Having two sessions to discuss Christ’s return is not enough space to do this subject justice. But it’s worthwhile to spend some time thinking about Christ’s return. Christians are meant to have our minds in three places at the same time. We are called to look at the cross and remember what Christ has done for us. Jesus’ death and resurrection affects how we live today. But we are also meant to place our hope in the future return of Christ. What does this look like?
In the book of Philippians, Paul calls the church to imitate him and others who live their lives according to the example that they have been given. With great sadness, Paul wrote that many live their lives as enemies of the cross of Christ. They have their minds set on earthly things and their end is destruction. But Paul writes that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior (Phil. 3:20).” This in and of itself is good news. Our Savior is returning. It is a reunion with the one we love. Christ has loved us and watched over us our entire lives. It will be a glorious reunion. The Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 52 states, “In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me.” Christ is coming to judge. But the judge has already taken my punishment upon himself. Our Savior is coming for us.
But that is not all that Paul talks about. Paul talks about how Christ will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Phil 3:21). This is a short sentence that isn’t explained much in Philippians but that he elaborates on in 1 Corinthians 15:35-53. Paul still keeps it somewhat a mystery, but we’re told that it is an imperishable, immortal, “spiritual” body. This means that it will not be subject to decay or sickness or death.
If this is our future, how should we live today? We live with hope that the one we are longing for is returning. Our lives are not to be meant for our own pleasures, but we are to use our lives for God’s purposes. Paul at the end of his life wrote to his protégé Timothy and said this: “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Tim. 4:6-7)”. We see Paul using his life and spending his energy to serve God. This is why he uses the phrase, “poured out as a drink offering”. The phrase means that he is living his life with purpose and living with full commitment and holding nothing back.
But Paul also speaks of a reward. “Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).” Waiting for Christ’s return is hard. There are temptations to give up or to slow down. But Paul at the end of his life reminds Timothy and believers throughout history that Christ will reward all who loved him and longed for his waiting.
Questions for Meditation:
- What does it mean that your citizenship is in heaven?
- When you think of Christ’s return, is that something that you long for or is it something that you wish would be held back?
- How would it look like for you to live your life with Christ’s return in mind?