The quickness of his return

Studying this weeks Sabbath school lesson I considered how often we say “Jesus is coming soon.” But when I looked “soon” is not an adjective that is ever applied to the second coming (at least not in the KJV). What I found is that Jesus comes “quickly.” I was surprised to realize the familiar phrase was not a Biblical one and looked a little closer to see if the idea it conveyed was there or not.

“Jesus is coming soon” is often something said for encouragement to believers. “This life is tough, but take heart, these trials will soon pass when we are caught up in the clouds.” But the first two times we read that Jesus comes quickly it is a warning, and not related to the second coming.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. – Revelation 2:5 KJV

So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. – Revelation 2:15,16 KJV

Speaking to the church of Ephesus, Jesus warns that if they do not repent and return to their first works of love he will remove their candlestick, their position as a source of light, and he will do so quickly. Likewise the church of Pergamos is called to repent, or else Christ will fight against those following after a false doctrine. A softer warning is given to the church of Philadelphia who does not need to repent, but must continue on their current course to keep their blessing. “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Revelation 3:11 KJV

The quickness of Jesus here is not for comfort but for caution. We find the same idea in Revelation 3:3.

Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. – Revelation 3:3 KJV

Now the focus is on the unexpectedness of the coming. Though Jesus’ purpose is to give us life and not steal, if we are unprepared for his coming we will find all has been lost. This same message applies to the second coming in which Jesus comes both quickly (Revelation 22:7,12,20) and as a thief (Matthew 24:43,44, Luke 12:39,40, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 16:15). Likewise this same message is given to warn and not to comfort.

There is a danger in taking comfort that Jesus is coming soon as it appeals to our selfish nature. We don’t need to fully rely on God in the dangers of this world because he’ll come and whisk us away before things get too bad. We don’t need to put in the hard work of building a stable foundation for future generations because there won’t be any. We don’t need to take that mission call to build a network of health centers because Jesus will come before we can even get started.

I’ve heard stories of places that have had to rebuild for great expense because building were made cheaply as no one thought they needed to last. I’ve met a student who struggled spiritually, unprepared to face adult life, because he thought Jesus would have come before he went to college. And I, though perhaps not consciously, have passed over dreams because they seemed too grand to accomplish in a short time.

When we consider Jesus’ coming it should not be looked at in a selfish light, looking to get out of the hard work and escape the trials of this world because the nearness of his coming will cut short the work. Rather our focus should be on souls, and seeing that none is surprised by the quickness of his coming. If there is any delay, it is because God desires that more would repent and turn to him (2 Peter 3:9). And if there is any hastening, it is because the gospel has gone to more to give them the opportunity to choose Christ (Matthew 24:14).

If the quickness of his coming is not a comfort but a warning, then what are we called to? Numerous times we are called to watch (Matthew 24: 42,43, Mark 13:32-37, 1 Thessalonians 5:6, Revelation 16:15). This isn’t a call to watch for the visible signs of his return. Every eye will see him (Revelation 1:7) so there is no need. Further, the disciples were called away from looking up into heaven after Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:11). Rather we see watching in connection with being awake and ready. Like a parent waiting for their child to come home at night, they meet them at the door when they first arrive. They are ready for their return because they have been ready the entire time that they waited.

There are many ways in which we can be ready, but one is striking as it connects with the imagery of a thief.

Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. – Luke 12:33,39 KJV

Though Jesus is like a thief because of the unexpectedness of his coming, not because he steals from us, there will still be a great loss for those who are unprepared. The loss will be greater than if our whole house was laid bare. If we lay up our treasures on Earth they will all be lost when Jesus comes. But worse yet, we will be lost with them (Luke 12:45,46).

Instead we are called to use our money, our profession, our time, our skills, and all that we have, not for ourselves. We are to use it for others that they too may enjoy fellowship with God, and have eternity to live with him. By focusing every detail of our life on serving others for Jesus we will always be ready, always watching for his return. And we will be ready to join him in heaven.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Luke 12:34 KJV


2 Responses to “The quickness of his return”

  1. 1 esunhae
    March 31, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I think that there is also the aspect of the increasing evil of this world when we say that Jesus is coming soon, which is not unbiblical (since the Bible tells us that “iniquity shall abound,” Matt. 24:12). When we see signs of wickedness, we say “Jesus is coming soon” in recognition of the fulfillment of prophecy and as comfort that things will not endure forever.

    Anyways, I appreciate this post. Food for thought…

    • 2 rcmosher
      April 1, 2012 at 12:20 am

      Yes. I wasn’t trying to say he is not coming soon. Luke 12:45,46 makes clear what happens to the servant that says the Lord delays. But I was just following where the Bible led after my surprise at finding what I’d always thought was there wasn’t. Hopefully that was clear.

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