GOD BLESS YOU.
We Proclaim Jesus.
Prayer's Role in Preparing Christians for Christ's Return!
By Joseph Ametepe
One of the clearest teachings of the Bible is the second personal return of Jesus Christ. This is the one event that will mark the beginning of the completion of God’s plan. Scripture emphatically shows that it is an event that is so dear to the heart of God. He is so passionate about its accomplishment. Its revelation in His Word clearly shows God’s delight in fulfilling the predictions and prophecies associated with it. The disclosure of the truth of Christ’s Second Coming also reveals one of God’s greatest attributes – His patience. If there is anywhere God’s patience, God’s forbearance is put on display for all to see, it is in His teaching about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to bring history to a close and usher in God’s final, full, total and complete rule over all forever and ever.
In His passion for carrying out this eternally significant event, God spoke of its certainty over and over again leaving no room for doubt in our hearts. Furthermore, being a loving and a thoughtful Father, God gave instructions concerning the preparation His children are to make for this one crucial event of all time. This brings up the following pertinent questions: What preparations does God want His people to make for Christ’s return? How does He want His believing children to prepare themselves for Christ’s coming? The answer to these questions is the major focus of this article.
It is our prayer that, as we prayerfully explore the answer to these eternally significant questions, God, by His Holy Spirit, will renew a longing in our hearts to look forward to His Son’s return and also enable us to prepare well. For soon “He who is coming will come, and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37).
The Certainty of the Second Personal Return of Christ
• Many Scriptures clearly point to the fact that Christ is to return in person a second time to earth. The Lord Jesus Himself personally spoke of His return in His great discourse on last things (eschatology) on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24 and 25). Speaking with great confidence as One to whom the Father has committed all judgment, the Lord Jesus authoritatively made this declaration. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31; cf. Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:27).
• What is simply being said here is that our Lord’s return will be personal and bodily, and thus visible and unmistakable. It will be quite conspicuous. It will be seen by all. By the way, He will not need the help of satellite broadcasts to make this possible.
• Notice He solemnly stated, “they [referring to all the nations of the earth] will see the Son of Man coming…”
• Our Lord was speaking with great confidence concerning the fact that His return would be spectacularly visible and unmistakable.
• Christ had a lot to say about His return to His disciples who specifically asked Him to tell them what would be the sign of His coming or presence [parousia] and of the close of the age (see Matthew 24:3). Continuing to answer that question, our Lord spoke with great authority on the subject of His second personal return. “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).
• Notice He said, “when the Son of Man comes.” This is the language of certainty. He didn’t say, “if the Son of man comes,” so as to leave His coming to chance. The event of Christ's coming is certain. It is not left to chance.
• Please let it never escape your heart, Jesus will certainly come again. Not only that, Jesus will judge all upon His return.
• Speaking to His disciples in the Upper Room, our Lord plainly told them that He was going to prepare a place for them and for all His followers and would one day come again to receive them to Himself, that they might be with Him forever (see John 14:3). This is the believer’s blessed hope and assurance.
• While making a solemn confession at His trial before the Sanhedrin headed by the jealous and vindictive high priest, Caiaphas, our Lord declared, “Nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64; cf. Mark 14:62).
• Certainly we see that the subject of Christ’s return is dear to His heart and He spoke of it with great passion and power even during the most difficult time in His life.
• The Lord Jesus was not the only One who spoke of His second personal return. Others spoke of it. Angels spoke of it with passion, as well as the inspired apostles.
• After our Lord gloriously ascended into heaven, two men in white clothing, presumably angels, spoke of His personal return.
• Speaking to the perplexed disciples of Jesus from Galilee, the angelic messengers announced, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
• The message of the angels is very clear. Not only that, the angels spoke with certainty about the second personal coming of Jesus. Notice they said, “will come” not “may come.” In their minds, Jesus’ return was sure. It will happen at God’s appointed time.
• Please notice very carefully that the angels didn’t give any specific date for the return of Jesus. They had no knowledge of that (Matthew 24:36). All they knew was that, “for sure, Jesus will come again. His coming will be bodily, personal, and visible just as His ascension was.” This was the message they were sent to declare.
• The second personal coming of Jesus was part of Peter’s second sermon in Jerusalem. Speaking to the Jews at the so-called portico of Solomon, Peter declared in the Spirit,“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He [God] may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:19-21).
• In addition to this emphatic statement of Christ’s return, Peter was led by the Holy Spirit to make other assertions about the Second Coming of Christ in his two epistles (see 1 Peter 1:7, 13; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4-12).
• I would like to make a comment on one of these references. It was revealed to Peter that before the coming of Christ, “mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
• Peter’s inspired response to such mockery was, “Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:8-10).
• What sobering words!
• The person the Holy Spirit spoke through the most, to establish the fact of Christ’s second personal coming, is the Apostle Paul.
• Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote to assure the believers at Philippi of the practical effect which the second coming would have on them and all who believe in Jesus Christ.“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
• The truth of being transformed is further vividly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 by the inspired apostle. “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting?”
• What a glorious prospect awaiting all believers at the second coming of Christ! There will be a transformation of our bodies in order to fit us to live eternally in the presence of the eternal and holy God. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
• Writing to the persecuted and afflicted believers at Thessalonica, Paul, in the Spirit, made the clearest and most direct assertions about Christ’s return. “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
• We are also living in troubled times. The words of our Lord’s return are to comfort our troubled hearts.
• In his second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul made other direct assertions about the personal return of Jesus Christ. “And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire… when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed-for our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 10).
• Instructing Titus, Paul wrote of Christ’s return in this way, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13-14).
• Other Scriptures written by the inspired apostle to stress the fact of Christ’s personal return include Romans 8:19-25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; 15:23; Philippians 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 4:1, 8.
• These references, no doubt, clearly establish the fact that the return of Jesus is sure to happen. We must therefore not allow the devil to create any doubt in our hearts about such an established and clearly revealed truth.
• Please take time to prayerfully read these verses. As you do so, God will create a spirit of eager expectation in you in order to prepare well for the return of Christ our Lord.
• The writer of Hebrews and the Apostles James and John were also inspired to write about Christ’s return.
• The writer of Hebrews writes, “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28).
• Again he writes, quoting the prophet Habakkuk, “For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay” (Hebrews 10:37).
• Apostle James, the Lord’s brother, also writes of Christ’s coming in these words:"Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8).
• Apostle John, the beloved disciple, was also led to write on this all-important subject.“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28).
Again, under the inspiration of the Spirit, John wrote these encouraging words concerning the coming of Christ and what believers will be like at His coming. "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
• From all these references, God has established beyond doubt that Jesus Christ will surely return in person. His coming is imminent. It could happen at any time.
• Are you ready? Are you prepared for His sure return?
The Uncertainty of the Time of Christ’s Return
• While the fact of Christ’s second personal return is clearly and convincingly revealed in Scripture, the exact time of His coming is not. In other words, while the truth of Christ’s Second Coming is emphatically made known in Scripture, the time of its occurrence is kept secret.
