Expecting the Lord’s return while trying to plan for the future can be difficult to navigate. This can be especially challenging for the next generation, but there is a way to pursue your plans with an eternal perspective.
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Todd: Today, we’re going to talk about one aspect of the Lord’s return that you might not expect us to talk about. Stay tuned.
All right, Jeff, we’re going to talk about something today that’s a little bit different aspect concerning the Lord’s return, and it has to do with kind of the younger generations. I’ve got two college age kids and one 10th grader and they know about Bible prophecy, but at the same time, they’re planning for their future. My oldest son just got engaged. They’re excited about the things to come, the normal life milestones that we all look forward to and stuff. So that generation, you and I have both gotten questions from listeners like, “Well, wait, I don’t want the Lord to come just yet. I got some life to live. I got some things to do, some things I want to experience.” So today we’re going to talk about how we can encourage people like that. So you’ve worked a lot with youth and stuff like that, so you fielded this question several times. So what are some answers that you have for those people?
Jeff: Yeah, and I totally identify with that. Every guy just says, “Lord, can I just first get married before you come back?” My kids are all married and they’re in their 20s and having kids themselves and babies on the way and that type of thing. So they have this attitude, it’s like, “Jesus, I love you, I want you to come back, but could you just wait just a little bit to do that?” And there’s almost this thing that’s going on, it’s almost like a duality within us, we have these two desires that sometimes compete with one another is that we do want the Lord to come back. At the same time, there’s many things that we want to do that we want to experience in life.
And I think part of that, Todd, comes from a very, very subtle place that says that what we can experience here is better than what we might get in heaven. And I’m not saying that’s a sinful thing or anything, but it’s just one of those deals where obviously we’ve been sort of programmed all our lives to think about different milestones, different life experiences that we have, and we think, “Well, Jesus, if you come back, you’re going to rob me of those things.” So I think there’s that going on, but I don’t think it’s a sinful thing. I think it’s just really a part of our humanity, a part of us being real people and being honest and that type of thing. We all want to experience different things in life. And yet in our humanity, sometimes we experience that weakness, that lack of foresight and perspective and understanding about the future.
And even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in His humanity cried out, “Lord, is there any other way that we can do this?” He didn’t want to go to the cross in His humanity, but obviously He submitted Himself to the Father, was obedient to the Father in His humanity. And so I think part of it is that whole FOMO thing, fear of missing out in life that people have, but at the same time, we don’t want to miss what God has for us on this earth today.
So I guess part of the perspective would just be to understand how great heaven is going to be, and maybe just to kind of recalibrate our minds a little bit about the future and what heaven’s going to be like. When we talk about that and… John 14, Jesus said, “I’m going to prepare a place for you.” And wow, just the import and the content that’s involved in all of that, and we talk about the new Jerusalem and all the joy and the things that we’re going to have in heaven, Revelation 20, the millennial kingdom, Revelation 21 and 22, where He talks about what heaven’s going to be like, when we dwell on that, it sort of puts this life in perspective. Now it doesn’t mean that we still don’t want to experience things in this life. It’s just that as we kind of put those dual desires together, they’re not as competing as perhaps they used to be.
And, Todd, obviously I have that too. There are many things in life I want to do, and it’s kind of in the back of my mind, I go, “Lord, if you could hold off your coming, I could accomplish these things and see these milestones, see my grandkids grow up,” or whatever. But at the same time, it’s like I do want Jesus to come back today. So can we live with both those things?
Todd: It is, and honestly, I think it’s kind of a healthy tension, because we’re in this world, but not of it. We know that this is not our home. We’re not citizens of here. And like you said, heaven, everything here will pale in comparison to heaven. We were joking this morning, if you and I were to die today and go to heaven, we wouldn’t be wanting to come back and experience some of the milestones that we’re looking forward to. There’d be no question that, “Okay, yeah, I want to stay here. This is a lot better,” instead of going back and having to sin nature and having to deal with hangnails and headaches and everything else that life throws at you.
