"Men of Galilee," said the angels, "why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
Those words inseparably linked Christ's departure to the moment of His return—the reality of His Ascension and His Second Coming.
It behooves us to be watching and waiting, untainted by the world, since Christ may come at any moment. The apostle Peter put it this way: "But when the Day of God's Judgment does come, it will be unannounced, like a thief.... Do your very best to be found living at your best, in purity and peace" (2 Peter 3:11-13, The Message).
Eagerness for the Lord's return also motivates us to share the Gospel at every opportunity.
It is exciting to see that when the disciples asked the Lord a question about His return, His answer directed them to practical service. In Matthew 24, they asked Him about the signs of the times and the end of the age. He answered in a sermon that began with information about the end times but ended with a long application (the last part of Matthew 24 and all of Matthew 25) about how this information should result in faithful ministry: "'Servants are fortunate if their master comes and finds them doing their job,' He said" (Matt. 24:46, CEV).
Just moments before His Ascension, the disciples asked: "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" His reply: "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:6-7).
When will Christ return? When the Gospel has been preached to all nations: "And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
We are to witness by our words—the confession of our lips. We are to witness by our work—the consistency of our lives. We are to witness by writing—the circulation of our literature. Every way we can think to do it—personally, individually, collectively, by radio, television and internet, by snail-mail and e-mail—we are to witness for our Lord Jesus Christ while we still can.
The Lord's coming is nearer than ever. Can you find a way to say a word for Christ today, write to an unsaved friend, pass along a copy of a Gospel of John to someone, or invite someone to church on Easter?
We're to keep one eye on the horizon looking for His return, and at the same time we're to stay as busy as we can in serving the Lord, witnessing in power, and living in holiness and victory.
Sometimes we look around at the church and find Christians so "into" prophecy that they never get "into" anything else. They sit around trying to figure out how many years are elapsing between various events, but they never get busy for God. They never win anyone to Christ.
It's wonderful to study the signs of the times, but it's even more important to obey the command of Jesus, "Occupy until I come."
What sort of people should we be as these things are coming to pass? We should be holy people eager to greet our Lord when He returns, ready at any moment for the trumpet's call, people of optimism, busy in evangelism, hands to the plow, eyes on the prize.
Even so, Lord, may we live. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
David Jeremiah is pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif., and founder and host of "Turning Point for God."