Recently, on my walk, I was intrigued to notice contrasting signs displayed by two homes on the same street.
One was an electronic clock saying “Christmas Countdown . . . Only 57 days, 8 hours, 43 minutes and 5 seconds”. Straight across the road from it, a plaque on the wall bore the name of the house: “Maranatha”.
I wondered how many people would realise that both signs alluded to a countdown scenario.
Although we are not sure what Christmas will look like this year, we all look forward to the day. We prepare in advance, buy far too much food and often overspend on gifts trying to be as imaginative as possible! A lot of forethought is put into the planning.
However, the other event, proclaimed by the sign "Maranatha", demands far more preparation from Christians and non-Christians alike! In fact, it demands immediate attention and reaction. Why?
“Maranatha” means “The Lord is coming”.
Just as the details of Jesus’ first coming as a baby to Bethlehem were clearly foretold in the Old Testament, so is the fact that He is coming again set out in the entire Bible.
The Bible tells us that there is coming a day when people who believe that Jesus died and rose again and have trusted Him as their personal Saviour, will be evacuated from this world in a moment. This will be immediately preceded by the raising of Christians from the dead. Christians refer to this event as the “rapture” and you can read about it in 1 Thessalonians 4. We do not know when the rapture will happen, but it could be today!
Last week, I attended the funeral of a Christian relative, Jim, who had been a brave firefighter. As we stood around the graveside, we were reminded that Jim had been awarded medals in recognition that he had risked his life to evacuate people from burning buildings. However, the speaker pointed out that Christ had not only risked His life but had given His life to rescue us from the consequences of our sin: God’s coming wrath. In the city of Thessalonica people had “turned to 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 delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, emboldening added).
This will be a glorious experience for those taken but a most traumatic experience for those who are left. Disaster! Many people are vaguely familiar with words that are associated with His coming, such as “apocalypse”, “Armageddon” and “666”, but may not know of their relevance. These terms are used in the Bible to describe unprecedented times of evil on the earth following the “rapture”, and ultimately, for those left behind, there is the prospect of facing an eternity separated from God in a place called hell.
The Bible often uses the word “save” to describe our rescue – the name Jesus means “He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, italics added) and “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15, italics added). Just as people are saved from a burning building, from drowning at sea or from a plane crash, so we need to be saved from the inevitable judgement that awaits us if we do not respond to God’s rescue plan. God is a God of love and has made a way of escape possible. We have a choice.
As a Christian, I am excited about the prospect of Christ coming again.
Christians should be LIVING for Him and LOOKING for Him. In Titus 2, Paul writes “that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (verses 12-13, emboldening added). This is a challenge for us.
The countdown is getting lower every day . . . are you prepared? If you genuinely appreciate the reason for Jesus’ first coming (often called Christmas), you will now grasp the opportunity to prepare for the next time He comes, by trusting Him as your personal Saviour and Lord.