Eagerly Awaiting (Part 1of 2) – By Benji Carey-Smith – www.raptureready.com
 
I sure am! What am I eagerly awaiting? The return to earth of the Son of God – Jesus Christ. I have been really only since God rescued me back three or four years ago. It does make sense. After all, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God created a new heart within me that loves Him exceedingly. So it is no wonder I’ve been longing to be with my Savior since then: it’s no wonder I long for His return. That is true for every Christian; every person whose heart has been recreated by God’s power – because He has put a heart within them that loves Him! If a professing Christian isn’t longing for Jesus to come back (as He Himself has promised to, and commended us to watch for), then it could well be because they don’t have a heart that loves Jesus: that they aren’t saved.   
 
 No true Christian feels at home in this world. They always will feel out of place. Jesus said:
 
‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21 – NIV)
 
That is a clear statement that gives evidence of whether you truly are a Christian or not. If your heart is set on the things of this world – your plans and desires and thoughts are all consumed with temporal, earthly things – then that is where your treasure awaits. In other words, if you aren’t focused on eternal things, you don’t have an eternal treasure waiting; meaning eternal life! That is talking about what consumes your time; what the overall pattern of your life is. Of course even true Christians get off track and focus on earthly things at times, but not as the overall pattern of their life – they will be set on eternity. Jesus said:
 
‘If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.’ (John 15:19 – NIV)
 
So if you do feel at home with the world, and it loves you and treats you like everyone else (this is talking of the way non-Christians treat you), then chances are you’re not born of God. Because if God is transforming you into the image of His Son, which He is with every Christian – then every unbeliever (all of who have a heart that hates God and the truth, according to the bible) will hate you more and more. Of course they will: the more you become more like the God they are hostile to in their depraved minds. It is inevitable. We truly are aliens and strangers in this world, as the bible says. We don’t belong to the world; we belong to God who chose us out of the world. That is the biblical characteristic of all those with genuine faith in God. Is that your description? Do you feel like an alien and stranger in the world? If not, you probably belong to the world and not to God (Hebrews 11:13-16).
 
Because of these things, I believe every one of Christ’s sheep will be eagerly awaiting His return. It is clear the early church were, by the apostle’s writings, and it is clear throughout the church age Christians were longing for Christ’s return in their generation and time (just read hymn lyrics from all throughout time – it was simply words coming out of a people that loved God). Today is just the same. But the Scriptures seem to indicate one of the characteristics of this time nearing the end of the age is that:
 
‘in the last days scoffers will come, following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forgot that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.’ (2 Peter 3:3-7 – NIV)
 
This is talking about people who have an understanding of Scripture; that is very clear in that they know about the Lord’s coming. They obviously have a basic grasp of prophecy and the bible, and the words of Jesus. They scoff at the idea of Jesus returning soon, and maybe even doubt the actual physical return of Jesus (one of the ploys Satan has used since the garden – doubt of the truth of God’s word – or distortion of this truth – or denial of this truth). They claim time continues to go on. If told that there are many signs today of the Lord’s soon return (in nature, society, Israel, the church, and many other arenas), they will say these things always happened (like earthquakes etc). They cannot see that the birth pains are increasing and the birth is about to occur, because these signs are rising dramatically and are all aligning and happening at once. They doubt that God would ever come back to destroy this world and every person who doesn’t have faith in Christ. They hate a God like that who is righteous and holy as well as merciful and full of grace and kindness (the true God of Scripture) because of their evil hearts, so they cannot accept God’s promise to return. They cannot see through spiritual eyes just how evil the world is at this time. I cannot understand why God has not come back to judge the earth yet! When I see the evil around and begin to see how much God hates it, I only start to grasp the riches of His mercy already shown to us. These people, Peter implies, are within the “church” of this age (the ‘last days’). Look around! It fits the description of so many. It used to fit me. A huge number have even embraced a false doctrine that Christ won’t physically return. Pure ridiculous. They cannot accept what scripture clearly says. And many say, “Every generation expected Christ to return in their time, and so far they’ve all been wrong, so why should we now?” Well of course they always did, because they had hearts that loved God and longed to be with Him, and they simply took to heart God’s words when He told us to be prepared and expect His return. Paul and the apostles did – they lived and breathed as though Christ would come at any moment! So how much more should we today? Peter says these scoffers will follow their own evil desires. Their seeking of God will be a self-centered seeking, a lust-based seeking, fuelled by their own desires. The result of this will always be a critical view of God’s warnings. If you look at the Western “church” today, most people have this view, and only a minority are truly believing in Jesus’ imminent return and living it out as the general pattern of their life. Could these ones be the real Christians? Peter infers this. He infers these scoffers won’t see His coming (verse 10 says it will come like a thief to them – and later we will show it won’t come like a thief to true children of the light), in other words, they won’t be taken by Christ along with the rest of the saints of the church age.
 
