Jesus is coming again! The New Testament teaches this in many places. When Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples were told that he would appear in the same way in which he disappeared from sight. When he comes again, it will not be incognito, as a baby in a manger. He will come as he is now, the resurrected, human, Lord Jesus; and he will come in all his glory, the King in his splendour accompanied by his angelic host. (Matthew 25:31) The veil that separates heaven and earth will be removed, once and for all!
When Jesus comes again, that will be the end of the age. A new age will be inaugurated, with a new creation – a new heaven and earth. This will be the fulfilment of all the prophecies in the Bible about the age of peace and prosperity, when the Messiah rules and everything is as God wants it to be, with no tears, no pain, no fear, no suffering, no death even. Between the two ages there will be ‘judgement day’, to sort out who will be part of this new age and who will not. Christians have no need to worry about that: because of our relationship with Jesus Christ we have already been guaranteed a place in the new age. We are already citizens of heaven, we have already been declared fit to live with God – and the proof of that is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us; God is already living with us.
There are lots of unanswered questions, of course. The big question is ‘When?’, and the only answer to it will be given when Jesus comes and the answer is ‘Now!’ Other questions have been asked through history. What will happen in the world? Will things get better or worse? Will there be 1000 years of peace (‘the millennium’), as many Christians believe (especially among Baptists and Pentecostals)? What about other teaching in the Bible, such as about anti-Christs and Armageddon? More importantly to us, what about people who have died? Will they miss out? (The answer to that one is given in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians and in the book of Revelation: there will be a resurrection of the dead when Jesus comes. Until then, I assume that they are alive in spirit only, as Christ was between his death and his resurrection according to 1 Peter 3:18.)
Matthew 24:36-44 is simply a warning to be ready, whatever happens. Life is going to continue as normal until Jesus appears in his glory. There is no point in trying to predict when that will happen – even angels can’t do that. (Some scholars, especially in recent times, believe that this passage, like the one before it, is actually referring to the events around AD70 when Jerusalem was captured. Just a few verses earlier Jesus says that the events he was talking about would take place within a generation, which certainly was true of the destruction of the Temple. However, I find it difficult to see how anyone can call that the coming of the Son of Man, especially in the light of the passages that follow; I think this definitely refers to Jesus’ coming in glory.)
How can we be ready? That’s the main purpose of all the passages that teach about our Lord’s coming. Paul makes it very clear in Romans 13:11-14 that we are to keep on doing the things we ought to be doing whether or not he is coming. In particular, we are to keep ourselves living decent lives. The temptation is always to revert to the morals of the times – in the Rome of Paul’s time that meant drunkenness and orgies as well as the constant problem of dissension and jealousy, a problem which can afflict even the most spiritual churches. (If we mentioned them in the same breath as sexual immorality, as Paul does, we might treat them more seriously.) We resist temptation by ignoring it, concentrating on ‘clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ’: reminding ourselves that he is living in us by his Spirit and offering every part of our bodies and lives to him, so that he can live and work through us. Then we’ll be ready, whenever he comes!
1) How does the Christian belief that Christ will come again affect our engagement with the problems of the world?
2) What hope do you have for the world? For yourself?