Every Christian believes that the Lord Jesus’s return is imminent, meaning that it could happen at any time, any moment. In Titus 2:13, Paul calls this, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Knowing 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, the Church should continue to faithfully serve Him.
The Return of Jesus is a Great Motivation for God’s People
The return of Jesus is presented in the Word of God as an excellent motivation for action. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, the Apostle 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.” And 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, living in light of the Apostles’ example and continuing the work of making disciples.
The Importance of the Imminent Return of the Lord Jesus
Jesus could return at any moment and at any time. When Jesus spoke of His return during His earthly ministry, it prompted questions from the disciples. One of these questions (found in Mark 13:4) was, “When will these things happen?” Jesus responded (verses 32-33) by saying, “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 fully understand His plans. 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 Christians 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, saying, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”( Luke 12:40). “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’ return will set in motion the events described in Revelation 6-18. Like the five wise virgins in the parable of Jesus (Matthew 25:1-13), every Christian must be ready. Matthew 25:13 says, “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
True Assurance in Christ
Having a false assurance of salvation in Christ is a real problem in our world today. Many people today live their lives thinking they are “good”; that the Lord is pleased with them. After all, they think they are good people, taking care of their families, and thinking their merits (“good” works) will save them.
Unfortunately, the presence of good works alone does not prove anything. One doesn’t have to be saved to refrain from lying, stealing, or murdering. Nor does one have to be saved to love one’s family or be a productive citizen. Paul tells Christians that while non-Christians suppress the knowledge of God, they still have the law of God written on their consciences and can 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 are unable do what is pleasing to the Lord.
Apart from God’s grace, all people are dead in their trespasses and sins, and therefore 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, as Christians, we must couple works with the right (biblical) doctrine, knowing that believing in the biblical Christ alone saves them (John 3:16). Good works are further evidence of genuine saving 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. 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 unsaved. 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 His chosen ones 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 the brethren.” Satan loves to bring up the sins of the God’s people and use it to cause them to doubt their salvation. The Holy Spirit convicts Christians 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, they can know it comes from the devil and not from the Lord.
Paul and the Return of the Lord 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 to being saved by good works here, 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 to please the Lord and thereby earn a reward in the life to come. A true Christian understands, however, that 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, and because they have loved the appearing of the Lord Jesus (2 Timothy 4:8).
Matthew Henry spoke truly when he said, “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 this life. A love for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, however, motivates every Christian to do good works that will gain an everlasting reward.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, the Host and Producer of Equipping You in Grace Podcast, and is a contributor to and producer of Contending for the Word. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.