I Wish I Had Been Ready

“Syd, get a pencil and paper and pull up a chair.” 

Being a compliant kind of fellow, I promptly obeyed my old friend Chuck, with a tape measure in hand to set the forms for a concrete extension to our patio. 

Returning with paper and pencil, I prepared to write down measurements. But suddenly the patio construction seemed far away. Chuck looked me in the eyes and asked a pointed question about the return of Jesus Christ. 

It was one of those “when” questions, reminding me of the time when Jesus’ disciples asked about His second coming, in Matthew 24:3: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming at the end of the age?”

 It was a natural and expected question for the disciples, after what He’d just told them about the destruction of Herod’s temple. But it wasn’t the most important question at that moment, as Jesus made very clear in His response. 

Jesus offered a few brief signs that will precede His return. But for the most part, He told them, things would remain pretty much the same. Life would go on, just as it did before the great flood. In spite of Noah’s persistent warnings, everything was same-o same-o. Then came that first lightning strike—and a cloudburst beyond what anyone could dream or imagine. 

Jesus offered two certainties to His disciples. First, He told them that no one will know the day and hour of His return, except God the Father. The angels wouldn’t know and—at that moment—not even Jesus knew. (Neither do we, by the way.) The second truth He gave them was that the promise of Christ’s second coming in glory is absolutely certain—more certain than the existence of heaven and earth (Matthew 24:35).

Perhaps you’re wondering how I responded to Chuck’s question. I am certain it wasn’t the answer he anticipated—or the answer I would have given 40 years ago. 

Let me illustrate by sharing a hypothetical story.

Imagine that I am preparing for the trip of a lifetime. I’ve dreamed about it—talked about it—for as long as I can remember.  

The destination? Somewhere exotic, but without hordes of tourists. Probably not Australia or New Zealand (Now there’s A to Z.) Someplace much further from home. How about the first commercial flight to the moon or Mars?

I’ve read all the tourism brochures about the destination and the long flight. I’m aware of very strict weight limits on my luggage. I’ve made a reservation. The departure date has been set more than a year in advance, but I’m well aware that it is only tentative. One thing is certain: I must be prepared to depart with very short notice. If I’m not at the gate (launch pad) I don’t fly! It’s as simple as that.

That’s also the way it will be with the return of Christ. The very most important question about His coming is not when, but how. How should I live every moment so that I’m prepared for that instant departure?

Jesus answered that critical “how” question with a series of instructions to His disciples. Each command could be summarized in two words. Words such as, “stay awake!” Don’t be like a homeowner soundly sleeping while a thief breaks into his home. (Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:32-36)

Be faithful!” Don’t be caught by surprise like a servant caught messing around when the master unexpectedly returns. (Matthew 24:45-51)

Be prepared!” Don’t be caught sleeping like five potential wedding guests with empty oil lamps when the wedding processional begins. (Matthew 25:1-13)

Invest wisely!” Don’t be like the worthless servant that buried his master’s resources in the dirt. Here I am also reminded of Jesus’ instructions in His first recorded sermon—the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-25) Jesus added another example of investing in people by serving them unselfishly. It may be as simple as sharing water or food or words of encouragement. (Matthew 25:31-46)

So how did I answer Chuck’s question as I sat there with pen and paper? 

I briefly shared that when it comes to many of the finer details related to Christ’s return, we ought to be careful before speaking dogmatically. It is much better and wiser to say something like, “As I understand Scripture. it appears to me that such and such will occur.” But I also shared with Chuck that there are specific truths we can claim with complete confidence. Like money in the bank.

Jesus will return someday, just as He promised. 

His coming will be literal, physical, visible and glorious. 

And it could happen at any moment—perhaps while Chuck was working on the patio. Perhaps as you are reading these words.

The right response, then, is not to argue and debate the details surrounding these prophetic events. The best plan is to live with the strong conviction that Jesus could appear at any moment. The proof that I believe in the future return of Christ will be in my actions—how I live my life.

The bottom line is that I ought to live in such way that I can truly anticipate Jesus’ arrival. I need to live out my days anticipating the sweetest words we could ever hear: “Well done, faithful servant.” Otherwise, we may find ourselves saying, “I wish I’d been better prepared.” 

If you are yet not a follower of Christ, why not repent of sin and place all your confidence and trust in Him and what He accomplished when He died in your place?

Now is the time!

Don’t ever find yourself exclaiming, “I wish I’d been ready!”

“Come, Lord Jesus.” (But Maybe Not Today?)

Honest question. Do you and I really believe that Jesus might return soon? Perhaps this very day? Before you finish reading these words? 