• Speaking as One who had completely submitted Himself to the Father’s authority, our Lord Himself confessed that even He, during the time of His earthly incarnation, did not know the time of His return. The time of His return, He said, was not even known to the angels. It is known only to the Father in heaven (see Matthew 24:36). God the Father has set a definite time for the return of Christ but that time has not been disclosed to the angels let alone to men. “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). We know that much. We also know from Jesus’ own teaching that, “It is not for [us] to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).
• There is no specific dating for the return of Jesus. At no point do the prophecies of Scripture give us an exact time for our Lord’s second personal return. Many have attempted over the years to predict specific dates for Christ’s return but have woefully failed. Only God the Father in heaven knows that time. He has not revealed it to the archangel Michael let alone to the angel Gabriel. No man, no matter how godly or gifted he claims to be, knows that time. Therefore, the predictions of our Lord’s personal return by man will always be wrong. They will be way off. We do not know and cannot ascertain the exact time when our Lord will return. We have to be content with that.
• In Deuteronomy 29:29, we read, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” Certainly, the exact time of Christ’s return is one of the secret things that belong to the Lord our God. Let’s let God be God in this matter.
• Proverbs 25:2 further makes it clear that it is God’s glory to hide a matter. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”
• In His wisdom, God has concealed or kept secret from us, the time of His Son’s return. Let us accept His sovereign wisdom in doing so and thus bring glory to Him. Let us not seek glory for ourselves by searching out and setting a date for Christ’s Second Coming. We can comfort ourselves with the fact that God has an appointed time for everything. He does all things beautiful in His time (see Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11).
The Purpose of Christ’s Second Coming
• God is a God of purpose. He has a purpose for everything He does. The Scripture says,“The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Proverbs 16:4). Certainly, God has a purpose for Christ’s return. The establishment of the kingdom of God in its fullest sense is the purpose of Christ’s second personal return. The kingdom of Christ came with the coming of Christ the first time. He declared: “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28).
• At His first coming, only a few people accepted Him as the King of the Kingdom. But at His Second Coming, at which time the kingdom will be fully established in all its glory and majesty, “every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
• The bowing of knee and confession of tongue will involve believers as well as unbelievers. Believers will do so with great joy. But the unsaved will do so reluctantly and with great fear and fainting of heart.
• Jesus will return as the King (see Matthew 25:34). Why did He tell us that? It is because of this one fact. He is coming back to establish His kingdom, which is present now in part, but yet future in all of its fullness. The consummation of the kingdom is therefore the purpose for Christ’s Second Coming.
• The Second Coming of Christ will not only be for the consummation of the kingdom but it will also issue into the great final judgment. Jesus, our Lord Himself, solemnly testified,“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:22, 27).
• Our Lord also declared that, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32). This is a vivid picture of Jesus Christ the Judge.
• The rest of Scripture agrees with Christ’s declaration of Himself as the Judge to come. Jesus Christ is described as God’s appointed Judge who will judge the living and the dead at His coming (Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:1). All humans, all nations, will be judged by Jesus Christ the Righteous Judge (Matthew 25:32; Hebrews 9:27). For many people who want to live life as they please, without any thought of accountability, this is one of the most terrifying prospects regarding the future. Make no mistake, Christ is coming back to judge. He is coming to settle accounts with each and every one of us. Those who are in Christ need not fear. “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Christ’s judgment at His coming will reveal to all who, whose we are and who we really are. God knows all about this already. For the Scripture says, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Timothy 2:19). But at the coming of Christ He will make this public.
• Having convincingly stated the fact that Christ will certainly return in person a second time to earth to establish His kingdom in its fullness and to judge all, though the exact time of His return is not known, two important questions remain to be considered. Is there a need to prepare for Christ’s coming? If so, how are we to prepare for His return? The answer to these questions is the major focus of this article, that is, prayer’s role in preparing God’s people for Christ’s return.
Prayer’s Role in Preparing Believers for Christ’s Second Coming
The clear teaching of Christ’s return has great practical significance for all believers. This practical significance has to do with our preparation for Christ’s personal return.
Please listen! It is not enough to know that Christ will return. We must also know how He wants us to prepare for His coming.
Our Lord did not only affirm the fact of His coming, but He also emphasized how His followers are to prepare for His return. Not only that, His inspired Apostles also instructed God’s people about the preparation God wants them to make.
I would like to first discuss what our Lord specifically taught concerning our preparation for His return, followed by that of His inspired apostles.
Our Preparation as Taught by our Lord Jesus Christ
1. Watchfulness is required of us (Matthew 24:42-44; 25:13).
The disciples, like most of us, were eager to know God’s future plans. Our Lord had told them the temple that they so much revered would be destroyed beyond recognition. This prompted the disciples to ask Jesus a critical question concerning the future. “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
Responding to this critical question, our Lord solemnly spoke of the certainty of His coming or presence [parousia] as well as certain events that would occur before His appearing.
Having established the certainty of His coming and the occurrence of certain events, (such as deception, devastation caused by wars, deliverance of God’s people to persecutors, departure from the faith and the dissemination of the Gospel throughout the whole world (see Matthew 24:4-14)), our Lord devoted the rest of His time to careful instruction of His disciples as to how to prepare for His coming.
The first instruction concerning their preparation for His return is watchfulness. Watchfulness is urged. Of the day and the hour of His coming, He said, “no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). In view of the uncertainty as to the day and the hour of His coming, our Lord commands His disciples: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).
The full sense of this command is discovered in the literal rendering of the verse, “keep on watching, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”
The command [gregoreite] “keep on watching” is given in the present imperative. This calls for a continuous response.
In other words, God’s people are to be constantly on the alert. They are to be always watchful. They are to be ceaselessly vigilant. They are to persistently keep their eyes open for the coming of the Lord. This is what is required of all believers.
To stress the point of our need for constant watchfulness for His return, our Lord employed an illustration. If someone has a strong sense that his house is going to be broken into, he will be ready and vigilant, even if he doesn’t know the exact time of the break in. In the same way, God’s people are to be on the tiptoes of expectancy. Constant vigilance is required. Why? Because in this one respect, the unexpectedness of our Lord’s coming resembles the operation of a thief.
What our Lord commanded here is not something anyone of us can do in our strength. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to keep on watching. Trying to be watchful in our power is to set ourselves up for a failure and a fall.
So, the question is: Are you watching for the Lord’s return?
If so, how are you watching?
Are you watching in your own strength?
Or are you watching in the strength of the Lord by depending on the Holy Spirit?
Our prayer should be, “Holy Spirit, help me to keep on watching for my Lord’s return.”
I guarantee you, the Holy Spirit will not fail you nor will He fail me.
2. Waiting is expected of us (Matthew 25:1-12; 24:48; 25:19).
The second instruction of preparation is waiting. For sure the Lord Jesus will return. Since God works on His own timetable, and not ours, Christ’s return will be “delayed” from our perspective.
Being a wise Teacher, the Lord Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins to illustrate the point that waiting is expected of His followers. We know for certain that this parable is told in reference to our Lord’s coming. In other words, the context of this story is the return of Christ. Our Lord began His instruction with a word of time, “then” (Matthew 25:1). This takes us back to what He had previously spoken in Matthew 24 where He had clearly made known to His disciples the certainty of His coming.
