For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Galatians 5:5—NKJV)

From my childhood I have heard my elders talk about the Lord’s return. Successive pastors proclaimed that the return of Jesus is imminent. Throughout my ministry I have proclaimed that the rapture of the church is the very next event on the “prophetic clock.” As the years pass, do you find yourself wondering if Paul was mistaken when in 1 Corinthians 10:11 he said, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come?” Should we be constantly “at the ready” and live expectantly?

Our generation is not the first to ask why we should expect Christ’s return today, when earlier generations have died while waiting. Peter delves into the matter in 2 Peter 3:3–4, “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” Whether one lives in expectation of the Lord’s imminent return or not is a strong indicator as to whether saving faith resides within.

Lest believers also grow weary of watchfulness and lax in their spiritual intensity, Peter explains that within the argument, “all is the same since creation,” is embedded the very reason for watching. If God can create the earth and sea and later crush the unbelievers of Noah’s generation in a flood, then just as certainly the Lord will make good on His promises of all the events leading to the final judgment. All His judgments are impending.

Peter’s next words are worthy reminders of God’s purposes even though we may grow weary of the wait. “But beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night….” (3:8–10) Remember that God’s timing is not about our reckoning of imminency, His timing is not for our personal convenience alone, and God’s timing surely has a trigger-point. He is coming!

As God purposely demolishes the internal bracing of fleshly self-interest in the maturing life of His saint, He replaces it with the sturdy planking of confident expectation of the soon return of the Savior. The believer’s gaze turns heavenward and his heart begins to echo with the thunder of Paul’s words. Philippians 3:20–4:1 states, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…therefore, stand fast.” 1 Timothy 6:14 says, “that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.” Titus 2:13 reads, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

The expectation of the rapture of the saints is indeed a blessed hope. It is likewise a comforting hope in 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18, “And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” It is also a purifying hope (1 John 3:2–3), “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.”

Our Galatians text teaches that, on the solid ground of faith in the sinless blood of Christ, a believer will cultivate an intense yearning for the Holy Spirit to produce practical righteousness now and ultimate “hoped for” righteousness. “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who love His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) Trust and obey.