Matt Carters speaks on Philippians 1:21-23
Series: When Will Jesus Return?
As believers, we should be excited about and look forward to the return of Christ. We should be comforted in our trials by His return. We should also prepare and be ready for it.
Jesus’ second coming is supposed to be a very present reality in our lives.
However, for most believers, especially younger ones, His second coming is not a present reality in our walks with Jesus.
When was the last time you sat around and thought about Christ’s return? Or when you actually got excited about it? Most of us don’t. We don’t look forward to it much.
Generations behind us have. But we don’t. Why does our generation not spend a ton of time thinking about this doctrine? Or preparing for His return?
Our generation has three mindsets, or heart postures, toward the reality of Christ’s return:
• Not Ready
However, Jesus has a response for each of these responses.
This is the mindset and heart posture of disbelief.
There’s going to come a day when angels will shout, trumpets will blow and God will bust through the clouds, gathering the Christians together and taking them back to heaven. When you hear this truth, you think it sounds ridiculous. It sounds like science fiction. If that’s where you are, I get it.
For thousands of years before Jesus showed up on the scene the first time, men of God were writing and predicting His arrival. In the Old Testament, there are forty-four separate prophecies, all from different authors and times, which predicted the exact same thing. They predicted there was going to be this guy, born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, who would be rejected by the Israelites and then killed. But His suffering was going to destroy evil and he would atone for the sins of mankind and reconcile us back to God.
Yet, generation after generation, people lived and died, waiting for this guy to show up. They heard the prophecies, but didn’t believe it. It sounded crazy to them. A guy born from a virgin? From Nazareth? He’s going to conquer evil through suffering? It sounded crazy.
But one day it happened. Jesus showed up and lived a life that fulfilled every single prophecy about Him.
The person of Jesus shows us that God is a god who keeps His promises.
Jesus has made the promise to us that He’s come once and will come again. There are going to be people who aren’t going to see this happen. Because of this, they’re going to think it’s nuts.
But there is coming a day. In the same way God was faithful to fulfill that prophecy the first time, He will be faithful to keep it again.
Jesus’ response is God is faithful. He will return.
This is the camp I find myself in. It’s not that I don’t believe in the return of Christ. I do believe, with all my heart. I just don’t think about it all that often.
He said He was coming back, but it’s been several thousand years and He hasn’t returned yet. The odds are He’s not going to come back in my lifetime. So, it seems a little weird to spend a lot of time and energy preparing for something that’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime.
Jesus specifically addresses this mindset. He said, “look, if that’s where you are, don’t be like that.”
37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:37-46 (ESV)
As believers, we know our master is coming back at some point. Because we’re His servants and He is our master, we are to live in such a way that if He does come back in our lifetime, He will find us being faithful to Him. He will find us doing what it is we’ve been called to do.
The folks weren’t expecting the flood, but the flood came. Jesus’ response is not to be apathetic, because He can come back at any time. When He comes back, He wants to find you being faithful.
This is a very common response to the doctrine of the return of Christ. We’re a church that has a lot of younger people in it. I’ve found that this is the hang up with them.
You believe Jesus is going to return. But if you’re dead honest, you’re not quite ready for Him to come back yet. You believe in Jesus, the Gospel and you definitely want to go to heaven one day. Just not right now.
I have a friend who is getting married in a few weeks. They’re a godly couple and they’re waiting to have sex on their wedding night. I asked him, “You’re getting married and have been waiting to have sex. Are you ready for Jesus to come back right now?” He paused, smiled and responded, “If I’m totally honest, I kind of want Him to wait until after my wedding night.”
I totally get that. Is that where you are? There are a lot of us who are excited for Jesus to come back, but there are things here that we want to experience first. We want to go to college, get married, have a career, have children, travel the world, enjoy retirement.
If that’s where you are, it’s probably because of one of two reasons:
There is nothing like suffering to reveal the brokenness and emptiness of this world and make you long for heaven. Paul knew this well…
24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (ESV)
But at the end of his life…
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Philippians 1:21-23 (ESV)
You don’t hear him begging God for more time or longing for more experiences here on earth. He is a man who has lived long enough to know the world doesn’t compare to Jesus and he’s ready to be with Him.
One of the main reasons our generation doesn’t long for heaven is because we have no idea what it’s like to suffer for the sake of the gospel. Whether you’re eighteen or ninety, if there isn’t a part of you that’s hungering for the Lord’s return, it might be because you’ve become a little too comfortable with this world.
If this is you, it’s probably because you haven’t suffered enough. Don’t worry, it’s coming. There are three kinds of people in the world. Those who are suffering, those who just got finished suffering and those who are about to suffer.
If we really believed Jesus was better than the stuff, then we would want nothing more than for Him to return. There’s nothing wrong with desiring the stuff. Marriage. Sex. Kids. Retirement. It’s all great stuff that He’s given us. The question we have to ask ourselves is if we long for that stuff more than we long for Jesus.
If the answer is yes, there are things and/or people you want more than Jesus, the danger is that thing or person is sitting on the throne of your heart instead of the person of Jesus.
He will do whatever it takes to get that thing off your heart and put Him on it.
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
It’s His promise. If He’s started a good work in you, then He’s going to do some crazy things in completing it until the day you see Him face to face.
I’ve had cancer. It’s been eight years that I’ve been clear. In 2005, I got a call; they had found a malignant tumor in my appendix. I was scared death. As we did a bunch of tests, I kept getting bad news. It was one of those tumors that if it spreads there is nothing they could do. You just wait around to die. It just crushed me. I was dying.
I was so worried and afraid about what I was going to miss. My daughter’s wedding. My boys growing up without their dad.
It was a few days before receiving the results of the last round of blood work. I went to my office, closed the door and got down on my knees. I looked out the window. I’ll never forget the prayer I prayed at that moment. I had sensed God trying to woo my heart back. I sensed there were parts of my life I loved, wanted and desired more than Jesus. I could just tell that God had brought me into the desert to win my heart.
I prayed, “Lord I’m scared to death, but I want you to know, if you want to take me home, I want what you want. If you’re ready to take me back, that’s what I want too.” In that moment, for the first time in my whole life, I believed to live is Christ and to die is gain. A peace fell over me.
Three days later, I got a call. I was cancer free.
I’m not saying that if you surrender to Jesus he will take your cancer away. But I am telling you He was trying to show my heart that He is better than the things of this world.
If you’re here today and you’re a skeptic, or apathetic or have things in this world you want more than Jesus, God wants to do a work in your heart today.
Prayer to Help Our Unbelief
22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:21-24 (ESV)
The father believed He was powerful, but there were parts of him who needed Jesus to step in and help with his unbelief.
If you’re a skeptic today, ask Him to help you believe. If you’re apathetic, ask Him to help you believe that He could come back any moment. If you have things you love more than Jesus, ask Him to help you believe He is better.