The Moral Impact of the Lord’s Return upon Believers
The promised return of our Lord is a great source of comfort. But if we sincerely believe the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back, the Scriptures repeatedly teach us this should have a powerful impact on how we live our lives each day.
A Hope of Glory
“We have been saved in hope” (Rom 8:24, JND), that is, the salvation that has delivered us from the punishment of sin anticipates a future deliverance from the presence of sin. If that expectation of future glory has no practical effect on our lives today, then we are not truly anticipating it, and we do not understand God’s salvation. Our new birth has made us children of God. Although the world doesn’t see that (1John 3:1), our lives should reflect who we truly are, knowing that one day it will be manifest.
That day of manifestation is the day of the Lord’s return: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1John 3:2-3, NKJV). If we truly capture the vision of the Lord in glory, and the glory He has in store for us, it is bound to affect us. After all, this is the great objective in our salvation, and what Peter calls “the end of your faith” (1Peter 1:9). He says we have been born again to “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” a hope that will be realized “at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 1:3, 7, NKJV).
A Salvation that Makes a Difference
First Thessalonians speaks of the Lord’s coming to the air for His Church as a salvation from wrath that will fall on those in spiritual darkness. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober … Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1Thes 5:6-8). To be sober is to think clearly, to keep our minds free from intoxication with the passing, shallow distractions of the world around us. The expectation of the Lord’s return to rapture us home reminds us that we are sons of light who belong to the day, the age to come. Because the Lord is coming for us, we live differently from those who are of the darkness of night. Their vision for the future is fixated on the earth; our vision sees above and beyond. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ Who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:2-5, NKJV). Salvation by grace does not mean we can live carelessly. Grace is “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13, NKJV). Again, the coming glory of Christ is an impetus to godly living in the present.
A Passing World
Eschatology (the study of end times) and ethics (the moral principles that govern our behavior) are tightly woven together in Scripture. Therefore, the purpose of studying prophecy is not merely to formulate a better argument in the Bible study. The Apostle Peter writes that, despite the scoffing of skeptics, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2Peter 3:10). But there is a consequence to knowing of this coming judgment at our Lord’s return. It is not written to satisfy our curiosity. Knowing and believing God’s program for the future impacts the moral quality of our lives.
Eschatology should motivate us to godly living. So Peter continues, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2Peter 3:11, NKJV). If we know that the works of men are going to be burned up, is it reasonable for us to live with our heart set upon them? If the ungodly are going to be judged when the Lord returns, is it sensible for us to carry on with them as if future judgment doesn’t matter? The Lord is returning to judge sin. If we look forward to His return, we must learn to hate sin and love righteousness. Indeed, Peter continues, “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (2Peter 3:13). And again, that prospect should have a present impact: “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2Peter 3:14).
A Challenge to Consider
Will we “be found of Him in peace” (2Peter 3:14)? This is not merely “peace with God” enjoyed in the moment of faith in Christ. Ungodliness in our lives brings agitation to our spirits. Living for the present age weighs upon our conscience, particularly when we hear of the Lord’s soon return. To “be found of Him in peace” in this sense, then, means to rid our lives of the things that displease Him, to have a clear conscience, to fear no shame or disappointment if the Lord were to return today. Do you really believe He’s coming back? Have you thought about it lately? Will you think about it now, and adjust your life accordingly? A life lived merely for the present age is absurd; this age is temporary, and everything around us will be burned up. The fruits of holiness and godliness will endure and be rewarded when the Lord returns.