of endurance - fighting through fatigue and pain in order to finish strong. Its really a battle of "mind over matter".
Don't forget; the apostle Paul was also watching and waiting for Christ's return. He was no different from us in that respect. He had to fight through incredible hardships during his watching and waiting for Christ's potential return - all of which must have been on his mind as he wrote these scriptures. He understood the difficulty of waiting.
Perhaps more importantly, Jesus knew the difficulties of watching for His return.
We know that we will be rewarded for our "works" which will take place during the Bema "Judgement" (2 Corinthians 2:5, 1 Corinthians 3:10-15); "A Life God Rewards" by Bruce Wilkinson does a great job of explaining this.
We won't be judged for our sins - Jesus already took that on our behalf as He suffered on the cross. We will, however, be rewarded for our works while on earth.
Although we will be rewarded for a large variety of these works, the scriptures actually describe five specific "crowns" which will be rewarded to believers. One of these crowns is the "Crown of Righteousness" for believers who have been watching for Christ's return:
"...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."
So we can see the importance of our "watching" for His return.
It is of tremendous importance to Jesus.
Just take a look at Luke 12: 35-40 and 54-56. Jesus describes the vital importance of watching for His coming. He also spent considerable time and effort in the Olivet discourse describing the importance of watching (see Matthew 24:42, 44 and 25:13, Mark 13:32-36, and Luke 21:28, 31 and 36). It obviously means a great deal to Jesus.
Why is it so important to Jesus that His church (aka His "Bride") is watching and longing for His return?
Doesn't it reveal our deep love for Christ? Shouldn't the Bride be anxiously awaiting the Bridegroom's coming?
How can you love someone and not have great anticipation of being with that person?
If the believer is indifferent regarding Christ's coming - how much love does that reveal?
Perhaps better stated - and directed to those Christians who have no interest in Christ's return: How can you profess to love Christ, and have an awareness that He may return soon - yet show no interest in watching for the signs of His return?
Those two ideas are completely inconsistent.
As John Hagee says "If you aren't excited about Christ's return, then you need to re-examine your faith". That seems obvious.
Additionally - let's assume that we are wrong and we are not in the season of Christ's return.
Wouldn't it be better to face Christ having been wrong, yet, wanting to be with Him so much and to be in His presence - so desperately - that we did indeed watch and hope for His return - rather than having no interest at all in His return?
Which scenario would Christ prefer?
The answers seem clear. Jesus wants to find us watching the signs and awaiting His return. It shows a deep love and an intensity that any bride should have for the bridegroom as that day approaches.
And let us not forget - Jesus called those "followers" of His "Hypocrites" for not knowing and understanding the signs of His first coming on earth (Luke 12:54-56). That's a pretty strong accusation isn't it?
But there is a caveat to all of the above. It's hard continually watching and waiting for His return.
Perhaps that explains Revelation 3:10:
"Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world..."
We do "endure patiently" don't we?
As contrasted with Christians who have no interest - we endure this world every day, with the knowledge that we will imminently be in New Jerusalem and in the very presence of Christ Jesus.
Having that knowledge makes enduring the hardships of this world even more difficult. We appreciate on a daily basis that this world is not "our world". We know that our home is in New Jerusalem; our permanent home and where we should be. We know that we are just a breath away from actually being in the very presence of Jesus Himself.
As we long for Jesus and as we long for our permanent home, we have to endure this world.
The knowledge that Jesus is coming for us makes the "enduring" aspect of life on earth even more difficult and we also become fatigued as we continually keep watch.
Jesus knows this. It has to be one of the reasons that we will be rewarded for these efforts.
But we watch for one reason: We love Jesus and we desperately want to be in His presence.
We are acutely aware of the fact that we are only here, on this earth, temporarily - and that a far far better place awaits. We know that we are in this world (for now) but we are not of this world.
We just have to be patient as we watch the signs and that is a long, hard process.
But we cannot forget - Jesus knows who is watching and longing for His return.
It pleases Him that we do so. It reveals our deep love, and after all, isn't that what our faith is all about?
He will be coming soon and He will find us watching and waiting with great anticipation.
What a great way to begin our life with Jesus in New Jerusalem - so take heart - our watching and waiting, despite the hardships we face will be richly rewarded.
As we watch the world beginning to crumble around us - as we watch the world approaching the Tribulation, with all of the necessary evil, corruption, violence, sin, draconian government, oppression, persecution, hardships, etc., we see these instructions from the apostle Paul:
"Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you."
(2 Thessalonians 3:16)
Amen and Maranatha.
We will all be in New Jerusalem soon - and experiencing the most epic celebration ever seen.
Each of us will participate:
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God...'
'For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and the bride has made herself ready.'"
It will happen, and it will happen soon.
Jesus is putting the final touches on His Bride's new home and soon He will come.
And when He does, it will please Him greatly to find us watching and waiting.
Keep looking up. Jesus will fulfill His promises - that is an iron-clad guarantee.