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Perspective on the Present Aspect of Prophecy

by Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


What a joy to welcome you to this broadcast of Words of Life. It is our pleasure to bring you good news about our wonderful Lord Jesus, about his power and grace and mercy in our lives.

We are thinking, as I record this broadcast today, of presenting ourselves for a new year. What is in that future? What is going to happen?   Well, the fact is for the most part we simply do not know. The Word of God tells us of many things that will happen in certain days, but we are not clear on exactly what and when all of those things will happen.

In spite of that, there are those who have tried to set dates about a variety of future events. We are thinking today especially of the aspect of prophecy that is the foretelling of future events that are contained in the Word of God. And what I would like for us to consider today is as we think about what the Bible says about the future and how does it affect our present perspective of life.

In 1818 a preacher by the name of William Miller predicted that Jesus would return between the month of March the 21st, 1843 and the month of March 1844. His enthused group joined him to await this arrival. After great disappointment because, of course, Jesus did not come, he then set another date, October the 22nd, 1844. And, again, there as no return of Jesus.

As we look back on such an attempt to forecast the future, we see the folly of doing that. The times have not changed. People today still are fascinated with the subject of prophecy, of forecasting the future, of thinking what is going to happen in the latter days and the second coming, exactly what does it mean and how does it work, the multitude of books and radio broadcasts, videos, television speakers, on and on and on we can go.

We would certainly never go to the extreme of Mr. Miller, but we may be guilty of focusing on the future which has an unhealthy and unbiblical perspective. And we do not want that.

Some of you remember back in 1988 and at the end of 87 someone came out with a book: 88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. Well, lest you forget, he did not return as we knew he could not according to the forecast of that false prophet.

We want to state clearly, then, at the beginning of this message, as did Jesus, no man knows the day or the hour of his return. So instead of calculation of days or months or years, we should live in expectation. Oh, we want to be theologically accurate about what the Bible says about end time events, to be sure, but let’s live in an expectation of the return of the Lord Jesus. Certainly a major thrust of biblical prophecy is the bearing of end time prophecy on our daily lives. The New Testament gives a clear message of our personal lives, our personal ethics and behavior as we say we believe that Jesus is coming again.

The apostle Paul wrote the book of 1 Thessalonians as one example of the teaching about the second coming. And he has much to say about that, but also about how we are to live in our present time awaiting that coming. Allow me to share with you today as you stay tuned—and maybe you can call someone else and ask them to tune in and learn along with you—four principles about living in the present time as we anticipate the return of the Lord Jesus.

The apostle Paul in the book of 1 Thessalonians deals with this from these four perspectives. Chapter one and verse three he writes these words: “We are remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus before our God and Father.” The first principle we understand from these Christians in the city of Thessalonica is their steadfastness of living in the present time in which they found themselves in the first century. This hope of the return of Jesus is often described as a blessed hope of his return. The Scriptures refer to a steadfastness of hope. We keep that hope day by day and hour by hour and it is this steadfast hope that produces in the Christian steadfastness, or endurance. And when we face discouragement or temptation or trial or, as is happening in many countries of the world today for those who are Christian, suffering and hostility and even death, when we face those we need to have this perspective of life wrapped up in the hope of the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Surely there is much in the world’s system to discourage us, bring us to a point of despair. And so we need this future perspective. We understand, indeed, the world is passing away, things are gradually morally worsening day by day in most of the nations of the world. Thus, we need this faith and this hope of the second coming. And, certainly as we think about this eternal relationship that we have with the Lord Jesus, it involves living in expectation.

So Paul, first of all, then, says that by looking forward to the Lord’s return there is a resource for maintaining an endurance and a steadfastness in the midst of our present distress.

Secondly, there is a balanced expectation in the present time. Not only are we living steadfastly and faithfully, there are often two extremes toward which we can gravitate in light of the Lord’s return. There are those who become so obsessed with it to the point where we forget our present responsibility. We fail to understand what we are to do as we live our daily lives as Christians. Some do that. Others place the hope of the Lord’s coming so far back in their minds and in their teaching that it ceases to be a daily experience of hope. And so Paul tells us about the Christians at Thessalonica in chapter one and verses nine and 10 Paul said: “They themselves report concerning us what manner of entering in we had unto you. When we came to you what reception did we have? You turned unto God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus who will deliver us from the wrath that is to come.”

Here is Paul’s explanation of the behavior of is readers in the light of the return of the Lord Jesus. It can be explained in two words: serving and waiting. There is an interrelationship of these two clearly seen in the life of every Christian, or, at least, it should be. They were serving while they were waiting. And they were waiting expectantly while they were serving. They did not lose sight of each one or either one of those things. The waiting was productive. The serving was with expectation and desire. Here was a balanced responsibility and expectation living in the present, fulfilling present responsibilities as Christians, but looking, hopefully, to a great future in the return of Jesus.

