It’s been a long time since Christ told the Church, “Surely I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:20). Almost two millennia, actually.
And for those two millennia, Church members have had their eyes fixed on the state of the world, believing, knowing, that the return of Jesus Christ was right around the corner—probably within their lifetimes.
Except they were wrong. Paul, who wrote about “we who are alive and remain” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) at Christ’s return has been dead and buried for centuries. Tens of thousands of faithful believers have lived and died since then—and “these all died in the faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
I think the usual question to ask here is, “If you knew Jesus was returning tomorrow, would that change how you live?” That’s a good question. It’s one we should think about. But it’s not the one I want to ask. I’d rather ask this:
If you knew Jesus was not returning tomorrow, would that change how you live?
What if you knew—absolutely knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt—that He wasn’t returning within the next ten years? The next hundred?
The next thousand?
Kicking into spiritual overdrive is easy when we feel like we have a deadline looming. It’s so easy to sprint when we’re certain the finish line is just ahead, but that’s not a sustainable pace if the line is actually ten, twenty, eighty years ahead of us. Sprinting toward that is a surefire way to collapse from exhaustion; to burn ourselves out.
Christ gave the example of a master who left for a wedding, leaving his servants behind to manage his affairs. He said “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. … And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:35-36, 38).
Peter asked for clarification, and Christ elaborated on two types of servants: a “faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household” (Luke 12:42) and a wicked and lazy servant who “says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk” (Luke 12:45).
What stands out the most to me in this story is that the faithful servants were ready no matter when their master came back. It could have been the first watch, the second watch, or the third watch—their waists were girded and their lamps were burning.
This year on Sabbath Thoughts, we’ve been looking at some of the messages embedded in each of God’s feasts. Passover tells us, “Begin.” Unleavened Bread reminds us, “Keep going.” Pentecost urges us, “Do the work.” And Trumpets? Trumpets promises us, “The King is coming.”
The danger with a mentality that says, “Live like Christ is returning tomorrow” is that Christ probably isn’t returning tomorrow. For almost 2,000 years, He hasn’t been returning tomorrow, because “I am coming quickly” means something different to God than it means to us (2 Peter 3:8). But that mindset encourages us to enter a spiritual sprint, attempting to cram decades of growth and study into a single night—only to find that Christ isn’t returning tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after. And then?
“Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
I think it’s important to ask ourselves, “If Christ returned tomorrow, would I be ready?” But I also think the “Live like Christ is returning tomorrow” mentality can set us up for spiritual exhaustion and disappointment when He doesn’t return as soon as we’re expecting. I’d like to propose an edit to that approach:
Live like Christ is returning.
Not tomorrow. Not a hundred years from now. Those numbers are irrelevant, because, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). Instead, let’s focus on the truth Trumpets assures us of: Christ is returning. The King is coming. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first watch or the third watch—the simple fact that Christ is coming means every day not spent preparing for the King’s return is a wasted day.
That’s true today. That’s true tomorrow. That’s true every day from now until Christ’s return, whether that’s five years from now or five thousand years from now. What we need to be doing doesn’t change. Who we need to be becoming doesn’t change. Every day we’re given is another opportunity to push toward those goals.
Therefore, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:35-38).
The King is coming. Are you preparing?
Until next time,