The King returns to his kingdom after a long journey. His castle stands tall. The banners flap above the fortress. The soldiers still wear his colors and speak his language. All is as it was, externally.
He first notices something amiss as he walks among the people. They still consult his precious book he left them — but not with one eye anxious for his return. The people keep many of his wise precepts, it is true, yet he himself is little sought after, little missed. He overhears prayer in his name, yet few gaze over the walls, pleading at the heavens for him to come again.
How many have made his return their lifelong psalm?
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning. (Psalm 130:5–6)
We have his laws, his book, his name, his people, his songs, his ordinances — but not him as he intended it to be. Have we really noticed? Have his good gifts become enough for us? Are you and I really waiting for him to return?
Behold, He Comes
The final picture of the church recorded in Scripture shows her in a posture of yearning. Her best hopes and expectations find summary in one word: Come!
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” (Revelation 22:17)
Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)
When the deep enchantments of worldliness wears off, we better hear this groaning of the Spirit within, crying out for Jesus to return to us. This alone is the consummation of heaven for God’s people:
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:3)
Immanuel, God with us, is not just his Christmas name. This must be his everlasting name, lest our heaven live elsewhere.
A tearless eternity? Pointless, if the King of glory is not there to wipe sorrows away. Reigning on the throne of the cosmos? Child’s play, if we reign not with him. The death of death, the abolition of sin, perfection of life with angels and endless comforts? A cage and a prison, if Christ be not with us. The insistence at the bottom of every born-again heart, the one desire it will not be refused: Come, Lord Jesus!
It is not enough for our faith to know simply that Jesus is coming back. Eventually works drowsiness and mischief in our hearts. Unintentionally, we banish him to the ever-Tomorrow, the distant Never. We no longer expect him anytime soon, so we drop anchor and make do without him. “Your kingdom come,” we begin to pray from memory, but not from the heart.
Thus, in the final chapter of Scripture, Jesus tells us more.
Behold, I am coming soon. (Revelation 22:7)
Behold, I am coming soon. (Revelation 22:12)
Surely I am coming soon. (Revelation 22:20)
He exclaims that he is not just coming, but coming quickly. This little adverb moves his return from inevitable to imminent, from someday to any day.
Jesus would have us waiting, expectant, peeking again and again at the clouds with childlike anticipation. Quickly sends us to live atop the watchtower, squints for his appearance upon the horizon. Jesus would not have his people take naps at the news of his return.
Stay awake — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning — lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake. (Mark 13:35–37)
He wants us talking about his return, hoping in his return, praying for his return. He expects us to trim our lamps, prepare the house, and ready the Master’s favorite meal. He is coming back, soon.
How do we appropriate this revelation two thousand years later? Quickly, the scoffer thinks. Two thousand years stretches the word beyond credibility. How can we truly believe such a promise?
What is this but the insect speaking back to the mountains about time? The God spanning everlasting to everlasting — not the gnat of a few seconds — says quickly. The forest of Lebanon — not the housefly — bellows, “I come soon.” We sprout in the morning and die in the afternoon; his roots go deep. The Ancient of Days is his name.
The humble psalmist teaches Israel to sing to her Maker, “A thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). The apostle tells us not to overlook this fact, “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Generations of men have come and passed; his moon has only seen two nights. He “is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9).
And he waits purposefully. He waits for the last sheep to come into the fold, and then he shall return. Yet his return will be swift and when most do not expect. As with the final days of Sodom and Gomorrah, or the last morning before the Flood, when he comes, all wedding planning, football games, and vacations will be rendered obsolete.
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:12–13)
Men will reap what they have sown. Repent and believe.
For Love and War
Christian, your Lord comes quickly. Does this not speak of your Savior’s love?
As the Bride cries, “Come! Come! Come!” he does not respond, “Fear not; I will come back when I get around to it.” He doesn’t say he’ll add it to his list. He assures, “Behold, I will come with haste, with intention, in earnest.” Quickly lays this promise upon our hearts: “I will not tarry a moment beyond what is best.”
Once the last recipient of my crimson blood is washed, once the final sheep makes it into the fold, I will be there and bring you where I am. In a moment shorter than a lightning flash, I will be there. I will not walk. I will not delay.
Will he find us looking over the walls for his coming?
This world is not our home. We are not yet in our element. We open the window and send our dove to and fro about this earth, finding that it returns to us having found no solid homeland. But in a moment, the trumpet shall blast, the wall between this world and the next shall fall, and he will be before us, with us. The Lord of lords and King of kings, dazzling as the sun in all its strength. This present world will pass as a dream. We will look and shout and point,
Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him,
that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. (Isaiah 25:9)