No one on this earth has seen anything like the great and awesome day that is about to come. The world, as we know it, will come to a screeching halt. In an instant, all that matters to our daily lives will matter no more.
In my imagination it begins as a distant sound that quickly builds in volume—as though something or someone is approaching. It is like no other sound we've ever heard. As it swells, like a resounding trumpet, growing more and yet more intense, it forces every man, woman and child to stop whatever he or she is doing. It is not a piercing or painful sound, but it is overpowering. It vibrates all around us, within us, throughout our beings. The sound mysteriously lifts our gaze toward the sky. And as we gaze, transfixed, a flash of brilliance, brighter than any atomic explosion, goes right through us. Yet still we can, still we must, continue our gaze upward. Some are quaking with terror, while others tremble with joy.
Then a chorus of brilliant tones joins the brightness in the sky. And there, accompanied by an innumerable host, is our Messiah, Y'shua. Some around us are unprepared, terror stricken, but we stand with tears of jubilation, inwardly laughing, yet silent, in awe before the Lord of glory. And as His foot touches the Mount of Olives, the temporal is instantly and irrevocably overcome by the eternal. For eternity intrudes and dominates history once and for all. That which was hoped for now is. He who was longed for arrives. The earth is changed, and the glorious presence of Y'shua beckons, Welcome, welcome my children."
Maybe you imagine it differently. The main thing is to try to imagine it somehow and to let it be the object of our greatest longing. While we may anticipate many events and experiences, our ultimate yearning must be for the fulfillment of that hope!
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Y'shua and His coming is our Blessed Hope, more holy, more beautiful and in every way more worthy of our devotion than anything or anyone! The fact that we will see him face to face should make a difference in every moment of our lives.
Still, it is a struggle to keep that as a reality in our lives. How often do we think or speak about the return of our Messiah—not in sanctimonious rhetoric where we can recognize each other by pious shibboleths—but with genuine, honest discussions about our Hope of Hopes?
Do you find that you are often more motivated by the pressing business of daily duties than by the Blessed Hope? Most of us believe in the literal physical return of Messiah. Yet it is easy to lose the immediacy of that hope amidst a crush of "priorities." Maybe there are times when thoughts of His return, instead of stirring up great joy, churn up uneasiness and the knowledge that we would not like to face our Lord at this particular moment.
We should act on that uneasiness and deal with whatever prevents us from wanting to face the Lord by repenting, making restitution or taking whatever action is appropriate. Yet we sometimes dismiss that uneasiness on the grounds that it isn't likely we'll be facing Him any time soon. Which raises the question,
Do we really believe Jesus could come at any time?
The teaching that Jesus could return at any moment is known as the doctrine of imminence. Some believers in Jesus have neglected that doctrine because they understand the Bible to mean that certain things must occur in a certain special sequence before Y'shua returns. This is not an article about the apocalyptic events preceding the return of Messiah or the many opinions expounded on that subject. But expectations seem to fall into two categories. There are those kingdom builders who feel that we will accomplish all those things that are needful before the Messiah is to return, we will have all things in a row including personal righteousness, then the Lord will come. Others have despaired of reforming, regulating and renewing the world. Their hope is to be rescued off this toxic, noxious planet when Y'shua returns.
Could the Messiah come at any time, or is he constrained by a chain of events that have not yet occurred?
According to Jewish tradition, there is the account of one Rabbi Zerah of whom it was said, "whenever he chanced upon scholars engaged in calculating the time of Messiah's coming, he would say to them, 'I beg of you, do not postpone it for it has been taught: three come unawares: Messiah, a found article and a scorpion' " (Sanhedrin 97a). Which means, since the Messiah only comes when unexpected, don't keep Him away with your calculations!
Yet we are also told, "If Israel repented a single day, immediately would the Son of David come. If Israel observed a single Sabbath properly, immediately would the Son of David come." (Taan. 64a)
What do you think when you see Jewish newspapers filled with Chabad ads and columns urging people to bring the Messiah quickly through the doing of mitzvot? It is painful, is it not, to think that some people seem to regard the Almighty almost as though He were harnessed by some kind of a cosmic tether, and if we pull hard enough on our end, He will be forced to move.
