Jesus, Come Back! (Or Not)
“GET ME OUT OF HERE! Seriously, it’s time for the Second Coming. Lord, I want you back. Like, ASAP.” That’s a glimpse into my prayer life over the past few months.
Maybe that’s been your prayer, too. I think we’ve all felt the weight of recent events and wondered when Christ will come again. Remember these headlines? “Gunman massacres 20 children in Connecticut.” “Philadelphia abortion doctor beheaded live babies.” “Blasts at Boston Marathon kill 3, injure 100.” Not to mention the headlines in my own life: “Bryan blows it again.” “So-called Calvinist fails to trust God’s sovereignty.” “Utah worship leader sucks at worship.” The combination of wickedness in the world and the evil in my own heart makes me ache for the new earth. It makes me wonder, is that place Jesus went to prepare for me ready yet?
Then again, maybe I’m not ready.
Sometimes I don’t want Jesus to come back. Sometimes I think he should hold off. Think how many people could be saved if he waited until 3013. Think how many more brothers and sisters we’ll have in the next life if he tarries for a few millennia. I still have family and friends living in sin, happily unrepentant, hating God. Do I really want Jesus to come back now? Seems pretty selfish. In Revelation, God tells the martyrs under the altar to wait “a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete” (6:11). In other words, heaven can wait. Sometimes that’s my desire, too.
Do I want Jesus to come back or not?
It’s a question I think many Christians can relate to. Just yesterday a friend told me if he heard the trumpet sound, he’s not sure if he’d run outside with arms outstretched and shout, “Jesus, take me!” or if he’d run upstairs, gather his family (some of whom haven’t made a profession of faith), and with arms full, cry out, “Jesus, take us!” As Christians, we have this conflict: a desire to be with the Lord and a desire to see more people repent and believe the gospel. We have good theological reasons for both (and probably some lousy ones, too). These desires tell us something about our beliefs: How much do we treasure the reality of Christ’s return? Do we trust that, like his first advent, his second will happen in “the fullness of time,” right when it’s supposed to?
I’m pretty sure we’ll wrestle with this paradox until he comes. Sometimes we’ll pray “Jesus, hurry!” and sometimes we’ll say, “Take your time.” But if we’re going to gravitate toward one desire or the other, I think it’s better to pray earnestly for the return of our King. Paul says the crown of righteousness goes to those who not only look forward to Christ’s appearing, but to those who love it (2 Tim. 4:8). In Titus, he says the appearance of Christ is “our blessed hope” (2:13). The author of Hebrews describes God’s people as those “who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28). The New Testament is crammed with other references to his glorious comeback, right up to the very end. The last prayer in the Bible is “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20).
So it’s OK to really want Jesus to come back—to make things right, to make things new. It’s OK to look up at the sky and wonder when it will happen. As long as waiting isn’t the only thing we do. Like the disciples, we might need an angel to tap us on the shoulder and ask, “Why do you stand looking into heaven?” There’s a world out there waiting to hear the gospel.