The Blessedness of the Lord’s Return
“Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake…” (See Revelation 16:15, RSV).
The return (or second coming) of Jesus is one of the great doctrines/themes of the Bible. In studying this teaching many devise complicated schemes using maps, charts, and timetables which are far more complicated than the simple, straight-forward proclamation of Jesus himself. The text in Revelation 16:15 mercifully gives us a very simple agenda.
First, there is the promise of Jesus. His message is, “Behold, I come”. Here we have the words of Jesus, the testimony of scripture, the symbolism of the ordinances, and the declaration of The Apostles’ Creed summarized in a single, brief statement. The “Parousia” (Coming of a King) is not a theological hobbyhorse – it is a central theme of New Testament teaching. Did he mean what he said? Throughout the Christian centuries there have been many efforts to explain, if not explain away, this prophecy. Writers have concluded that he must have been referring to Christian conversion or the coming of the Holy Spirit or the spread of the Gospel or the death of a believer. Yet, a definitive (and inescapable) text is found in Acts 1:11, where the disciples are told “this same Jesus, who is taken up from you, shall come again in like manner as you have seen him go”. It is a clear statement regarding a personal. visible, literal return of Christ. We are told he will come “like a thief”. That claim is also found in Matthew, 1 Thessalonians, and 2 Peter. How does a thief come? Suddenly and unexpectedly! Do you schedule a thief? Does a thief call for an appointment? Does a thief rent a billboard in Lake City and give the specific date of his coming? Jesus said, “I will come . . . as a thief.”
Second, we must consider the preparations for his coming. The first preparation is to believe – to exercise faith – to become a follower of Jesus. No one is prepared for his return as Lord who has not responded to his first coming as Savior. God’s plan and desire is that all come to faith. The other preparation for his return is to BEHAVE! We are to “watch” – that is, be on guard and look for his appearance. This enables us to “keep our garment” – not to be caught unprepared (half-dressed). J. Vernon McGee said, “Don’t lose your shirt!” Live as though Jesus is watching and may arrive at any moment.
The return of Jesus is described in two ways in the Bible. For those who are unprepared it is “the terrible day of the Lord”. For those who know, expect, and are prepared for him, it is the “blessed hope”. We get to choose which it will be. What will it be for you?
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.