The point of this rich story is that the bridegroom is a long time in coming (see also Matthew 24:48; 25:19). But the five wise virgins were well prepared for the delay. They brought not only oil in their lamps but an extra supply in separate jars. But on the other hand, the five foolish virgins brought no extra oil. Even what they brought was already being used up, since their lamps “are going out” (Matthew 25:8) at the midnight cry which announced the sudden coming of the bridegroom (Matthew 25:6).
The foolish virgins were expecting to meet the groom, but alas, they were utterly unprepared for the delay. How sad! The bridegroom took only those who were ready and prepared with Him to the wedding feast (Matthew 25:10).
The five foolish virgins, despite appearances, never made the necessary preparation for the coming of the Bridegroom. They were left behind. They were shut out from the kingdom and the wedding feast, despite their intense cries, “Lord, lord, open up for us” (Matthew 25:11). They learned a painful lesson: “Preparedness can neither be transferred nor shared” (D. Carson – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8).
The wise virgins refused to share their oil with them, not because they were unkind and uncaring, but because they could not share or transfer their preparation.
We each must prepare ourselves for the delay by waiting wisely and actively for our Lord’s return. In their book, “Called to be God’s Leader – Lessons from the Life of Joshua,” Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote: “Waiting on God does not prescribe inactivity. Rather, it is an act of faith and obedience. Seeking God's direction takes more stamina than merely jumping rashly into action. If you think it doesn’t take much effort to wait on the Lord, try sometime! In every situation there is both a right thing to do and a right time to do it. Waiting on the Lord helps leaders get them both.”
The wise virgins were not passive in their waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. They went out to meet the bridegroom. They kept on looking for his coming. They kept their lamps burning. They brought an extra supply of oil with them. They acted wisely by not sharing their oil with the foolish virgins. They were well prepared.
Their preparation was not the work of self-effort or exertion. It was done in reliance upon the power and help of the Holy Spirit.
So I ask you again: Are you waiting for the Lord’s return? If so, how are you waiting?
Is your waiting one of self-effort like that of the foolish virgins?
Or is it a waiting in the strength of the Spirit?
Only those who are waiting in the strength of the Spirit will have the stamina to be ready at the midnight cry, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom! Come out to meet him’ (Matthew 25:5).
The constant prayer of our heart should be, “Spirit of God, help me a child of God, to wait wisely and actively, should Christ, the Son of God “be delayed” in returning.”
God will answer this prayer and make us like the five wise virgins in our preparation for Christ’s coming.
The hymn "While We Are Waiting, Come" written by Claire Cloniger and Don Cason, should be our prayer.
1.While we are waiting come; while we are waiting come.
2. With pow'r and glory, come; with pow'r and glory come.
3. Come, Savior, quickly come; come, Savior, quickly come.
Refrain: Jesus, our Lord, Emmanuel, while we are waiting, come.
3. Working with the talents God has entrusted us is desired (Matthew 25:14-30; 24:45-46).
Continuing to instruct His disciples about their preparation for His coming, our Lord presented yet another parable to His disciples. This is the parable of the talents. This parable not only expects watchfulness and waiting of God’s people during the Christ’s absence, but also working with the talents God has entrusted to each one of us. In other words, until the day of reckoning, profitable investment of the resources God has given each one of us is expected. To prepare well for Christ’s return, we each must invest profitably the gifts, talents and resources God has endowed us with. This is the point of the story.
This point was perfectly illustrated by the first two servants in the story. They knew it was a great privilege to share in the work of their master. They also felt the responsibility of their assignment and went to work without delay. They invested in profitable businesses, working hard with the capital to make it grow.
But the wicked servant who was unwilling to work or take risks, simply and selfishly dug a hole and buried his talent. The day of reckoning came after a long time. The two servants who invested in profitable ventures were praised and given increased responsibility and a share in their master’s joy. But that was not the case with the third servant. He did not invest his talent.
In a very spiteful act, he returned to his master what belonged to him, no more and no less (Matthew 25:25). Prior to this, he actually had the audacity to accuse his master as being “a hard man, reaping where [he] did not sow and gathering where [he] scattered no seed” (Matthew 25:24). In other words, he arrogantly charged his master of exploiting the labors of others. For sure, some employers do make unethical use of their employees for their own profit. We see that so much today.
But this master is not that kind. He is good. He is gracious. He is generous, giving freely from what belongs to him so that his servants may have a privileged part in his work. The wicked servant not only shirked his responsibility and his obligation to perform his duty, but he also blamed his master and excused himself. In short, this servant was wise in his own eyes.
God has a lot about being wise or right in our own eyes in the book of Proverbs. “The way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15). “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives”(Proverbs 16:2; cf. 21:2). “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12). What an indictment!“The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can give a discreet answer” (Proverbs 26:16).
These descriptions truly fit the wicked servant. His failure to do to what was expected of him, his accusation of his master and his excusing of himself all reveal his true character. He really had no love for his master. He was not a loyal servant. At best, he was a false and fake servant.
The master was very patient. He did not interrupt the servant who was wise in his own eyes. The master allowed him to finish accusing him as a hard man who exploited others for his own profit. He also allowed him to give his excuses. But alas, the master must respond to the wicked servant who was wise in his own eyes. He acted according to Scripture, “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes” (Proverbs 26:5).
The servant’s way was right in his own eyes, but now the Lord must weigh his heart. The master summarily condemns the servant on the basis of the servant’s own words, proving that the servant was indeed at fault. He was truly guilty (see Matthew 25:26-27). The servant’s talent was taken away from him and given to the one who had the ten talents.
The lesson of the parable is clear. To fail to prayerfully and properly use what God has entrusted to us to use for the furtherance of His kingdom is a serious sin. It is a grievous sin. This not only results in the loss of neglected resources but in rejection by the master. Not only that, one is banished from the master’s presence- a place of life, light and love to outer darkness, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). Indeed,“there is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”(Proverbs 14:12). The servant was eternally separated from the loving presence of his master.
Watchfulness, waiting and working with the resources God has given us must mark all of us who are the true followers of Jesus Christ. Why? Jesus, our Lord, will return to settle accounts.
But the question is: Are we to work with the resources God has given us in our own strength? Not at all!
We are to rely on the strength of the Spirit if ever our work will be a fragrant offering to the Lord.
Please listen! Our watching, waiting and working must be marked by prayer if they are to be fulfilling and fruitful. Knowing this very well, the Lord Jesus specifically gave commands concerning prayer as the most critical part of our preparation for His coming as seen in the next two major points.
4. Persevering, believing prayer is to characterize our preparation for Christ’s return (Luke 18:1-8).
This is clearly seen in Christ’s own teaching on prayer in the context of His personal return in Luke 18:1-8. From the parable of the persistent widow, our Lord teaches us an important principle of persevering, believing prayer that is to mark our preparation for His Second Coming. Our Lord's teaching regarding praying at all times without losing heart (Luke 18:1) has to do with persevering believing prayer.
