Summary: Coming! We Have His Word. 1) Scoffers foolishly deny it; 2) Believers happily anticipate it.
“Just a minute!” Children, do your parents say that to you when you’re trying to get their attention? Do you find that a minute stretches into two minutes, then five minutes, even ten minutes before your parents finally see what you want? It’s frustrating isn’t it? Well I wonder if we Christians don’t feel that same frustration regarding Jesus’ promise to reappear? Before he ascended into heaven Jesus said that he would return soon. Well that was over two thousand years ago and he has yet to reappear. Has Jesus forgotten his promise? No. Our text says that we have God’s Word on his coming. While scoffers foolishly deny this, believers happily anticipate it.
Already thirty-five years after Jesus’ promise to return, Christians had to put up with taunts that their savior was either absent or absent-minded. The Apostle Peter assured his readers that he is neither. Peter wrote: “ 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The reason Jesus has not returned yet is because of his patience. God doesn’t want anyone to have to face his wrath but wants all to come to repentance and be saved. Notice how Peter said that God is patient with you (2 Peter 3:9). Can you think of a time in your life when you were glad that Jesus didn’t return because had he returned then you would have been lost eternally? Thank God for his patience! Thank him for waiting until the Holy Spirit worked repentance, and faith in our hearts.
But now that we believe in Jesus why doesn’t he return already? I’ve often had that thought but it’s actually a selfish one. It’s like being thankful that the last bus home from downtown waited even though I was late for it, but then getting angry when the bus driver insists on waiting a couple more minutes for other stragglers. In the same way when we get upset that God is taking so long in coming, we’re actually angry at God for being patient. We also show that we don’t care what happens to others as long as we make it to heaven.
Instead of complaining that God is so long in coming, why not do something to speed his arrival? Really? We can do that? Yes! When God works through us to spread his Word among unbelievers, hearts are changed, and the elect are brought to faith. The sooner all the elect are brought to faith, the sooner Jesus will reappear. That’s something to think about the next time we’re tempted to cut back on our outreach efforts here or on the money we send to synod for mission work. It’s a truth that makes us see our church in a new light. This is not a place for refuge from the world as much as it is a training center from which we go out into the world with the Word.
What else should we do besides mission work as we await Christ’s return? Peter tells us: “You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:11b-14).
Since Jesus could return at any time we want to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to him. Would you say that you are doing that, or are you stubbornly holding on to some sin? For example do you look forward to thanking Jesus in person for his forgiveness while refusing to forgive siblings for something they said or did years ago? Do you look forward to giving Jesus a big hug but refuse to extend the hand of love to people here? Do you long to hear Jesus’ voice while refusing to listen to him speak to you now through the pages of Scripture regarding a particular doctrine? If so, we are not ready for his return. We’re like a French admiral who surrendered to the English admiral Nelson. When the Frenchman approached Nelson he smiled and extended his hand. Nelson replied: “No, your sword first.” And so it is with us who extend the hand of friendship to Jesus while refusing to let go of our vices. The Bible says that it cannot be this way. Extending the hand of friendship to Jesus means first handing over our sins. It means breaking off the handshake with the devil before we turn to grasp Jesus’ hands.