The Bible says the resurrection of Jesus was “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), meaning there is still a harvest of good things to come. What good things? Christ returning from heaven to raise from the dead all who have ever loved Him and taking an entire generation of believers to heaven with Him though they haven’t yet died. Imagine the impact on the unbelievers around us! Millions of believers worldwide caught up to heaven like Enoch and Elijah without suffering death or dying. Fantastic, yet that’s what Jesus said. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am, there you may be also.” Every generation of believers has lived in anticipation of that, and every Easter ought to be fresh fuel stoking our hunger for it. But could it happen this Easter? Here are 3 reasons why it could:
1) It is evil enough. Some believers point to God’s first great judgment of the earth and argue that things aren’t that bad yet. After all, when God destroyed the world with a Flood, it was because “the earth was filled with violence” and “every intent of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was “only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5-11) No argument from me that that was the case, nor do I think that the world today is as bad as it can get. But that misses the point, because the Bible doesn’t say the world will be as bad as it can get before Christ returns and removes His people to heaven. People will proceed from bad to worse (2 Tim. 3:1-13), which is a good description of the post-Christian world in which we live. But the Bible says the worst will come after our departure from this world, not prior to it. Paul refers to this in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 where he describes “the restraining power” of the Holy Spirit which is now at work through His church holding back the full force of evil. But one day soon that holy restraint will be removed, antichrist will be revealed, and all hell will literally break loose on this planet.
2) Christ’s return is imminent. That means that it could happen at any minute. That’s why believers in every generation have expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes. It’s not that they were naive or misunderstood the Bible. It’s because they were living as He told us to live – as if He is standing “right at the door.” (Mark 13:29) The fact is, not one prophecy of Scripture must be fulfilled before Jesus returns. Anything that remains to be fulfilled can take place after His return for His church, not before it, for His return for the church has always been imminent. As long ago as Acts chapter 3, Peter pleaded with the people of his generation, “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 may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you.” (Acts 3:19-20)
3) The stage is set for all that will take place after Jesus returns for His church. Two facts make our generation unique: 1) Israel is back in its homeland after 1900 years of exile surrounded by enemies who reject the God of the Bible and seek its destruction. This is just as the prophets predicted and perfect opportunity for a counterfeit Christ to deceive both Israel and the world. “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies… and the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place… lift up your heads for your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:20, 28; Matt. 24:14) 2) All the technology is in place for the antichrist and false prophet to control world commerce. This makes Revelation 13:16-17 not only possible, but plausible. “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
But if it doesn’t happen tonight – if Christ postpones His return for a year or two or ten – don’t be discouraged. The reason for His delay is grace. “Not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance,” He is giving your son, sister, or neighbor more time to believe. (2 Pet. 3:9) So do what you can to help them along. Invite him to church on Sunday. Send her a note telling her that you’re praying for her. I want Jesus to return tonight. But for His glory, I also want Him to be loved by as many as possible in the little time we have left.