Every Christian believes that the Lord Jesus’ return is imminent, meaning the return of the Lord Jesus could happen at any time and at any moment. Paul calls this in Titus 2:13 “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Knowing that the Lord could come back today causes some to stop what they are doing and only wait for Him. Yet, there is a difference between knowing Jesus could return today and knowing He will return today.
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”
The timing of the Lord Jesus’ return is something the Lord has not revealed to anyone, so until He calls His own to Himself, they should continue to faithfully serve Him.
The Return of Jesus Is a Great Motivation for Us
The return of Jesus is presented in the Word of God as an excellent motivation for action. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
In 1 Thessalonians 5:6, Paul concludes a lesson on Christ’s coming saying, “So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” Jesus never called the people of God to hold the fort nor retreat but to work while they can (John 9:4).
The apostles all lived with the idea that the Lord Jesus could return at any time. Rather than disobey the command to make disciples (Mark 16:15), they made disciples and spread the gospel.
As a result, the disciples lived life to the fullest as if every day were their last. Today, every Christian should view each day as a gift from the Lord and use it to glorify God and make disciples.
The Importance of the Imminent Return of Jesus
Jesus could return at any moment and at any time. When Jesus spoke of His return in His ministry, it prompted questions from the disciples. One of these questions, in Mark 13:4, was, “When will these things happen?”
Jesus responded, in Mark 13:32-33, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard; keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.”
With any discussion of the end times, it’s vital to explain that the Lord does not intend for His people to understand His plans fully. What the Bible does say is that Jesus’ return is near, and His people are to eagerly wait for it (Romans 8:19-25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 4:5; Jude 21).
James encourages the people of God to “be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8). Revelation 1:3 and 22:10 teach that the return of the Lord is “near.” Jesus taught the disciples to watch and wait for His return. Luke 12:40, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
“Be ready” here means imminence. Throughout the New Testament, the Church is told to be ready (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6). The disciples and the Early Church expected the Lord Jesus’ return, and Christians today should patiently watch and wait for His return.
The salvation of the people of God, according to 1 Peter 1:5 is, “ready to be revealed in the last time.” The Lord Jesus could return at any moment, which will set in motion the events described in Revelation 6-18.
True Assurance in Christ
Having a false assurance of salvation in Christ is a real problem in our world today. Many people live their lives thinking they are “good” concerning the Lord. After all, they think they are good people — they take care of their families — and think their merits save them.
By itself, the presence of good works does not prove anything. One doesn’t have to be saved from refraining from lying, stealing, murder, or loving one’s family to be a productive citizen.
Paul tells Christians that while non-Christians suppress the knowledge of God, they still have the law of God on their consciences and live up to its standards in an external way (Romans 2:14-16).
External conformity to the law is possible for people who do not know Christ, although non-Christians cannot do what is pleasing to the Lord. Apart from God’s grace, all people are dead in their trespasses and sins and cannot be motivated to do good works by a genuine love for the Lord (Ephesians 2:1-10).
If good works are to be in any way evidence that we are genuinely saved, then the people of God must couple works with the right doctrine, knowing that believing in the biblical Christ alone saves them (John 3:16).
Good works are further evidence of genuine faith that alone can justify sinners only if they believe in the Christ revealed in the Scripture.
Two Groups of Christians
There are only two classes of people in the world. First are those who are genuinely saved and know they are saved. As a result, they are assured of their salvation because they believe in the biblical Jesus and see evidence of genuine faith in service to God and neighbor (James 2:14-16).
The combination of the right belief and right action does not always give people genuine salvation. It is possible for someone to be saved and yet to believe they are saved. After all, Satan accuses the people of God, which encourages them to call into question the state of their salvation.
Further, their sin can make it hard for them to believe that Christ loves the people of God and has redeemed them.
The second class of saved people consists of those who are saved but have no personal assurance of their salvation. Such Christians do not have to languish in uncertainty, for they can know they are saved if they know the biblical Jesus.
Revelation 12:10 calls Satan “the accuser of our brothers.” Satan loves to bring up the sins of the people of God and use it to cause them to doubt their salvation. The Holy Spirit convicts the people of God of their sin, but He does so not to bring despair but genuine assurance.
Satan tries to convince Christians that true assurance is impossible, so when they hear such a charge, we can know it comes from the devil and not from the Lord.
Paul and the Return of Jesus
In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul is facing his impending execution with joy, knowing that “a crown of righteousness” awaits him in the presence of the Lord. Now, he is not referring here to being saved by good works but only by the righteousness of Jesus (Galatians 2:15-16).
Once a person has been justified by faith alone, they will do good works that the Lord will reward in the life to come, although such works do not earn anyone a place in the kingdom of heaven.
Though every saint-sinner is imperfect, the Lord will reward each Christian a crown for the good works they have done because they have loved the appearing of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8).
Matthew Henry is right, “It is the character of all the saints that they long for the appearing of Jesus Christ: they love his second appearing at the great day; love it, and long for it.” It is very easy to become content with the comforts and material success of love.
A love for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus motivates every Christian to do good works that will gain an everlasting reward.
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Dave Jenkins is the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the Host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. He received his MAR and M.Div. through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow him on Twitter at @davejjenkins, find him on Facebook at Dave Jenkins SOG, Instagram, read more of his writing at Servants of Grace, or sign to receive his newsletter. When Dave isn’t busy with ministry, he loves spending time with his wife, Sarah, reading the latest from Christian publishers, the Reformers, and the Puritans, playing golf, watching movies, sports, and spending time with his family.