When Will Jesus Return?

An airliner was having engine trouble, and the pilot instructed the cabin crew to have the passengers take their seats and get prepared for an emergency landing. A few minutes later, the pilot asked the flight attendants if everyone was buckled in and ready. “All set back here, Captain,” came the reply, “except the lawyers are still going around passing out business cards.”

I know. Lawyers get such a bad rap in our society. A friend of mine is an attorney and he tells me only half those jokes out there are true. But you know, nobody ever gets on a plane, even lawyers, expecting it is going to crash during that flight. Could you imagine you get on a plane and ask the people next to you, “So where are you flying to?” And they said, “Oh we’re hoping to not make our destination. We got on this flight because we think it’s going to crash.” No. I don’t think anybody gets on a flight expecting it is going to crash. But airlines try to make every precaution and to be as prepared as they can in the event of a crash.

 

In the same way, how many people got up this morning expecting that Jesus was coming back today?

We know it could happen but we don’t except it. In our Gospel Lesson we hear Jesus talks about his 2nd Advent and instructs his disciples to be ready in the event of Jesus’ return. Now, nobody knows the day or the hour of his return, even Jesus says that, but how are we supposed to prepare for an event if we don’t know when that will happen?

If you asked the airline industry that question they would tell you to be prepared. Jesus gives us the same answer today in our Gospel Lesson in Verse 29-31, Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near … 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

So what are we to watch so we may know? What did Jesus give us to watch, and know, so that at the right time, we can know to “look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near?” And not be shocked, surprised, and caught as if in a snare when Jesus returns?

WHAT DO WE WATCH FOR?

  • Luke 21:25, There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

  • I have an acquaintance who works for NASA, and one day a long time ago in a Bible Study we were going through these verses when she put her pen down and said to me, “Jesus is talking about a massive astronomical event.” I asked her what she meant, and she said, “If I were to take these verses out of the Bible and show them to a colleague, he would tell me this would be a gravitational event coming very near the earth. The way we were able to discover the other planets in our solar system was by watching other planets. The gravity of the undiscovered planets causes the known planets to wobble. It can even cause color change.

  • Jesus is talking a massive astronomical event, one big enough to cause distress on the earth and roaring of the oceans. It will be so big people will faint from fear. People will be certain we are doomed. Jesus is saying that at that moment, when all the earth certain we are going to die, we look up and expect his return.

  • Notice Jesus says everyone will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This is how he will return. This is what we are to watch for.

  • It’s makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, if Jesus’ birth was announced by the alignment of all the planets into a new star that the rest of the world ignored except for a few wise men, why wouldn’t his 2nd Advent be just as momentous?

HOW DO WE PREPARE? HOW DO WE STAY READY?

  • Jesus warns his disciples to stay ready in verses 34-36: Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

  • How do we stay ready, be on guard, not get weighed down with the worries of life?

  • I have here my mobility bag from the Air Force. I had to keep this bag packed at all times. In it were a change of uniform, shot records, passport, dog tags, tool bag, a ruggedized laptop, and so on. Everything I needed at a moments notice so I could grab the bag and climb into the back of a C-130 airplane or helicopter.

  • These were my TOs – Technical Orders that came out regularly I was required to study, test and drill on so that I would be equipped with the latest knowledge to do my job in working with any type of weapon, armament or explosive device.

  • As Christians, if we had a mobility bag that we kept ready at all times so that at any moment, when our master called, we would be ready to answer that call, what would be in our bag?

  • You guessed it. Jesus tells up plainly verse 36, Be alert at all times, praying. Our bags should be filled with prayers – prayers for ourselves and for others. And our Technical Orders? Is our Bible. MRE’s would be our sacraments. Through God’s word our faith is equipped and built up by the Holy Spirit. For often we do not know what to pray, but the Holy Spirit guides us, strengthens us, and motivates us to pray so that when that day comes, when the rest of the world is running around screaming and shouting, they will think it is odd that we are standing there, looking up, with our spiritual mobility bags at our side, praying in Jesus’ return.

The story has it that the great Church reformer Martin Luther was once asked what he would do if he knew for certain the world was going to end tomorrow. Without hesitation he replied, “I would plant an apple tree this afternoon.” Luther was not given to speculation about the ENDING of the world. He focused rather on the END of the world, that is, the PURPOSE of the world which God intends. You see, history is going somewhere – It is not the ending of the world we are anticipating, but the new beginning Jesus is promising to bring when he returns. To the world, it’s Doom’s Day, to the Christian, it’s just our beginning.

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