I felt as though I needed to say a few words as we wrap up our study in Revelation this Sunday. It has been a phenomenal adventure! And it has gone by very quickly. Today, for the first time, we get to talk explicitly and specifically about the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ.
For the past 2000 years, Christian thinking has centered around the idea that Jesus will return for His people. Shadows of the 2nd coming of Jesus appear in the Old Testament Prophets. These shadows come into view as the New Testament authors interpret them in the light of Jesus. In Revelation, we learn that it is not only in the judgment of the world that we have great hope. But it is in the ultimate deliverance from evil and the entry into God’s Kingdom that we have hope. That hope is now in part. But that hope is fullest in the future return of Jesus. (CONTINUED BELOW)
Jesus calls us to focus on our future hope in his final words of the Revelation when he beckons us, “Look, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:12). In response, the Spirit of God prompts us to pray to Jesus, “Come!” (Revelation 22:17a) and to cry out into the darkness of the world, “Come! Let the one who is thirsty take the waters of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17b).
The following is an excerpt written by Gerald Bray, one of my own teachers and a truly knowledgeable and wise man. I updated the writing because it was difficult (written for scholars), but please read it carefully and consider his point.
BELIEF IN THE FUTURE (Gerald Bray, God is Love)
It is easy to focus so much on the apocalyptic elements in the New Testament that we can forget that one of Christianity’s most distinctive features is its belief in the future. Most ancient religions taught that the distant past had been an age of bliss. The age progressively eroded as time passed, and the old religions believed that the future would continually worsen. They explained what would happen in the end in different ways. But there was nothing much to look forward to at the end of time for the ancient religions.
Judaism was different from those religions. It believed that humankind had fallen from its original paradise. Still, it also thought that there would be a future intervention by God when his anointed one (or Messiah) would come and rescue them (Jews) from all their troubles.
Christianity emerged as a faith that proclaimed that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus’s death and resurrection have redeemed His chosen people. But the Christian gospel (message) added to Jewish thinking that Christ had ascended into heaven and would come again at the end of time. At that point, Jesus would judge the world, and it would be transformed into a Kingdom fit for God.
Believers in Christ are therefore encouraged to watch and to pray for that day to arrive. No one can say when Christ will return, but the authors of the Bible expect everyone to prepare for an event that could occur at any moment and catch us unawares. Those who are not ready for Christ’s return will suffer the consequences, but those who prepare for Jesus to come will inherit the kingdom that Jesus has made for them from the foundation of the world.
The importance of this for us is that it gives us hope. The material world will decay and disappear, but our life is neither hopeless nor meaningless. What we do matters to God, and in the end, Jesus will reward the faithful.
As the Apostle Paul put it, “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). None of us can say for sure what that will be like, and we are warned by Jesus not to presume on God, who—regardless of what we want or think we are entitled to—has a place prepared for each of us. The future hope is a great comfort to us and a great blessing, but it is also a cause for humility in the presence of the tremendous judgment of the Lord.
(Excerpt by Gerald Bray, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012, 728–729., Excerpt edited by Anthony Delgado for readability, 2020)
My hope in this study is that you have not gotten caught up in the fanaticism surrounding the book of Revelation. Instead, I hope that you have seen some of the ways that John’s Revelation reaches back into the Old Testament, traverse the themes of the New Testament, and then make clear our eternal destiny.
The Revelation is about knowing who we were and then knowing where we are going, whether we are followers of Jesus or not. But Revelation is not just about knowledge for the sake of knowing. Revelation is about action. It is about ‘Come!’ In its conclusion, after all of the symbols, themes, tropes, and motifs, we are given a clear and concise charge (Three of them, actually):
- Jesus calls us to come to him. Have you come to Jesus? Have you run from the troubles of this world to cling to the cross of Christ? Have you found refuge in Him? Have you been rescued from evil in this world? Have you experienced righteousness ruling in your heart by the Spirit of God?
- The Spirit of God calls us to pray for Jesus to come. How firm is your conviction in the reality of eternity? Do you believe at the core of your being that you will spend eternity with Jesus? Do you fear death for reasons other than pain? Do you embrace eternity as ‘known’ rather than an ‘unknown’?
- The Spirit challenges us to go to the world and to call people into the Kingdom of Jesus. Who do you yearn for to follow Jesus? Who do you pray for to follow Jesus? Who do you tell about Jesus? To whom do you demonstrate the love of Jesus? To whom do you call to come to Jesus?