27. When Jesus Returns

Meditations in 1 John : 27 : When Jesus Comes

1 John  2:28   And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

John has, in this letter, been encouraging the church to stand firm in the truth, obeying God’s commands, expressing God’s love, resisting the spirit of the world and the distorted ‘truths’ of those who have left the truth and formed their own doctrines that were different from the apostles’ teaching. Above all he has been encouraging them to stand firm in their relationship with the Lord, fellowshipping with the Father and the Son. The Christian faith is to be a mix of responding to the will of God as revealed in His word, and responding to His will, as the Holy Spirit prompts, energises and guides and teaches us. This latter element comes out of the fellowship with have with the indwelling Spirit, the presence of God within us.

Now it is that John gives us another reason to hang on in there, resisting the world, sin and the enemy. We will never know when Jesus is coming back but we must always be ready for it. Let’s just focus on his Second Coming for a moment.

In his general teaching Jesus told a parable about the owner of a vineyard who went away, had dealings from a distance with the tenants he left in charge of the vineyard, but then eventually returned (see Mt 21:33-41) But he also taught more specifically about it: as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man,” (Mt 24:27) and “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory,” (Mt 24:30) and When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.” (Mt 25:31)  The same thing was stated very explicitly by the two angels when Jesus ascended: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

It was also taught by the early church, for example, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God,” (1 Thess 4:16) which is in the context of Jesus’ words about his coming again. In his second letter he also wrote, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.” (2 Thess 2:1,2)

So John is speaking into familiar teaching: Jesus will come back – so when he does, ensure you live in the way I have been speaking about “so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him.”  It is very similar teaching to that of Jesus when he said on one occasion, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)  Living in this fallen world is often confusing. Things happen and we wonder why. Things go wrong, people get ill, have accidents, even die and we wonder why. Injustice occurs and we wonder where God is.  People come with strange teaching and confusion hangs in the air. The fact of the matter is that God is working in His world all the time but often it is not possible for us, it seems, to discern what He is doing. Do you remember Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day,” (Jn 5:17) and of course the apostle Paul wrote, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” (Rom 8:28) which suggests that the Lord is always working on our behalf. But the truth is that we may not be able to see what He seems to be doing in our circumstances sometimes. So all around us things happen which often involve us, and the big question always is, how will I respond to this?  If Jesus returned in the middle of these trying circumstances, how would he find us acting? Will he find us holding on in faith, refusing to give way and live like the rest of the world, grumbling and being all out for self, or will he find us doing the things the Spirit has been leading us to do?

I’m not sure if it is a good illustration but it comes to mind in this context. One of the funniest examples of being caught out by Jesus when he turns up occurs in John 21 when the disciples had been told by Jesus to go to Galileeand wait for him there. So they go and they wait … and wait… until eventually impatient Peter says, “I’m going out to fish.” (Jn 21:3) Some of the others join him and they spend the night catching nothing. Come the morning Jesus appears on the shore and tells then to throw the net out on the other side and they catch a great haul. When they get to the shore they find that Jesus has already made a fire and he’s already cooking fish!!!  Jesus calmly instructs them to pull their catch in and come and eat and it is not until after the meal that he helps Peter confront his recent past.

What I like about that illustration is that he didn’t chide them for their impatience but instead he blessed them with a big catch and then fed them. Will Jesus find me doing my own fishing – or his fishing, when he returns? I hope it will be doing his works but I’m sufficiently aware of my own shortcomings that I have to say that I know it will need to be with his grace. May we be “confident and unashamed” when he returns!