If we’re living with the end in mind—an eternity living in intimate fellowship with God, and serving him perfectly—then how do we live now? What are our priorities?
Like all the most important questions, the Bible answers this one clearly. I’d like to offer three passages where the New Testament addresses the answer.
Anticipate with Confidence
In his last recorded words to his protégé Titus, whom he left on the island of Crete to oversee the churches there (Ti 1.5), Paul gives him some imperatives designed to last him for life:
11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Ti 2.11-15).
Some of this he has said often elsewhere: in light of God’s grace to us (Ti 2.11), we should live seriously and righteously (Ti 2.12). No surprises there.
But then he adds a descriptor, a participle, that applies specifically to what we’ve been discussing; he says we are to “look for” Jesus’ return, the event that distinguishes the present age from the next, the event to which life as we know it points. This verb describes Simeon and Anna, and indeed all the Jews of their day, living under the bondage of Rome and the hated Roman puppet Herod the Great, as they anticipated and longed for the day when they would be liberated once more (Lk 2.25, 38). It describes Joseph of Arimathea, who as a member of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Israel, had not consented to the council’s condemnation of Jesus and then risked his career by asking Pilate for custodianship of the body of the crucified “blasphemer” (Mk 15.43; Lk 23.51)—a body that in the eyes of the council should be thrown out in the trash with the bodies of the other two miscreants. Joseph’s most noteworthy characteristic, in the eyes of the two Evangelists, is that he “was waiting for the kingdom of God.”
That’s our verb. That’s how we’re supposed to be thinking and living—“looking for” Jesus’ return. Or, as Paul calls it here, “that blessed hope.” I’ve noted before that biblical hope is different from how we use the word today. To us, hope is something we wish for. Maybe it’s likely, maybe it’s not; as is evident from the size of the jackpots, millions of people buy lottery tickets in the forlorn hope that one day they’ll hit the big one. Some wag has observed that a public lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math. They hope, many of them fervently, even religiously. But if their dreams come true, they’ll be more surprised than anyone else.
That’s not biblical hope. Hope is the anticipation of a certain future event. It’s the president-elect waiting for Inauguration Day; it’s the senior who’s just passed all his final exams; it’s the engaged couple focused intently on the coming June Saturday.
This is not wishing; it’s explosive, confident anticipation. It’s taking the future to the bank.
There’s a lot we don’t know about the future. It may hold financial setbacks, or job loss, or terminal disease, or sudden, violent death. We don’t know what life will be like for our children and grandchildren, should the Lord tarry. Even as we study prophecy, we don’t know—for sure—when Jesus will return, or when it will be in relation to the Tribulation, or what the Millennium will be like, or which ZIP Code of the New Jerusalem we’ll occupy, or what we’ll do with our time—or the absence of it.
So many unanswered questions.
But this we do know.
Jesus is coming back. For us. And for justice. And for eternal day.
Anticipate, with confidence.
Next time, more ways to live as we anticipate.