Living in Anticipation

January 13, 2020

This could be the day Jesus returns! Are you ready?

FROM A SERMON BY Darrel Lee

T

o inform people of a fact is different than reminding them of a fact. To inform is to provide information not previously known; to remind is to relate information previously known but at risk of being forgotten. We heard an example of the difference in our church service today. If you are not familiar with our schedule, our pastor informed you that we will have another service this evening at 6:00 p.m. If you are familiar with our schedule, he reminded you that we have a service tonight at 6:00 p.m.

Those in the Early Church knew Jesus was going to return to this earth—that the day of the Lord would come as a thief in the night. So the Apostle Peter was reminding the believers of a fact they already knew when he wrote, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). We know this was a reminder because earlier in this same epistle he had written, “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12).

In verse 1 of chapter 3, Peter told the recipients of his epistle that his intention was to “stir up” their pure minds by way of remembrance. He had purposed to do this so they would anticipate the return of Jesus, and live in such a way that they would be ready when He came.

Today, I am reminding you of the same event—that Jesus is coming back to this earth. Even pure minds need to be stirred up and reminded that He could return at any moment. We do not know the day or the hour when that will take place, but we want to be prepared to be raptured if it should happen today.

The prophets spoke of Christ’s return

Those in the Early Church could look back to the prophets for information regarding the return of Jesus, as inspired men of old had pointed ahead to that event. Peter instructed the recipients of his epistle to “be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2).

Think of it! Five millenniums ago, Enoch anticipated that the Lord would one day come back with ten thousands of His saints, and he informed those of his generation of that fact.

Today, we too can hearken back to the holy prophets. We think of Enoch who “was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Walking with God was the hallmark of Enoch’s life. Although less is said about the fact that he was a preacher of righteousness, Jude, the Lord’s brother, wrote that Enoch prophesied, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (Jude 1:14). Think of it! Five millenniums ago, Enoch anticipated that the Lord would one day come back with ten thousands of His saints, and he informed those of his generation of that fact.

Isaiah was one prophet who looked ahead to Christ and the time when He will rule this earth. In Isaiah 65:17 we read, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”

Peter’s audience also knew of Daniel, a prophet who declared, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). There is a day coming when that will occur! We want to be among those who are resurrected to everlasting life.

The Apostles spoke of Christ’s return

We can also look to the Apostles, of whom Peter was one, for information regarding the return of Christ; they too referred to that event. Matthew wrote, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). The Apostle John quoted Jesus’ words in John 14:2-3, where we read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

James, another Apostle and the Lord’s brother, wrote, “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7).  He spoke of the husbandman—the farmer or gardener—who plants and reaps. Between planting and reaping, there is a period where patience is needed. In verse 8 we read, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” We are being reminded of that today. If the believers over two thousand years ago in the time of the Apostles expected Jesus’ return imminently, we can be certain we are closer to it in our day!

Scoffers of the last days

Some individuals in today’s society mock the idea of the Lord’s return. Peter warned of this, saying, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after 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 the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). Peter stated that such scoffers were willingly ignorant when they said all things have continued as they were since creation. In fact, all things have not continued the same. Throughout the generations, there have been times when God, who created the order of natural events, has chosen to suspend that order for His own purposes.

One example of this is the flood of Noah’s day. No such thing had ever occurred before, nor has a flood of that magnitude occurred since. God’s mercy was extended during the 120-year period that Noah was building the ark, so souls could prepare to avoid the judgment that was to come. When the flood did occur, God saved eight souls alive, while He sent judgment upon the remainder of the population on earth.

Another example is the manna God sent for the Children of Israel. For almost forty years, God provided manna to sustain His chosen people. That had not happened before. God also sent water from the rock for the Israelites, and gave them a pillar of a cloud by day and a fire by night to guide them during their wanderings in the desert. Those things had not happened before. He caused the sun to stand still during a battle so that Israel could win a military victory. That had not happened before either!

Those who suggest that events in this world keep on going the same as they always have are ignoring the clear record of history.

During Jesus’ time on earth, He healed the sick; He raised the dead; He calmed the tempest; He took a child’s lunch and fed five thousand men plus women and children. All of these occurrences were outside the realm of normal events. After Jesus gave His life on Calvary, He arose from the dead after three days. At the same time, many of the saints who had previously died arose in Jerusalem and appeared unto many witnesses. That had not happened before! So, those who suggest that events in this world keep on going the same as they always have are ignoring the clear record of history. They are willingly ignorant!

