The soon-to-be-wed are typically excited about their upcoming marriage. Many have dreamed for years about this step of commitment, and once the date is set, they carefully plan every detail, eagerly awaiting the big day.
This is a good picture of how Christians should anticipate the Lord’s return. It’s more than a loose metaphor: Scripture refers to believers collectively as the bride of Christ and in more than a few places describes prophetic events in terms of Jewish wedding customs. For example, just before the crucifixion, Christ told the disciples He was going away to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house and would return to take them there (John 14:1-3). They would have recognized the reference to a newly engaged man returning to his father’s home to build an addition for his bride. When it was complete, he’d come for her. But since his wife-to-be didn’t know when he would return, she had to live in a state of constant readiness.
This is the attitude we, the bride of Christ, should have as we await our Bridegroom: The promise of Jesus’ return is our greatest hope. Yet we sometimes lose sight of this empowering reality, much like a betrothed couple more focused on wedding minutia than on the marriage itself: Instead of eagerly anticipating and watching for Christ’s coming, we let worldly cares, pursuits, and pleasures distract us. But Jesus repeatedly tells us to be ready and watching for His return.
Read 1 Thess. 4:13-18, 1 Thess. 5:1-11, and 2 Thess. 2:1-17
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what He wants you to take away from these passages. Then read the section, jotting down your first impressions: What questions do you have? Is anything confusing? Which verses speak into your present situation, and how?
It is quite difficult to be alert and ready for something that we know nothing about. Understandably, there will always be a degree of mystery regarding future events. However, Scripture contains enough concrete truths to help us know certain things that the Lord has in store and what He expects of us as we await His return.
Scripture contains enough concrete truths to help us know what the Lord expects of us as we await His return.
The first thing He expects is that His followers will be knowledgeable. Take another look at the passage from 1 Thessalonians 4, and notice that the apostle Paul began by writing, “We do not want you to be uninformed” (v. 13). He was writing to a very young church, yet he had taught them about the Lord’s return. This topic is not just for mature believers who know the Word of God well. Every Christian, no matter how new in the faith, should be informed about Jesus’ coming, thereby reaping the following benefits:
Comfort and hope. Paul reassured the Thessalonians that deceased believers would be resurrected first; then Christians still living would be caught up with their loved ones to meet Jesus in the air for a great reunion (vv. 13-18). Despite loss, knowing the future brought hope.
Relief from fear. In chapter five, Paul wrote that the day of the Lord would come suddenly, like a thief in the night, bringing destruction for those on the earth. “The day of the Lord” is a term used to describe a time of judgment in which God’s wrath will be poured out on sinful mankind. However, in 1 Thess. 5:3-5, Paul used pronouns to distinguish between those who would go through this time of tribulation (they) and the believers who would not (you).
We are destined not for wrath but for salvation.
Some Christians consider prophetic passages scary and avoid reading sections with “doomsday predictions.” But in reality, knowing prophecy actually frees us from fear and increases our joyful anticipation of Christ’s return. It is important to remember we are destined not for wrath but for salvation (1 Thess. 5:9).
Protection against false doctrine. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, Paul addressed a misunderstanding that was disturbing believers. Someone had told them the day of the Lord had already come and they were living in the midst of it. In response, the apostle warned them not to be deceived, outlined what would happen in the future, and urged them to stand firm in what they had been taught. Ignorance of prophecy always leaves us vulnerable to deception.
Write your thoughts in a journal.
Being ready for the Lord’s return involves much more than simply knowing the signs. Passages that inform us about events in the future also give us information about what to do while we wait.
• Be holy. According to 2 Peter 3:8-18, what will happen to all our impressive earthly accomplishments? What are God’s priorities for us as we wait? How do 1 John 2:28-29 and 1 John 3:1-3 tell us to prepare for Christ’s return?
• Be focused. Where are we to focus our thoughts (Col. 3:1-4)? What does Peter tell us to do, and where are we to fix our hope (1 Peter 1:13-16)? How will those who’ve loved Christ’s appearing be rewarded (2 Tim. 4:8)?
• Be faithful. In Luke 12:35-44, how did the faithful steward display readiness for the master’s return? What task are we to continue until the end of the age (Matt. 28:18-20)? How else can we be faithful until Christ comes (1 Peter 4:7-13)?
• It can be tempting to make ourselves at home here instead of longing for Jesus’ return. When you think about Christ’s coming, is it with eagerness, or would you prefer He delay awhile longer? What causes you to long for Jesus to come? What motivates you to want Him to tarry?
• Do you feel ready to meet Christ in the air? Have you been pursuing holiness, a heavenly focus, and faithfulness? If not, what do you need to do to prepare?
• A bride prepares and watches for her groom because she loves him. How does the marriage metaphor affect your desire for Jesus’ return? If you find you’re not eager for Him to come back, perhaps you need to spend time getting to know Him through His Word. Try reading through the Gospels. As you do, ask Christ to help you understand His Word, grow in your love for Him, and long for His return.