“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware like a trap.” ~ Jesus, Luke 21:34
A good way to start a debate or even an argument among Christians: bring up Jesus’ return. For centuries many godly people have disagreed about the details of Jesus’ second coming. You find people from all types of Christian backgrounds who are post-, pre-, mid-, or a- when it comes to topics like the millennial reign of Jesus and the church’s place in the “great tribulation.” And a lot of it has to do with how people view the relationship between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which brings out more debates.
Some will say about these things, “See, Christians can’t even agree about what they believe so how can we accept it as true?” That misses the point that these things are secondary matters (which does mean we should spend less time arguing about them) and other than the fact that Jesus will indeed return, they are not central to the gospel message and the reality of our salvation in Jesus. There are some things we can agree to disagree about because none of us are perfect people with perfect understandings.
In Luke 21 Jesus told his followers a bit about his return as well as the destruction of Jerusalem which took place in 70 A.D. The most important thing about Jesus’ teaching is the fact that Jesus is indeed coming back. Though we might disagree about certain details of his return, the future hope of his return has been a doctrine that defines the core of Christianity. His return means we have hope that things will not always be like they are now. Our “redemption is drawing near” (21:28). Jesus will fully rescue us from sin and death and make all things right.
If I were to pinpoint a second most important thing about Jesus’ return it wouldn’t be about when these things will take place or where the antichrist will be born and what government he will control or when the tribulation and rapture and all of that occurs.
Rather it would be what Jesus says in Luke 21:34-36 which echoes what he taught in 17:20-37. The day of his return will come upon the world in a surprise moment like a thief breaking into a home under the cover of darkness. The world will be going on business-as-usual since they don’t have much of a concern for Jesus or his coming, and then suddenly the day will be upon them.
But for us who are his followers, we are to keep watch on our own lives. We are to be different and be expectant. We are to pursue righteousness, fleeing sin because we anticipate his return.
It still will be a surprise to us in a way, after all Jesus said, “No one knows the day or hour but the Father” (Matthew 24:36). It might not even happen in our lifetimes. But we should expect it to occur and our expectancy of it should drive us to follow Jesus and represent his love, grace, and holy character our every waking moment.
That is what matters most, second to the return of Jesus itself: that we as his people live for him in eager expectation and show the world through our words, attitudes, and actions that Jesus is better and his way is eternally more joyful. Our lives should be witnesses and examples to the reality of salvation including salvation’s completeness found when he comes back. Our witness and example should encourage others to long for Jesus and hope for that day as well.
So pursue Jesus, long for his return, and live for him. He’ll take care of all the other details.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.