When we’re suffering, we often say “Come, Lord Jesus”. We want him to return, as he has promised, and replace our suffering with peace and joy. This is a good instinct, for our hope is meant to be in that final day.
But we do we still say this when life is going well?
Tomorrow is Christmas Day. We’ve come to the end of Advent, a season of anticipation and waiting. The long-awaited day is almost here, and we hope it will bring joy, love, and laughter.
Yet we must remember that, ultimately, we’re not waiting for Christmas. As Christians we await the end times, when Jesus returns and restores the world to how it was meant to be.
Hebrews 9:26b–28 says:
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (emphasis mine)
Often I’m eagerly awaiting my next day off, or seeing close friends, or a great meal. I’m not always eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus. Suffering brings this longing into sharp relief—but a posture of expectation should characterise our whole lives, not just our worst moments.
Awaiting superior joy
Even when God gives us amazing gifts, they always pale in comparison to what is waiting for us in eternity. If we truly believe that we will be going to be in heaven with Jesus Christ forever, we should be anticipating this:
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)
We will always be with the Lord! What greater joy could we have than this?
Imagine the best day you could possibly have, spending it as you choose. You have plenty of energy, and you’ve got the freedom and money to go wherever you want. Perhaps you’d stroll down the streets of Paris with someone you love, or simply curl up next to a fireplace with a stack of books.
Heaven will be better than whatever you’re imagining. It’s better simply because we’ll be with Jesus Christ, seeing and talking to him face-to-face. But it’ll also be better in a million other ways. It won’t be tainted by sin (your own or anyone else’s). There’ll be no end to your joy. You don’t have to go to sleep and wake up again to the drudgery and pain of your regular life.
We may spend blissful hours reading the Bible and praying to God today, but when Jesus returns we will be with him perfectly and eternally. We may enjoy the fellowship of Christian friends, but when Jesus returns we’ll have perfect relationships with all the redeemed saints. No more sin and hurt and misunderstanding will stand in the way.
As C.S. Lewis once wrote in a letter: “There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Remembering what’s ahead
The danger when things are going well is that we forget this life isn’t our final destination. We fail to see how much better eternity will be.
The Israelites had the same problem. God led them into the promised land, where they could dwell with him and be his people. But as God generously made them more prosperous, this became the most important thing. They forgot about God, preferring the gifts to the Giver.
How can we guard against this temptation? The passage I quoted earlier continues on with an exhortation:
Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:18)
So we can’t remember on our own. We need the body of Christ to remind us to earnestly long for the return of Jesus. As we walk with each other through both sufferings and triumphs, let’s continually point each other to the final day when our joy will be complete.
Longing at Christmas
What are you waiting for this Christmas? When your family is getting along, and you have gifts and food and rest from work, will you still cry out for Jesus to return?
There’s something magical about Christmas Eve. During my church’s 11pm service, I glance at the clock to watch when it passes midnight. It heralds an exciting few days which I’ve been counting down to for months. Yet there’s something even better coming, which grows closer each day.
As I notice the clock tick steadily forward tonight, I will still whisper “Come, Lord Jesus”.