Jesus’ return: Like a thief in the night

Jesus' return second coming of ChristWould you ever think to compare Jesus to a thief? The Bible does in describing Jesus’ return. More than once.

Living by faith requires living not only in the light of the resurrection, but also in the hope of the second coming of Christ.

In his flesh, Jesus didn’t know when he’d return, but he knew it will be a time when no one expects him.

Jesus himself said, “If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matthew 24:43, NASB).”

Paul wrote, “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, NASB).

Do we have a clue?

How much do you think about Jesus' return?

    People have been predicting Jesus’ return for centuries—and been invariably wrong. Today we have teachers who study “Bible prophecy.” They look for historical events that will mark the beginning of some kind of timetable. Jesus told us to watch for signs, but I suspect that “Bible prophecy” doesn’t point to them.

    1 Thessalonians 5:1 uses two different words for time. “Times” translates the Greek chronos. It’s the equivalent of clock time or calendar time. It’s the kind of time by which we can say that the events of the New Testament happened about 2000 years ago.

    “Epochs” translates kairos. KJV uses “seasons,” but the Greek means something indefinite and immeasurable. We can know what season a flower will bloom, but actually, it blooms at an appropriate time. It blooms when it’s good and ready. Not a moment earlier or later. Who can predict it?

    Think of chronos as man’s time and kairos as God’s.

    I heard once about a woman who liked to schedule everything an entire week in advance. She was pregnant and knew the due date the doctor told her. So in her calendar on that date, she wrote, “Remind John to take the day off work. Take the cat to Mother’s. Go to hospital. Have baby.”

    The baby, I’m sure, did not arrive on her schedule. A few days later, maybe. A few days earlier.

    The church in Thessalonica had suffered persecution and wanted assurance that Jesus would come soon. Instead, Paul warned about complacency. We’re still waiting for Jesus’ return.

    How shall we live in the mean time?

    Last Judgment / Lochner Jesus' return second coming of Christ

    The Last Judgment / Stefan Lochner (15th century)

    Jesus will come like a thief in the night to surprise the complacent. He will surprise whomever chooses to live without him.

    He will surprise church people who live without considering his second coming important enough to plan for it.

    Living in complacency means living in the dark like a person of the night.

    As Paul points out in 1 Thessalonians 5:7, the night is for sleeping or carousing. We avoid loss by living as people of the light instead.

    Remember kairos. We can sleep by clock time and be awake and alert according to God’s time. Or we can be awake by clock time and asleep by God’s. Some people may be spiritually in the light and interacting physically with someone else spiritually in the darkness.

    People of the darkness live in unbelief, willfully ignorant of the things of God. Some of them profess Christ with their mouth but do not believe in their heart that God raised him from the dead.

    People of the light, on the other hand, live alertly. They yearn Jesus’ return. They know that the Spirit of Christ is available to them even as they wait.

    Don’t waste time worrying about people who never heard the gospel. God is just, merciful, and knows everyone’s heart. How God chooses to judge anyone but ourselves is none of our business.

    Our business is faith, hope, and love. Probably everyone knows that 1 Corinthians 13 builds to a climax where Paul says these three will never pass away. That trio occurs frequently in other scriptures, too.

    Jesus' return second coming of ChristIn 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul writes, ” But since we belong to the day, we must be serious and put the armor of faith and love on our chests, and put on a helmet of the hope of salvation.”

    Paul compares these three virtues to the armor of a Roman soldier. A soldier in his armor is on duty. He stands ready for anything he encounters. He is vigilant, awake, sober, and prepared.

    People of the darkness, being asleep, drunk, or up to no good, are destined for trouble. Since Paul uses the imagery of darkness to describe unbelievers living in willful ignorance, we can say they are destined to face God’s wrath.

    Day people are destined for salvation because they have already made peace with God through Jesus. They do not acquire salvation by their own merit, but by God’s grace.

    Consider our earthly justice system. Ignorance of the law does not excuse breaking it. The guilty receive sentences according to their deeds.

    But here’s the difference. In God’s court, we’re all guilty. We have all received some revelation of God. We have all chosen to live our own way instead. Some of us have repented.

    Jesus’ return emphasizes hope for those who accept him as Lord and Savior, but judgment and punishment for those who oppose him. Jesus will come like a thief. Except that whoever alertly watches for him will welcome him with joy.

    Photo credits:
    Last Judgment. Public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.
    Others. Source unknown

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