When I was a kid growing up in Florida, I remember the shock of being told that my grandmother was coming to visit from Puerto Rico. The sickening feelings I had in the pit of my stomach were akin to having a stomach flu, taking a test unprepared, or the worst of the worst: turning on the TV only to find out that the President was on . . . on all THREE channels!
Why did I feel this way? Simply because I didn’t know my grandmother the way my mother did. I perceived her visit as drudgery and a fate worse than death! It was something that I had to endure with gritted teeth, counting the days, not until she arrived, but until she left.
I remember my mother spending copious amounts of time speaking with my grandmother on the phone and writing her weekly 20- and 30-page letters, front and back, about everything that was happening in our family’s life. She spent hours looking over and organizing old photographs of her family and fondly reminiscing about her childhood experiences and her family.
Seeing the relationship they had, I guess I can understand why my mother was super-excited. As the time grew closer for my grandmother to arrive, my mother would almost levitate with joy. She would pull out our big family calendar in the kitchen and happily and hummingly (yes, I made that word up) mark the days off one by one.
As the days ticked down, she busied herself in deep and frenetic housecleaning, researching my grandmother’s favorite recipes, pulling out old photo books, and generally making everything perfect for my grandmother’s arrival.
Finally, the day came to pick up my grandmother from the airport. Mom made sure we were extra-clean and presentable—ugh, we even had to wear church clothes! As my mom got to the baggage claim area, she didn’t stop there. Oh, no, she kept on going until we were the very first ones lined up right outside the gate where my grandmother was to exit.
My brothers and I always got a kick out of seeing my mom’s giddiness and excitement as she waited. While we waited with her, she would regale us with tales of her childhood growing up in Puerto Rico.
Finally, the gate door would swing open, and among the thronging sea of heads, my mom would spot my grandmother. Predictably, my mother would abandon what was left of her already fleeting dignity by screaming out like a schoolgirl. My grandmother in response would also inappropriately scream out; then there would be many tears of joy, hugs, kisses, and painful squeezing—lots of squeezing.
Grandmother and Jesus
OK, maybe I exaggerated, but not much. You get the idea, don’t you? My mother knew, loved, and cherished my grandmother. When told she would be seeing her face-to-face, she just couldn’t contain her excitement and joy.
So why, when hit between the eyes with the reality that Jesus is coming back very soon, do so many people have apathetic, apprehensive, anxious, conflicted, or fearful responses? Many times I get outright “I don’t want Jesus to come” reactions.
Let me be more specific: I’ve been getting those responses from a lot of Christians! This is a BIG problem! Such reactions are to be expected from non-Christians, but shouldn’t we as Christians be excited, joyful, and even come a little unhinged with wild-eyed, frothy-mouthed enthusiasm that Jesus is clearly coming soon, in person, to see us?
Instead, I hear things like: “I don’t want Him to come . . . because I haven’t gotten married, had kids, gotten my first full-time job, gone to college,” etc., etc. The reasons are endless. Now, I’m not trying to be rude or act like I’m “Super Christian Man” or anything, but usually I just respond to their verbalizations with my mouth open. I mean, what am I supposed to say?
It’s Who You Know That Counts
Satan has fooled many Christians into thinking that what’s happening here and now on this broken-down earth is all there is. But it isn’t! The Apostle John warns us:
Don’t love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17, CEV)
You see, having a real relationship with Jesus is an “either-or” proposition; you can’t have it both ways.
Is it possible that those responses to Jesus’ coming are akin to my response to being told that my grandmother was coming to visit? Is it possible that there are many Christians who not only aren’t prepared for Jesus to come, but don’t really want Him to return because they simply don’t know Him?
Jesus spoke very clearly about this issue in Matthew 25, the chapter following His specific description of what events would happen prior to His return (see Matt. 24). In Luke 21, there is an alternate account of what Jesus told His disciples about the signs of His return. Take note of what the stark difference in response will be between those who know and don’t know Him:
People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (vss. 26-28, NIV, emphasis mine)
Jesus clearly didn’t intend for His followers to wait in fear and dread for His return! In fact, after telling His disciples that He wouldn’t be with them anymore, He reassured them with these words that I think we need to hear today: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. . . . Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:1, 27, NIV). And Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, reminds us that “[God] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isa. 26:3, NIV).
When I was a kid I was extremely afraid of the dark, but when I held my daddy’s hand, I wasn’t afraid at all. Monsters could jump out at me from the shadows and it wouldn’t faze me, because I knew the one who knew me, and he had my back. The same holds true for Christians who know Jesus. Their response to what’s presently happening in the world will be dictated by who’s holding their hand.
So let me ask you a question: Who’s holding your hand? I hope it’s Jesus, because if it isn’t, you won’t be able to get through any of what’s happening now or what’s to come.
The Apostle Peter, who initially threw Jesus under the bus, finally got his act together and got serious about knowing, loving, and living Jesus. When he did, he decided to write to Christians and remind us of the reality of what is to come:
My dear friends . . . I have written to encourage you to do some honest thinking. [I love it!] I don’t want you to forget what God’s prophets said would happen. . . . The day of the Lord’s return will surprise us like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a loud noise, and the heat will melt the whole universe. . . . Everything will be destroyed. So you should serve and honor God by the way you live. You should look forward to the day when God judges everyone, and you should try to make it come soon. [WHAT?!] On that day the heavens will be destroyed by fire, and everything else will melt in the heat. But God has promised us a new heaven and a new earth, where justice will rule. We are really looking forward to that! My friends, while you are waiting, you should make certain that the Lord finds you pure, spotless, and living at peace. (2 Peter 3:1-14, CEV, emphasis mine)
Please Come Soon!
So after reading that, how are you doing? Starting to feel some conviction? I sure am. Peter takes aim with both barrels and rightly readjusts both our perspectives and our paradigms. He says that not only should we be excited about Jesus’ return, but we should be working on becoming holier and should be working to make Jesus’ return come even sooner!
In Revelation 21, the second-to-last chapter of the last book of the Bible, the Apostle John, banished to the island of Patmos for sharing his faith, reminds us of Jesus’ soon return. He doesn’t want us to get so bogged down, so broken down, so discouraged, or so distracted that we forget that Jesus is coming soon!
John gives us this incredible description of what heaven will be like: “God’s home is now with his people. He will live with them, and they will be his own. Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever” (vss. 3, 4, CEV). John gives a resounding reminder that not only will we be living with God but we “will see him face to face” (Rev. 22:4, CEV).
So let me ask you a question: As you live your life, read the paper, watch the news, and witness all the things that have been prophesied happening before your very eyes, what is your response? Do you truly know Jesus? Are you excited, hopeful, and eager for Jesus to return? I certainly hope so.
When given those specific visions of what was to come, John’s response was what I hope yours and mine will be. Six simple but powerfully hopeful words: “So, Lord Jesus, please come soon!” (Rev. 22:20, CEV, emphasis mine).