How close are we to Christ's return?

We may have some heart-homework to do ...

We’ve had three major events in 2020 that have shaken the planet!

Firstly, the pandemic.

Secondly, the global financial fallout that has left us on the edge of an economic depression.

And thirdly, we are now witnessing the world-wide outcry against racial injustice.

It got me wondering whether these events are heralding the onset of the Last Days? Are we closer than we have been prepared to admit?These really are interesting days!

Haven’t you at least wondered at some point in the last few months how close we are to Jesus actually returning? I know it’s crossed my mind more than once!

One aspect the New Testament points to regarding Christ’s return, is that when every nation has heard the Christian gospel, it will signal we are near the end times. So, how are we doing regarding the spread of the gospel?

Many scholars and commentators suggest we have reached the whole world already (the gospel just hasn’t been accepted by the whole world!). Other evangelism ministries suggest we are not quite there yet and vary in their estimates, but basically suggest we are between five to 20 years away from reaching that goal.

Interestingly, I was reading the blog of Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in the USA entitled  “Digital worship may create America’s next spiritual awakening”. In that blog dated 14 April 2020, Senior Pastor Greg Laurie stated that since social distancing forced his church service online, their first live stream was to 250,000 people. If that wasn’t impressive enough, within a month that grew to over one million viewers! But for the most startling statistic, I’ll just quote directly from Greg Laurie’s blog:

“But here is the most surprising thing to me about this new, burgeoning online congregation. At the end of my message, I extended an opportunity for people to pray and ask Jesus Christ to come into their lives. At last count, over 31,000 have responded. That’s in four weeks”. 31,000 lives coming to Christ in four weeks! And that’s just from one congregation that went online. It seems to me we might already have a spiritual awakening underway! Another indicator of the Last Days is an increase in famine (according to Matthew 24). I’ve read articles that show great concern for increasing famine in some third world nations. This risk has escalated since some major first world nations, focusing on their own country’s financial woes, have pulled back their financial aid to those in the third world.   Then, of course, the world-wide outcry against racial injustice has revealed the great anger that exists in many people’s hearts over centuries of human beings treating other human beings horrendously!

Matthew 24 also foreshadows an increase in the threats and rumours of wars, and that earthquakes will increase. It also speaks of ‘pestilences’ – and note that word is plural, meaning that the Scriptures suggest more than one plague or pandemic could be on the way.This is also evident in a ‘domestic violence pandemic’ brought about by the pressure cooker situation of living in such close quarters for extended periods (which is no excuse for domestic violence by the way!). Many have also sought false comfort leading to a ‘pornography pandemic’ as well. Our social concerns are many. But our planet has bigger issues ahead!

If these are all just the beginning of birth pains (the beginning?!?), we may need to see this Covid19 pandemic as possibly a dress rehearsal for more major events to come.

We don’t have to look past our own country in recent times to see the difficulties … horrendous bushfires followed by damaging floods, and then a pandemic that cripples the economies of the world!

Where are things headed?

It appears we are heading towards some kind of climax… are these all the ‘birth pains’ Scripture describes in the lead-up to the Last Days?

We have to understand that the New Testament is clear on the promise that Jesus will return. No one knows exactly when the Second Advent of Christ will occur, but we must recognise that at some point in history there will be a generation on earth that will be the last generation.

If not our generation; then possibly our children’s generation. With the rate of change and the escalation of disasters, I can certainly envisage Christ returning before my grandchildren reach retirement!

As Christians, we must arrive at the realisation that with the ‘shaking’ going on all around us, the return of Jesus could yet be in this generation!

Surely this global upheaval has our attention and is forcing us to consider some tough questions!

For mine, the key question has to be: - What if the hour of Christ’s return is in my own lifetime?

Let’s just imagine for a minute that we are close to Jesus’s return – His Second Coming!… How does that make you feel to consider that question?

Excited? Thrilled? Expectant?... Or terrified and anxious?

As I tried to picture the reality of Jesus actually returning, my honest first thoughts were: “Holy Cow!?! Are you for real? “

Matthew 22 says “I am coming soon”. If those in the first century thought Jesus was coming soon, surely we are so much closer to that Day!

Scripture suggests we should be expectant and looking forward to His return!

Revelation 19 states “The Bride says – Come!” … in other words, the Bride of Christ is meant to cry out expectantly “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Where is the hope that we are meant to have as followers of Jesus? What is that hope meant to be in, if not the return of Christ and the hope of eternity?

Whether there is a second wave of Covid-19; or more economic fallout leading to a major depression; or more earthquakes, or more wars, or even more pestilences… regardless of what lays ahead, Jesus states clearly “All these things must happen. Do not be alarmed” (Matthew 24).

I wonder what we have been learning about ourselves under these types of pressures? (The last few months will have already surfaced how we’ve coped - or not coped - with an uncertain future. For many of us, we missed the part where Jesus said: “All these things must happen. Do not be alarmed”!!)

Regardless of how we have responded in recent months to these pressures, we have to come to the realisation that this is actually our time to shine as believers in Jesus Christ! We have been given eternal promises that point to a great hope!

Moving forward, you and I do not get much of a say in what happens next regarding global disasters, but we do get a major say in how we choose to respond to whatever the future holds. We have been given a great opportunity to reflect our hope in a glorious God who has promised that He’s coming back to gather his children.

But Matthew 25 offers a salutary warning – it talks about foolish bridesmaids who lacked wisdom. They failed to ensure they had enough oil in their lamps and in the end they missed the return of the Bridegroom!

We must keep watch – for none of us knows the hour of His return.And we also carry a responsibility to shine Christ’s love and witness to His truth to ‘whosever’ might respond during this window of spiritual awakening that is occurring right before us.

Some questions to leave with you that I have been pondering:

Am I ready for some hardship which could lay ahead?

Particularly if that hardship (persecution?) may lead to many lives won to Christ before the final harvest?

Am I willing to pray for a spiritual awakening?

How might I participate in offering hope to this lost and broken world?

Am I willing to pray for resilience in my heart, to be ready for such hardship?

Would I be prepared to suffer a few difficult years, to see a harvest won for Christ, that ushers in the return of our Lord?

If I really believed these were the last days, how would that change the way I live today?

I believe we’re closer to our Lord returning than we have ever been before in history. You could do worse than sit down with pen and paper and journal some honest reflections to the above questions that I have been asking of myself. (To be quite frank, my honest answers to those questions have surfaced issues I need to wrestle out with a Holy God! So I certainly have some ‘heart-homework’ to do! Why not give it a try and see what Father God may want to reveal as ‘heart-homework’ for you?)

Until next time, (…assuming Jesus doesn’t return in the next month!)