Yet, many in Jesus have determined to do what they believe is necessary to usher in God's reign. For example, in the field of evangelism and world mission, there is heady talk of "a church for every people and the gospel for every person by A.D. 2000." This is a lofty goal, but why not 1998 or 2004? Is there something special about the start of a new millennium?
In his book, Operation World, Patrick Johnstone assembled a mind-numbing array of statistics to demonstrate that we are 75-85 percent of the way toward finishing the task of evangelizing the world. He declares: "Jesus gave the promise in Matthew 24:14 that when this task was accomplished, the end would come" (page 26).
Many appreciate the incentive proposed by this notion. Nevertheless, our commitment to evangelize should be based on love and obedience to the Lord's command, not upon the hope that we can hasten the end. World evangelism is not the Blessed Hope, nor is it the means to bring about the Blessed Hope. And what of those of us who are Jewish believers? We may not talk about world evangelization, but some talk of being the instrument of an end-time Messianic Jewish revival.
Now you might think it unlikely that people could actually believe we are proclaiming the gospel in order to hasten the return of Y'shua. Yet several leading figures in the Jewish community, and even some not-so-leading figures, have concluded that the motivation for evangelism is a Christian belief that Jesus cannot return until the Jewish people believe in Him. "Christians believe the messiah will come in the year 2000, but only if all Jews accept Jesus as the messiah," quoted an article by Steve Feldman for The Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia, PA.
Likewise, Christian support of Israel has been explained by some of our unbelieving brethren in a similar way. Perhaps they have seen the same advertisement I saw in a major Christian magazine: "Why just read about end-times prophecy? Help make it happen." The ad went on to request donations for helping Russian Jews to go to Israel.
What is most troubling is that many groups involved in this endeavor have made promises to the Israeli government that they will not tell our people about Jesus! They justify these agreements by saying that God is going to bring our people to the Lord in the Land and not outside of the Land. They are trying to fulfill prophecy, which is God's business, while neglecting the Great Commission, which is not only the business but also the duty of every believer. Meanwhile, people are dying without Christ, separated from God forever, no matter what country they were in when they died.
At times it appears we have our own version of this kind of thinking in the Messianic community—that all Jews must return to Israel before the end will come, and therefore the proclamation of the Promised Messiah takes a back seat to the Promised Land.
I believe God's promise to bring our people back to the Land, and it is exciting to think that the establishment of today's State of Israel could be part of the fulfillment of promise. I cannot be certain of this, and I don't think any of us can. Scripture seems to leave room for debate and discussion concerning what God is doing with the nation of Israel and our people's return. What we can say with certainty is that nowhere do the Scriptures teach that the return of Jewish people to the Land is a necessary prelude to the return of Messiah. I personally believe that it could have been possible for Y'shua to return prior to 1948. Furthermore, I believe that Y'shua could just as easily return tomorrow morning while the majority of the Jewish people are still outside of the Land.
I know that one way or another, all Jews will be in Israel some day. But the greatest hope that we proclaim must be our Blessed Hope, the return of Y'shua. As followers of the Messiah Y'shua, we should know and believe that those things that the world hopes for will never satisfy. We say with the psalmist, "And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You" (Psalm 39:7).
It is not wrong for people to do their best to build and to labor, endeavoring to improve conditions in a world torn by suffering and strife. But our hope must always be in what God can do, not what we can do. And as believers, there are certain things that we are told God will do in His time, by His divine presence here on earth in the person of Jesus. Therefore, in the meantime, whatever that time may be, we are to give priority to those things He has certainly told us to do: love one another, tell the lost the good news of Jesus, make disciples. These are things that we can do moment by moment, day by day as we anticipate His return.
It is easy for us to lose sight of the things we would want Him to find us doing in that moment when His foot sets down on the Mount of Olives.
