Unstopping the Wells of Revival: The Return of Jesus
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But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Matthew 24:36-51
As we celebrate the season of Advent, it is appropriate to consider one of the great and glorious doctrines of our faith – and one which has been obscured by the rubbish of the Philistines. Jesus is coming back and could come at any moment. His first coming was shrouded in humility and obscurity. His first coming was meek and mild. His second coming will be unmistakable. As Philippians tells us, on that day “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The Lord spoke often about his return. He told us essentially three things about it. First, at his coming, there will be accountability. Accounts will be settled. As the Creeds say, he will come to judge the living and the dead. Second, his coming will be sudden and unexpected. Even though we know he is coming sometime, and the church has known this for 2000 years, Jesus gives us this promise: “the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” And because of these two realities, Jesus told us a third truth about his coming, or rather, how we must prepare. We must be ready. The word he uses is “keep watch,” or gregorao in the Greek. It refers to the alertness of a soldier or night watchman standing on guard or a shepherd keeping watch over the flock.
What has been lost under the rubbish of the Philistines is the awareness of the possibility that Jesus might return at any time. This may be due to many factors. Many have tried over the years to predict the day or the hour of Jesus’ return. I remember during the year 2000 there were many fringe (or not so fringe) groups that were certain the Lord was coming back when the ball dropped that year. They stored up freeze dried peaches in their closets and ammunition… as if somehow that would protect them from…who exactly? And so as much as we don’t want to repeat the mistake of misguided sects and cults and churches, what we cannot do is lose the clear teaching of our Lord that he might come back at any moment and therefore we need to be ready.
What does it mean to be ready exactly? Jesus illustrates this In this parable, the master has set a servant in charge of his possessions until he returns. In one scenario, that servant remains faithful to the task and receives commendation for doing his job. But in the other, the wicked servant does several things. First, he assumes the master will not be back for a long time. And it is this assumption that leads to his other unwise activities. He begins using his power inappropriately (beating the other servants under his charge) and eating and drinking with drunkards.
And before we get too critical of this wicked servant – let’s take a look in the mirror. The church in our time is in danger of these same mistakes. We have lost sight of the fact that the Lord is coming and may come soon. And if he did, would we be ready? How would we feel about how we are spending our time? How have we been treating other fellow servants? Have we lost track of our assignment and given ourselves to eating and drinking instead? The reality is that like this servant, the church has lost touch with the truth that Jesus is coming and could come today. If we really thought the Lord could come today, let’s be honest…we’d live differently. The reason the Church has a season of Advent in its calendar is to help us not to lose sight of this vital doctrine of the faith. In many ways the return of Jesus is like a compass that keeps us pointing in the right direction.
When the church recovers this vital truth that Jesus could come at any moment and we therefore need to be ready…to settle accounts…to make things right with God and others…to live as though we will be held to account, it leads to revival.
God gave me a calling in the year 2008. A clear calling. When I shared it with others around me, however, nobody really understood it or gave me much positive encouragement. Because of this, rather than go against my supervisors or my organization’s vision, I took the assignment God gave me and sat on it. I buried it in the ground. Seven years later, I shared about this assignment from God with a friend and mentor – and he said this. “Greg, God has given you a calling. A seed of his own heart. Luckily, you haven’t killed it. But you haven’t exactly been faithful to this assignment either. And one day, Jesus is going to judge you. He loves you as his son, but he will also hold you accountable and ask you what you did with what he gave you. And you need to think about that more than you think about what the other people around you are saying or thinking about your calling.” As frightening and sobering as his words were, they were exactly what I needed to be liberated from the fear of man and to say yes to a calling that didn’t make sense to the people around me.
Essentially, my friend helped me reorient my life around the coming of Jesus. And this was a key factor in bringing a season of revival to my life and the lives of others. In some ways, every revival is a mini coming of Jesus that anticipates his final coming in glory at the end of the age.
How often do you consider the reality that Jesus is coming back and could come at any moment?
If you knew the Lord were coming back in a week? How would it change your activities or priorities?
If the Lord were to return tomorrow, how ready would you be? What would need to happen in your life in order to be ready? What would need to stop? What would need to start?
Ask God to help the church, beginning with Sanctuary, to recover its conviction that the Lord is coming back and may come any time. Ask God to help us live now in light of that truth.
Ask the Spirit to bring clarity to activities or priorities that need to change in light of the imminence of Jesus’ return.
Ask the Spirit to stir up in us a sense of hope and expectancy for Jesus’ coming, either bodily in glory at the end of the age, or by pouring out his Spirit in revival.