Every generation throughout church history has surveyed the landscape of current events and concluded that Christ’s return is imminent.
As godlessness increases and the love of many continues to grow cold, it’s only natural for us to believe that there’s a high likelihood that Jesus could return in our lifetime.
But concerning His return, Jesus says in Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”.
Although no one really knows when Jesus will return, Jesus did tell us that we ought to always be ready.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:43-44)
A Thought Experiment
Let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose God were to reveal to you with certainty that Jesus would be returning in exactly 24 hours.
Again, this is a thought experiment.. Scripture tells us that when Jesus returns, it will catch everyone off guard (Matt. 24:37-39).
But play along with me. If you knew that Jesus was returning in 24 hours, what would you do? How would the next 24 hours unfold for you?
You’d likely live with a greater sense of purpose than you’ve ever lived. Perhaps there would be sin you would immediately confess and repent of. You’d be eager to “cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” knowing that “The Day” is at hand (Rom. 13:12).
You would also probably tell as many people as you possibly could that time is almost up. You would probably start with those closest to you, and you probably wouldn’t be very tactful about it.
There would be desperation in your voice. There would be clarity in your message about what is at stake. You wouldn’t shy away from talking about the seriousness of sin and the reality of coming judgment. You would speak clearly of heaven and hell. You would not dance around the exclusivity of Jesus as the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.
Why would there be such urgency? Because the stakes are eternal. Those who disregard the Master and His return, Jesus says, will be cast into eternal, outer darkness where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:48-51).
But faithful and wise servants live in light of the imminent return of the Master. They are prepared for and eagerly waiting for Jesus to return. Jesus teaches in Matthew 24:36-51 that this is what a Christian does.
Eternal Russian Roulette
So all of this begs the question: If we would live with this type of purpose if we knew Jesus was coming back in 24 hours, why don’t we live like this all the time? After all, Jesus told us that He could return at any time and that we ought to always be ready.
He says in Matthew 24:42, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Jesus expects us to live in light of His imminent return all the time. But I think if we’re honest, we would all admit that we don’t consistently live like Jesus is coming back in the next 24 hours. We assume we have more time.
“I can share the Gospel with them tomorrow”
“I will get back on track with praying and fasting next week”
“I will put this besetting sin to death soon”
But what if there is no tomorrow? What if next week never comes? What if “soon” is too late?
We live under the assumption that we have plenty of time. Jesus clearly teaches that this is unwise. This “kingdom procrastination” is precisely the kind of thing Jesus warns against in Matthew 24:36-51!
It’s like playing Russian Roulette… only the stakes are eternal.
What do you want Jesus to find you doing upon His return?
I include myself in this exhortation. Every Christian I know struggles to one degree or another to consistently live as if Jesus could return at any moment.
It’s something we would do well to meditate on more frequently. What do you want Jesus to find you doing upon His return?
The late 19th century pastor and preacher J.C. Ryle wrote that wise Christians expectantly waiting for Jesus’ return “should seek to keep their hearts in such a frame that whenever Christ appears they may at once give Him a warm and loving reception”.
Let’s live right now in a way that we would be happy to have Christ find us living were He to return in 24 hours.
Jared Huntley is a church planter and the teaching pastor at Pillar Church of Washington, D.C.
Check out this week’s podcast from In The Trenches as Jared and Logan talk with Matt Hess about how COVID-19 has helped to remind us of what really matters in church planting.