God’s promised return is sure

Whatever the scoffers may say, we can be certain, based on the promise of God himself, that one day Jesus will return to this earth. In Acts 1:11 we read that God’s messengers told the disciples present at Jesus’ ascension, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” He is coming back! He will return! Those are promises. Peter calls them “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4). They are precious because we know that what God has promised, He will bring to pass.

God has promised in His Word to suspend the natural laws of gravity at the Rapture, and save us from sure judgment to come. In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God’s delay is not a failure to keep His promises. Just as God in His infinite love and patience gave humanity a 120-year opportunity to turn to Him in the days of Noah, the tarrying of Jesus in our generation gives people the opportunity to get right with God and prepare for His return.

Are you ready?

We are told that in a moment—in the “twinkling of an eye”—the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and those who are right with God will be raptured out of this world (see 1 Corinthians 15:52). As we anticipate that great event, it is important that we live accordingly. Continuing in 2 Peter 3, we read, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). The word conversation refers to conduct, or what others see—the way we behave ourselves and our manner of living. Godliness is what God sees—the purity of heart, the piety, the holiness, of the inner man. If godliness truly does exist within, what others see on the outside will reflect that inward condition.

What will you be doing when Jesus returns? Consider this: What were you doing last Friday? That is what you will be doing if Jesus returns on a Friday.

What will you be doing when Jesus returns? Consider this: What were you doing last Friday? That is what you will be doing if Jesus returns on a Friday. How do you spend most Saturdays? That is what you will be doing if Jesus comes back on a Saturday. Very likely, you will be doing what you normally do on whatever day Christ returns.

Jesus himself said, “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:44).  That verse tells us that at the moment of Jesus’ return, we will not necessarily be expecting Him to return right then. In Noah’s day, when the Flood came, the people were marrying and giving in marriage. In Lot’s day, they were building and planting. Life was going on as usual. The same will be true in the day when Jesus returns to this earth.

Some people try to chart out the signs and prophecies and the sequence in order to determine when the events of the last days will transpire. However, we must be careful not to pinpoint a date for the Rapture. Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, His disciples asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” His answer was, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:6-7). Our responsibility is simply to be ready whenever Jesus returns.

Living in anticipation

We want to be eager for the return of Jesus; we want to anticipate His coming rather than feeling dread or fear when it comes to mind. We don’t need to fear—we can have hope! Though we experience trials and tribulations and anxiety in this life, a better day is coming, and we are looking forward to that day. Jesus’ return to this earth is an event to anticipate! In 2 Peter 3:12 we read, “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” “Looking for” is to live in expectation. “Hasting unto” is hoping and being eager for it to come to pass.

My wife Debbie and I experienced what it means to live in expectation recently when our five grandchildren, who live in Medford, Oregon, were coming for a visit. We knew the day they were scheduled to visit, but we did not know what time they would arrive. We did not want to bother my son and daughter-in-law by calling to ask, “Have you left yet?” However, we were eager—we were anticipating seeing our grandkids. We thought perhaps the family would show up early and surprise us; one time they left at 4:00 a.m. and arrived at our house in time for breakfast! So, from 8:00 a.m. on, the two of us were glancing out the window, thinking perhaps they would arrive imminently. However, the hours went by. Finally, in the mid-afternoon when we thought surely they would arrive at any minute, I called my son. He said, “We figure it will be a couple of hours before we leave here.” So we knew that in spite of our eagerness to see those kids, we would have to wait awhile longer.

There is quietness and peace within the hearts of those who know they are ready for Christ’s Second Coming.

Do you feel hope when you think of the return of Christ? A feeling of hope is in contrast to what those feel who are willingly ignorant and scoff at the thought of Jesus’ return. There is quietness and peace within the hearts of those who know they are ready for Christ’s Second Coming. We have that hope to strengthen and encourage us.

“Without spot, and blameless”

In 2 Peter 3:13, we read that we look for “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Now let’s review Peter’s reminder that was referenced earlier: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” To be diligent is to make an effort. Being a Christian in this wicked world is serious business! It takes courage and grit to take a stand for Christ! While those who do so will be challenged, we are diligent because we want to be “found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.”

Jesus gave Himself—He died for the Church—so that “He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:26-27). By the grace of God and His saving and sanctifying power, we can meet that standard. When the trumpet of the Lord sounds, those who have prepared themselves and are living the way God intends will be taken out of this world.

Today, we are challenged to be stirred within and to remember what we already know—that those who are prepared for Jesus’ return to earth will leave this world one of these days. Let us purpose to live in such a way that whenever that great event does take place, we will be among those who go to be forever with the Lord.

About the author

Darrel Lee is Superintendent General of the Apostolic Faith Church.