Followers of Jesus have always anticipated Christ’s promised return. That blessed hope, that fervent anticipation, has sustained believers through persecution for two millennia. Today thousands of Christians are suffering severe persecution—even death—but continue to hold tightly to the promise of Christ’s return and the rewards to follow.

I often hear professing Christians bemoan the present condition of the world and, with a sigh, they add, “Thank God, Jesus is coming very soon.” 

Those words seem to communicate both hope and faith that the present trials will soon end. But sometimes I wonder. Do we actually believe that He could come TODAY? Our actions, not our words, demonstrate whether or not we truly expect to hear the trumpet call any moment.

So how should we live if we truly expect Jesus to return any moment? 

Good question. If fact, that’s what the apostle Peter asked. He said, “What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…? (2 Peter 3:11).

I offer four priorities to consider.

Be prepared! Don’t be caught by surprise.

When His disciples asked Jesus when He would return and what signs would precede it, He responded,“Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:36, 37, ESV). That suggests Jesus could return any moment. 

Meanwhile, Jesus said life on earth would continue pretty much as it was before the great flood. People would continue to eat and drink, to marry and have families “until the day Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man(Matthew 24:38, emphasis mine).

Jesus then shared several down-to-earth stories to illustrate how people will be caught by surprise when He returns. People going about their daily routines like planting or harvesting or cooking a meal, will be shocked by His sudden appearance. His coming will be like a thief breaking into a home at night while everyone feels safe. His coming will catch people by surprise, just like careless or crooked servants are caught red-handed when their master unexpectedly returns early. He went on to paint a word picture of wedding guests falling into slumber while waiting for a tardy bridegroom to arrive—and being excluded from the ceremony. (You can read these stories in Matthew 24:35-25:30.)

What’s the bottom line of each illustration? Don’t be caught by surprise. “Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).

Be patient! Persevere! 

Most of us humans (and me for sure) tend to lose patience over long waiting times. In our “instant gratification culture” we can have almost anything we want whenever we want it. If the local store doesn’t have something, try Amazon. You can have it delivered to your front door tomorrow morning. Just this afternoon While editing this blog I left to run an errand. When I drove up to the drive-in teller at our local bank, there was only one person in front of me so I assumed it wouldn’t take long. However, after what seemed to be ten minutes, it was finally my turn. Meanwhile I had been grousing about the poor service and arguing with myself as to whether I should just back up and return some other day. 

It’s tough to wait when we are used to fast food and email rather than snail mail. The same can happen as we wait for Christ’s return.

If John in the First Century, expected Christ to return at any moment, where is He? Has His departure been delayed like a plane grounded in fog? The problem is that we may begin to feel like the mocking skeptics that Peter warned about:

“… I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”

Peter continues:
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief”…
(2 Peter 3:1–10, ESV).

James adds: “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7–8, ESV, emphasis mine).

Did you catch that last statement?  “Be patient. Establish your hearts…” Let us never allow the routine of life to dull our enthusiastic anticipation for Christ’s return.

Pursue holiness.

Peter asks the big question: “…What sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God … Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation… (2Peter 3:10–14, ESV). 

John agreed as he wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3, ESV). 

 “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:13–21, ESV, emphasis mine). 

Provide for a secure retirement.  

There is a commercial on TV that shows a former actor lovingly fingering a stack of gleaming gold coins. Looking into the camera, he tells us how important it is to buy gold and store it away “in these uncertain times.” Lowering his voice, he adds, “I even like the feel of gold.” 

Yes, gold might feel nice. But Jesus warned against living as if material things are permanent—and as if money or treasures can be tucked safely away for my future here on earth. If I live that way, counting on my bank account or IRA or gold buried in the back yard, I’m really living as if I don’t expect Jesus to return. At least not in my lifetime. But if I truly, genuinely believe Christ could come today, it will be reflected in my bank account, my portfolio and my final testament and will. Hear Jesus’ words:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:32-34, ESV, emphasis mine).

What I treasure, what I value most, reveals where my heart is focused. There’s no getting around it.

This world offers so many pleasant distractions and material things—especially to us living in America. As a result, it is deceptively easy to find ourselves living as if this is all there is. No future, no eternity—just today. We begin to invest our resources in things we enjoy now. We set aside a generous “nest egg” for our retirement. To any honest observer, we are living as if Jesus won’t be returning anytime soon. 

Do you really believe that Jesus may return soon? Possibly by 2:00 p.m. today or tonight at 12:30? 

Caution: before you answer affirmatively, ask yourself if your actions support your words.