So part of it’s perspective, and we definitely understand that somebody who’s younger would be looking forward to those things. And also, to be honest, when people are younger there’s more nostalgia involved in things than… Once you experience them, sometimes… There’s definitely some great life experiences, but also life is tough. Those tough moments make us long for the Lord’s return, and having that shift of perspective is key. And like you said, John 14, He’s gone to prepare a place for us. He knows us intimately. We read about that in Psalm 139 that even our days are numbered. So I think there’s a trust aspect too. Just focus on living for today, plan for your future, keep moving forward. You’ve often quoted that famous Martin Luther quote that, “Even if the Lord was coming tomorrow, I’d still plant a tree today.” We can’t just stop living and be in a holding pattern, waiting for the Lord’s return. We need to live with expectancy, but also plan for the future and keep our eyes wide open as we pay attention to the signs that show us that the Lord’s return’s coming.
And I think key, too, and this is something, just being real, I struggle with daily is living for today, being in the moment. So often we have regrets from the past or we have anxiety about the future, but all we really have is today. The other things distract us. If we read Matthew 6:33-34, it speaks volumes. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble on its own.” Amen to that.
Jeff: Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah, I think all of our listeners can identify with that is that we all struggle with things in our lives and we have things in our lives that we go, “But that’d be great if this were just gone out of my life, my struggle with sin, my struggle with relationships, my struggle with the world and what’s going on, the anxiety that the world brings.” Well, guess what? The rapture cures all those things. All those things that we talk about we want to get rid of, the rapture actually deals with those things.
But I will say, too, in 1 Thess 4, beginning verse of 13, where Paul starts to talk about the rapture, Todd, one of the things that I love about it is that at the end of this whole passage, he says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words.” And the rapture, the doctrine of the rapture is a great comfort. Anytime the rapture is not giving us comfort, it tells us that we’re not looking at the rapture properly, because when we look at the coming of the Lord, the rapture, the parousia, the appearance of the Lord as Paul describes it, guess what? We get to meet Jesus there. That’s a really big deal. He’s the person, he’s the one that our souls long for. He’s the one that we long to meet. And obviously, we should long to meet Jesus more than we long to pay off our house or get a new car or have our next book be released.
Todd: Our next book be written. Exactly. You’re talking to two authors here that we loved when our books come out. But also, just getting even more personal, yes, I would love to see our grandkids, our kids experience certain things in my life and stuff like that, but… And those are important and Jesus wants us to want those things, but at the same time, putting it in perspective. When we compare that to longing for Jesus, when we compare that to looking forward and anxiously anticipating His return, there really is no comparison. And it reminds me of what Christ says in Matthew 10:37, where He says, “He who does not love me more than father, mother, or wife,” or spouses, and that kind of thing, “is not worthy of me.” And so it kind of is a little bit of a gut check to say, “How much am I loving Christ to how much am I in love with Jesus?” and I think the more that we are in love with Jesus, it doesn’t mean we won’t have those desires to see those things accomplished in our lives, but it does put it in a perspective for us to look forward to that event called the rapture.
So even if the rapture came today, here’s the great thing. We get changed and transformed, to where one second after the rapture, we’re going to look back and go, “Man, did you really have to come now?” No, no. When we see Jesus, we’re going to go, “What? I don’t even remember what’s going on on planet Earth because of who I’m looking at and who I’m with right now.”
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And I think we forget we’re the bride of Christ, and the Jewish wedding picture is that the groom has gone away to prepare our place, you mentioned that, and we’re awaiting His return. If we don’t have the attitude that we’re really longing for Him to come and get us then, like you said, maybe our focus is a little bit too much on the world. And I don’t say that in a judge-y way. I totally get it. But I think the more we contemplate how amazing the rapture is going to be and all the things that He has for us in our future, it makes everything else pale in comparison. And in the meantime, we get to live for Him, not we have to live for Him. We get to live for Him. He has an amazing plan for us.
I talked to a lot of people who are maybe contemplating becoming a believer, or maybe they’re a new believer and they’re struggling with sin. And I try to tell them, “Everything you think you have to give up for the Lord, He’s going to replace with something so much better.” The enemy does a good job of making us think that God’s keeping something from us. That’s how He tempted Adam and Eve. He does a good job of making us think, “Oh, the rapture’s, that’s going to be a scary thing.” No, it’s an amazing thing. In a split second, we will no longer have a sin nature. We’ll have new, glorified, spiritual bodies that can do some crazy stuff, and we’ll be in the presence of the Lord. How much better does it get than that?