There is a tendency to busy ourselves with the good things, but not the right things—especially when we allow ourselves to think that this and that must happen before the Lord returns, therefore, we have plenty of time. When we think we have plenty of time, we don't tend to use time as well as we could. For example, one of the major emphases among various Christian groups is church growth. There are church growth seminars, institutes for church growth and articles on how to grow churches. It is not wrong to want to see people added to the church, but in some cases what we end up with is a Christianity that emphasizes the church and not the Christ. Some call this "Churchianity." Whatever it is, it puts people in danger of making the church, rather than Jesus, their hope. Likewise, we in the community of Jewish believers may not talk much about church growth, but some put much hope in what they call the growth of Messianic Jewish congregations.
I am certain that all Israel some day will know the Lord, the Messiah Jesus, but it won't be through the expansion of congregations. It will be brought about by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit prophesied in Zechariah 12:10 in a time when our people will look upon Him, upon Y'shua, and recognize who He is, who He always has been and always will be. It will be a time of mourning, repentance, return and joy through tears.
It will be a time worthy of all the mention God gives it in Scriptures. There are 7,959 verses in the New Testament, 330 of which refer to the Second Coming. That is one out of every 25 verses. Y'shua referred to His return 21 times, and there are over 50 exhortations in Scripture urging us to be ready for that event!
The Hebrew Scriptures also set forth numerous messianic prophecies that will be fulfilled when Y'shua returns.
I put together a short list of reasons to focus on the Second Coming. You might want to make your own list with different Scriptures highlighting other aspects of the Blessed Hope. Mine is as follows:
1. The Blessed Hope is motivation to godly living.
The thought that Jesus could come at any time sets us in motion. It keeps us continually confessing and repenting of our sin because we want to feel that at any moment, our overriding response to His appearing would be joy and not shame.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
1 John 3:2-3
2. The Blessed Hope is a means to establish God's justice.
In this present world rife with injustice, it is a blessing to look forward to the day when God will deliver His people. Justice will be done for all. In that day, righteousness will not be mocked and wickedness will not be exalted.
"There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever."
3. The Blessed Hope is memorialized in our worship.
Whether we incorporate a ceremony like the one Jesus instituted at Passover as a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly celebration, it is important that we obey Y'shua by remembering together the words He pronounced:
The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
4. The Blessed Hope is the moment we meet the Lord and also those whom we love in the Lord.
God has promised we shall meet Him! As if that weren't enough, we will also be reunited with those from whom death has temporarily separated us. This is hope in its fullest meaning!
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain 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. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Those are just a few examples—there is so much more that could be said about the Blessed Hope based upon God's Word. If you take the time to meditate on these and other passages describing the return of Y'shua, you will be blessed. But be prepared for a shift in priorities!
If we have the Blessed Hope, we are not going to be building cathedrals. Some of us might begin to look at 30-year mortgages and wonder about beating the lender out of a few payments! We should not live without any thought for the future, but we have to live in the light of the immediate future, not the far future.
What is the best thing that can happen to you tomorrow? Win the lottery? Have an erring mate return? Find out that your son or daughter won a full scholarship to Harvard, Yale or some other Ivy League school? Maybe you could discover the fountain of youth and be ten years younger after a dip. Whatever you could want, whatever you could get excited about has got to pale in comparison to being in the presence of the God Who chose to dwell among us.
My grandfather, Fred Kendal, was a believer in Jesus. He died nearly 20 years ago. One of the last things he said to me was something he would say quite often, "David, I'm not waiting for the undertaker. I'm looking for the uppertaker!" I want to be like that and be counted among those "who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). Not only should his appearing be our hope, that which we set our hearts on, it should also be our message to others. Jesus is coming!
What other message enables us to shine so much hope in a world of hopelessness, to radiate truth in a world where so many are led astray by false hopes?
Therefore, let us strive to seek the Lord, to stand firm in the Lord, to serve the Lord with gladness, knowing that we just might be in His glorious presence tonight or tomorrow morning. Let Him be our all in all, above all, beyond all. Then thoughts of His return will never be far from our consciousness, stirring our hearts to experience every ounce of joy that God created us to have in Him.
Lord, Y'shua, be our all until You gather us all to Yourself.