  • Am I prepared to meet Him with confidence, or will I be caught by surprise?
  • Am I persevering during the long wait, or is the counsel of the skeptics influencing me? (Was I anticipating Christ’s return while I was fussing over the lack of service at the bank today?)  
  • Am I pursuing holiness? Recently a well-known author and apologist died. Rumors about sexual abuse—once denied—are now being authenticated by several witnesses. Did this man truly believe that He could be face to face with Jesus at any moment? I can’t say, but his actions seem to nullify it. Live each day, make every decision about things you choose to do or to see, based on the grid that Jesus might return.
  • Provide for a secure future by investing in things that God values. Share your abundance with the poor, the widow, the orphan and the refugee. Making a difference in this world is evidence that I believe there is another world to come—an eternal home in the presence of God.

We Shall Behold Him

So what’s my favorite picture of Jesus?

Over the past few weeks we have considered some of our favorite descriptions of Jesus—such as touching a man filled with leprosy or hugging the little children that the disciples felt unworthy of His time and attention. Last week we reflected on Jesus’ hands, washing the feet of His friends at the Passover Dinner. The next day His hands and feet were nailed to the cross. 

So how would you describe Jesus?                                                              

Obviously, nobody has actually taken a photo of Jesus.  No first century artist painted His picture or considered this rabbi significant enough to chisel His likeness in stone, as they did with Caesar and other famous leaders. Centuries before He was born, the prophet Isaiah told us that “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:1, nasb).

Even the men who wrote the four gospels, who walked with Him over the course of several years, didn’t include a physical description of Jesus. We might wish they had, but they didn’t. So we can probably conclude that He looked like any other ordinary man.

Fortunately, the Bible contains descriptions of things Jesus did or said that help us identify with Him—to put a face on Him, if you will. Without these stories we wouldn’t know whether He was kind and gentle or harsh. Was He an extrovert or more reserved?  Did He prefer to hang out near the temple with the respected religious leaders, or was He comfortable around sinners? A resounding, “Yes!” to the last option. In fact, the elite religious accused Him of being a “friend of sinners.” These eyewitness accounts affirm that tax-collecting thieves and women of ill repute or those possessed by demons were part of His social circle. (Of course, each of these had been rescued and set free by Jesus.)

Mark summarized Jesus’ life in one descriptive sentence: “He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

We find it easy to love the Jesus who was tender and kind-hearted—the healer and helper. We admire the great teacher who held multitudes spellbound with His simple, but probing, stories. Who wouldn’t admire Jesus the great miracle worker who fed a multitude with a boy’s small lunch?

We respect the Jesus who could have called an army of angelic warriors, but chose to die alone for sinners like us. We celebrate His victory over death—dedicating the first day of each week as The Lord’s Day and one day each year as resurrection Sunday. Every time we observe the Lord’ Supper the words, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” draw our minds back to His sacrificial death. That’s it! That’s the key! Remember Jesus for who He is and what He has done—for giving His life for us.

So, what’s my favorite picture of Jesus?

My very favorite picture of Jesus hasn’t yet been taken, but I know it will be the most splendid and glorious of all pictures in my memory album.

I love Jesus for all the above reasons and many more. I create mental pictures of Him when I read the gospels or sing songs about Him, and that’s good. But I am saving room in my Jesus memory album for one more picture—not of something that He has done but for something He has promised to do. 

At the Passover dinner, Jesus shocked His disciples when He said that He would die the next day. Then He added that they were to remember Him whenever they ate the bread and drank from the cup. The cup and the bread are like a photo of a loved one. You know what I mean. You focus on that photograph—that thin slice of time—and you remember that person and what he or she means to you. Remembering them can be comforting.

Jesus also gave His disciples something to anticipate.

Anticipation and hope are vital to our mental and physical health—sometimes even our survival. When life is very severe, some people may lose hope and choose death over life. 

Prisoners of war, such as those in the Nazi concentration camps have endured terrible conditions. Each had water, food and oxygen—the essentials for life—yet many died while others survived horrible abuse. The secret?  Those who survived had hope—something to anticipate: being rescued and returning home. The book and the movie, “Unbroken,” tell the story of Louis Zemperini. Louis spent 47 days adrift in a life raft with three fellow Americans after their bomber crashed into the ocean. He was eventually captured and incarcerated in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, where he was tortured and brutalized for almost two years. But he never lost hope that the Allies would win the war and set him free. That’s the sustaining power of hope.

I believe all the stories in the Bible have been stitched together with hope. The first promise in the Bible, in Genesis 3:15, is a promise that the “seed of the woman” (that we now know is Jesus Christ) would someday destroy the serpent (Satan). The battle between the serpent and the Son of the woman would be severe. It would even appear that the serpent had won when they buried Jesus, but His resurrection would ultimately seal Satan’s doom forever. 

