Last night one of our interns, Michael Crepps, finished our latest series based on a portion of Luke’s Gospel (we referred to the series as Kindle – as in a spark that lights a movement). This portion of Luke’s narrative focuses on Jesus speaking to the crowd about specific ways of being his disciple – whether it be the way we deal with our prayer, priorities, pride, hearts, possessions, or worry. Crepps focused in on the portion dealing with the importance of Christ followers being prepared for his return.
Jesus taught, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 8:35-40, ESV).
First of all, it is vitally important that we talk about the Second Coming. Being a Pentecostal means that we hold to the conviction of Jesus as Savior, Baptizer, Healer, and Coming King. Too often we are guilty of zeroing in one aspect over the others. They all speak of the transformational work of Christ – and of the mission that we have been entrusted with. We have to find ways to present this message in a holistic matter – and in a way that compels the church to be the church in an age desperate for Good News.
Here is what I find most surprising about this passage – who he addressed and how he addressed them. Consider this . . . he was speaking to a crowd of people that was largely made up of disciples or at least those who had some religious background. This differs a bit from my experiences. Most “end times” fiction/film/sermons that I have heard have largely been geared towards those who are seeking the truth but have not yet responded. Not that I am necessarily against such media or messages . . . but the goal of such works have largely been to bring forward an urgent call for individuals to come to a place of repentance . . . so that they are not “left behind” etc. But it seems to me that Jesus rarely, if ever, used his return as a way of calling people to a relationship. He instead would call them to follow him NOW – to leave behind their rebellion and commit to him out of commitment. He was pointing people to the Cross (not the Sky).
His Return was not to spark fear in the seekers but faithfulness and fruitfulness in the committed. He was calling the listener to be ready . . . not just in right relationship – but in right action. He was calling his disciples to be in a stance of urgency. Go. Show Christ you are ready by being about his Message and Mission. It is not enough that you know the truth – give the truth to others. The idea of the Second Coming is not for the unbeliever (they must know the First Coming) – but that the church might be compelled to be about the commission of connecting all generations to God.
And when and if we do preach the Second Coming – whether it be to those who know Christ or not – may we share the entire story. It breaks my heart to think there are so many in our churches – those who are even in right relationship with Jesus – who are deathly afraid of the Return. Yes, I know that there are going to be terrible things that take place on earth as we approach the last of the last days (there are terrible things happening now for that matter) . . . but I also know that as darkness spreads . . . the light looks that much more bright. I also know how it ends . . . or how it begins again.
In fact, I know that even now we see glimpses of that glory. I write this blog with a heavy heart. My wife’s grandmother is very close to passing away . . . it could happen at any time. There will be a time of separation. Of good-byes. And yet, death no longer has the last word. The bible reads, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'” (Revelation 21:1-4, ESV).
Sounds like good news to me. Here is the paradox . . . as the church, we want Christ to come NOW but we want our friends, family, and (especially) our enemies to come to him FIRST. We know the Return is imminent. It could happen at any moment. This excites us. This motivates us. So we second the prayer of John when we say, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20, ESV).