Jesus' Appearing

cropped-kumamoto-japan-aso-cloud-45848-large-jpeg.jpg I could think of nothing else.

I even tried extra cleaning around my house, but to no avail.

We met on eHarmony months earlier and now our relationship had turned into a romance. Ruth lived three hours away so sometimes weeks would go by without seeing her. But now she was on her way to see me and I eagerly awaited her arrival.

What if we anticipated the arrival of our Savior in a similar way?

The apostles taught New Testament believers to live in eager anticipation of Jesus’ appearing. This hope brought a joy-filled two-world perspective that not only transformed their daily lives, but enabled them to literally change the world.

Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Paul characterized believers as recipients of grace who looked for the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.

The apostle reported this same connection with the Gospel on the part of the Thessalonians, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). The natural consequence of turning away from idols to serve God was that of expectantly watching for the Lord’s appearing. In both verses above, Paul equates belief in the Gospel with an eager anticipation of Jesus’ return for His church.

A recent GEICO commercial portrays a spy fleeing from both armed men and a helicopter. His phone rings as his adversaries appear ready to capture him. Thinking the call is from those coming to rescue him; he answers the phone shouting “Where are you?” We then see and hear his mom calmly talking about squirrels in the attic after which the narrator says, “If you’re a mom, you call at the worst time. It’s what you do.” Reflecting on what Paul said in Titus and 1 Thessalonians, we might expect him to say something similar: “If you believe the Gospel message of grace, you live in expectancy of Jesus’ appearing. It’s what you do.”

Philippians 3:20 states, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word Paul used for “await” in this verse denotes “intense anticipation” and an “excited expectation” of a future event.[i] This word implies eagerness and even a longing in our hearts for a future event. The same word is used in Acts 17:16 of Paul’s restless longing for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him. After the apostle’s recent troubles in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, he very much desired to see them again. In Philippians, Paul applies this same deep longing to our anticipation of Jesus’ appearing.

The Apostle Peter instructs us to focus our hope entirely on the “grace” to be brought to us at Jesus’ appearing. “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” (I Pet. 1:13). Jesus’ future appearing is our hope in this life. As believers, we focus our hope on the grace to be brought to us when Jesus appears to take us home. It’s what we do.

Our hope does not reside in anything in this life. Everything we see is fleeting and temporal. Earthly treasure can evaporate overnight. Politics and leaders continually disappoint us. Our hope resides solely in Jesus and His return to take us home to be with Him.

1 John 3:2-3 says, “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.” When Jesus appears and we see His great glory, He will transform us to be like Him. This anticipation of Jesus’ appearing works to transform us, it purifies us.

From this sampling of verses, we see the apostles repeatedly direct the focus of our hope toward Jesus’ appearing. As believers, we wait in joyous anticipation of seeing Jesus face to face. Why would the apostles keep directing hope of the early church to Jesus’ return for His church if was not a possibility in their lifetimes? Nearly 2,000 years ago the early church waited with the realization they could see Jesus at any moment (see 1 Thess. 4:15). We walk in that same anticipation today; the delay has not diminished the reality of this hope or our anticipation of the joy of seeing our Savior face to face.

[i] Brown, Colin, editor, Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969) p. 244.

(Excerpt from The Thrill of Hope)