Will you recognize Jesus when He appears at His next coming?
I hope everyone will. I earnestly hope I will. But there is a problem. Each one of us has constructed an image in our minds of what Jesus Christ is like.
- Some see Jesus as a powerless dead man hanging on a cross.
- Some see Jesus as pointing people to the Ten Commandments on a platform in heaven. An Adventist friend gave me a copy of E.G. White’s book that had a painting depicting this.
- Some see Jesus as condemning most of humanity to eternal torment.
- Some see Jesus as saving everyone.
- Some see Jesus holding a lamb with a group of kids around Him.
- Some see Jesus as their servant who gives them everything their heart desires.
- Some see Jesus as returning on a white horse leading the saints to victory.
- Some see Jesus wearing a robe that was fashionable 2000 years ago.
Each group mentioned has one thing in common. They all justify their view of who Jesus is from verses taken from the same book. Some of these images of Jesus will be totally wrong and some will be partially right. But no one’s image of Jesus will be totally right.
Because the Apostle John who knew Jesus very well wrote:
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.1 John 3:2
John was waiting for Jesus to be revealed so that he would know what we would be like because we will be like Him when He appears. If John didn’t know, we don’t know either.
We need Jesus to reveal Himself to us so that we do not have a misconception of who He is. Without that revelation, we won’t recognize Him. Jesus’ disciples did not recognize Him after the resurrection… until He revealed His identity to them. Mary did not recognize Him until He said her name. (John 20:16) The two disciples who Jesus met on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognize Him until He broke the bread. (Luke 24:13) When Jesus called to the disciples on the boat in the Sea of Galilee, they didn’t recognize him. (John 21:4)
Jesus wasn’t recognized in his first coming either. Even John the Baptist later questioned if Jesus was the Messiah. Many Jews at the time of Jesus were expecting the messiah because the prophecies of Daniel pointed to His coming. Jesus was born 490 years after Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks. That’s why the religious leaders sent messengers to John the Baptist to ask if he was the one they were expecting.
But Jesus didn’t come as they expected. He was a poor carpenter from Nazareth and they didn’t think any prophet would come from Nazareth. He hadn’t been to a school approved by the religious leaders. He wasn’t a mighty warrior like David who would deliver Judah from the Romans. They didn’t recognize Him because they had the wrong image of who He was going to be.
We can’t make the same mistake. So as we watch for the Master’s return, we can’t assume that our image of Him will be correct. We can’t assume that He will come at the time we expect.
It can happen to us. It happened to the twelve disciples. Jesus told them that He was going to be arrested by the religious rulers and all of them would flee. But Peter still tried to defend Jesus with the sword. Kings conquer their enemies — not killed by them.
I think it will be the same in His next coming. Even though we have the Scriptures which describe many details of His coming, we can’t assume that we know all the details. We certainly don’t know the timing. (Acts 1:7) But there’s much debate about the events leading up to His coming.
I believe that God has hidden the details in the Scriptures, but they will remain hidden until He chooses to reveal them to us. So we must be humble. We can’t be proud in our image of Jesus lest we be proved wrong at His next coming.
Now there are many aspects of Christ which we know. In Col 3:10, Paul admonishes us to “put on the new [man] who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.” So the true image of Christ includes love for one another, putting off the works of the flesh, and the production of the fruit of the Spirit. The mystery (something that is hidden) of salvation in Christ has been revealed to us. But the full depth of Christ is hasn’t been fully revealed.
John was told not to write down what the seven thunders spoke. (Rev 10:4)
Danial was told to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end.” (Dan 12:4) And in verse 9 he was told that “the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
Jesus told his disciples that it was not for them to know the times or seasons when God was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. (Acts 1:7) Some things are still hidden and we simply don’t need to know them yet. Jesus continues saying in v. 8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” He deflects the question by telling his disciples to be concerned with doing what He has told them to do.
So we need to do the simple things that Jesus commands us to do instead of trying to figure out the future. God will reveal His plan in due season. All we need to do is watch it unfold and rejoice along with the heavenly hosts when it is happening.
The servant who is simply doing what the Master has told him to do will not miss his Master’s coming. (See Mat 24:45-51.)