There is a link between these people, the scoffers Peter describes, and people Paul describes in his letter to the church in Philippi:
 
   ‘For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’ (Philippians 3:18-21 – NIV)
 
Here, by context, Paul is speaking of people in the church (professing Christians). He says many will go to hell. Not just a minority, or a few here and there – but MANY. There are two types of professing Christians in the church; one type live as enemies of the cross by the way they walk/their lifestyle. The characteristics of these people are again a self-based seeking of God. They just do whatever their own desires tell them. They feed their desires. Of course they’re living as enemies of the cross, because the cross is all about self-denial and the Lordship of Jesus, and submission to His will and Word. These people, Paul makes clear (a large number in the church setting) will not see the coming of the Lord at His return. He also contrasts them from ‘us’, in other words the true Christians, who are eagerly awaiting the return of Christ. The others have their mind on ‘earthly things’. That goes hand in hand with a destiny of destruction. He says ‘we’ don’t have our mind on earthly things, but on the Lord’s return. Why? Because our very citizenship is in heaven. Of course our mind won’t be on where we truly don’t belong. In other words, if we truly have a citizenship in heaven, we will be focused and thinking about this heaven. If our mind is on earthly things as a pattern, then our citizenship is simply not in heaven. So Paul clearly makes a distinction between two types of people in the church. From the last few scriptures that we have explored, we can draw a table marking down their definite characteristics. Let me say again: these characteristics are the general pattern of their lives; the fruit of their faith or lack of faith; how they ‘walk’:
 
TRUE CHRISTIANS (T): vs. DECIEVED CHRISTIANS (D):
 
T: A number who claim to be Christian
D: Many people who claim to be Christian
 
T: Have a Christ-centered seeking of God, based upon the truth of His Word, denying self and their own fleshly desires. Live in submission to Christ as Lord
 D: Have a self-centered seeking of God. In reality are not seeking the true God, but a god they desire formed in their own flesh and mind. Don’t deny themselves, but lives as enemies of the cross
 
T: Mind on heavenly things
D: Mind on earthly things
 
T: Eagerly await Christ’s return
D: Don’t eagerly await Christ’s return
 
T: Destiny/citizenship is heaven and eternal life
D: Destiny is destruction/hell
 
T: Boast in Jesus Christ, not in their own flesh or strength, and nothing of this world
D: Boast in things they should be ashamed of, like things they’ve done and can do in their own flesh
 
T: They will see Christ returning. It won’t surprise them. They’ll expect it
D: They won’t see Christ’s coming. To them it will come like a thief and surprise
 
T: They’ll long for, believe in, and proclaim Christ’s coming, and in love warn of judgment to come
D: They will scoff at Christ’s imminent return, and other promises and warnings of coming judgment
 
It’s amazing how much truth we can extract from just a few passages of scripture! Paul said in the previous scripture that these destined for judgment within the “church” (quoted because God’s definition of church is different than ours) are ‘living as enemies of the cross’. It doesn’t matter about their profession of faith; that means absolutely nothing. It doesn’t matter about their church attendance or any other religious activity. The general pattern of their how they live (day in, day out) shows they don’t walk in self denial and putting God’s will above their own, but following their own desires. So Jesus doesn’t have Lordship over them. Christians won’t have this as a pattern. They won’t walk like this. They may have characteristics of an unbeliever for a short time. But God will reprove them by His Word. He will discipline them out of His love for them as their Father (Hebrews 12:4-11). They won’t as a lifestyle have a single characteristic of an unbeliever described above. It is not a matter of matching up to most of the above characteristics. If you’re a professing Christian in the church you’ll either have all of one list or the other. If you have a single characteristic of a deceived Christian, that gives evidence you are deceived. Why? Because these characteristics show forth the nature of the heart of a person: they go hand in hand. And you can’t have one nature/heart and another at the same time – we’re talking about the very root of your being. You’re either a new creation or you’re not! To deny that you’re completely a new person in Christ, with new characteristics and nature and fruit, is to deny the power of God to truly and completely change someone’s heart. It is to diminish God’s mighty power, and take away from His nature. This can be done even in a practical way. Someone
 
