20Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you."
22Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23They will say to you, 'Look there!' or 'Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. 26Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. 27They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them.28Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them 30- it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. 31On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. 32Remember Lot's wife. 33Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. 34I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left." 36, 37Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He said to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
We celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God on Christmas and we celebrate the Resurrection of the Son of God on Easter. Do we have a holiday for the Return of the Son of God? We do not. We do not have this holiday because the Return of the Son of God has not occurred. We still await this Event.
Outside of certain places, like IHOPKC, the Return of Jesus does not figure all that much in one's prayer, thought, or life. Perhaps every once in awhile, if a book or a movie brings up this topic, do people give thought to Christ's Return. Otherwise, life is too busy and too stuffed with things to do that most of us try to manage day by day, trying to survive.
In this survival mode, it is a challenge to think about things that may happen in the distant future. And isn't it true, that that's how we do think about Christ's Return? That it's something way off in the distant future, so remote that for all intents and purposes we don't need to worry about it? I think many of us think this way. That it's remote. And that we don't need to worry about it.
For those who've given some thought to this subject, feelings of worry, fear, uncertainty, anticipation of calamity and judgment are mixed with feelings of longing and resolution ('when Jesus comes back he'll take care of everything!'). Such feelings aside, a more basic understanding is addressed by the passage above. The passage above indicates that the Return of the Son of Man ("Son of Man" is a Messianic title originally found in Daniel) will be sudden, like lighting flashes (v.24), and people will be busy with ordinary living (eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, and building). The passage is a warning: Be Alert. Be aware that the coming of the Son of Man will catch most people by surprise because they did not consider the Lord's Advent. They were too busy with life. Not so for you, Jesus is saying to his disciples.
Although this passage does not capture the more positive feelings, like Revelation 22:20 -- "He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus" -- the passage does stress the important aspect of knowing -- we ought to know what will happen. And we ought to allow this knowledge to seep into our deep belief system, like rainwater that seeps into dry ground, conditioning the soil and adding to the groundwater. Such knowledge that seeps into our belief system will condition other things we think about: evil and suffering in the world, justice for those wronged, justice for those who wrong others, ultimate Shalom over creation, our ultimate hope of salvation, our looking forward to a new heavens and a new earth.
The Return of the Son of Man need not be primarily filled with fear and worry, but their opposites, hope and joy. Without the Return of the Son of God, this story -- the story of God's redemption and our lives -- is not complete. The story needs a fitting end. The Return of Jesus and the establishment of the new heavens and earth is that fitting end (and a new beginning).
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, help us to know that your return is imminent according to your timeline. Help us to live our lives with the great awareness that all that we do are within the greater narrative of your Return and Consummation. Help us to number of days, making sure each day counts. Help us to live not in fear and worry, but in hope and joy. Help us to know that all the evil and suffering in the world will be addressed ultimately by you. Nothing will be overlooked. Nothing will be neglected. You will make all things right. You will make all things glorious. So we say to you today, Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.