Monday, 12 November 2007

The Return of Jesus

I'm doing a series of talks on the return of Jesus on Saturday and it got me thinking about why we speak of this so little. It's ironic because in many contexts, end times is massive. But in my context we speak very little of the return of Jesus. It kind of gets lost between the doctrine of the cross and the doctrine of eternal life. Perhaps there's a sense that it seems pointless to us. After all, won't we meet Jesus when we die anyway? Why is it so important whether or not He comes back - it's simply pre-empting something that we're gonna personally experience sooner or later.

Given that the NT speaks so much of the return of Jesus and seems to think of it as massively important, there must be something wrong with my/our thinking. What's the relevance, then, of the doctrine of the return of Christ?

1. Our hope is not to escape to 'heaven' (i.e. ethereal, spirit existence in another reality) but to live in a renewed creation with the Lord Jesus. He 'must' come back to re-create and restore justice, goodness and peace. We are not escaping to another world, but He is returning to judge and renew this one.

2. The return of Christ is about the exaltation of the Lord Jesus. It reminds us that, wonderful as our salvation is, the gospel is mainly about Him and His Kingship. His return means his ultimate vindication and the recognition of Him by the whole creation. The return of Jesus is, then, about His glory.

3. It is very striking to see how much Jesus makes His return a key element in the life of discipleship - particularly as He goes to the cross. He doesn't say so much about living in light of the cross, but He says an awful lot about living in light of His return. Why? It must be that His return is the endpoint of the gospel - it is the conclusion of the gospel. If we stop at the cross (even the resurrection) we truncate the gospel. The danger will be that we seek our ultimate fulfilment in this life with Jesus. we settle for less than is promised....

This has certainly challenged me to think more deeply about the difference the return of Jesus makes to my daily life.