who lives in a way that is not completely different than the way they were before they became a Christian (who still has characteristics of an unbeliever, like sinful living, or mind on earthly things) is denying, even without words, that they really are a new creation, that God is truly mighty to save not only from the penalty but also from the power of sin, and the power of the Holy Spirit. How can anyone have a true encounter with the Spirit of God and not be permanently changed? Mind you, Paul also said that these days would be characterized by these very people – people who have a practical denial of God’s power to change their nature in salvation:
 
‘People will be lovers of themselves…….. having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.’ (2 Timothy 3:2,5 – NIV)
 
And later on, Paul says these same people are:
 
‘…. loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth…….. these men oppose the truth – men of depraved minds, who, as far as faith is concerned, are rejected.’ (2 Timothy 3:6-8 – NIV)
 
These people Paul is talking about are in the last days. The context:
 
‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.’ (2 Timothy 3:1 – NIV)
 
Clearly this is our time: the season of the end of this current age, the time of the Gentiles. We know this not only because of the clear signs of the season in numerous quantities. But this passage shows this too
 
because clearly at this time there is a lot of apostasy in the church, and because of our lack of knowledge of God and ways of God, and how we have been filtered with many false doctrines and teachings (and perhaps also the lack of loving church discipline), the church is filled with people who are practically denying the power of God. They ‘have a form of godliness but denying its power’. I was one of them for a long time, so the only thing in my heart is love and sorrow for these people – the vast majority of our Western “church”. It is also because we have this last century or so watered down and changed the gospel of our Lord. So back to the table on the previous page: If you say you have one of the characteristics of a deceived Christian but call yourself saved, there is a high chance you are lost. Because in identifying even a single biblical characteristic of a deceived Christian (fruit of lack of genuine conversion), but then saying you are still a Christian, you are denying the power of God to change your very nature that leads to this evidence/fruit of conversion. And this denial of God’s power, even of a single characteristic, according to the passage in 2 Timothy shows you, ‘as far as faith is concerned, are rejected’. Wow!
 
Notice also, a characteristic of lost people in the church is being ‘swayed by all kinds of evil desires’: that self-centered based seeking again. They do whatever their own desires tell them to; their god is their stomach.
 
They are also ‘always learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth’. In regard to the promise of Christ’s return, that is why they scoff; because they are actually not able to acknowledge this is what will happen, what God has declared it in His Word. That is why they are not eagerly awaiting the return of Christ Jesus, which as we’ve seen, is a characteristic of a true believer.
 
This indeed is the theme of this piece of writing (believe it or not): that indeed, every Christian will be eagerly awaiting the return of their groom, Jesus Christ. I have explained a few reasons why this is so, like for example how it comes from our love of God and the fact our citizenship is in heaven. As we’ve seen, another major reason is because unbelievers pursuit and seeking of God is a selfish lust-based seeking which leads to an attitude of scoffing God’s Word in regard to warnings (because they are believing only what they want to believe, not true faith which is believing it because God has said it, and His nature is trustworthy) which leads to being apathetic towards Christ’s return. True believers cannot be.
 
To the church in Corinth, Paul says:
 
‘Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.’ (1 Corinthians 1:7 – NIV)
 
Again, Paul emphasizes that they are eagerly awaiting the rapture (note ‘Christ to be revealed; His meeting with them in the clouds. This revealing is for Christians and not for the rest of the world; that will come at His actual second coming back to earth where He will set foot on the Mount of Olives). Paul clearly sees it as being something inevitable with these Christians, something completely expected, not out of the ordinary or unusual or only something a few would do. He is addressing the whole church: all the believers.
 
