The Blessed Hope
It is a sad feature of our day that the teaching of our Lord’s return and indeed of Bible prophecy in general appears to be somewhat unfashionable in certain quarters. Yet, the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13), as someone says, "is no mere appendix to our belief in Christ, but rather its crown." If the Scriptures are our guide we cannot set aside this teaching.
The hope of the first century Christians became crystallized in their watchword "Maranatha!" – the Lord cometh! (1 Cor. 16:22). Scholars tell us that the word "Maranatha" was a password back in the days when early Christians had to hold their meetings in secret. "Maranatha" was the greeting they exchanged when they met.
The Apostle Paul writes: "The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thes. 4:16-18).
These words refer to the parousia – the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ for His believing people. "There is no element of uncertainty about this great Bible word ‘hope,’" wrote Dr. Griffith Thomas. "It is a divinely-given assurance of things as yet unseen."
In the New Testament, the Spirit of truth lights up the pathway of the Church until the Lord’s return – a truth which is mentioned at least 300 times in prediction, parable and promise. The book of Revelation focuses all these rays of truth upon the person of the glorified Lord – who appeared once "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," and is coming again, "the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:26,28).
Stirring in Its Appeal
"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping, and what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13:35-37).
The Bible has much to say about the peril of being asleep (spiritually), when we should be awake and alert. We recall that Samson was robbed of his strength while he slept, and that the five virgins mentioned in Matthew 25 became drowsy and fell asleep, while the bridegroom tarried.
"The second coming," says J. E. Fison, "is a moral stimulant, not a moral narcotic." "Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day…therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober…let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet the hope of salvation" (1 Thes. 5:5-8).
In the light of our Lord’s return we must be vigilant in prayer, full of faith and good works and eager in our mission of evangelism. "Teaching about the second advent," avers a modern writer, "adds urgency to evangelism."
Even in the early days of the Christian Church the teaching of the Lord’s return provided a stimulus to their evangelistic effort. The Apostle Paul’s message was:"Now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor. 6:2). It should be of concern today to gather many into the Gospel net through the preaching of the Gospel, before it is too late!
We today need to invest our time, talents and efforts in the lives of others. In the light of our Lord’s return, every Christian should be an instrument in the hands of God for witness to the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of men.
Purifying in Its Effects
In 1 John 3:3 it says: "Everyone that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." In chapter two, the Apostle John has said that we should "abide in Him" and have the confidence that when Jesus appears we shall not "be ashamed before Him at His coming" (2:27-28). How can we know that we shall be unashamed when Jesus comes?
The Apostle tells us: "Everyone that hath this hope [is gripped by this hope!] purifies himself even as He is pure" (3:3). Any Christian who is gripped by this "hope" will seek holiness of life, busyness of service, and seek to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:10).
Purification is here represented by the Apostle John as something that we do for ourselves (see also 2 Tim. 2:21). It is a matter of working out what God works in. The Holy Spirit is the divinely provided means – He does it. Our part is to use the means which God supplies – in that sense we do it. "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18).
With our eyes fixed upon the returning Lord, may there be something of His loveliness and beauty about our characters. A belief in Christ’s return must be a great incentive to holiness of life.
Used by permission of The Herald of Hope, Australia.