One evening after a revival service at our church, I sat in front of the window in my room, looked out across the darkness of our backyard, and begged Jesus not to return. At least not any time soon. I don't remember anything at all about that particular revival service: not who preached nor his text nor even any of his pertinent points. Evidently it had something to do with the end of the world as we knew it. I was a young girl, 11 or 12, maybe older, maybe younger, and I was terrified (terrified!) that Jesus would indeed come back as warned, soon and very soon, robbing me of a boyfriend and prom and all of the other childish dreams and aspirations that were close to my young girl's heart.
It seems silly and almost a little sad to scare a little girl half out of her wits to the extent that she could hardly sleep at night for fear of never having a first date. I will say this in defense of my younger self: I believed Jesus' promise to return. Not only that but I realized I much preferred the world according to Seventeen magazine, a realization that I'd like to think scared me as much as life without ever having a pedicure.
Today I still believe Jesus' promise to return and I pretend to be ready but the reality is sometimes I still prefer He would wait.
In 1 John chapter 3 John makes the startling statement that all who hope in Jesus' appearing purify themselves (1 John 3:3). Hoping, eagerly expecting, Christ's return is a means of purification, how? Doesn't this seem contradictory to our usual warning against being so heavenly minded to be of no earthly good?
As I consider the relationship between hoping in Christ and in His appearance and my purification, I draw a couple of conclusions. First, living in the reality of His return makes a difference in how I live. I gain eternal perspective. I understand this world is fleeting and the true treasure in not found here below but above, where Christ is. These truths are reinforced as I wait eagerly for His appearing.
Not only does this eager expectation for the return of my Savior affect the way I live, but its effect is one of purification from sin. Consider Titus 2:11-13 where Paul speaks of renouncing ungodliness and worldly passions by waiting for the blessed hope, the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. My ESV Study Bible tells me that "Certainty about the future enables constancy in the present." Certainty motivates constancy. I will see Him so I want to be like Him. These troubles are light and momentary compared to the weight of glory that is to come thus I can persevere in my fight with sin and flesh and world. Jesus will return. This hope purifies me.
I think of me as a young girl sitting in front of her window and crying and it makes me sad. I thought at the time that Jesus' imminent return would rob me of something precious that, despite me going to heaven, I would lose out. As I weighed the options in the balance I figured my earthly future of greater worth; thus I cried.
I no longer weep at the thought of Jesus' second coming but I operate under the same set of assumptions when I count the pleasures of this world as greater and more important. In this way, what I think about Jesus' return reveals what I love and what I think important. As it exposes the true nature of my heart and my heart's affections, I am purified.
Jesus' return is not a source of hope for all. He will come in judgment and where then will hope lie? Only in His finished work on the cross where He died to secure forgiveness for all who would believe. Is your hope in Him? Do you rest secure knowing He will return? Has this truth purified you? Does it affect the way you live? 1 Thess. 5:23 promises that those who belong to Christ will be kept blameless at His appearing--blameless because He paid the penalty for your sin, granting you eternal life in Him.
May our heavenly mindedness make us of earthly good as we watch and work and wait. May our confidence in the end of this world as we know it propel us to hope, not fear, as we proclaim the truth in love. May we know our true Treasure awaits--yes and amen--and may our passion be thus directed.
Jesus is our only hope. He will return. Wait for it. Watch for it. Hope in it. By it you will be purified.