‘I’M ON MY WAY! I’LL BE THERE SOON!’ [The Reality of Christ’s Return – Part 2]

[As to differing views on the Lord’s return, none of these affect our standing in/with Christ. Being an a-millenialist/pre-millenialist/dispensationalist in no way excludes us from God’s great saving purpose. The key is personal relationship, not perfect doctrine]

ᐈ Listening stock images, Royalty Free listening ear pictures ...

Allow me to echo Part 1’s encouragement to ‘fine-tune’ our ears to God’s voice amid the cacophony of voices clamouring for our attention today. Many years ago now, Melanie and I were backpacking our way around Britain. Toward the end of our trek, we found ourselves among the hills and lochs of N.W. Scotland. One particular day, high up in the hills, we were enjoying the breathless silence of the country-side. Suddenly the quiet was pierced by a shrill whistle in the distance. Then I spotted the Highland shepherd, whistling for his flock to gather and follow him. That experience has never left me. Years later, while studying the evangelist John’s story of ‘The Good Shepherd’ I was reminded of his words, ‘After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice’ (Jn. 10:4-5/NLT).

Scotland's oldest shepherd, 94, gets huge accolade for lifetime of ...

The NT often uses the word parousia/’appearance’ to describe Christ’s return. When the early Church spoke about Christ’s final appearance, their thoughts went back to his first. In his first coming, Jesus came to deal with sin and the devil – in his second coming he returns ‘not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him’ (Heb. 9:28). The disciples were familiar with Jesus’ effulgent mountain-top transfiguration (Mt.17:2) – they also grasped that he would some day return from heaven in the same way’ they saw him go as ascending Lord! (Acts 1:11) The term parousia isn’t limited to Christ’s coming, it’s also used for the coming of any person (e.g. Stephanas in 1 Cor. 16:17), even that of the ominous ‘man of lawlessness’ (2 Thess. 2:9). However, parousia obtains a special significance when used for Christ’s second ‘coming,’ ‘the parousia.’ This refers to his unique and historical return lying at the very heart of the Christian hope. Jesus’ return doesn’t spring from an obsessive compulsion to speculate about the Church’s future details nor to probe its inscrutable mysteries – rather it’s the simple announcement of Christ’s climactic, historic, visible and personal return to fully establish his kingdom on earth (Mt. 6:10). The Nicene Creed (325 AD) puts it beautifully: ‘For us and for our salvation he (Christ) came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end!’ These words echo the Apostle Paul’s gospel credo in 1 Cor. 15: how about reading the whole chapter (we wouldn’t dreaming of reading a love letter one paragraph at a time) from a Bible translation different to the one you’re used to? In this passage Paul affirms the death and resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and transformation of the body: what assurance, comfort and hope! In the mean time, we keep serving Jesus daily and faithfully in whatever circumstances. I recall my Scottish College Principal asking us, ‘What would you be doing if you knew Jesus was coming tomorrow?’ Before we could reply he added, ‘I know what I would be doing… lecturing you!’ (cf. Paul’s rebuke of the idle in 2 Thess. 3)

In the light of Jesus’ ‘return,’ we celebrate his abiding presence with us. After directing his followers to make disciples of all nations, he adds, ‘Be sure of this: I am with you always… (Mt. 28:20). As we presently live between the ‘already’ but ‘not yet’ of Christ’s reign, we recall his earlier declaration, ‘For where two or three gather together in my name, I am there among them!’ (Mt. 18:20) The present epoch is not an empty waiting-time. Paul repeatedly endorsed Christ’s living in/through the hearts of his followers (e.g. Eph.3:17a) as a present reality. Throughout history the Church has celebrated Christus praesens.’ We rejoice in this every time we ‘break bread.’ Before doing so we pray for grace to patiently await, with uplifted heads, our Lord Jesus from heaven. We eat and drink ‘until he comes again’ (1 Cor. 11:26). We’re led to the window through which we look out on the coming marriage-feast of the Lamb: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9). The images of our present and coming banquet merge into one another (G.C. Berkouwer’s The Return of Christ’ p. 147). [1]

300+ Free Communion & Eucharist Images - Pixabay

There is an ancient Christian legend about an evil angel roaming around to deceive someone, who, on an occasion encounters a good angel. Catching the evil angel off-guard, the good angel asked, ‘What do you miss most since leaving heaven?’ The evil angel intuitively replied, ‘The sheer joy, the exhilarating morning and evening praise!’ Oops! While busy with the onerous task of re-building the temple after its destruction, Nehemiah encouraged Israel not to be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!’ (Neh. 8:10). What else could have turned the beaten-up Paul and Silas in their Macedonian prison to joyful praying and singing around midnight while the other prisoners were listening? (Acts 16:25). It was the joyous fore-taste of heaven that would sustain the Apostle Peter and his readers in times of terrible persecution by Rome: 1 Pet. 1:8ff, You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious and inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.’


Finally, hand-in-hand with our anticipation of the Lord’s return, goes an openness, courage and confidence in Christ (Heb. 3:6; 10:19) – this in stark contrast with the fear and uncertainty of unbelief. Rather, the unbelieving cry for the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of the one who sits on the throne (Rev. 6:16). This unease stems from a life-time of ignoring and neglecting the beautiful face of God revealed in Jesus. There can be no doubt as to the concreteness with which the NT speaks of this judgment. Although it concerns ordinary existence, there is nevertheless no hint of moralism to it. The judgment is Christ’s, who has come and will come again. In it, all of life is manifest. The entire judgment has been given to Him (Jn. 5:22). Clearly and simply it points to the depth of man’s crisis: ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life.’ The judgment – the crisis is concentrated in Christ himself: it is not (only) an unveiling of all things in general, but of one’s relationship to Christ in particular… Love sets the criteria for judgment, the love of God that appeared in Christ” (G.C. Berkouwer). Ultimately we’re all accountable. The central decision of life, namely for Christ or deliberately/unconsciously against him, remains the crucial factor and circumscribes our life in its entirety. With regard to these somewhat puzzling eternal issues, I’ve been greatly helped by C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Great Divorce.’ It journals a bus-trip of ordinary folk on vacation from hell, leaving their dark and dingy world and shown a beautiful vista of heaven – only to re-board the bus and return to their gloomy existence. The gates to hell only have a handle on the inside! (Lewis). The Great Divorce

Hence the necessity of ‘gossiping’ the gospel to the world (Mt. 24:14), even in a day of populist pluralism, costless discipleship and cheap ‘Christian’ universalism. I repeat, what is said in the Bible about Christ’s parousia is no fantastic series of events to speculate about but something to be proclaimed to one and all. This in a day when most ‘churches’ focus inwardly on selfish personal achievement and ‘self-discovery’ (as important as the latter is in itself) rather than publicly proclaiming (by word and deed) Christ’s good news to the broken and the poor. Paul rightly says, ‘an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!’ (1 Cor. 9:16). For your/my encouragement, it was over-hearing three humble old women standing in a sunny Bedford doorway ‘gossiping the gospel’ that gave the world the great John Bunyan!

I trust you’ll join me for PART 3 of ‘THE REALITY OF CHRIST’S RETURN!’


[1] See my Archives for a blog-series, ‘Re-Thinking Communion,’ published 24th November 2012.





















3 thoughts on “‘I’M ON MY WAY! I’LL BE THERE SOON!’ [The Reality of Christ’s Return – Part 2]

  1. I love watching the remarkable performance of sheep dogs. If there was ever a lost lamb, I was one. Yet the Lord came after me to find. May He keep you in His care, Erroll. ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s