The immediate return of Jesus should never give us an excuse to be lazy. Should we not then be commanded and committed to serve faithfully and joyfully as though he may not return for a very long time? But, oh, with expectation that it could even be today.

And so good stewards of our time and talents we are excited about the responsibility of ministry, of service in the name of the Lord Jesus and in meeting the needs of others in sharing the gospel.

On the other hand, we will not get so caught up in the present world and the activities that we engage in, that we fail to turn our eyes upward in eager expectation of the Lord’s return. Perhaps today, Lord, perhaps today needs, to be ever in the forefront of our minds, serving faithfully in the present with our eyes on the future. We have a balanced expectation, a steadfastness and then we have this hope of serving faithfully and waiting with great joy and expectation.

Then, thirdly, we would say to you today that as we live this life in expectation of the return of Jesus, we find comfort amidst present distress. One of the most prevalent problems encountered among many people, Christians and non Christians alike, is discouragement. The devil knows how to use that tool very well. And whether it is the loss of a job, a death, an illness, a family problem, a shortage of money, there are so many things that can bring into our lives discouragement and despair. Certainly those living in parts of our world today, where they are persecuted for their faith in the Lord Jesus, face this sort of problem.

And so Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica: “We would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that fall asleep, those that had died, that you do not sorrow as the rest who do not have such hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again. Even so them also that have fallen asleep or died as Christians, died in Jesus, will God bring with him. For this we say to you by the Word of the Lord, we that are alive, we who are left to the coming of the Lord, we will not precede them that have fallen asleep, but the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout and the voice of the archangel and the trump of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

And don’t miss the last verse of that fourth chapter of 1 Thessalonians as Paul describes to these Christians who were being persecuted for their faith and telling them about the return of Jesus where he says in verse 18 that we should encourage one another with these words.   The primary reason is that we can have this comfort to dispel discouragement, to get over the loss of loved ones or whatever else it might be, despondency, brought about maybe because we have misunderstood the future or whatever is happening in the present. And Paul assures them, and us, that both the dead and living believers have the same privilege and share the same hope and the blessing that will happen at the coming of the Lord Jesus. A proper understanding of the hope of Christ’s return and the permanent blessing that that hope contains provides comfort for us in the midst of present discouragement and difficulty. Such discouragement has likely occurred because our focus has been on our circumstances. Instead of looking up, we have looked around. And, oh, there is plenty around us to bring discouragement. It is in such time that we need a future perspective, remembering that the present suffering, the present heartache, the present distress, even this thing Jesus said was the last enemy, death, these are only for a season. One day all these will be swallowed up in victory. Oh, a helpful thing for each of us in such circumstances is to reflect and to meditate on the reality of the Lord’s coming. Since the present is only temporary and the future with him is and it is in eternity, we can find genuine comfort in his promised return.

That brings us, then, to our concluding point in this message for today. We want to be steadfast in the present time in which we are living. We want to have a balanced life of serving and waiting. We want to find comfort if distress and discouragement comes. And then, as it so often is stated in passage after passage, we want to be holy in our living in this present day.

1 Thessalonians presents a clear connection between the future coming of Christ and our personal behavior. Paul’s desire in chapter three is this in verse 13. “I want you to have your hearts established unblameable in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” Paul’s desire for them and for us is a life of holiness. And chapter five, as he closes the epistle he says in verse 23: “And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly, totally, that is, and you may present your spirit and our soul and your body preserved entire without blame at the coming of the Lord Jesus.”

The principle of the effects of the second coming on behavior is clearly seen. It should motivate us to holy living. And so Paul says in the fifth chapter: Let us not sleep as the rest, but let us watch and be sober. He has described the coming. He tells us the time of blessing for believers and, oh, a time of judgment for those that are not in Christ. For you are sons of light and sons of the day, not of the night, nor of the darkness. The sons of darkness face a horrible judgment, but we who are sons of light have a glorious future indeed.

This sleeping here is referred to being morally lazy, not being the people of God that we ought to be. Indeed, my friends, we ought to do more than have an intellectual interest in prophecy and in the second coming of the Lord Jesus. It should, it will, it must affect us daily in our living. And if we are ignorant of those truths it leads to a variety of warped opinions and attitudes. The blessed hope, indeed, provides a steadfastness in the future as we have seen it pictured for us here.

Our concluding verse comes from the epistle of 1 John where the epistle writer tells us this in chapter two and verse 28 as he begins to offer hope. “And now, my little children, abide in him so that when he appears, we may have boldness and not be ashamed before him at his coming.”

Are you ready for the coming of Jesus? It is going to happen. It is going to come when we least expect it. May God bless you to be prepared.

We would be delighted to help you make that decision. You can find out from the announcer how you can contact Words of Life.


                               Julius Hovan is minister of the Bohon Church of Christ, Bohon, KY.

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One Response to “Perspective on the Present Aspect of Prophecy”

  1. Ron Bartanen says:

    Thank you for a challenging and much-needed message.

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8