Most Holy Matrimony

Will you be ready on the day Jesus interrupts human affairs to come back for His church?

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.

Lake of Klontal, after John Robert Cozens, 1752-99 (pencil & w/c on paper), by Joseph Mallord William Turner
 

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.

 

Reflect

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)?

 

Respond

• 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?

 

Revisit

• 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.

 
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1 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you.

2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

3 While they are saying, Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;

5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;

6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.

8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.

11 Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,

2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?

6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed.

7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming;

9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,

10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false,

12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace,

17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

3 While they are saying, Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;

5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,

12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,

16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,

18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

28 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,

15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;

16 because it is written, YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

35 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.

36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.

37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

38 Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

39 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into.

40 You too, be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."

41 Peter said, Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?"

42 And the Lord said, Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?

43 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;

13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

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