I Can Hardly Wait!
By Heidi Swander
I went out to dinner with a couple of girlfriends a while back and the conversation easily slipped into world events and how dire the forecast looks economically, socially, politically, etc. Finally I burst out excitedly: "Goin' Home!" (This has become a trademark of mine. When I see the rapid decline of so much in our world, the increase of earthquakes, the decline of the church, the rapid descent into socialism – it reminds me that the hour is late, and that reminds me that Jesus promised to come and get me!). In response, one of my girlfriends smiled wryly. I said, "Jesus could come back and get us tonight!" to which she replied, "Oh, Jesus could come back tonight, but I doubt it."
My heart wrenched. It wasn't that I believed it any less. It was grief I felt that she, for all her lip service to the imminence of the Lord's return for His bride, very obviously wasn't anticipating Him, let alone waiting with baited breath. And I wondered: how many does she represent in Christendom? How many Christians say they are waiting for Jesus to rapture us out of this world and take us Home, but in practice they evidence a lack of belief because they don't anticipate it moment-by-moment? And their lack of joy reflects it.
Get all excited!
In speaking to the Philippians of our heavenly citizenship, Paul took it for granted that his Christian readers would all be greatly anticipating the return of Jesus Christ. He said, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Phil. 3:20). Did you get that? Eagerly wait – that's what he said. Of this verb, John MacArthur in his study Bible says, "The Greek verb . . . expresses the idea of waiting patiently, but with great expectation."
Paul used this same Greek verb in I Cor. 1:7 when he wrote to the Corinthian church, "So that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ." In this context the whole scope of the second coming – from the rapture through His second coming just prior to the set up of His millennial kingdom — appears to be in view.
And then there's Paul's letter to the church at Rome. In chapter 8 Paul discusses how all of creation is groaning in anticipation of its transformation back into what God originally intended. And in that context he says, ". . . we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body [the rapture] (8:23). Yep, he used the same word Greek word again.
But Paul isn't the only one who addresses this. When writing to "the saints scattered abroad" in II Peter, the Apostle Peter admonished the believers that their conduct should be holy and they should be "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God," (II Peter 3:11-12). Of this verb – "hastening", Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible says, ". . . by implication, to await eagerly."
So you see, God expects us – as a matter of course – to eagerly anticipate our Home-going. I looked up the word, "eager" in my American Heritage Dictionary and here's what it said: "Intensely desirous of something; impatiently expectant." Reality check: Are you intensely desirous and patiently (or impatiently) expectant for Jesus Christ to return to take you Home?
Do you love it?
As Paul was preparing to be martyred for Jesus, he eloquently spoke of looking back to a life lived in obedience to God and looking forward to his Home-going. He specifically said that not only he, but all those who "love" Christ's appearing, would receive a crown of righteousness. The word "love" used here connotes passion. And my faithful dictionary gives a description that seems to match the context very well: "A strong enthusiasm. To like or desire enthusiastically." Reality check: Do you enthusiastically, passionately desire for the Lord to come back and take us Home?
Let's look at this from a different perspective: a wedding — specifically, a Jewish wedding. In John 14:2-3, Jesus alluded to a Jewish wedding when He said, "In my Father's house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."
In his article, "Pattern is Prologue: The Rapture, Part 2", Chuck Missler does a wonderful job of outlining a Jewish wedding, upon which Jesus' promise to us was predicated. The analogies between the stages of a Jewish wedding and Jesus returning for His church are so numerous that I get excited! I hope you'll read Chuck's article, but let me quote just a portion of it here so you can see what I mean:
Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was established, and the young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified – set apart – exclusively for her bridegroom. As a symbol of the covenant relationship that had been established, the groom and bride drank from a cup of wine over which the betrothal had been pronounced.
After the marriage covenant was established, the groom left his bride at her home and returned to his father's house, where he remained separated from his bride for approximately 12 months. This afforded the bride time to gather her trousseau and prepare for married life.
During this period of separation, the groom prepared a dwelling place in his father's house to which he would later bring his bride. At the end of the period of separation, the bridegroom came – usually at night – to take his bride to live with him. The groom, the best man, and other male escorts left the father's house and conducted a torch-light procession to the home of the bride. Although the bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the time of his coming. As a result, the groom's arrival was preceded by a shout, which announced her imminent departure to be gathered with him.
Can you imagine the anticipation of the bride as she waited for her groom to return? We in the Western world look forward with excitement to our wedding day — and we know when that wedding day is. Imagine not knowing. Imagine that you get engaged and then your fiancé (groom) goes off and you don't even see him for 12 months or so while he's building a house! No dates. No letters. No phone calls. No emails. You just wait, and you wait with joy, anticipation and excitement imagining the new life you will live together!
That is the enthusiasm with which God wants us to await the return of His Son for us. Reality check: Does this picture you and your eagerness as you wait for Jesus to return to take us Home?
What we're anticipating
It's tough to look forward to something when you have no idea what you're anticipating. I'm sure our Jewish bride had at least an inkling of the future, basis family and societal tradition – and she had personally met her groom face-to-face. So I thought I'd give you a little taste from Scripture of what it is we're in for when our Bridegroom comes to get us:
We will be changed. Remember that "redemption of the body" I referred to earlier? Paul covers that in great detail in I Cor. 15:35-55. And John mentions it in I John 3:2 – we will be like Jesus! Let's cover a few things this means for us:
1. An incorruptible body – it won't get sick and it will never age or decay
2. Immortality – we will never, ever die
3. No more sin nature – not only will we not sin; we won't even be tempted to sin
4. Not limited to the space/time continuum – there are many more dimensions than the three or four we are familiar with
5. We will be like Jesus – we will have His nature and a body that functions like His resurrected body
We have an inheritance already prepared for us and we will receive it (I Peter 1:4)! We don't know all this entails, but some of things in our inheritance include: Eternal life (Mark 10:17); the Earth (Matt. 5:5); a kingdom (Matt. 25:34); a blessing (I Peter 3:9); a dwelling place of our own (John 14:1-3); and a beautiful, breathtaking city (Heb. 11:10; Rev. 21:1-22:5)
We will reign with Jesus. This encompasses both the millennium and eternity (Rev. 5:10; Rev. 22:3-5). Reign. Let that word sink in. Beloved, we will be the government under the auspices of Jesus Christ Himself who will reign supremely from Jerusalem!
Are you excited yet?
Yeah, Heidi. I see your point...I'm getting excited. But what good does it do me to get so excited about His return? Answer: It sanctifies you.
As I mentioned earlier, the Apostle John wrote of the wonderful truth that when Jesus is revealed – when He comes for us – we will become like Him in nature. Then John says, "And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure," (I John 3:3). If we think He may show up at any minute, it behooves us to live every day in a way that will please Him – in case today is the day!
Here's what John MacArthur says in his study notes to this verse: "Living in the reality of Christ's return makes a difference in a Christian's behavior. Since Christians someday will be like Him, a desire should grow within the Christian to become like Him now."
And here's something else it does in the here-and-now according to that same verse: It gives us hope. Hope that no matter what crummy situation we find ourselves in here on Earth, there's a better day coming! We can endure anything if we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our future – our eternal future – is everlastingly bright!
Hope. That's a topic for another day, because when the Bible uses the word "hope" it's a sure thing. Just like the fact that Jesus will come to take us Home – God willing in the very near future. I can hardly wait! Can you?