Friday, April 4, 2008

Christ's Greatest Wish

by Barry Kimbrough

Millions of Christians believe in the Second Coming of Christ. They have good reason as no fewer than 318 specific Bible texts predict the event, not to mention the many other passages that speak of things in connection to it, such as the afterlife. The promises are breathtaking. We read of resurrection, reunion with loved ones, the end of suffering, golden streets, and celestial mansions.[i] Who wouldn’t look forward to that? Yes, the return of Christ is truly a “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

Because of these promises, it is easy to center our attention on what we get at the Second Advent, or on what we need to do to be spiritually prepared for it. Rewards and preparations are both important, but we miss an even greater truth if we focus on “us” alone in connection to the Parousia.

The grandest fact about the Second Coming is not bonuses and belief. It is about the One who comes. And why He comes. We have rarely thought about the return of Christ from His viewpoint. What does it mean to Him? What kind of feelings and thoughts does He have as He anticipates it?

Many Scriptures touch on this, but one in particular sums up His motivation and is found in His prayer for His disciples: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which you have given me; for You loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).[ii] Christ’s greatest wish was for the presence of His disciples. He longed for the day when that would happen. This original prayer gives us an idea as to what He has been praying for as our Intercessor over the centuries since that time.

Beyond the circle of the twelve, Jesus craves reunion with all of His believers. “I do not pray for these alone,” He said, “but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20). This particular appeal appears to show that as He made His requests, His eyes pierced the dark veil of the future, revealing to Him the history of His church. As He read the life details of each tested-and-tried follower, He pleaded for a final gathering. So great is His hunger for human fellowship that even while suffering the unspeakable torture of crucifixion, His mind was on this heavenly meeting, and He extended the invitation to the very worst of humanity, redeemed by His grace. We note His words to the dying thief: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Though we know the truth about death, I suggest that we don’t need to move the comma this time because the thief must have surely felt a little bit of paradise at the moment he heard the promise!

Christ looks ahead to this day with such intense delight that He plans to serve us at the first heavenly banquet. In the parable of the expectant steward, He said: “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when He comes will find watching.” Then He made this amazing statement: “Assuredly, I say to you that He will gird Himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37).

Picture the scene in your imagination. We are sitting at the huge dinner table in the New Jerusalem Banquet Hall. In comes the Lord Himself, carrying trays of heaven’s dishes which He has prepared Himself. Face aglow, He makes His way to each person, serving with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen, asking what we would like. “Lord, this is backward; we should be serving you!” a young woman protests. But He is so thrilled to have us that He doesn’t even hear her objection. Presently He stands at the head of the table and addresses us in a warm and powerful voice that reaches every corner of that gigantic hall: “I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29, 30).

We will enjoy that day, to be sure. But He will have the greatest joy of all. To be once-for-all reunited with the church He died for—that will be His ultimate happiness.

We understand reunion. Army officer Captain Kevin McNamara looked forward to it. Stationed in Iraq, he called his wife and children regularly, but when he got a special assignment to return to his New Jersey military base for one week to train his replacement, another mission formed in his mind. He got permission to take one day of the trip to visit his family. He would surprise his children by showing up at their school unannounced. With feelings only a father can have, he made arrangements with the school teachers for this surprise stopover.

Finally the moment arrived when he strolled into his son’s classroom. Five-year old Nathan stared, sucked in air, sat up straighter in his chair and raised his hand as if waiting for his teacher to grant him permission to run into his daddy’s arms. But he didn’t wait for permission. He ran across the room and “buried his head in the soft folds of his father’s uniform.” His face was enveloped in the Army green, and he sobbed until his daddy asked him in a tender voice if he’d like to introduce him to the class. A few minutes before this, McNamara had surprised his ten-year old daughter, Shannon, in the same way. Later that day, he astonished his wife, Denise, as he showed up at home with the children.[iii]

If a father could wish to see his family that much, what about the One who created fathers? In the book of John alone, God is called our Father over 100 times. His Son’s prediction reveals His heart: “I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).

Christ’s wish has yet another reason than just having us all together with Him. He wants to show us something: “That they may behold My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24). Does this simply mean that we will see the brightness of His person? What does “glory” mean? We get a clue from the use of this word in the Old Testament. After Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he asked them to go back home and get his father: “So shall you tell my father of all my glory, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hasten and bring my father down here” (Genesis 45:13). How the days must have dragged as the prime minister of the great world power looked forward to this meeting with his long-lost father. What preparations he must have made. And what a tour of the glories of Egypt he surely gave after brothers and father finally arrived.

In the same way, our Lord waits with earnest desire for the day when He can take us on a trip to see the vast wealth and wonder of His created universe. Our “oohs” and “ahhs” at seeing things we have never dreamed of will fill His heart with an ecstatic joy that only He can fully know.

I experienced a trace of this pleasure recently when I bought a car for our family. The old one gave up the ghost. We had to get a replacement. After talking about options, looking at different makes and models, and comparing prices, the final choice was left to me. I made my way to the car lot. With the help of the salesman, I picked out the best looking one I could find in our price range, paid the fees, and signed the papers. As I drove away, it felt more like I was flying on cloud nine.

But I was not so happy for myself in getting a better car. My greatest delight was anticipating how glad my wife, Olena, would be when she saw it for the first time. Sure enough, as I rolled into the driveway of our home, she was waiting. She came outside and began to walk around it, inspecting each feature with a smile. It was “super white” and sparkled in the brightness of that summer day.

Later I thought of the spiritual lesson we gained from this experience. If I could get so excited about presenting a used car to my wife, how much more enjoyment will Jesus Christ feel when He unfolds to us the grandeur of His kingdom that beggars description? Such a thought transforms my previous ideas of the Second Coming. Jesus is not a God to be feared, but a Friend to be loved who has gone to infinite pains to secure our company forever. His wish expressed that day so long ago has not diminished. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Christ’s greatest wish is for our presence. His greatest joy will be in revealing His wealth to us. And as our High Priest, He continues to pray that we will one day be with Him. May our hearts beat in unison with His as we wait in hope for that great day. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

[i] Cf. John 5:28, 29; Matthew 8:11; 17:3; Revelation 21:4, 21; John 14:2.

[ii] All Scriptures are from the New King James Version.

[iii] Stephanie Heinatz, “Military dad pays a ‘special’ visit,” Daily Press, January 15, 2008, A1, http://www. (accessed January 15, 2008).

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