Introduction: There are many, ‘end-times’ enthusiasts who seek to peep into the future or to look for signs in the Heavens to try and discern Christ’s imminent return. Such ‘end-times’ fever has always been around! But Jesus clearly warns us against it when He tells us that, “it is not for you to know times and seasons” (Acts 1:7).
Mon/Tuesday: read Matthew 24:3-8 and Romans 8:22-25. The 12’s question about the time of Christ’s return may include some impatience that the kingdom had not yet visibly come. But the disciples’ looking forward to that Day is still to be commended. Would that many today cared enough about Christ’s return to be impatient for it! Many alas are absorbed with the things of this world, and seldom look up to ponder the coming of Christ in glory. What a contrast to a living faith, which waits expectantly for Christ’s return! As Romans 8 reminds us, the Christian is to groan along with all creation, waiting for the “redemption of his body” (Romans 8:23)! True hope, therefore, means feeding one’s soul by faith on the glory of Christ’s return when we do not as yet see it! As Paul concludes, “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25.)
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to help you to live in the tension of the ‘already and not yet’. May the Lord protect us from being like those who have such fervor and obsession with ‘the Last Things’ that they fall prey either to those who falsely claim to be the Christ, or to a ‘rapture fever’ that makes them so concerned about Christ’s imminent return that they fail to live industriously while down here. Just as there were those among the Thessalonians who had decided that working in this life was no longer necessary given Christ’s rapid return, so there are always false teachers who can distract us from living the daily Christian life of love and service.
Weds/Thurs: read John 13:3, 14:1-4 and 14:19. One key reason why we can rest in our Lord’s plan for the future, and quietly trust that He will prepare us for His Return, and will not leave us orphans, – is that it is Jesus Christ’s zeal for the Day of His Return which guarantees that we will be ready!
For example, look at Christ’s desire for us to be with Him – even as He thinks of His own journey to Heaven in John 13:3. Conscious that “He had come from God and was returning to God,” Jesus longed for His disciples, who had known so much of His humiliation and sufferings, to also see Him in His coming glory. He intended to blaze a trail for them and for us, taking His victorious, risen humanity up to Heaven to represent us there and then one day welcoming us to live with Him forever. Indeed, He promises His whole church that He has gone to “prepare a place of us,” (John 14:2) and He has prayed for us to be with Him there in His glory, as John 17:24 makes clear.
To quote one Puritan: “It is as if Jesus had said, “The truth is, I can’t live without you, I shall never be quiet till I have you where I am, so that we may never part again … Heaven shall not hold me, nor my Father’s company, if I have not you with me, my heart is so set upon you; if f I have any glory, you shall have part of it.” Thomas Goodwin (The Heart of Christ)
Meditate and Pray: Lord, how is it possible that so many in our day have end-times fears, acting as if readiness for Christ’s return is somehow up to us, when nothing else of our salvation can be attributed to our efforts to “be ready”? When we are without Christ, are we safe and spiritually able to find God? Yet Christ managed to find, call and save us! When we are in times of spiritual weakness and compromise, lying wounded with the blood of our own sins covering us, are we able to deliver ourselves from great danger? No, but Christ can always lead us out of danger! For IN ALL THESE THINGS, including the mystery and challenge of Christ’s Return – (which will be like “lightning in the sky”! And just who can prepare for that – see Matthew 24:27?!!?) – we are more than conquerors ONLY through Him who loved us! Praise God! Being ‘ready’ means relying on Christ Alone!
Fri/Sat/Sun: read Matthew 24:3-8 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1-13. There are many pressures against a balanced Christian life. Nowhere is the need for balance more needed than in handling the ‘eschatology’ of the Bible, a word which refers to the ‘Last Things’. We see Christians tempted to mishandle this most crucial of doctrines about Christ’s return in the following ways:
Consider how many fearfully conclude in our day that the return of Jesus “must be soon”. Their reasoning seems to be: “It can’t get much worse in the world than it is today. Surely such tumult and wickedness means that the end is nigh”. Other believers who speak often about Christ’s return fail to translate their concern into practical preparation for that day – functioning instead with an escapist attitude to life, obsessing more over what they call the prophetic passages in Scripture than in living the daily Christian life. Another form of this ‘escapism’ is to ignore the most basic, ethical commands of the New Testament in order to focus on ‘signs in the Heavens’, as if such wonders are needed for believers to be ready for Christ’s Return!
All these errors result in people being so feverish for Christ’s return that they flit from one Christian gathering to another or from one conspiracy theory to the next – as if the Christian life means simply being busy with the latest ‘end times fad’, instead of simply attending to the study of God’s Word, to faithful commitment to the local church and to diligent, quiet labor with their hands. This error led some to quit their jobs waiting for Christ’s imminent return. Paul warns such sternly in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12:
“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
Meditate and Pray: Lord, please give us a new discovery of joy in even the lowliest task which we do in your Name. Thank you that you have always promised your church that there would be room and opportunity to live significant lives for your glory down here. Thank you that we can do our daily, hum-drum jobs while in reality working for you as our boss. Help us then, to obey 1 Corinthians 10:31 in its exhortation for us to work for you in our every activity: “For whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all for God’s glory.” Help us to realize that the best way to be ready for Christ’s return is to be found “busy” in our earthly callings. May we thus experience the blessing of Matthew 24:45-46 when Christ finds us on His return:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.”
For further reflection: George Herbert writes about the domestic glory of the Christian life as follows in a famous poem entitled, ‘Elixir’:
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things Thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for Thee.
All may of Thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture—”for Thy sake”—
Will not grow bright and clean.