There’s an aspect you can be so heavenly-minded, you’re no earthly good, in the sense that if all you do is talk about theology, theology, theology, but never do anything and don’t have joy, that’s different. But in my opinion, the more you study heaven and the things that are coming, the more earthly good you are, I feel like I’ve thrived more as I contemplate those things and study Bible prophecy and study eschatology. I feel like my Christian life has come to life on a whole new level, and I notice that other people who study Bible prophecy and eschatology experience the same thing.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s a great point. You mentioned about being the bride. I’ve done in my ministry career probably about 80 weddings over the years, and in fact did one a couple of weeks ago, one of my former youth. And just standing at the front, seeing that bride walk down the aisle, what’s in her eyes, the anticipation as she up and sees her bridegroom, it just blows me away every single time. But what you don’t see in a bride’s eyes or what you don’t hear in her voice, what you don’t sense in her heart, is that, “Man, I wish I could just hang with my girlfriends more. Put off this wedding day thing, man. I just want to…” No, no. She is so anticipating, so excited about her wedding day.
So I think one action point on this, Todd, would be, just like everything else in our life, every other thought that we have, we just acknowledge these things with God. I think God honors honesty, and when you read the Psalms, what I love about the Bible is that there’s so much gut-level raw honesty about its participants, not only what the Bible writes about them, but what they themselves write. When you read the Psalms, you read what David wrote, the sons of Korah, Moses, all those who compose the Psalms, you see this gut-level honesty. When you read Solomon, Ecclesiastes, man, he’s not talking about, “I made a couple mistakes, whatever, but on the whole I was a pretty good guy.” No, he tells us everything-
Jeff: Yeah, it’s just gut-wrenching. And it’s just that sense of transparency before God. So we shouldn’t be afraid to admit to God the things that make us feel ashamed, whether they be out and out sinful things, as 1 John 1:9 says, “Confess our sins to God. He is faithful and just. Forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” or just to acknowledge, “God, I’m just kind of having a blah thought about you, or I’m just not really motivated right now, or I really kind of like what I’m doing here more than I’m thinking about heaven.” Just acknowledge that to Him and confess that to Him.
And then secondly, to make an active, progressive choice to get into the word and to let God’s word then begin to transform our thinking. Because if you think about it, Todd, God made the human mind, He understands the brain, and He crafted the whole concept of truth that it impacts our minds. And then that causes us, it kind of splinters off into our emotions and our will so that we can make choices, active choices based on the truth, and we can allow the truth to really inform and impact our emotions. I know many times we kind of lead with our emotions. I do that sometimes as well, so I totally get that. But I think sometimes when we think about this whole thing about just kind of putting the rapture off, it’s really more of an emotional thing. But if we allow God’s truth to kind of marinate in our minds and sink down in the soil of our thoughts, then those seeds begin to germinate. And then eventually… Doesn’t mean we, kind of like a switch, we just say, “Oh, Lord, I rebuke that emotion,” and it’s gone. No, no. The emotions are huge, but over time I think it can really form and help to transform our emotions where they begin to get on board with our thoughts and with the truth of God. So just to focus on Him and allow that process to take place.
Todd: That’s a fantastic bit of advice right there. The emotions follow the mind, and we have a choice to what we let in our mind and what we study and what we think about. And what better thing to camp out on mentally than God’s truth?
Todd: And also, I think, one last thing, it comes down to… Or one healthy aspect that we can apply to this as well is just trust. We don’t know, this is a little morbid, but we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. But like we mentioned earlier, Psalm 139 talks about just how intimate and specific and detailed God’s foreknowledge and plans are for us. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him.” So that’s just a healthy way to be, to trust the Lord daily, to be in the moment, to plan for our future and know that and invite Him into our future, but also just to trust that He’s got all this under control. And now more than ever I think that’s a vital thing for us to camp out on because the world’s going crazy.
Even younger people that I speak with are a little fearful about some of the things going on and wondering what kind of plans they should make. Don’t stop planning, don’t stop living, keep moving forward, plan to do big things for the Lord. But at the same time, live in the moment, in this day. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Tomorrow’s got some crazy stuff coming maybe, but all you have is right now, that you can impact anyway. Put your trust in the Lord, trust Him implicitly, and I guarantee you’ll have more peace, more joy. Like Jeff said with the rapture, it’s our blessed hope and it’s designed to encourage us and to give us something to look forward to as we await the groom to come and fetch the bride.
