In part one of this article, we looked at how the birth of Jesus was, in one sense, the culmination of centuries of expectation as Israel waited for the long-prophesied Messiah. Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection assured his victory over Satan, a conquering of death and a chance for those who trust in him to receive forgiveness and eternal life. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus promised he would return again.
Like those who waited for his first coming, we look around us at our broken world, at our broken relationships and long for Jesus’ return. Like every generation, since the disciples saw him depart, we hope that ours will be the generation that will welcome him back.
As we reflect on this time of waiting, there are a few things to remember so that we can make the most of this time before Jesus’ return.
1) We don’t know when Jesus will come back, but it will be sudden and unexpected and Jesus warns us to be ready.
In Matthew 24:36, 42-44 Jesus speaks of his return saying,
But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only…Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
This should be an encouragement to us that the time is short and we should be working at the task that the Lord has given to us.
2) We have a job to do while we are waiting.
Before he left, Jesus commissioned his followers with a special task: to be his witnesses to the whole world and to make disciples. This task is the responsibility of every follower of Jesus and involves telling both those around us and those in the farthest corners of the world about Jesus, telling them about Jesus’ sacrifice for them and inviting them to follow him. The book of Acts gives us an excellent example of Jesus’ own disciples and early believers bringing the hope of the Gospel to both Jews and non-Jews all across the ancient Roman world. The rest of the New Testament authors exhort us to speak the truth, love others, bear witness to Christ, and explain the reasons for our faith.
Why is this witness so important? Mark 16:16 tells us, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Another incredible encouragement to us is that we need not, and cannot, undertake this on our own power but God promises the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). As a believer, you share a personal responsibility for the job of being a witness for Jesus and you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the job.
3) Our motivation is the glory of our King, compassion of the lost, and our eternal reward.
The ultimate motivation for evangelism is linked to our very purpose of existence, to worship God. We share the Gospel to display God’s glory, as 1 Peter 2:9 puts it, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Our highest motivation is bringing glory to God for what he has done.
Another key motivation is compassion for the lost. All followers of Jesus began as lost, unforgiven people, separated from God and destined for eternal punishment. We are now adopted heirs, forgiven, justified before God and destined for an eternity in heaven. Reflecting on our own past and how God has changed our lives and redeemed us should give us compassion for those still separated from God and should spur us to share the Good News.
Finally, our eternal reward is another motivation. Paul, writing to the believers in Thessalonica says, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19) We have an eternity in heaven to look forward to, which is its own incredible reward but imagine the additional reward for worship God forever alongside those with whom you shared the Gospel.
As we wait for Jesus’ return, let us be about the task that he gave us: bearing witness to him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to people near and far. The time is short and the stakes are high!
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25