Would you rather Jesus come back this very instant, or would you rather live for a while longer?
I hope you are actually going through the process of deciding and really thinking about the pros and cons of each option. A few factors that I think of are missing out on seeing my children grow and go through the different stages of life. I think about people I know who are lost that I still want to be saved before His return. I think about things I still want to do in life before the end. But then I think about these statements of the earliest Christians:
- When Jesus told John He was coming soon, John said, "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20)
- Paul said, "But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20).
- He also said, "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed" (1 Cor. 1:7)
- The Hebrews writer said, "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 (Heb. 9:28).
So what was the difference in their eagerness for Jesus to come back and our contentment for Him to give us a few more years?
I don't know the answer exactly, but I have a hunch based on Acts 3:20 that it has something to do with repentance. Did you catch what Peter told the Israelites that day? He told them they needed to repent...to turn to God. And He promised them under the direction of the Holy Spirit that if they would repent, three things would happen:
- Their sins would be wiped out. He had just pointed out that their chief sin was the murder of Christ, but that it had all taken place under the direction of an omnipotent God who had a plan of salvation. Peter's argument is that once you understand that truth...YOU'LL WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! And the something that we are to do is to repent so we can be forgiven! Do we really understand the depth of sin? Do we really appreciate the hugeness (pretty sure that is a word, someone look it up for me) of the statement that our sins can be wiped out? They are not covered over or hidden. They are wiped out!
- They would be refreshed. At the risk of quoting Dr. Phil, I'm going to quote Dr. Phil who liked to ask his televised clients, "How's that working for you?" It's a valid question...especially when we think about our selfish, worldly way of living compared to the freedom from guilt, the healthier relationships, the avoidance of diseases like STD's, alcoholism, and stress-induced hypertension that are the result of living according to the "abundant life" that Jesus offered. How much more tired and grumpy do you feel at the end of the day when you know you have not put much effort into living as a servant of Christ throughout the day as compared with living selfishly? Peter promised times of refreshing. I believe that means much more than I have just described, but these things alone would be incredibly refreshing to so many of us!
- He would send the Messiah.
Why does the return of the Messiah depend upon our repentance? Maybe I'm interpreting incorrectly, but that's the way it seems to read. In fact, the very next verse says, " Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything" (Acts 3:21). I don't think Peter is just talking about Jesus "coming into our lives." I think he is talking about the actual return of Christ...and he says the return is conditional upon our repentance!
Now I'm not trying to make a doctrinal statement that everyone in the world is going to repent before Jesus is allowed to return. That's obviously not what Peter was saying. But I think Peter came back around to this concept later in one of his letters when he said, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance"( 2 Peter 3:9 emphasis mine.)
There are some really impressive promises made in Acts 3:19-20. I don't want to miss out on them. I want my sins wiped away. I want to be eternally refreshed. And while, speaking honestly, I have to admit I have mixed feelings about it...I want Jesus to come sooner rather than later. I'm wondering if there isn't some area of my life that I am still stubbornly holding onto instead of giving to God. I wonder if my eyes are still set on earthly things instead of heavenly things and that's why I'm having trouble joining the chorus of voices from the first century who were actively praying and looking for an immediate return of Christ.
May we all truly repent. May we realize the joy of wiped away sins and Godly refreshment. And may we recognize God's patience in waiting for us and the world to repent and turn to Him. May that knowledge motivate us to open our mouths to proclaim Christ just as it opened Peter's mouth 2,000 years ago.
I skipped over this statement, but it may be the most incredible statement in the whole passage...and Peter just seems to say it in passing. He said, "that He may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you -- even Jesus. If you have ever doubted God's love for you, consider that God appointed Jesus as the Christ...for you! How can you fail to turn to God when confronted with that overwhelming truth of His love for you!?