I find it very interesting that we have seen a heightened sense of expectation surrounding the return of Jesus Christ in the last hundred years or so, particularly here in the United States. Nearly all Christians, from a myriad of traditions and denominations, believe that Jesus will someday visibly return to the earth to bring about God’s justice and to establish a new heaven and new earth. The exact way He will do this and the timetable surrounding the prophetic events remain a topic of debate. But I think there is a longing in the hearts of all who follow Jesus to see Him face to face, and we cling to the hope that one day He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. It is a good thing to long for this day, and this hope will not disappoint us. Jesus is coming again as He promised He would.
But in the midst of that hope, there is the temptation to spend so much time and effort on trying to decipher prophetic passages that we can lose sight of the most important part of Jesus’ desire for our lives. I know this is true because there was a season in my life many years ago when this was the case. Everyday I would visit several websites and read the daily news trying to figure out how the latest world events fell in line with biblical prophecies. This pursuit became a real distraction from the simplicity of growing in my walk with Jesus and learning how to stay in step with the Spirit. Thankfully, this was a short season in my life, and through it I learned to “keep the main the main thing.”
When Jesus was asked about the most important command in all of the Jewish Law, He answered that it was to first love God, and secondly to love our neighbor. I find it fascinating that Jesus threw the second most important command in with the first. I believe He was emphasizing that doing the first inevitably leads to the second. This is the heart and center of what it is to be a follower of Jesus: loving Him and loving our neighbor. So simply stated and yet it encompasses a universe of meaning and implication for our lives. This is the part of being a Christian that we need to figure out the most. This is what Jesus longs for His disciples to focus on every day.
If we are seeking to love God and love our neighbor, then we will be ready whatever day and hour the Lord returns. I’m not trying to insinuate that we should never contemplate the Lord’s return, or that we shouldn’t seek to study the Scriptures and increase in the hope it gives us. But it’s important that we remember that hearing the words “well done good and faithful servant” are not contingent upon our precise deciphering of the prophetic timetable. Love God. Love people. He will take care of the rest.