Twenty-first century America is preoccupied with the search for racial and sexual equality, cure for cancer and other diseases, the dilemma of legalized abortion, the struggle for recognition of homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle, and attempts to find substitutes for worn-out body organs.
America is also preoccupied with searching for new energy sources, preserving an inhabitable environment, dealing with the problems of the nation of Israel and displaced Palestinians, assigning blame for the problems in the East and Middle East, deciding what to do about rogue countries with big weapons, and struggling to safeguard against terrorist threats while attempting to eliminate terrorism.
Some problems seem near solution, but others only intensify. Church-goers seriously question the rationality of denominationalism. Many new congregations result from splits and dissension in the struggle over change. Each generation seeks its own means of expressing frustration, coping with boredom, and retaining its youth bored with unchanged worship services. Meanwhile, atheists build their own churches and claim tax exemption.
The percentage of two-parent American families is declining as the liberal media promotes every form of sexual indulgence and promiscuity. Liberal courts offer instant divorces. Influential groups confuse many politicians about whether there is a difference between the sexes, except in take-home pay. Many problems that are supposed to be getting better instead are getting worse!
Bad to Worse
America entered the 21st century still not understanding why immigrants from other countries wish to come here and shape America into a system like the one they fled. But we try to accommodate and tolerate most any custom they wish to import, even if it’s destructive to the very attractiveness that brings them here.
The persecuted still want to come, though we rank high in divorce rates, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, murder, crime, AIDS, and law suits.
This unrest in society was predicted almost 2,000 years ago as a prelude to the end of the world. The Bible talks about a time when people will be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
This moral tailspin has one hope of resolution: the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Return and Resurrection
When He lived on this earth, Jesus promised to return:
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 (John 14:2, 3, NASB).
Jesus also promised a resurrection of the dead at the time of His return:
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28, 29, NASB).
Apostle Peter wrote:
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things into which the angels long to look (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Peter explained that the prophets’ predictions of the Messiah’s suffering, death, and resurrection were not to be fulfilled in the time of the prophets, but that a significant part of those prophecies came to pass during his generation.
The Messiah’s return — the final revelation of Jesus Christ — is yet to be fulfilled.
Through faith [we] are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:5-7).
Ready and Waiting
How can we be ready for the Second Coming if we don’t know when it will happen? By watching signs to know when to prepare? No, for that implies waiting to prepare until the last minute. We are to maintain constant readiness for His coming by faith in Christ, obedience to His teachings, and godly living.
Jesus compared our readiness for His return to a wise and faithful servant whose master put him in charge of the other servants “to give them their food at the proper time” (Matthew 24:45). Jesus said, “It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions” (v. 47).
Jesus also told a story of ten virgins who expected to attend a wedding feast. They did not know when it was to begin, so when the bridegroom arrived, five of them were welcomed to the feast because they were ready to meet the bridegroom. But five were turned away because they were not ready.
The point Jesus made was “Keep watching, because you do not know the day or the hour of His return” (see Matthew 25:1-13).
Admission to the kingdom, which Jesus compared to a wedding banquet, depends on being prepared. In the story, preparation was having not just a lamp but a lamp with oil, trimmed and already burning at the time the bridegroom came. Notice those who were not ready had lamps. They were trimmed and even burning but were going out! Those virgins were not allowed to enter even after they purchased oil (vv. 8, 10, 11).
The five rejected virgins were negligent; they had been prepared but did not stay prepared. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, “The one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.” This is the reason Apostle Paul appeals to us, “We urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. . . . I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1, 2). In other words, we must not delay in accepting the grace of God, which leads to eternal life; and we must not accept it in vain. As warned in Hebrews 2:3, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
In today’s culture, admission to fine restaurants and private clubs requires ties and jackets for men and dresses for ladies. Likewise, the wedding banquet in the coming kingdom requires certain dress: “ ‘Fine linen, bright and clean. . . .’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)” (Revelation 19:8). Godly character forms the attire worn by those who enter Jesus’ kingdom.
Jesus tells the predicament of those who don’t “dress” properly for the wedding banquet: “When the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless” (Matthew 22:11, 12).
As a result, the man was cast out of the wedding banquet (v. 13) and was not given additional time to prepare himself after the banquet began.
What’s in It for You?
How will being prepared for the Second Coming affect you personally?
The Bible states that the “dead in Christ” (Christians asleep in their graves) will rise from the dead at Jesus’ return, and those “alive and in Christ” also will be changed at His coming.
This change will rob death of its sting:
The mortal (people subject to death) will become immortal.
The perishable (bodies subject to decay) will become imperishable. This is the way death will be “swallowed up in victory” (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
Paul wrote of the hard knocks he had experienced. He said he had
“. . . worked much harder, been in prisons more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea; I have been constantly on the move, I have been in dangers from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked (2 Corinthians 11:23b-27).
Paul portrayed the difference between our present life and eternal life. He said our present bodies are like tents — a contrast to the “many mansions” Jesus said await the children of God (John 14:2, 3, KJV). As long as we live in these “tents,” we will long to live in our heavenly dwelling (in Paul’s analogy, our temporary bodies contrasted with our immortal bodies, see 2 Corinthians 5:1-6).
When Jesus returns, this temporary life will be replaced by eternal life. Tents are temporary dwellings; the place Jesus goes away to prepare for us is eternal. Paul wrote:
For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:4, 5).
Life pulls at you. Life may wear you down. As if hearing our frustration, Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
All your lumps, bumps, and blemishes, all your imperfections will be replaced with eternal perfection. The best is yet to be revealed! What’s in it for you? Colossians 3:4 summarizes it: “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
A Sure Thing: Jesus Is Coming!
Who will enter the New Jerusalem one day? Those “who . . . have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). Simply put, they had heard the gospel of salvation, believed Jesus died for their sins, accepted Him as Lord, and been baptized. Their filthy, rag-like, sinful lives had been replaced with clean clothes (the righteousness of Christ and obedience to God). They had been fitted with garments suitable for the presence of Christ our King:
“The wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) (Revelation 19:7b, 8).
The result of being dressed and ready for Jesus’ return will be resurrection with the righteous and a joyful welcome into the kingdom of God. Don’t doubt; believe it and live!
Are you weary of society’s problems or have you grown used to them? Do struggles with various situations keep you unprepared to meet Jesus? If so, the return of Christ will catch you off guard. He is the bridegroom in the story who found some not ready. They expected Him to come, but not then. Jesus promised to return. He is coming. Get ready!
If you want to become ready, we invite you to sincerely pray the following:
“Lord Jesus, I need You. I know that I am a sinner in need of Your forgiveness. I ask You to forgive me of my sins. I ask You to come into my life right now and cleanse me. I trust You as my Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations in this publication are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked NASB are from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.