While it is true in a general sense for all men to always pray and not lose heart, the special purpose for which Jesus taught this parable is praying for God’s deliverance in times of testing, that is, before the time of His glorious appearing. The lesson is therefore about praying without losing heart during the long, weary interval between our Lord’s First and Second Advents.
Actually Luke 18 is filled with instruction on prayer. We have the persistent praying widow, (18:1-8), a praying Pharisee, (18:9-12) a praying publican (18:13-14) and a praying poor blind beggar (18:35-43). Each of these stories has an important lesson to teach us on prayer.
The story of the persistent widow teaches us about perseverance in prayer, especially in preparing us for Christ’s Second Coming. The widow kept coming to an unrighteous judge who did not revere God nor respect man. In other words, he was a hard and haughty man to deal with. He didn’t care. Neither did he show compassion. Fighting for the cause of truth was not his main concern in life. He was not moved at all by the validity of the case of the widow. He knew very well that the widow had a legitimate case, yet he not only closed his heart but also his mouth. He didn’t feel the pain of the poor widow. He had absolutely no care, compassion, or concern for the poor and lonely widow. Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man has for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” How true this latter statement speaks of the character of the unjust judge!
The unrighteous judge was following in the footsteps of others before him. Rebuking the rulers and judges of Judah and Jerusalem, 700 years before Christ, God through the prophet Isaiah, thundered: "Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves... they do not defend [or vindicate] the orphans nor does the widow's plea come before them" (Isaiah 1:23).
The fact that this widow was being treated unjustly did not move his cold and hard heart. What a hard-hearted man! What a cold-hearted man! What a cruel judge! The only thing that prompted the unrighteous judge (by the way, we have many of them in our court systems today) to act was the constancy with which the widow came before him.
Notice what he said in verse 5, “Because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.”
The widow’s importunity and persistence finally moved him to give a decision in her favor. He was not moved by the just cause of the widow but rather by her continually coming to him.
The Lord Jesus did not leave us without His own interpretation of the parable of the persistent widow. So our Lord Jesus now explains the parable to His disciples. He assures them that if a perverse and callous- hearted unrighteous judge would act in behalf of a poor widow simply because of her persistence or importunity, how much more will the pure, compassionate and righteous God intervene in behalf of His own who cry to Him day and night. God, He promises, will not delay long over them. He who does all things beautiful in His time will intervene in the lives of His praying people at His appointed time.
Notice how the Lord Jesus describes His people. He calls them, “His elect who cry day and night” (Luke 18:7).
Please don’t miss what Jesus is saying here of the character of His people. They are people who are characterized by perseverance in prayer between His First and Second Comings. Don’t let that escape your notice.
The elect might refer in a special sense to the Jewish remnant during the Great Tribulation Period, but it is also true of all persecuted and oppressed believers between the First and Second Advent of Christ. These believers are to be persistent in prayer like the persistent widow. Their perseverance in prayer is therefore a crucial part of their preparation for the return of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord concludes His explanation of the parable by saying in effect, “God has no problem at all about bringing justice speedily for His people. He is a God that is just. He loves justice. He loves righteousness. But when the Son of Man comes, will He find people characterized by persevering believing prayer in their watching and waiting for His coming?”
This is the point our Lord is stressing in this parable. Why? Because persevering believing prayer is what He instructed to mark our lives as we wait for His coming.
Will our Lord find the kind of faith that characterized the persistent and poor widow, who never let up, or gave up, despite the hard-heartedness of the one she repeatedly came to for justice?
Will Jesus find only a few who are true to Him on His return? I am afraid so.
Do you want to be among those few?
If so, may the Holy Spirit work in you the kind of faith that cries to God day and night.
Are you prevailing in prayer as you wait for Christ’s coming?
Are you persisting in prayer as you watch for the Redeemer’s return?
Are you pressing on in prayer as you labor in the Lord’s vineyard?
Are you persevering in prayer in order to prepare yourself for Second Advent of our Savior and Advocate, Jesus Christ?
5. Praying for the release of God’s strength into our lives is an effective way of preparing for Christ’s Second Coming (Luke 21:36).
Please listen! Prayer for the release of God’s power into our lives to escape the difficult times and to endure standing in the presence of the glorious Christ and King is so vital in preparing us for our Lord’s return. This is what our Lord’s teaching in Luke 21:36 is all about.
He clearly spelled out the important role of prayer in preparing us for His return. We need God’s strength to escape the hardships of our times. We also need God’s strength to enable us to stand in the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all the fullness of His majesty, glory and power on His return.
So our Lord specifically commanded His disciples then and us today, saying,“But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
Literally this verse reads, “But be ye watchful at every time, begging that ye may be able to escape all these things being about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Our Lord speaks here of the certainty of both troubled times here on and earth and His coming. In view of this, He commanded His disciples to pray in preparation for His certain return. The Lord Jesus didn’t promise a troubled free life for His followers. Before He comes again for them and take them to be with Him, they will face trials, troubles, tragedies, temptations, and testings. They will face persecution. They will experience hardship. They will encounter painful events and circumstances. They will face hard times. They will even be heart-broken.
In fact, our Lord prophesied, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). He also predicted that lawlessness would increase (see Matthew 24:12) between His First and Second Comings.
In the light of all these, our Lord commanded His true followers to always be on the watch, praying, begging or asking [deomai] to be given strength to escape the troubling times and to stand before Him.
The Bible says, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The way of escape God is providing for His children in the trying times of life before the coming of Christ is simply to pray for His strength.
By praying for His strength to escape and endure His presence, we will not only be well prepared for His coming, but also, we will separate ourselves from the people of this world. Why is that? The people of this world trust in their own strength. They rely on their own ability to go through life’s hard times. But as our Lord faithfully predicted, they would faint from fear and be dismayed. Relying on their strength will not take them far.
Clearly, the context in which our Lord gave this concrete command is that of His Second Coming (Luke 21:25-36). Our Lord gave a graphic description of cataclysmic events that would coincide with His return. He described the state of people during these times. Dismay, fear and fainting would be their lot. But for the people of God who prepared themselves through prayer, they would escape and stand before Christ at His coming.
In the context of His return, our Lord stressed the truthfulness of His words. He declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). In the same context, He also warned His disciples. “Be on your guard, so that your hearts will not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 21:34).
Finally, before our Lord gave His command to keep at prayer for His strength in the difficult times, He once again affirmed the certainty of His coming and those it would affect. He said, “for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth” (Luke 21:35).
The certainty of the day of His coming is expressed in the phrase, “it will come.” He didn’t say, “it may come.” Those who it will affect are “all who live on the face of the whole earth.” Each and everyone living on planet earth will face Christ at His coming.
So how are you preparing for the coming of Christ?
Are you allowing your heart to be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life?
Are you so consumed by the mundane cares that the Lord’s coming will come upon you suddenly?
Our Preparation as Taught by Christ’s Inspired Apostles
1. Praying specifically to God to strengthen our hearts, so that we may be blameless and holy before Him is a crucial part of our preparation for Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
Writing in the context of Christ’s return the Apostle Paul indirectly showed prayer’s role in preparing God’s people for Christ’s return. In his first Letter to the Thessalonians Paul didn’t just talk about prayer but he actually prayed for the believers preparing them for the return of Jesus Christ. Paul’s prayer life is clearly seen in this epistle. Right from the beginning of the Letter to its ending the Holy Spirit gave us a glimpse into Paul’s earnest and effective life of prayer.
