Here’s another post in a short series I am doing on the return of Christ. Read back over the last several posts to see my purpose in focusing on the this tremendous truth: Jesus will return to earth. Today I want to show how the Scriptures teach that his return will be sudden.
But before I go to some specific Scriptures, I feel the need to emphasize that what I am challenging us to do is NOT to focus on the COMING of Christ, but on the coming of CHRIST! Do you understand what I mean by my use of capital letters there? Very often, when we speak of Christ’s coming, the emphasis is on the event, and we forget the person of the event. What makes the second coming so encouraging to us as believers is that it is JESUS who is coming. If Jesus isn’t precious to us… if we fail to see his glory and the desirability of being in his bodily presence, then we will have missed the encouragement that we can receive by remembering that the glorious bridegroom of the church is coming back to earth.
So when we see in Scripture that Jesus’ return will be sudden, we understand that the suddenness of his coming is an encouragement to those who love him, while it will be dismaying to those who don’t.
Perhaps the passage that most clearly teaches this truth is Matthew 24:36-44.
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (see also 2 Pet. 3:5-6 for a comparison to Noah’s flood). 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Consider the difference in the way the two individuals mentioned will perceive the suddenness of Christ’s return. Of the two men in the field (v. 40), or of the two women at the mill (v. 41), one rejoices as he/she is immediately in the presence of the one he loves most, while the other is suddenly aware that the flood of judgement that Jesus Christ promised has come upon the world, and he/she is outside the Ark of Grace.
I Thess. 5:2ff, another passage that underlines the suddenness of Jesus’ return, draws this same contrast:
2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security”, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Here again, the return of Christ is spoken of as being very sudden: To those who deny his coming and find their peace and security is something other than the salvation that Jesus provided at the Cross when he died as a substitute for sinners, Christ’s coming will result in “sudden destruction” (v. 3). But for those who are united with Christ in his death and are looking to him alone for salvation from their sinfulness (vs. 8-10), his sudden return is the culmination of a hope that has been implanted in their hearts since the day they first came to Christ in repentance and faith–the hope that “we might live with him” (v. 10) for all eternity.
There is another passage that comes to mind as painting this picture of eager anticipation for Christ’s return–a passage not often associated with eschatology, but I think very appropriate. It is in the Song of Solomon, chapter 3
1 On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not. The watchmen found me as they went about the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me
Our puritan forefathers rightly saw in Solomon’s love poem, the relationship of Christ with his Bride, the Church. What a beautiful picture is painted in these verses of the Church eagerly anticipating the return of Christ. It is in this context that the Scriptural doctrine of the sudden return of Christ is such an encouragement to us as believers. Very soon now, our Lord will come for us.
Sorry these posts on Christ’s return have been so infrequent recently, but I’m trying to learn a fairly difficult language right now, and that has occupied a lot of my time! How I desire for this unreached people among whom I am living to know this glorious truth that Jesus is coming back. By God’s grace, may many of them receive life on that day and escape the wrath to come!