Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. 2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. 5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. 8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 [NLT]
Ask me about Jesus’ love, his promise of forgiveness, and compassion toward hurting people, and I’m clear. I know how to feel about those things. They occupy a prominent place of joy in my heart. I rejoice in God’s goodness to me and all people in Jesus. Ask me about God’s glory, majesty, and creative splendor and I’m clear. I wonder in amazement and my heart is filled with awe as I consider all that God has made. Ask me about the just and holy nature of God, and his judgment against sin of every kind, I’m clear: Lord, have mercy! Forgive my sin. I have no hope apart from your grace in Jesus.
But I don’t have a clear understanding of how I am to feel about Jesus’ second coming. I know how I feel in theory, or in the abstract. I know it’s a good thing. It will be the culmination of all Jesus has done for us and for our salvation. It will be a time of grave upheaval and distress, culminating in a time of eternal bliss unlike anything anyone has ever experienced before.
Somehow, though, I’m not sure how to combine those two: fear and trembling with joy and bliss. Add to that the very real danger of dismissing the thought altogether from my mind; living life on autopilot and without a real clear awareness of this event’s imminent reality. Maybe I don’t think of this often because I really don’t know how to think of it clearly and well.
I could quote Paul, and that’s a good start: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). I could even quote Jesus, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). And there is always, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
It’s been so long since Jesus promised his return, so long since Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. It’s easy for me to put it in the back of my mind. It’s easy for me not to think of it. Until I’m struggling with earthly woes and challenges; then I’m praying that prayer! When I don’t want to face the suffering, when I’m feeling inadequate to the challenges before me, I’m ready to pray, Come, Lord Jesus!
But I’m reminded of two truths in regard to these feelings: We are not most fit for heaven when we are least happy on earth. And, A roadmap of the future is a hindrance, not a help to faith. So, there is my answer: faith. Take it on faith. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t think I’ve got to have it all figured out. I don’t need to worry so much about how I feel or how much I am able to understand this mystery. I can simply believe Jesus’ promises and the Bible’s teachings. There we will find comfort for our souls.