He wrote, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
How many pastors and preachers are so concerned for the flocks they have been given the privilege to shepherd to the point of constantly giving thanks to God for all of them, making mention of each of them in their prayers?
What God hears is not thanksgiving but complaints and criticisms of the flock by the undershepherds. How sad! We want mega churches but we do not give ourselves to constant prayer for those in our mega churches. We delight in the great numbers. But we don’t devote ourselves to prayer for them.
Again, Paul wrote, “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10).
Here we see, not only the extreme frequency of Paul’s prayers for the believers, but also the intensity of his prayers. Actually, what is said here, applies also to Silvanus and Timothy, Paul’s companions. Their prayer lives were habitual and intensely fervent. What a team to work with!
The prayer life of many ministers today is fleeting more than it is fervent. It is sporadic more than it is steadfast. It is shallow more than it is serious. But that was not the case with Paul and his fellow-workers. Theirs was steadfast, serious and fervent life of prayer.
Having disclosed to the Thessalonian believers, how frequently and intensely they had been praying to see their face and complete what is lacking in their faith, Paul immediately turned his heart to God in prayer (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13).
His prayer consists of two requests (vv. 11-12) and the result from these requests (v. 13).
The requests are stated as follows. “Now may the our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-12).
Here we see Paul’s dependence on God in making a way for him where there seemed to be no way. He realized the futility or uselessness of his own personal efforts toward revisiting the Thessalonians. Satan, he said, hindered them from coming (see 1 Thessalonians 2:18). The only One who could clear the way for Paul to go back to Thessalonica was God Himself, that is, God the Father working in unity with Jesus our Lord. Paul could not remove the obstacle, but God Almighty could. To Him therefore, Paul addressed this prayer.
The second request on Paul’s heart is that “and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you” (v.12).
Was Paul praying for the believers because they lacked love? Not at all. They were not lacking in agape love. Paul was praying because he knew an important truth in the Christian life, that is, there is room for growth and increase. There is always room in the believer’s life for development and becoming all that God wants him or her to be. Continual growth, overflowing increase in selfless devotion to others is always a need for believers. So Paul prays for a deeper and abounding measure of love in their lives. In other words, the development of even greater love in the Thessalonians was Paul’s second request.
The abounding love in their lives should overflow into the lives of their fellow believers. But that was not all. Their love was to reach beyond the circle of believes to all other people, even their enemies.
These two requests, that is, God’s work of clearing the way for Paul to come to them and the Lord’s work of causing their love to abound, are to produce a certain result at the coming of Christ.
It is to this result that we now turn our attention to learn what we are to pray for in preparing us for Christ’s coming. “So that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
Translated in the NIV, this verse reads, “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”
Simply put, the goal of Paul’s prayer for the believers at Thessalonica is that the Lord will grant them inner strength to be blameless in holiness in the presence of our God and Father when the Lord Jesus returns. Paul was concerned about the standing of the Thessalonians before a holy God at the coming or presence [parousia] of Jesus Christ. Paul knew that God had chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him (see Ephesians 1:4). Yet he prayed for them to have the inner strength to stand blameless before God when Christ comes. This is because prayer is our privilege of sharing in God’s work. Paul was praying that the result of love for one another and for all people in this life would lead to blamelessness in the next.
One writer says, “An overflow of love (v. 12) is the only route to holy conduct in which no fault can be found (v. 13). For unless love prevails, selfish motives inhibit ethical development by turning us toward ourselves and away from God and blameless living. The holiness that belongs to God is the ideal we must seek (cf. Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16)."
We live in a self-centered generation. But God does not want our lives to be patterned after the self-centeredness of the world. He wants us to pattern our lives after His. A selfless and sacrificial life of love.
Someone has paraphrased the prayer as follows: “The Lord enable you more and more to spend your lives in the interests of others, in order that He may so establish you in Christian character now, that you might be vindicated from every charge that might possibly be brought against you….”
May I ask, “If you should stand before the Lord today, would you be vindicated from every charge that might possibly be brought against you?"
Standing in the presence of a holy God is a solemn matter. We are saved. But at the bema of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:10) we will give an account.
Are we praying and thus preparing ourselves for that day of reckoning to stand faultless in Christ’s righteousness alone?
The words of the hymn writer Edward Mote capture the essence of Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians from which we are learning to prepare for Christ’s coming. The fourth stanza of the hymn “Solid Rock” reads, “When He [Christ Jesus] shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found, dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.”
Paul knew the solemnity of that time of final accounting. So he prayed earnestly for the believers at Thessalonica to overflow with love in this life so as to stand blameless in holiness before a holy God at the coming of the Holy One of Israel, Christ Jesus.
Our preparation for the coming of Christ should be modeled after Paul's. Blessed are those who not only hear, but also do what they heard!
2. Praying specifically for entire sanctification and complete preservation of our whole being is a necessary part of our preparation for Christ’s return (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Clearly, Apostle Paul was deeply concerned about the spiritual condition of the believers at Thessalonica, not only in this life, but also in the life soon to come. He had prayed earlier for them to be blameless and holy at the coming of the Lord. But now he goes a step further in his prayer for them in preparing them for Christ's return.
His prayer reads, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"(1 Thessalonians 5:23).
The NIV translates this verse as, "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The prayer consists of two specific requests. First, entire sanctification. Sanctify [agiazo] simply means to separate to Himself. Second, complete preservation of our whole being.
Please notice very carefully the one who is able to bring about entire sanctification and complete preservation of our whole being. It is not Paul nor the believers at Thessalonica. It is the God of peace Himself. God alone is able to do the work of sanctifying the believer through and through. He alone can completely preserve our spirit, soul and body. The God who has provided for a harmonious relationship between Himself and man through Christ's death is the One who has the power to entirely separate us to Himself and completely preserve our whole being. Thanks be to God!
When Paul prayed for entire sanctification, he was not setting forth a doctrine that the believer can become sinlessly perfect in this life. He was not praying for the eradication of the sin nature in us. Rather, his prayer was that God's work of sanctification would extend to every part of our being - spirit, soul and body.
Believers will obtain perfect sanctification in heaven, when we go to be with our Lord. It is only then we will be completely and finally set apart from sin. Paul was therefore praying toward that final condition of believers.
Paul also prayed for the complete preservation of the believers at Thessalonica. This preservation should include the whole person - spirit, soul, and body.
Please notice very carefully the order in which Paul listed our parts. The order is spirit, soul and body. But man always focuses on the body as the primary part of himself. As such we spend a great deal of our resources trying to preserve the body. We spend much time working out to preserve our aging body, as if we could keep it young forever. True, bodily training has value. However, "bodily discipline is only of little profit. But godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). That is precisely why God always says, spirit, soul and body. Sin has reversed this order. Man lives for the body and neglects the spirit.
Our spirit [pneuma] is that part of us which enables us to have fellowship with the living God who created us and is always reaching out to us in order to bring us back into a loving relationship with Him. The spirit enables man to perceive the divine. Though damaged through the fall of Adam, God renews the spirit to provide the consciousness of His presence.
