The two thousand years since Jesus’ first coming, though they haven’t been uniformly awful, certainly have witnessed plenty of misery. And while it’s true that they’ve been punctuated periodically by brief glimmers of beauty and peace, these mostly serve to highlight just how rotten much of reality still is: wars escalate in scope and ferocity, burying entire generations; markets collapse under the weight of corporate and consumer greed, leaving millions jobless and homeless; famine grips entire continents, subjecting the poor to the ravages of starvation and sickness; natural disasters plunge the world into unspeakable devastation. And all of these things endlessly cycle on and on, multiplying exponentially and intensifying over our long wait for the Lord’s return.
None of these things are indicative of the end being just around the corner though- these are merely the beginning of the birth pains, Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:8. We aren’t looking for any of these to herald his second coming. Jesus tells us, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14), indisputably linking world evangelization with his return. A credible account of his lordship will be delivered to every people group throughout the world, and then Jesus will come for his bride and “save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). This isn’t some millennial scheme born out of partisan speculation- this is lifted off the very pages of Scripture, from the very mouth of our Lord. Second Peter 3:11-12 teaches us that pursuing lives of holiness and godliness means “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” The word is speudo, which every lexicon will tell you means to hurry. That isn’t a gloss, and it isn’t a careless choice of words on Peter’s part- He’s speaking in the Spirit, saying exactly what he and God mean. God has appointed a day that Jesus will return and He has determined that it be sped along by our praying and fasting for its arrival. Our earnest desire for Jesus’ second coming should be manifested in pleas to God for that day to come soon, and Peter tells us it makes a difference. In Revelation 8:3-5, John sees a censer filled with the prayers of the saints being poured out upon the earth, signaling the wrath of the Lamb as he comes in judgment. The end comes after this line on the censer has been reached. God’s wrath patiently waits while the censer fills throughout all these many centuries with our prayers!
As we wait, ask God not only to speed the coming of the Lord, but pray for the total accomplishment of the church’s mission. Pray for individual people groups to be reached for the first time by missionaries, and pray for them to joyfully receive the news of Jesus’ lordship and his offer of reconciliation with God. Pray for workers to go to cultures you’ve never heard of before. Pray for their funding and training, and pray for the success of their task. Beseech God to send the Spirit with irresistible power to open the eyes of people who have never even heard the name “Jesus” before. Beg God to raise up linguists who will translate the Bible into new languages, and plead with Him to raise up distributors of Bibles and tracts and other biblical literature. Pray for God to turn the hearts of government officials to allow free passage of missionaries into their lands. Check out the Joshua Project for ways to implement these things and pray in an informed manner. Don’t take this for granted! God has granted a measure of power to His people to help bring His plans to completion. Don’t carelessly neglect the difference that can and will be made by our prayers, because God has commanded us to offer them in order to fulfill His purposes.