One of the most common theological distractions that can snag dedicated Christians has to do with the final and victorious return of Jesus. This subject has been the source of frequent discussion. Unfortunately, it is also the center of heated debate.
Believers quarrel over whether or not the millennial reign of Christ is literal or figurative, whether there is a tribulation before or after the millennial reign, when the return of Jesus will occur, and a host of other related issues. Fueled by popular books and popular personalities, well-meaning believers can find themselves in warring camps, defending their points of view and even breaking fellowship with those with whom they disagree. In the process, the heart of the Christian faith and the challenges of Christian living get forgotten in an all-consuming theological war that distracts all of us from our central mission as disciples of Jesus.
Rather than trying to sort through all the positions and enter into the specifics of this debate, let's focus on three truths related to the reign of Jesus, his return, and his Kingdom that will hopefully keep us on task as his disciples.
First, Jesus' return should be anticipated as a time of victory and reunion, giving believers encouragement and comfort in times of grief and struggle. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that when Jesus returns, he will reunite Christians and take them home to be with him forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; cf. 1 Corinthians 15) Rather than arguing about the exact time or details of his return, we should comfort and encourage each other with the promise of our victorious and joyous reunion with the Lord.
Second, since we cannot know the exact day or hour of Jesus' return, we should live each day in anticipation of his imminent return. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) In addition to anticipating his return, our lives should be characterized by the holy character that Jesus desires from each of us. We shouldn't be surprised if the Lord broke into history at any time and our lives should be lived in preparation of this day.
Third, rather than getting all hung up on the particulars of Jesus' reign and victorious Kingdom, we need to remember our primary purpose. We are put here to be witnesses to the lost world, sharing with them of life, work, and salvation of Jesus. (Acts 1:6-8) The Lord wants us to be involved in bringing others into the Kingdom of God by sharing the good news of God's grace and the salvation that is found in Jesus alone.
And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return. (2 Timothy 4:8)
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