“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” (John 14:3 NKJV).
It may well be that the greatest chasm between the first-century church and the modern twenty-first-century church is in the very way we respond to this promise of Christ to “come again.” His promised return is virtually a forgotten subject in our more sophisticated Sunday gatherings. When was the last time you remember hearing a message on the second coming of Christ, this coming great and climactic event in all of human history? Yet His return was constantly on the minds and lips of the early believers. The New Testament writers referred to the second coming of Christ more than any other single subject, prominently mentioning it with more than three hundred references.
There was a word that constantly escaped the lips of these first-generation believers. Maranatha! It means, “The Lord is coming.” They greeted each other with this word. They comforted one another with this word. This is the word they shouted across the cursing crowds to their friends dying on crosses of execution for their faith and burning at the stakes of martyrdom. They arose every single morning and pillowed their heads every single night, living with expectation, looking for and eagerly anticipating their soon-coming King.
In today’s church, talk of future prophecies on God’s timetable of the last days draws raised eyebrows, rolled eyes, and wide and verbal yawns. When we lose our expectations and our hope in the future, we resort to having no power in the present. We lament today’s lack of evangelistic fervor and passion for reaching those without Christ. But it is often the result of a loss of the sense of urgency that comes with living in anticipation of Christ’s any-minute return. It also can result in an alarming lack of holiness and personal purity as, increasingly, life is lived with little to no urgency in being ready to meet the Lord in that unknown moment when He comes again.
Three major comings in Scripture
The Bible has the promise of three major comings laced throughout its pages. First is the coming of Christ, born of a virgin in the tiny, obscure village of Bethlehem. He came and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14) for thirty-three years. Next, there is the coming of the Holy Spirit, foretold primarily by the prophet Joel. This coming took place on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came to indwell believers with the promise to never leave or forsake us, empowering us for service. And now, the only major coming yet to be fulfilled is the second coming of the Lord Jesus. Just as surely as He came the first time, He is coming again for His bride, the church. And when He comes, we who are alive “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We have and hold to His precious promise: “I will come again.”
The Day of Christ’s Return
When Christ does return, it will be with great power and glory. Handle’s classic masterpiece, the “Hallelujah” chorus, captures the sense of joy and glory John described in the Revelation: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). The greatest fact of Bible prophecy is that JesusChrist, faithful to His promise, is coming back visibly, bodily and personally to this earth. Palm Sunday was not the last journey Jesus will ever make down the western slope of the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, and through the Eastern Gate of the city. He is coming back, and He won’t be riding a donkey next time. Our conquering King will be mounted on a white stallion as He returns to His Holy City.
The entire Bible testifies to Jesus’ promised return. The angels foretold it as He ascended back into heaven after the resurrection: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Paul spoke of Christ’s return when instructing us of the Lord’s Supper: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). And the night before His execution, Jesus promised, “I will come again and receive you to Myself” (John 14:3). Woven as a thread throughout the Scriptures is the hope that JesusChrist will come again, first to rapture His church, and then after a period of tribulation, to set up His earthly kingdom from the throne of David in Jerusalem to reign and rule for a period of perfect peace and then to usher in the endless ages of eternity.
The last promise of the entire Bible comes from the lips of our Lord: “Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). While there are thousands of promises in the Bible, the promise of the second coming is the major promise yet to be fulfilled, marking the climax of all human history. Just as surely as His other promises have been fulfilled, so will His promise to come again.
The last prayer recorded in the Bible is also a request for Christ to return. Exiled on the island of Patmos by the Romans, John, having heard the promise of Jesus to return, burst out into prayer, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Just five words. So often, the most powerful prayers are short ones like this, as John anticipated seeing Christ return in great glory and going with Him to heaven, where time would be no more.
Before you finish this chapter, take a moment to examine your own life. Are you ready to meet Him? What if it were today? He keeps His promises — all of them. Join John now and pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
A promise and a prayer
“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him” (Revelation 1:7).
Lord, it may be a morn when the day is awaking, and the sunlight is breaking through shadows and darkness that You will come in the fullness of glory to receive from the world Your own. Even so, come Lord Jesus. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Taken from The Promise Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2022 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
O.S. Hawkins is the chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement, and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books and regularly speaks to business groups and churches nationwide. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the Code series support Mission: Dignity. You can learn more about Mission: Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/