Our soul [psyche] has to do with our emotions, desires, and affections. Here is the true center of personality. It gives man a self-consciousness that relates to the physical world through the body and to God through the spirit.
Our body [soma] is the house or tent in which our person dwells (see 2 Corinthians 5:1).
All our parts need to be preserved or kept complete, that is, entire and sound. The spirit must be preserved from everything that would poison or defile it (see 2 Corinthians 7:1). The spirit must be preserved from everything that would hinder the testimony of the Holy Spirit to our relationship with God (see Romans 8:16) and everything that would keep the worship which our God who is Spirit seeks (see John 4:23). The soul must also be completely preserved from evil thoughts (see Matthew 15:18, 19) and fleshly desires that war against it (see 1 Peter 2:11). The body must also be preserved from defilement and evil uses (see Roman 6:19).
Paul's main desire in this prayer is that God's sanctification and preservation will so extend to every part of believers' personalities so that they will be blameless at the coming of Jesus Christ.
Please notice how Paul expressed his confidence that God would answer his prayer. In verse 24 of chapter 5, he writes, "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass."
God is committed to doing this very work in us. This must therefore generate confidence in us to pray as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians. Our prayers will not be in vain. They will be answered to the praise and glory of God.
Are we praying for God Himself to sanctify us through and through at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Or are we trying to sanctify ourselves in our own strength?
Are we praying for the complete preservation of our spirit, soul and body, without blame at the coming of Jesus our Lord?
Are we keeping this order? Or we reversing this order?
Are we being lured by the world to focus on the physical part of our being and neglect the spiritual part of our being?
Let us rely on the Holy Spirit to pray for our entire sanctification and complete preservation by the God of peace Himself at the coming of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our God is faithful. He will answer us.
3. Praying constantly that God may count us worthy of our calling and fulfill every good pleasure of goodness and the work of faith in power is critical for our preparation for Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
Paul wrote his second Letter to comfort and correct the believers at Thessalonica, who were suffering intensely and were despairing of life. Apostle Paul, assured them of repayment and reward at God’s righteous judgment (1:3-12) and noninvolvement in the Day of the Lord (2:1-17) before directing their attention to such practical matters as prayer for the rapid spread of the Good News and gainful employment for the present (3:1-15).
Having established the fact of Christ’s revelation [apokalypsei] from heaven to repay those who trouble God’s people in their rejection of the Gospel and to reward His believing children, that is, to be glorified in them, Paul burst into prayer for future acceptance of God’s people. His prayer was made in the light of the return of Christ. Therefore it is instructional for us in our preparation for the return of our dear Savior, Jesus Christ.
Their prayer reads, “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fufill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
What a rich prayer!
There are several things I want us to note about this prayer.
First, its context. Its context is definitely the coming of Christ. 1:1-10 and 2:1-17 deal with the subject of Christ’s revelation and return. In fact, the matters of last things (that is, eschatology) were Paul’s main concern in writing 2 Thessalonians. It the light of Christ’s return, Paul and his partners lifted up their hearts in prayer. With the coming of Christ in their minds, Paul and Silvanus and Timothy joined their hearts in prayer to God for the believers they were privileged to serve.
Second, notice the constant nature of the prayer. Paul and his fellow workers (Silvanus and Timothy, 2 Thessalonians 1:1) were constantly praying this prayer for the believers at Thessalonica. “We constantly pray for you”(NIV). This shows the great importance they attached to their prayer. This was not a prayer that they prayed once and completely forgot that they had ever prayed such a prayer. It was not a “passing thought” kind of prayer. It was a continuous prayer. It was a ceaseless prayer.
Earlier, in the first Letter to the Thessalonians, the Spirit commanded them and us through Paul, saying “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Now, the Thessalonians are seeing the outworking of this command in Paul and Silvanus and Timothy in their prayer for future acceptance.
Third, notice the concrete requests made by Paul and his co-workers. In other words, the requests were specific, not general. There are two specific requests.
The first constant prayer request, literally is, “that our God may deem you worthy of the calling.” The Greek word [axiose] translated “count worthy,” also means make or consider worthy, suitable, fitting, deserving. Please note that this request is not implying uncertainty of ultimate acceptance of believers. Uncertainty would under cut, not build, assurance for the fainthearted and trouble-filled believers. Through the Spirit, Paul had earlier made it clear to the believers that they would be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed they were suffering (see 2 Thessalonians 1:5).
Though the worthiness of the Thessalonian believers was firmly established, certainty in the security of God’s purposes does not diminish the need to keep on praying. God’s faithfulness is the sure foundation on which our salvation rests. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Until the actual accomplishment of what God has already planned in His eternal purposes, Paul and his fellow workers continue praying for it. By so doing, they were not only preparing themselves for the return of Christ but also the believers at Thessalonica.
Do we want to be prepared for Christ’s return?
If so, let’s learn to pray that our God may count us also worthy of His calling. When we pray this with understanding, our appreciation for God’s grace in our lives will increase.
How can sinners such as us be considered worthy of God’s calling at Christ’s coming? The answer - God’s amazing grace. “Grace, grace, (marvelous grace), God’s grace (infinite grace), Grace that will pardon and cleanse within, Grace, grace (marvelous grace), God’s grace (infinite grace), Grace that is greater than all our sin!” –Julia H. Johnston.
The second request literally reads, “and may fulfill every good pleasure of goodness and work of faith in power.” Paul had previously written about their work of faith in the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Now he prays for more of it in their lives as they wait for the return of Christ. In other words, they are to be a people whose faith is evident to all. They were not to live as people who claimed they had faith, but no genuine works to prove its reality. Their knowledge of Christ’s sure return in the future was to encourage powerful works of faith.
In addition to their works of faith in God’s power, goodness was to characterize their lives.
“Goodness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Paul prays for the kind of desire that produces goodness-i.e., the active quality that constantly pursues what is right and beneficial for others. What they had already obtained was important, but room for growth was still there (cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 4:1)” The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 11.
So our preparation for the coming of Christ must be marked by prayer to constantly pursue what is right, good and beneficial for others.
Fourth, note the concluding purpose or result of the prayer, introduced by‘so that’ (2 Thessalonians 1:12). The concluding result of the prayer is twofold.
First, the name of our Lord Jesus would be glorified in them. “So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you” (2 Thessalonians 1:12a). “Name” [onoma] speaks of the dignity, majesty, power and presence of the Person of our Lord’s revealed character.
What does it mean that our Lord’s name will be glorified in believers? It simply means giving an accurate representation of Him to the world until He comes to reveal Himself in all His fullness, majesty and power. How important this is in preparing us for the coming of Christ! The result of the prayer of Paul, Silvanus and Timothy was toward such a worthy cause, that is, to faithfully represent all that Jesus is to the world and so bring Him glory.
The second of the twofold results is that believers will also be glorified in Christ Jesus their Lord, “and you in Him” (2 Thessalonians 1:12b).