Godly people of faith have clung to that promise throughout Scripture, enabling them to survive the most severe challenges. The promise was passed from generation to generation—from people like Seth, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets. The older testament closes with an affirmation that the promised seed would come; the newer testament opens with the announcement of the birth of the promised seed to a young Jewish virgin. The gospels tell about his life, death and resurrection and conclude with another promise that Jesus would return again. The Book of Acts opens with an angel promising Jesus’ disciples: “This same Jesus will come in the same manner.”  

I can imagine, as Jesus was being visibly lifted up into heaven, the disciples standing with mouths gaping in wonder. The promise that Jesus would return became the motivating factor that sustained the apostles through persecution and even martyrdom. 

The New Testament letters reverberate with the promise that we also will someday rise again to new life when Christ returns. It’s called the “blessed hope and glorious appearing” of the Christ.

The Book of The Revelation is just that—an unveiling of Jesus as both lion and lamb, sovereign and savior. Revelation closes with the most glorious descriptions of Jesus Christ:

 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Revelation 19:11–16, ESV) 

No matter how we may interpret these verses, the point is clear: Jesus will return as the warrior king and righteous judge. His judgments will be severe. 

The imagery changes from the warrior Jesus riding on a white warhorse to Jesus, the King of Kings seated on a white throne. 

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.  (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV)

How would you describe the above scene? Solemn? Dreadful? Threatening? Yes! No matter if a person is powerful and famous or insignificant, each will stand before the Great Judge to be judged on the basis of what they have done in this life. My name is written in that book. Yours, also.

The following paragraphs in The Revelation describe a renewed heaven and earth where God will again dwell among His people as He did in the Garden so long ago. Try to imagine that scene!

Even more amazing are these words: “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:4,5, ESV)

Then this amazing promise from the lips of Jesus himself: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Revelation 22:12, 13, ESV)

Finally, the Bible closes with this grand invitation: 

The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. …He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”  (Revelation 22:17, 20, ESV)

How should we respond to such a person and such a promise? Can there be better words than these? “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” (Revelation 22:20, ESV)

And that is our hope. That is our strong motivation to stand strong through whatever storms threaten to destroy us. 

Yes, sometimes life may feel like a prison. The culture around us seems to be rapidly disintegrating—wrong is right and right is mocked. Trusted friends betray. Health breaks. We feel like we’re adrift in a sinking boat on a stormy sea. All hope is sinking with the boat.

In times like these, when life feels hopeless, where shall we turn? To whom? 

How about reflecting on this promise? Jesus will return, perhaps today, and we shall behold Him face to face. In that moment, we won’t wonder anymore about “what He looks like.” No, we will actually see Him face to face in all His glory—no longer just another ordinary man—but glorious, majestic, indescribably beautiful!

 Imagine our first impression—our response—the truly over-the-top emotions. There are no words in human language suitable to describe His beauty or to measure our emotional response.

That blessed hope should sustain us in the midst of trials.  

I realize the song may be dated, but I believe you will be encouraged by listening to Sandi Patti signing Dottie Rambo’s, We Shall Behold Him. 

Sandi Patty – We Shall Behold Him (Official Live Video) – Bing video

Is the Bride Ready?

A friend recently asked me how many funerals and memorial services I have officiated after more than 45 years of pastoral ministry.

“Many,” I replied. Then I surprised my friend by adding, “But I really prefer memorial services to weddings.”

“Why?” he asked.

I went on to explain that people usually come to memorial services with a deep sense of need. They’re ready to hear eternal truths. In the presence of death, some are ready to make changes in life. People ought to be just as aware of their need for God at a wedding, but mostly they’re just distracted. They’re curious about what the bride will be wearing when she comes down the aisle.

Of course everything is well rehearsed, and meant to run like clockwork.  In premarital counseling I tell couples (somewhat jokingly) that the ceremony is hers to plan. The groom just needs to show up and do as he’s told.

I have never officiated a wedding when we had to wait for the groom. He usually walks in with me. But there have been several weddings where everyone waited patiently for the bride to appear. The dressing room for the bride, I suspect, can be a whirlwind of activity. Her hair must be just right, the veil securely in place, and the train firmly attached. The list of preparations goes on and on, because her entrance is what everyone anticipates. At the first sight of the bride or the first rustle of her beautiful gown, everyone stands.

With these things in mind, I want to turn our attention on the Front Porch to a far more significant subject than a wedding ceremony: the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to earth.

