The certainty of Christ’s return
The second coming of Jesus Christ to planet earth has been the great hope of the true Christian church since his first coming, and all this time believers have been ‘standing on tiptoe’, as it were, looking forward to his return, with eyes straining to pierce through the mists which veil Christ from our sight. The church ever remembers his final words at the end of the Bible, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly’ and echoes back its reply, ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus’ (Rev. 22:20, NASB).
The church’s expectation for the future is very different from that of the world. The world has no certainty about the future of life on earth. The Bible, however, is sure of three things. First, there will be an end to life as we know it. History is not the record of a purposeless, patternless activity. History has a goal. Secondly, this end will be sudden or quick. There will be times of progress and regress as history has shown, but when the end comes it will be quick, ‘in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye’ (1 Cor. 15:52). And thirdly, this sudden end will be a divine act. God in the Person of Christ will return and gloriously fulfil his eternal purpose. While worldly hopes centre on man’s progress, Christian hope centres on Christ’s return. What more complete contrast could be imagined? It is the contrast between endless evolution by the wit of man and a sudden intervention by the will of God. This is the great hope of the New Testament church and of all Bible-believing churches ever since. It is the unbelieving servant who behaves as if his master will never return (Luke 12:45-46). Though there may be differences between us on some aspects of eschatology, all Bible-believing Christians should look forward eagerly to Christ’s return.
The nature of the hope of Christ’s return
Before we go any further, we must distinguish between the word ‘hope’ in its ordinary use and ‘hope’ as the Bible uses the term. None of our common hopes are certain. In everyday English the word ‘hope’ means the ‘expectation of something desired’ (Oxford Dictionary). The Greek word, however, means a ‘joyful and confident expectation’. What is the significant difference? It is this. Ordinary hopes originate in our own desire, whereas Christian hope in the return of Christ originates in his promise. We hope the weather will be fine on vacation because we want it to be. But it is our hope that Christ will return, because he said he would and we can rely on his word. In this case it is not our wish that is father to the thought, but Christ’s word: ‘He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”’ He said it repeatedly during his earthly ministry, and here in Revelation 22 he says it three times (vv.7, 12 and 20). Our Lord says it forcefully too. He prefaces his word with a strong affirmation, ‘Yes’. The world will scoff and the critics argue, but Jesus Christ, God incarnate, has said, ‘I am coming quickly’, and this is enough to make every humble Christian sure.
There is also a fine difference between ‘faith’ and ‘hope.’ Hope differs from faith chiefly in the direction in which it looks. Faith looks upward to past realities, whereas hope looks forward to realities that are still future. Of course the object of faith and hope is the same. It is the Lord Jesus Christ. But Christian faith is in Christ crucified and the salvation he won for us on the cross, whereas Christian hope is in Christ coming again and the glory of being with him in heaven forever. Hence Paul can speak in Titus 2:13 about ‘looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. Hope fills its vision with the triumphant return of Christ in power and great glory to banish sin and death and create ‘new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells’ (2 Peter 3:10-13).
This extract is taken from ‘Christ’s Return as King of Kings’ by Brian A. Russell, published by Grace Publications. Used with kind permission.