In other words, their identification or association with Christ, their Savior, Head, Bridegroom, and Lord, will bring honor to them as members of His Family and His Body. They will not be shamed for relating and trusting in Him. They will not be put to shame for confessing Him as their Wonderful Savior and the only Way back to relationship and fellowship with God. They will receive the greatest honor of all at His coming. They will be fully embraced in the loving arms of Jesus their Lord. They will experience acceptance at its fullness by their glorious Lord. Christ Himself will glorify all believers by proclaiming their exalted, vindicated, and holy nature as the children of God, as the people of God, as the redeemed of God, as the family of God. Christ will silence all their enemies. Christ will shame all their foes who thought of them as wimpy and weak people who were using Christianity as a crutch. In short, they will be honored beyond belief because of their relationship to Him. These thoughts of future glory and honor must motivate us to prepare ourselves in prayer for the coming of Christ, our Lord.
Fifth, notice the condition on which the prayer is accepted and answered. In other words, what is the basis of the prayer’s acceptance and assurance of being answered? The only acceptable condition on which the prayer can be answered is grace. So the prayer concludes with these precious words,“according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:12c).
Just as salvation is by grace, not by merit, so here also grace is the condition on which our future acceptance and glorification is based. Notice where this grace is from. It is from both Father and Son. Paul ends this epistle just as he began, emphasizing that grace is from both Father and Son. “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:2).
Paul is here exalting the marvelous, matchless, infinite grace of God. He assures the believers that the answer they are expecting for the prayer on their behalf is rooted in the working of God’s grace. God’s grace is their confidence that He “will count [them] worthy of [their] calling, and fufill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in [them], and [they] in Him” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
In effect, Paul says, “the requests we have made of God will be answered, and the result will be realized because they are in harmony with the working of God’s grace.”
4. Being clear-minded for the purpose of prayer is God’s command to His people in these last days (1 Peter 4:7).
Writing his first Letter to believers who were scattered and were suffering, Apostle Peter, first described their position, proper conduct, privileges and practical duties as believers (1:1-2:10). He next wrote to them about their relationships, to the world, government, master, spouse fellowship and to persecutors (2:11-4:6).
Having done so, the Spirit led Peter to set before his hearers certain urgent imperatives for the last days. Notably, the first of these pressing commands has to do with being in a proper frame of mind for prayer. Please notice carefully what the Holy Spirit commanded through Peter. “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7).
This verse literally reads, “Now of all things the end has drawn near. Therefore be ye soberminded and be ye sober unto prayers.”
“The word translated “prayer” [proseuchas], literally means “prayers.”
The first command Peter was directed to give the scattered and suffering believers in the light of the end of all things is for them to be of sound judgment and watchful in their prayers.
The word translated “be of sound judgment” [sophroneo] in the NASB also means, be soberminded, reasonable, sensible, serious, keep one’s head. Also the word translated “be sober” [nepho] is used figuratively here to mean to be free from every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness’, from excess, passion, rashness, confusion, etc. be well-balanced, self-controlled.
Since this was written to believers who were suffering, it meant that their prayer lives should be free from distractions of panic and emotional instability brought on by the stress of suffering. In other words, their fellowship with God should be undisturbed by disturbing situations. They were to keep their heads up in spite of their suffering. They were to fix their eyes on Christ their Redeemer. They were to be self-controlled. They were to do all these in the strength of the Holy Spirit living in them for the purpose of prayer.
Certainly, this command was not given only to these first century believers. It is written also for our instruction.
Giving warnings from Israel’s history, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for us for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages have come”(1 Corinthians 10:11).
Christ’s return is nearer than it was when Peter was led to write: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clearminded and self-controlled so that you can pray" (NIV).
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called upon to give ourselves to prayer in these last days. In spite of suffering in our lives, we are to keep our heads up for the purpose of prayer. We should not allow our fellowship with God in these critical days to be disturbed by disturbing circumstances in our lives or around us. We should not give room to confusion in our hearts and minds. Rather, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, we must be diligent in prayer to our God who is in control of all things. By so doing, we will prepare ourselves well for our Lord’s return.
5. Preparing for Christ’s return is best done by praying specifically for it (1 Corinthians 16:22b; Revelation 22:20).
This principle is exemplified in the life Apostles Paul and John. Both of these men had unique experiences with the glorified Lord Jesus.
Paul’s first unique experience with the glorified Christ was on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-9). This encounter with our glorified Lord led to Paul’s conversion. Later in life, Paul was caught up to the third heaven, and heard inexpressible things, things that a man is not permitted to tell. To keep him from becoming conceited, a thorn in the flesh was given to him to torment him (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
Apostle John’s unique encounter with our Risen and glorified Lord, in all His majesty and power, caused him to fall at His feet as though dead (see Revelation 1:1-18).
Certainly their encounters with Christ and the knowledge of His return moved them to pray for His return and thus prepared them for His coming.
Concluding his first Letter to the believers at Corinth, Paul burst into passionate prayer for Christ’s return. Having shown the Corinthian believers that love is the most excellent way (see 1 Corinthians 13), Paul ends his first epistle by giving a strong warning, “If anyone does not love [phileo] the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22a).
The first part of Paul’s conditional statement is best translated, “If in fact someone does not love the Lord.” In other words, the condition in the if clause (also called the protasis) is assumed to be a reality or true. A person, who is not showing in the Christian community and in society some outward indications of his affection for and commitment to, the Lord, does not belong to the Lord and therefore is accursed.
Love for the Lord was the overall theme of the Letter and Paul’s life. So as he closes the Letter he again returns to this theme. He wants the believers at Corinth to set aside their petty differences and love the Lord. Their love for the Lord would certainly unite them. But if they did not love Him, they would bring a curse on themselves.
A curse (Greek anathema) meant that the person involved was to be delivered over or devoted to the divine displeasure. In other words, a person who is not loving and obeying God has placed himself under the wrath and curse of God.
Our Lord Himself spoke in similar terms. “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). So what the Spirit said through Paul is consistent with what our Lord Himself said.
Having spoken so strongly, Paul then turns to the blessed and glorious future hope, that is, the coming of Christ. Paul’s heart overflowed with love and longing for the return of Jesus our Lord. And so he prayed his shortest prayer ever recorded for us in Scripture.
Paul cried out, “Maranatha.” Literally, his prayer reads, “Marana tha.”
The NASB transliterates this expression as “Maranatha,” combining the two Aramaic words into one.
The NIV translates it as “Come, O Lord.”
The Aramaic expression, “Maranatha” actually means, “Our Lord, come!” The fact that Paul used an Aramaic expression in his Letter to the Gentile believers at Corinth suggests that “Maranatha” had become a familiar expression of Christian hope – a watchword for the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
How sad it is that only a faithful few use this expression today as such!
Have we forgotten the glorious hope of the Second Coming of Jesus?
Are we so satisfied with life on this sin-infested earth?
Are we so poorly preparing for the glorious return of our glorious King and Lord?
May God renew our heart’s love and longing for the return of Jesus Christ, so we can also pray with hope, “Our Lord, come!”
