Theologians refer to the Second Coming of Jesus as the Parousia, a Greek term with rich associations in first century culture referring to “presence” or “coming”. In the secular world it was used of the visit to a city by a person with royal status, like the emperor. When such a dignity visited a location, a reckoning took place of how the locals had been faithful to their civic responsibilities.
This reality dominates the New Testament expectations of the Return of the Lord. For example, Jesus said, “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew chapter 12 verse 36). Such a vision is enshrined in the words of the Apostles’ Creed, “who will come again to judge the living and the dead.” In both scripture and ancient tradition there is a certain aura associated with anticipating the Parousia. We have largely lost this reverence, but it must be regained if the Church in Australia is to fulfill her divine calling.
The Importance of the Second Coming
Someone has calculated that there are 318 references to the Return of Jesus in the New Testament: one out of every twenty-five verses. Jesus taught on this subject extensively (e.g. Matthew chapter 24) and it is a major theme in Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 15, 1-2 Thessalonians) as well as Acts, 1-2 Peter, Jude and Revelation. So, you should be able to easily recall when you heard a sermon that expounds this subject!
As a young believer in a Pentecostal Church in the 1970’s we were constantly told that Jesus’ return was “very soon”. This seemed plausible for non-theological reasons, we were after all living in the Mutually Assured Destructiontimes of the cold war. Beyond that, Hal Lindsay’s massively influential Late Great Planet Earth (pub. 1970, it really scared me) told us that, according to Jesus (Matthew chapter 24 verse 34), the re-founding of Israel in 1948 meant his
Coming back had to happen by 1988. The powers underlying such shallow speculation have been long used by the devil to dampen the Church’s conviction that Christ is really coming back soon. “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation chapter 22 verse 20)
Since the reality of the soon Return is communicated by the Spirit of Jesus (Revelation chapter 22 verse 19) in the context of the final unveiling of his triumphant Lordship (e.g., 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 25-28; Revelation chapter 19 verse 11-16), it follows that only Spirit-filled Christians can testify from their hearts by faith, “Our Lord come!” (1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 22). In other words, only those who know and desire to see the complete and final manifestation of the triumph of God’s kingly rule over all evil can authentically believe Jesus is certainly coming soon. This is the secret of how, despite various delays, believers across the ages have been sustained in a keen anticipation of the Coming of the Lord (e.g. 2 Peter chapter 3 verses 1-13). For us to abide in such awareness needs nothing short of a major outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a profound ethical transformation in the Church.
It is clear to all observers that there is a discipleship crisis across the Body of Christ in Australia. Yet in speaking of the End of the present state of creation, Peter remarks, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness” (2 Pet 3:11). The abysmal moral life of God’s people testifies that in our hearts we do not believe that the Lord we confess with our lips (Romans chapter 10 verse 9) is returning soon. We are those the Saviour warned, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” (Luke chapter 21 verse 34)
Discernment vs Deduction
The degraded moral state of Western Christianity is indisputable evidence that we are not prophetically discerning the essential reality of the Second Coming as “near” (Revelation chapter 19 verse 10; chapter 22 verse 10). Our political awareness of the dangers of cultural wokeness may be acute, but our idolatrous materialism has dulled our sensitivity to the voice of the Spirit of Jesus. We are like the vast majority of the people of God in the first century, totally unprepared for the coming of the Lord.
“Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches” (Revelation chapter 2 verse 7). May Jesus wake up his sleeping Church to the nearness of his appearing, wake us up, not via a doctrinal reformation or some political process but by his own manifest presence. “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”