Is Jesus waiting for us?

The world seems so broken.  Paul described the condition of the world as “frustrated” and in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:20-22).  Even though I have a very good life, I also feel some of this frustration and experience some of this decay and brokenness.  In some lives, and in some parts of the world, however, there is not just brokenness and bondage, there is a deep darkness.

I am aware of only a tiny percentage of the suffering in the world, and indeed in my own neighbourhood.  Even though I am unaware of most instances of suffering, it bothers me tremendously that so many people (the Bible would say “myriads”) are living with cruelty, violence, poverty, disease and heartbreak.

Jesus is our only hope.  So I’m looking forward to Jesus’ return to earth.  I am looking forward to the day when there will be peace, harmony, health and wholeness on earth – “shalom”.  I am waiting for the day when Jesus will step in and fix everything.

But wait . . . hasn’t Jesus already stepped in to fix everything?  Didn’t he come into the world precisely to deal with sin and its corrupting consequences?

Jesus dealt with sin with his atoning sacrifice on the cross.  And he rose from the dead, showing us that he has power over death and that we too can have an eternal, victorious life.  After his return to heaven, Jesus gave his Spirit to his followers.  Jesus has made us his agents, empowered by the same Spirit who helped him in ministry.  As his agents, we are to continue Jesus’ work, and do even greater things than he himself did while on earth.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  – Jesus in John 14:12-14  (NIV)

@ malerapaso iStock #22406313I pray almost every night that Jesus will return and put an end to suffering.  But lately a thought has been running through my head: We’ve been waiting for Jesus; but what if Jesus is waiting for us?    What if Jesus is waiting for his followers to work with his Spirit and put an end to much of the suffering and injustice in the world before he returns?

We’ve been waiting a long time for Jesus to return to earth.  But I suspect that Jesus has been waiting a long time too.  I’ve heard some Christians suggest that Jesus is waiting for the church to become pure and holy so that when Jesus returns he can present the church to himself as a spotless, sanctified bride (Ephesians 5:27 cf 2 Peter 3:11-13).  God wants us to be holy, but true sanctification  is more than just personal piety and having a high moral standard.  Other Christians believe that Jesus is waiting for every nation, or ethnic group, to hear the gospel, and then he will return (Matthew 24:14 cf Colossians 1:6, 23; 1 Thessalonians 1:8).  Still others believe that Jesus is waiting patiently until a certain number of people turn to him (2 Peter 3:8-9).  I haven’t heard anyone suggest, however, that Jesus is waiting for all of us to realise our calling, put the gospel into action, and help heal the world and its people.

Instead of waiting passively, followers of Jesus should be people of action.  We should be actively helping to change lives, and minister with both the compassion and power of Jesus.  James warned that a faith without action is dead (James 2:14-26).  Jesus’ warning about not caring for people in his parable of the Sheep and Goats makes an even stronger, more sobering, point (Matthew 25:31-46).

‘For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  Matthew 25:42-45.

Luke 4:16-19 The Spirit of the LordJesus has entrusted his ministry to us.  And he has equipped us.  We have been given everything we need to live a godly life, to become partakers of the divine nature and to be effective and productive as Christ’s agents (2 Peter 1:3-4).  We have Jesus’ example, his teaching and his Spirit.  And we have his promise that we can do greater things than he did.  All we have to do is ask (John 14:13-14).  I’m asking for shalom, and I’m asking for opportunities to work with the Holy Spirit in bringing shalom.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus in Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

What do you think?  Is Jesus waiting for us?  If so, what exactly is he waiting for?

Photo credit: Globe and stethoscope (iStock #22406313)


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Posted March 5th, 2013 . Categories/Tags: Christian Living, Christian Theology, , ,

5 comments on “Is Jesus waiting for us?

  1. Sarah says:

    I haven’t yet heard the theory that Jesus is waiting until the church is pure and holy. I think that’s a pretty weak theory, as Christians are sanctified/pure when they become Christians. It honestly sounds like a theory with a political motivation underlying it. But I’m not sure that he’s waiting for us to take more action either. I don’t believe that most of the suffering in the world will be ended before he comes back, as it’s still a broken world.

    But then again, I’m not sure the question of, “What is Jesus waiting for?”, will bring an accurate answer because the New Testament says that only the Father knows when the end will happen. Then again, I’ve never understood that verse. How can Jesus not know something if he is God?

  2. Marg says:

    I agree that we are sanctified – set apart – the moment we put our trust in Jesus. But I also think that sanctification – becoming more like Jesus – is a process. God wants us to be spiritually mature. Maturing is also a process. Paul’s letter to the Philippians speaks a lot about this.

    I’ve heard a few people speak about the pure church: That Jesus won’t return until there is a spotless bride ready for him. But Jesus wants much more than just purity from us.

    When Jesus returns and every eye sees him, we will be powerfully transformed (Php 3:2-21). And I believe in a New Heaven and a New Earth. These things haven’t happened yet, and until they do there will still be disease and death and corruption but we are already part of the New Creation (2 Cor 5:17). But we are still agents of the Luke 4:18-19 ministries.

    My post is highly speculative, but I do think that God is waiting for us. We do need to realise the power and the responsibility that has been given to us. It’s really only been in the last few decades that Christians have understood that the ministry of the gospel is for every Christian – not just preaching but doing. We won’t be perfect at this, and Jesus will still need to complete the final stage, but I do think God wants us to step up and be little Jesuses – Christ-ians – and bring hope and healing.

    Jesus didn’t know the day or the hour when he made that statement while on earth (Mat 24:36; Mark 13:32-33) but, now that he is back in heaven, I’m pretty sure that he knows. Jesus was limited to some extent on earth, because of his humanity, and he was completely reliant on the Holy Spirit who, like the Father, also knows everything (1 Cor 2:10-11). But I don’t think everything was revealed to Jesus all the time while he was on earth (in his unglorified body.)

  3. Dan says:

    I thought a lot about this last night. Here’s what I came up with:

    –The King is among us to the extent that the laws of the Kingdom are truly and sincerely being lived out. The King is not fully with us yet because the laws of the Kingdom are only partially obeyed by a relative few.

    –Jesus’ second coming is sometimes referred to by Paul as his “appearing” (1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13). Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” Perhaps as more and more people are washed clean, made pure, and taught to walk in God’s ways (Matthew 28:18-20), God will make himself visible in a way he wasn’t before. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”(1 Cor 13:12).

    Neither of these points takes into account the imagery of Jesus’ appearing on the clouds as judge. What needs to be remembered here, I think, is that the bible often uses apocalyptic imagery to talk about eschatology. The presence of imagery doesn’t mean that the reality described is less important. In fact, the reality could far exceed the picture painted in the imagery (1 Cor. 2:9). Whether Christ comes to rule the nations from Mount Zion with a rod of iron, or whether we ascend the heavenly mount by virtue of faith, hope, and charity, Christ is the destiny of the faithful and the hope of the world.

    Come, Lord Jesus, come!

  4. Marg says:

    Good thoughts, Dan.

    I agree that we need to be careful about taking apocalyptic imagery literally; however, there are verses about the endtimes which seem clear and literal. For example, I think the two men in white were speaking quite literally about the manner of Jesus’ return in Acts 1:9-11.

    I sure am looking forward to the day when we will see face to face; then we will know fully (1 Cor 13:12).

    Come, Lord Jesus, come!

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