Three times in Revelation 22 Apostle John was specifically told of the coming of Jesus Christ. “Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book” (Revelation 22:7). Then again in Revelation 22:12 Christ declared: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
Finally, before the revelation came to an end, the glorified Christ confidently affirmed the truth of His return. He established the certainty of His coming beyond doubt. “He who testifies to these things says, Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20a).
The Greek word translated “soon” in the NIV is “tachu.” It also means, without delay, at once, suddenly, or quickly as translated in the NASB. But the term does not necessarily mean “immediately,” but “in due time,” according to God’s economy and timing. He is the God who has an appointed time for everything. He also makes everything appropriate in its time (see Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11). Moreover, we must remember that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8). He is not bound by time as we are, but He works on time.
It is very interesting to note that the most important theme emphasized in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible is the soon coming of Christ. Revelation closes with a promise and a prayer.
Indeed, the promise is the best promise of all. Christ our Lord will indeed come again.
Please listen! Our Lord’s return is not a myth. It is the master truth of the Bible. His return is not a fiction. It is the fundamental fact of Scripture. His coming is not a cleverly invented story of man. It is a confidently and clearly revealed word of God Almighty.
Now would you please notice how Apostle John responded to Christ’s confident assertion of His soon return. He responded with prayer. Apostle John specifically prayed for Christ’s return.
His prayer was simple but very significant. It was also specific. “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” [Amen. Erchou, Kurie Hesou] (Revelation 22:20b).
Please take note of this. The last recorded prayer in the Bible specifically focuses on the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though the words of this prayer are few, there is so much passion in it.
Having heard and seen the glorious Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the glorious sounds and sights of the eternal dwelling place of God’s people, John could no longer live as if history was simply running its course. He was so convinced more than ever before that, God indeed, is Himself guiding history to its final consummation at the coming of Christ. And so, with a deep and burning passion, John prayed for the return of Christ. “Let it be so. Come, Lord Jesus.” “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Believers today are to be characterized by such deep passion in praying for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in so doing, we prepare ourselves well for the coming of our Great and Glorious Lord, Jesus, the Christ.
The hope of a soon and sure return excited great anticipation in John, the beloved apostle, to cry out to the Lord to come. So also, should it be in our lives. Every redeemed person should respond to the sure promise of Christ’s return with this simple but significant specific prayer: “Truly. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Now, someone may ask, “Why pray for something that is already fixed in the unchangeable purpose of God?
Why pray for something that God Himself has revealed He will bring to pass?”
What shall we say in answer to these questions? Our answer is in a form of questions.
Is it not God’s pleasure for believers to cooperate with His ongoing program? “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Prayer that is according to God’s will is one way God is at work in us to accomplish His redemptive purposes.
So I ask you, is it not a privilege to share in God’s eternal purpose, even though He doesn’t need us? Amazing!
So I ask again, is not praying for Christ’s sure return a proof to our own hearts that we are truly preparing for His return?
Apostle John prayed for the certain return of the Lord Jesus and so prepared himself. God expects us to follow in his footsteps.
Throughout the ages, believers passionately prepared themselves for the return of Christ by praying for it. Some of their prayers are expressed in hymns.
The hymn writer, Van Trapp, wrote the hymn "O Come, Messiah, Come Again."
The hymn reads, 'O come, Messiah, come again, and rid the world of death and sin. Return, Thou risen Savior and King.'
Refrain: 'That heav'n and earth at last may sing rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!'
Based on 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 1 John 3:2; Revelation 1:7, Gerald S. Henderson wrote the hymn called, "He Is Coming." The words of this hymn are as follows:
1. Oh, Jesus my Savior, He is coming again. Oh, Jesus my Savior, He is coming again.
2. In clouds of great glory, He is coming again. In clouds of great glory, He is coming again.
3. And we shall be like Him, He is coming again. And we shall be like Him, He is coming again.
Gloria and William Gaither and Charles Millhuff also expressed their faith in the return of Christ in the hymn, "The King Is Coming."
O the King is coming, the King is coming! I just heard the trumpets sounding, and now His face I see; O the King is coming, the King is coming! Praise God, He is coming for me!
The common feature about these hymns is that they are short and simple. But what a significant truth they affirmed- Jesus is coming again!
Like apostles John and Paul and the hymn writers, we should also simply and sincerely pray, "O Come, Messiah, Come Again!"
Prayer does play an important part in preparing God’s people for the return of Christ Jesus, our precious and dear Lord.
Please, make no mistake, history will not simply run its course. Under the direction of God Almighty, history will come to a consummation. God’s purposes will be fulfilled at the end.
As believers, we are to watch for, wait for and work in anticipation of the soon and sure return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our watching, waiting and working are to be characterized by prayer.
However, God has revealed in His Word certain specific prayers that He wants us to bring to Him in order to prepare us for the return of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Persevering believing prayer is to mark our lives as we prepare for the sure return of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We are to pray earnestly for the release of God’s supernatural strength into our lives so as to escape the troubling times preceding the coming of Christ as well as to endure standing in the glorious presence of the glorious King of the ages, Jesus Christ.
We are to call on God to strengthen our hearts so that we may be blameless in holiness before Him on that holy day of our holy God. From the depth of our hearts, we are to constantly cry to God to make us worthy of His calling at the return of Christ.
Finally, praying specifically for the sure return of Christ is the best preparation. Maranatha!
It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will impress these truths upon our hearts as well as motivate us to make them our regular heart prayer to our loving God. And as such, I believe, our God will generate confidence in us that we are preparing well for His return.
At Christ’s coming, may He find the kind of faith that characterized the persistent widow in us!
At our Lord’s return, may He find our lamps still burning and ready for Him at the midnight cry, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6).
At His appearing, Christ will establish His kingdom in all of its fullness and glory and to judge all.
We who are in Him and are preparing for His return through the help of the Spirit need not fear.
But woe to those who have not turned to Jesus Christ from their sins and sinful ways. It will not be well with them. If you are one of these people, please know that it is not God’s desire or delight to have you face the terrifying judgment of His Son. “He is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
He is giving you grace to turn from your sins to Him. That is why He has given you life today. That is why Jesus has not returned yet.
Admit that you are a sinner. Acknowledge your need for a Savior. Accept the work Jesus did on the cross for the forgiveness of all your sins. Apply this truth to your heart by praying this simple prayer with all your heart. “Lord Jesus I recognize today that I am a sinner. I’ve sinned against You. Please, forgive me my sins. I open the door of my heart to You right now. Come and live in me and change me to be all that You want me to be. Give me a love for You and for Your Truth. Prepare me for Your return. Thank You for hearing me.”
We conclude with the wonderful hymn "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending" by Charles Wesley and Martin Madan.
1. Lo, He comes with clouds descending, once for favored sinners slain; thousand thousand saints attending, swelling triumph of His train: Alleluia! alleluia! God appears on earth to reign.
2. Every eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty; those who set at naught and sold Him, pierced and nailed Him to the tree, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.
3. Now redemption, long expected, see in solemn pomp appear: all His saints, by men rejected, now shall meet Him in the air: Alleluia! alleluia! see the day of God appear.
4. Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Savior, take the pow'r and glory, claim the kingdom for Thine own: O, come quickly, O, come quickly! Everlasting God, come down. Amen.