For most of two millennia, Christians have been expecting the Lord’s return. Critics draw a strange conclusion from this. They use it to say Christians should now ignore Bible prophecy altogether.
Yet it is normal and healthy for Christians to live in expectancy of the Lord’s return. From early on, they would say to one another, “Maranatha,” meaning “our Lord comes.” Paul used it in 1 Corinthians 16:22. By that time, the word had already come into widespread use in the early Church.
Martin Luther urged Christians to live in expectancy of the Lord’s coming. He wrote, “Let us not think that the coming of the Lord is far off; let us look up with heads lifted up; let us expect our Redeemer’s coming with longing and cheerful mind.”
John Calvin wrote, “Scripture uniformly enjoins us to look with expectation to the advent of Christ.”
Titus 2 calls the Lord’s return the “blessed hope.” It’s even better when you look at it in context.Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
That’s a summary of what grace does in our lives. It brings salvation. It teaches us to deny ungodliness. Grace allows us to have wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God despite the evil world around us. And finally, God’s grace puts a wonderful hope in our hearts. It teaches us to expect, look for, and yearn to see Christ’s appearing.
We should be looking for His return because we love Him and trust Him. He said He would return, and He does not lie. In John 14:2-3, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
James 5:8 shows the value in living in expectation of Christ’s return. “Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
The critic says, “But that was more than 19 centuries ago. How could the coming of the Lord have been ‘at hand’?” Through Peter, the Holy Spirit answers the critics. 2 Peter 3:8 says, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
We must understand that the Rapture of the Church is imminent. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen today or sometime next week. But it does means that it could happen at any time — even in the next second. There are no signs to be fulfilled before the Rapture. That’s how every generation of Christians could legitimately hope for the Lord’s appearing in their time, even before signs of the end of the age became acute. We don’t need signs to expect the Rapture.
But in this generation, we see tremendous signs that the Tribulation period is near. And since the Rapture must take place before the Tribulation, signs that the Tribulation is near mean that the Rapture must be extremely near.
What are the signs? Two stand out.
One — Israel. End-time signs revolve around Israel, but until 1948, there was no Israel. God bringing that ancient nation back to life — vividly predicted over and over in scripture — gives meaning and urgency to all the other signs.
Two — in our day, we see a convergence of signs. In other words, they’re happening all at once. No generation ever saw anything like this.
But these signal the Rapture only in the sense that the Rapture must take place before the Tribulation. So, is our generation different? Yes. I’m convinced it is.
That does not mean that you or I will not die before the Rapture. We might. But if we do, we will have lost nothing by living our lives expecting the Rapture, and we will have gained a great deal. It’s how God wants us to live. And it enhances every part of the Christian walk.
In Luke 12:37, Jesus said, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching.” (NKJV)
As followers of Christ, we are to live in a state of watchfulness. A thousand years ago, there were Christians living in expectation of His coming. They were not foolish to do so. They were obedient. Titus 2:13 directs us to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (NKJV)
Those Christians from previous generations who lived in expectancy of Christ’s return tended also to be those who lived closest to Him. They were the ones most interested in His word, in sharing the Gospel, helping the poor, and caring for the sick.
If you’re always on the lookout for Christ’s return, someone will inevitably remind you that no one knows the day nor the hour. But they’re missing the point. It’s precisely because we do not know the day nor hour of His return that we are to be watchful. In Matthew 24:42, Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” (NKJV)
For two thousand years, people have been watching. That sounds like a long time, but remember this. God gave the first promise of His first coming to Adam and Eve. It took thousands of years, but God kept His word and Jesus came. By human standards, the Lord may sometimes seem slow. But He has a reason for that. 2 Peter 3:9-10 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come.” (NKJV)
Why does he wait? Because He “is longsuffering toward us.” He’s “not willing that any should perish.” He wants everyone to “come to repentance” — turn to Him and be saved. For now, love and concern compel Him to wait. But He will not wait forever.
Earlier in the same chapter, Peter wrote, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3-4 NKJV)
The big thing that makes our time different from any other is the existence of Israel as a nation, and the Jews having control of Jerusalem. But there are other things unique to our time, as well. For instance, before now the world did not have the technology needed for the Antichrist to control commerce as completely as the Bible foretells.
In dozens of areas, human civilization is hurtling headlong toward destruction. Look at just one — machines with artificial intelligence. Scientists like Stephen Hawking warn of such machines taking over the world, destroying the human race in the process. Far out? Even longtime proponents of artificial intelligence have now joined in the warnings.
Air Force General Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the U.S. Defense Department, recently warned about “autonomous weapons systems” similar to the title character in the movie, “The Terminator” — and just as dangerous. General Selva sees weapons that are not under direct human control as a menace to mankind. And, like self-driving cars, they’re just around the corner.
Then there’s nuclear proliferation. Some people take comfort from the fact that no nuclear weapons have been used in combat since 1945. But that’s like taking comfort from the fact that you’ve been playing Russian roulette for an hour and no shots have been fired. Just keep playing, and the odds will catch up to you.
During the Cold War, Carl Sagan, wrote, “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
Except now, a madman in Korea also holds a match. The nation of Iran, run by religious fanatics who see it as their job to create an apocalypse, also have, or will soon have, a match in their hands. Next door neighbor enemies, India and Pakistan, both have nukes. Russia has more than anybody, and no one knows if their leader is crazy or not.