Jeff: Amen. And the whole thing you said about faith is so true, Todd. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” And really, we live by faith. That’s what Romans 10 says, “The just will live by faith.” And it really boils down to just acknowledging the fact that, “God, you’ve got a better plan than my plan.” That sounds real simplistic-
Jeff: But, man, that’s like mature Christians have to make that decision all the time. And just saying to God, “God, I believe that what you have for me is better. If that means the rapture, then today, then yeah, that’s going to be the better thing. So your plan is better than my plans, better than my dreams, even better than my deepest, most deeply held desires. Your plan is better.”
I know when I was in college, I had a girlfriend. Well, I broke up with a girlfriend and I’d been dating her for several years, and it was literally the most gut-wrenching thing that had ever happened to me. I drove out in the country. I had a fist-shaking little argument with God. It’s like, “God, why? Why am I having to do this?” But God wanted me to do that. I remember at that moment, Todd, something happened in my heart. It wasn’t this super revelation kind of thing, but I sensed in my spirit, the Lord just communicating to me, “Jeff, let go and take my hand. And if you’ll take my hand, trust me, my grip on you will be stronger than your grip on me.” There was a sense of absolute release and freedom that I had never had in my entire Christian life up into that point.
And I share that illustration just simply to say that sometimes we hold on tight to the things that mean most to us, that have significance in our lives, and we think that if we let go of those things, we let go of our dreams for the future, somehow we’re going to miss out on stuff. But God, what happened? That decision to break up with her, in essence, gave me the freedom to date other girls. And guess what? That’s how I met my wife.
Todd: And y’all have been together how long now?
Jeff: Over 40 years now, dating and marriage concluded. So yeah, a long time. It turned into a great investment. I hope my wife says the same thing. But the point is is that I know that some younger listeners are thinking, you’re thinking about your whole life ahead of you. You may have your whole life ahead of you, but you know what? Even if you don’t, even if the rapture does come, you’ve got your whole eternity ahead of you, and Jesus has something planned for you in eternity that’s going to absolutely explode your thinking, blow your mind at how good it’s going to be compared to what we have here on Earth.
Todd: Amen. And I also think that that age group, in particular, because as I mentioned, I have two college age students, my daughter’s a freshman this year, and anyone who’s been to college knows that’s a tough transition. So much stuff’s coming at you so fast, and for believers, for most kids too, it’s a time where your faith has to move from theoretical and… And you’re saved, you know the Lord, but suddenly you’re out in the world and you have to make choices that align your walk and your choices with the Lord and you have to make intentional decisions on who you’re surrounding yourself with, where you’re going, what your own personal convictions and standards are and that kind of thing.
Jeff: Getting real [inaudible].
Todd: Getting real, yeah. Exactly. And that can be a really, really trying time. And then you add COVID-19 and everything crazy that’s been happening in 2020 and 2021, it’s no wonder that kids of that age are really struggling to plan for the future and also wanting great things for the future. And then to hear about the rapture, and they’re like, “Well, wait, my future is taken away from me too?” What we’re trying to say is God loves you more than you realize. You pursue God, He’s not going to let you down. He will never leave you, never forsake you. Every step you take towards Him and in His will, He’s just going to guide you to His best for you. He’s the groom. He loves you. He loves you and wants better things for you than you want for yourself. So, again, it boils down to trust and just pursuing God with a passion and knowing that His plan is way more exciting, way more fulfilling than anything you think you’ve got going on.
Jeff: And I think that’s the essence of, like you said, Todd, trusting God and just laying our lives in His hands. And, again, whether the rapture comes or whether we live another 30 years or whether somehow we pass before then and go to be with the Lord, either way, “Our times are in your hands,” as scripture says. So I think that’s a good word to really comfort us, but also to encourage us, maybe just kind of shake the dust off our thinking a little bit and get our minds calibrated with scripture. When we do that, our hearts are filled with hope, and hope is what we need more in our lives today.
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Todd: That’s right.
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