Longing for the Reunion

Who are you most looking forward to seeing once Lockdown is over? The grandkids? Kids? Parents? Grandparents? Boyfriend/Girlfriend? Mates? Whoever it is, what many of us are looking forward to most about the end of lockdown is being reunited with loved ones. For many, the separation has by far been one of the most difficult aspects of the restrictions. Added to this, not knowing when reunion will be possible adds to the pain and sense of isolation since you can’t even count down the days to the next visit.

Like many, I’m also looking forward to meeting up again with family and friends. While electronic communications have made the past weeks less lonely, in no way do they match up to actually being with those we love – of holding and being held by those dear to us. But this longing to be with loved ones also made me think: am I also longing for Christ’s return? How is the fact that Christ is in heaven and I’m here on earth affecting my desire to be with Him and impacting my daily life?

Just before His death, the Lord Jesus comforted His disciples with these words:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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” John 14:2-3.

Jesus was promising that He would return from heaven and take His followers, all Christians, to be with Him in heaven. While parting for a time was necessary, His followers then – and we today – can look forward to the day when He will return for His own, never to be parted again. This event is often referred to as the Rapture.

The Bible teaches that, at the Rapture, believers who have died will be resurrected and believers who are still alive will be caught up together with them from the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air and return with Him to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). We’re not told when this day will be. In fact, Jesus told His followers that only the Father knew the day and hour when He would return (Mark 13:32). Yet throughout the New Testament, Christians are encouraged to be looking forward to, and awaiting, the day when Christ would return for them; they’re told to be ready and expecting it as though it could be at any moment. For the Christian, Christ’s return will be a day of joy and reunion.

Over the past months, I’ve been studying Paul’s letters to the believers in Thessalonica. Throughout these letters, Paul reminds them of their future hope in the return of Christ. We should note that in the Bible, hope isn’t used as it often is today as a nice idea or desire: I hope the weather will be nice next week. When the Bible refers to something we hope for, it is something that is certain – more like an unbreakable promise. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to wait expectantly for Christ’s return. At the time Paul was writing to the Thessalonians, they were experiencing persecution because they were Christians and it’s probable that this resulted in some of them dying as martyrs. Paul reminds them that death is not the end and they should encourage one another by reminding themselves of their hope in Christ’s return: that this life is not all there is.

Paul also speaks to the Thessalonians – and us today – about how a knowledge and expectancy of Christ’s return should affect the Christian’s life on earth:

  • While they were suffering at that time, they would be spared from the judgement the earth will face after the Rapture has happened (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
  • While Paul was grieved at being kept away from them at the time, their presence at the Rapture would cause him great joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
  • While living as Christians can be difficult and counter-cultural, they can be assured of being made blameless and holy in God’s sight (1 Thessalonians 3:13).
  • While they were currently parted from Christ’s physical presence, when He returns it will be so that they will be forever with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
  • While they may have doubts and struggle to see God’s hand at work, they can be assured that He is faithful. He will return for them and complete His work in making them holy (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

May we, like the Thessalonians, be encouraged to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). When we think of the isolation lockdown creates and the longing to be with our loved ones, let us remember the longing we should be feeling for Christ’s return, and the wonder of who it is we are waiting for. When we feel the excitement and desire to be able to meet long-absent family and friends, let us be reminded of the joy Christ’s return will be for the believer.

“[Jesus] says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.

We should just remember, too, that however great our joy in being with Christ then, His will be even greater. The prophet, Isaiah, writes of that day, “He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53:11). That is a truly staggering statement. In that day, our Lord Jesus Christ will, as it were, look back to His sufferings at Calvary and then at all His redeemed people, now safely with Him for eternity, and count it all worthwhile!