The longed-for return
It is more important to focus on the fact of Christ's return in glory rather than the order of events connected with it.
1. Scripture is given for a practical purpose, and particularly prophecy concerning the Final Consummation is delivered to the saints in order to motivate them, that they might be prepared for His coming, walking in white and blameless (2 Peter 3). The detailed order of events, in such a case, is relatively immaterial.
2. "I will come again and my reward is with me, to give to everyone according to his works." The mature Christian anticipates and looks forward for his Master's return for he knows that the recompense of grace will be received from him.
Often the Christian worker goes unnoticed, his love is repaid with hate and misrepresentation, his service with ingratitude. But in concentrating and setting his hope on his Master (together with his promise of coming again) the faithful servant will continue undaunted by the difficulties.
His interest is to hear from his Master's lips, "Thou good and faithful servant...." For him the speculation of getting all the details right (so very often by having to adopt extra-biblical fillers) is fruitless. Christ's return keeps him in the proper perspective. The Lord will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness.
The common term used in connection with Christís second advent into this world, yet future, is parousia.
The literal meaning of parousia denotes both an arrival and a consequent presence with somebody. It is used to describe the presence of Christ at his Return in glory, when the saints will forever be with him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). At that day he will be physically present with them, whereas now we do not see him. In this sense we are "away from the Lord." The Parousia, though, is a source of comfort. Christ will return to:
a. Judge the world:
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word..." (2 Timothy 4:1,2a).
b. Receive His people to himself:
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3).
The hope of Christís return is a rich incentive for all who possess it.
1. Christ's return is set forth pastorally as an incentive to holy living (1 John 2:28; 3:2,3). We should therefore shy away from the sensational and always bring out the ethical implications of the doctrine, since it is most of the time bound up with practical exhortations to Christian obligation and attainment, to sincere godliness (Titus 2:11-13).
2. It should also drive us relentlessly to Christian missions. "And this gospel of the kingdom must be preached among all nations, and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24).
3. We are to increase in the steadfastness of hope, earnestly desiring his advent (2 Peter 3:10-12), being on the alert (Matthew 24:37,42) and keeping watch (1 Thessalonians 5;2,6). Spiritual drowsiness will not overtake us if we sincerely and lovingly keep in mind this future divine appointment. We are therefore the "love his appearing."
4. We are also duty-bound to serve our Master faithfully till his coming. In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus illustrates three truths: He was going away, he would return, and when he returned, he would appropriately reward his servants for their diligence in His service. Whatever our area of responsibility is, and however obscure it might be, we are meant to be faithful stewards of his grace.
5. In our most difficult circumstances the truth of his return motivates us to show patience and endurance. The outlook may be gloomy and forbidding, but Scripture counsels us to look upwards to the glorious advent of our Lord, the hope of whose coming should strengthen us to endure (James 5:7,8).