Prophecy about the second coming or return of Jesus has periodically been a front-burner topic among Evangelical believers. In the 1960s and 70s, the second coming was a hot topic, driven by books and prophetic conferences. Hal Lindsey’s 1973 book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was popular and influential, selling over 28 million copies by 1990.

As a new and very young pastor I was caught up in the prophetic current of the day. I could draw all the “right” lines on the prophetic charts and defend the pre-millennial and pre-tribulational view. I was so convinced of the imminent return of Christ that one of my articles, published in The Shoppers Compass, a paper distributed to every home in Morrow County, was titled, “The Sound of The Seventies—a Trumpet.” Obviously, this was a reference to the trumpet announcing Jesus’ return.

Books about the end times still sell well, as authors and TV preachers continue to beat the prophetic drum. Some of those teachers and preachers have gone off the rails, however, by attempting to set a firm calendar date for the Lord’s return.

It will never work. Jesus said it wouldn’t.

I still believe Christ will literally return to earth to rule and to mete out judgment, because that is clearly taught in Scripture. Jesus promised to return. After His resurrection, while His followers watched Him ascend into heaven, they heard the angel ask why they were standing there, mouths agape, gazing up into the clouds. Then the angel promised that this “same Jesus” would return someday in the same manner—visibly and bodily.

So we wait and watch. Like a congregation craning their necks, waiting for the beautiful bride to appear and to approach her groom, true believers are to be watching for our Lord’s return to receive His bride, the church. He could appear any moment. We call that imminent. It could be today or tomorrow or any day. We don’t know and can’t predict just when He will appear. But we can be assured that He will come as He promised.

Questions fly: Will He precede or follow the great Tribulation—or maybe come in the midst?

Two things are certain: Those prophecy prognosticators with their opposing views can’t all be correct, and may all be wrong. Second, we can be certain it will happen just as God Has promised and planned all along.

Would I still compose and publish that article about the sounds of the 70s? Certainly not with the confidence and audacity I had as a very young pastor trained and deeply engrained as I was in one particular prophetic school of thought. Back then I was convinced (or so I thought) that Jesus would return momentarily and a time of great tribulation would shake the world and every civilization to the core. Since then, men who once wrote books “proving” a pre-tribulation rapture of the church are now writing books suggesting Jesus will return in the middle of the tribulation period. I wonder, did God change His schedule? Of course not! Absurd!

Long ago, I surrendered my bold confidence that I had all the lines on my prophecy chart drawn correctly. I still believe Jesus is coming again. I still believe it could happen any day or moment. But these days when I am asked by a prophetic enthusiast about my position, I respond differently.

First, I try to point out that every prophetic utterance in Scripture is either preceded or followed by a “therefore.” For example, Jesus challenged His disciples to watch and pray when they saw world-shattering events taking place. We are admonished not to be anxious but confident and prepared like the “wise virgins” in the parable in Matthew 25. In other words, don’t get lulled into sleep while waiting. And don’t follow the logic of the critics in 2 Peter 3:3-4 who confidently mock something like, “Where is His coming? Nothing has changed; nothing will. His return ain’t gonna happen!” Jesus, having affirmed that “heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will not pass away,” warned against falling into the same deception as the generation preceding Noah’s flood.

Then I consider John’s warning: “But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3-4, esv)

So where do I stand on the questions about Jesus’ return? I do have my opinions about the time and circumstances, but mostly I just hold onto the confidence that He will return, because He said He would. My job isn’t to know all the details, my job is to be prepared for His coming.

What I truly believe about Jesus’ return will be evident in my daily life—in my choices and actions. In other words, don’t ask me to tell you what I believe about the return of Jesus, rather watch me. See if I truly anticipate His imminent return or am simply spouting the party line.

I wonder…. If we who claim to believe in Jesus would put our actions where our mouths are, how might the contemporary Church be transformed? Would it affect our preaching? Would it impact the way we share our resources with the hungry and with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe? Would it influence my choice about how many of my material possessions are necessary or even justified? Would we lay aside our denominational prejudices? Would the divorce rate and sexual failures within the church drop if we believed Jesus might return today? Would pastors be hesitant to preach about hell if they really believed Jesus might return before the message concluded?

Granted, those are some tough questions. But they are also necessary if we want to speak with integrity when we talk about our hope in the imminent return of Jesus.

Is the bride ready—if her Bridegroom returned today? What’s the state of our preparation or anticipation?

That’s the question.

Our lives will reveal what we really believe about our Lord’s return.

“Everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.


What I am reading: 2 Samuel

AI Superpowers China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Lai-Fu Lee

Letters to The Church, Francis Chan