Paul addresses the church in Thessalonica:
 
‘They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.’ (I Thessalonians 1:9-10 – NIV)
 
Paul is reporting to these people how he had heard they had become Christian; how they had turned from idols to serve God, and how they also began to wait for Jesus to return. The two are clearly linked. For these things, they are exhorted. This whole passage is talking about Paul’s thanksgiving for the Thessalonians’ faith – how he has heard about their conversion. The things Paul was told about them are the very characteristics of their faith (the evidence), that cause Paul to give thanksgiving as they demonstrated it in these ways. After all, if you didn’t have faith in God and His Word, why would you be waiting for Christ’s return? It actually shows you do have faith. It shows you believe God will do what he said He will do! That is, return to earth for His awaiting bride. This is clearly shown by the parable of the wise and foolish virgins at Christ’s return (Matthew 25:1-13). The wise ones, who we know were Christians because they had oil: the seal of the Holy Spirit, could see their groom coming when He returned at midnight. His bride can see Him coming! Every Christian can see our Lord’s return as imminent; they’re expecting Him. The above passage says that Jesus will rescue us from ‘the coming wrath’. If you
 
don’t believe Christ will rescue us from the time of God’s wrath being poured out upon the earth (the time of tribulation, or Day of the Lord), then of course you won’t be waiting for Jesus: you’ll be waiting first for the antichrist to appear! If the church is raptured later on, why should we be expecting Christ to come at any moment? And why then does Scripture say above that He will rescue us from wrath to come? And why should we obey Jesus:
 
“Be always on the watch, and pray that you may able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”.’ (Luke 21:36 – NIV)
 
Where His command for us, in the context of the return of Christ, is to pray we’d be able to escape all that is to come, but instead stand before Him? If the church is raptured after the time of tribulation, wouldn’t it make more sense to not eagerly await Christ’s return that is now not at all imminent, but instead wait for the antichrist being revealed which precedes Christ’s appearing to His bride? That is why anything other than what the bible teaches is silly! Christ’s return is imminent! It can happen at any moment. Only our Father in heaven knows when. Nothing needs happen before. Otherwise, why wait for Jesus, ‘who rescues us from the coming wrath’?
 
Later in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul talks about the coming of the Lord at the trumpet call of God to take His bride and resurrect them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11). We are told to encourage each other with these words. In other words, reminding each other what could happen at any moment will give us as Christians courage to live out our faith with strength. I acknowledge I really haven’t been doing this as much as I should, encouraging other believers with these words. This is very important to do, so that our focus is on this day of our Lord’s coming and not on earthly things. The apostle Paul says some very interesting statements after he describes this coming:
 
‘Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying “Peace and safety”, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
 
But you, brothers, are not in the darkness that
 
this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled…….. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6,9 – NIV)
 
Paul says he doesn’t even need to write to the Christians about the times and dates of this coming, because they will know when He’s coming! They are sons of light. Every Christian is. Paul says only those in the darkness will be surprised by this day: it will be like a thief to them. If you’re scoffing about an event happening, you’re obviously going to be surprised when it does happen; it will be like a thief. Paul, with no ambiguity, says our Lord’s return won’t be like a thief to us; because we’ll be awaiting, expecting, and aware of it. Again, the idea is of light and darkness: we are in the light so our spiritual eyes are all open, and we can all see His coming. We are all aware of the times and seasons – of the season we’re in; which is why Paul says that he doesn’t even need to inform any other Christian of the knowledge of these times and seasons, because every other Christian will have an awareness of Christ’s soon return. Most in the “church” are asleep. They belong to the night. Every person, even every professing believer, who cannot see Christ’s return, belongs to the darkness – simple as that. This isn’t easy to write, but it is what Scripture clearly says. Paul also says, in the context of the previous teaching on the coming of the Lord, that we as Christians have not been appointed to suffer wrath – so of course Christ is going to come at any moment before the Day of the Lord (He Himself said that no one would know the exact day or hour beforehand – so if it were at the end of the seven-year tribulation period, we would during those years know the exact hour of His coming by counting forward to the end of the tribulation – but He said we can’t know it, so it must occur before the tribulation).
 
Sorry this writing might not seem to have a lot of structure! I’m kind of just skipping from Scripture to Scripture and expounding on each. But I’m really trying to overall drive home the point that we should as believers in Jesus eagerly await His appearing – it actually is one of our marks.
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