At the end of the book of Revelation, the Apostle John writes, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). This second-to-last verse in the Bible teaches plainly Jesus will return and he will return soon.
Too many Christians ignore these words. More times than I can count, I’ve brought up Christ’s return with fellow believers only to be shot down and even scolded for date-setting or sensationalizing biblical prophecy. I’ve never set a date, but I have longed for his appearing.
From Patmos, John models the proper Christian response to future things and specifically the imminent return of Christ. He responds with anticipation and excitement.
Listen again. John quotes the Lord Jesus’ message to his followers, “Surely I am coming soon,” and John responds, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” John affirms Christ’s word is true and then exclaims his own desire for the Lord to return soon.
The Apostle models for us what was common in the early church: exclaiming publicly the desire for Christ to return soon. The early church used to pray the Aramaic maranatha (“Our Lord, come!”). The Apostle Paul ends 1st Corinthians with the same. Some scholars believe it was even a common early greeting.
Many Christians today don’t long for Christ’s coming or if they do, it’s hard to tell. Building up satisfaction and happiness in this world, they hope Christ will wait to return until after their lives have run their course. They want the chance to marry, raise their families, enjoy vacations and drink deep of the pleasures God provides his people here. Heaven’s pleasures can wait.
To those, I would warn against the treason that could be growing in your heart. No true servant of Christ’s kingdom hopes for the delay of the king. Instead, they work diligently knowing that when he comes, he will reward his servants.
Paul writes to Timothy that the Lord would award him the crown of righteousness along with all who, “eagerly wait for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). He who searches hearts pays attention to our longings for his return and will reward those who long for it. The writer of Hebrews says, “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28). It’s assumed Christ’s followers will be eagerly waiting.
I believe there will be many who will see the Lord’s return approaching, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25). Christ gave signs to his disciples expecting them to watch for their fulfillment.
Of course, no one knows the exact day or hour, but there will be some who will know the Lord is about to return like Simeon of old who was told “by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). For four hundred years, God’s people waited for the prophet’s words about the coming Messiah to be fulfilled. Generation upon generation lived and died waiting and then the came the appointed time and the Lord was pleased to let Simeon know he would live to see it. So also, generation upon generation has come and gone since Christ left and yet we continue to wait. The length of time Christ tarries does not make his return less likely but even more so!
May the Lord cultivate in our hearts a greater love for Jesus that causes us to pray with saints throughout the ages, “Come Lord Jesus!” May you hold lightly the good and bad this world brings, letting the good remind you of greater things to come and the bad to stir up greater hope in the one who will wipe away every tear. May the Lord be pleased to make this the generation that sees the return of the king. May he find us praying and working for him even as we long for his quick return!