Mar 15 22

How Long, O Lord?

vmsmith

            How are Christians to live as we expectantly await the coming of our Lord? Since the time Christ founded the church and ascended to the Father, the church has eagerly anticipated the time of His return. The disciples thought it would be nearly immediate, believing as they watched Him ascend that His absence would be momentary as He made all things ready for the establishment of His kingdom.

            Our studies in 1 Thessalonians showed that the late timing of His return was confusing causing the Thessalonian church to believe they had missed it. The common opinion was that since Christ had not quickly returned something was radically wrong. The critics of Christianity scoffed at the believers’ hope asking, “Where is the promise of His coming? All things are just as they were and will continue as they are.” The delay and the scoffers fueled the doubts of God’s people and led them to despair.

            In this letter to the Thessalonians, Paul corrected the high points of their confusion and redirected their thinking. Once he had them on the right track, he settled into the mode of putting into practice their enlightenment of the truth. The terrible calamities of the last days would not be theirs. They were not living in the darkness of despair with judgment hanging over their heads as were the enemies of Christ. They were new creatures in Christ. They came out of the blindness of hopelessness with the promise they would obtain their final salvation. No matter how long it takes for the Lord to return, we will never be overtaken by any of Satan’s tricks.

            The Lord does not want us to live in despair, and yet many times I heard the comments of members after the end times sermons that Christ must soon return, or they won’t be able to bear the terrible direction our country is headed. I often caution believers to be patient. Perhaps patience is the greatest virtue because it lets God be God. He works in His time not ours. We have no promise that it won’t be another two thousand years before Christ returns. Time means nothing to God because He is timeless.

            This part might seem like an odd ray of hope, but there is no believer who will fail to see Christ and be rid of this world in any longer time than the span of one lifetime. Do you understand? You will see Christ soon whether He returns to earth in one year or one thousand.

            I believe Paul made this clear to the Thessalonians. The business at hand is preparing to see Him whether in death or in the rapture. His delay does not stop our preparedness and obligation to sanctification. One way or another, our redemption is near. Our focus cannot be what enemies, the government, the squad, or anyone else does. Our focus is the worship of Jesus Christ. Paul concludes the Thessalonian letter on this very topic—the worship of Christ in the church.

            It is perfectly fine to wish for, hope for, and pray for Christ to return. In fact, Jesus said we are to pray the Kingdom will come. It won’t until Christ’s returns, so obviously praying for it is appropriate. Invest in that hope, but if it is not realized in your lifetime, seeing Christ will be. See 1 Thessalonians 4 to learn that the end of life for a believer is to fall asleep and in a split second awaken to be with Christ forever. It is not too long to wait for patiently because it happens in God’s time.

                                                                                    Pastor V. Mark Smith