What Then?

A friend came up to me after church Sunday and said, “You know, Jesus could come back any day now, isn’t that exciting?” I said, “Yes, and what do you think will happen next?”

She said, “Well, we’ll….” and paused. She couldn’t think exactly what would happen next. I reminded her that there will be 1000 years of Jesus reigning on the earth after that. But just before he returns there will be Armageddon.

“Oh yes, that’s right,” she replied. For a moment I think she had imagined as soon as Jesus returned some heavenly resort would cover the earth and there would be nothing for us to do for a thousand years except party. Praise and worship and party.

How many Christians wishing Jesus would return today have the same idea, that during the millennium there will be nothing but peace, parties and prosperity everywhere?

Actually some end-time experts don’t believe Jesus could come back today. In Matthew 24:14 he told the disciples, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to the nations (ethne, people groups) and then the end will come.” There are still thousands of people groups who haven’t heard the gospel so Jesus can’t come back yet, according to those experts.

But it occurs to me that the usual idea of that verse being fulfilled is a group of people in their home country somewhere listening to a missionary preaching the gospel. It doesn’t require that scenario, however; if one or two members of a people group travels outside their normal area and hear the gospel, that verse is fulfilled for them. Or if they hear if by way of radio, television or internet. The verse doesn’t say the group must become believers, either. It doesn’t say a church must be established there. Whether they accept it or not, hearing the gospel preached fulfills the verse. There may well be fewer people groups who haven’t heard the gospel than those experts think. Jesus’s return may be very soon.

Then what? The verses preceding and following Matthew 24:14 as well as Luke chapter 21 describe vicious wars and destruction, earthquakes, signs (like volcanos, perhaps – Mt. Etna is erupting today as I write this), persecution of Christians, false prophets, and believers abandoning the faith.

What will the planet earth look like when Jesus returns? Certainly not a resort. Think about the news videos after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, or after the tsunami in Indonesia. Looked pretty grim to me.

Who will be here when Jesus arrives back with the glorified believers from heaven following him? Let’s see. The believers remaining on earth will be here. They will be changed at that time so all Christians will have a glorified (enhanced) body like that of Jesus (see I Corinthians 15:52). They are going to need it, I think.

And the unbelievers who were not killed in those final days of destructions will be here. We know they will not all be killed because Revelations 20:7-9 mentions nations on the earth during that thousand years. Some people no doubt will become believers, but the ones that don’t will be deceived by the devil who is released from his jail at the end of the thousand years, and another war will take place.

During that thousand years the glorified Christians will be ruling and reigning with Jesus over somebody. Who? Over each other, and over the unglorified humans who are still here on earth, whether they become believers or not during the millennium. A government structure with Jesus at the top will take care of all the needed repairs, reconstruction, resupply and order.

What will need to be done? After any war there is a lot of clean-up needed. Rebuilding. Infrastructure will have to be re-built, communication re-established, medical care, food, clothing, housing, and employment provided. There will be plenty of work to do and none of us will be taking extended vacations.

Instead of complacently anticipating a glorious eternity of rest and recreation when Jesus returns, I think the church should be preparing, training and planning now for those days that will come next. Otherwise the first thing Jesus will have to build is a kindergarten for his church.