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In our study of 2 Timothy, we have come to the saddest part of the letter.  The part after which I imagine Timothy stopped reading for a moment.  Wait.  Did Paul really just say that?  Did my mentor and friend just tell me it is time for him to die?  Maybe Timothy had to read it again.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.  But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

The words must have filled Timothy with dread.  How would the church fare without Paul?  How would Timothy fare without Paul?  He might have felt proud of his teacher, this man who had been through hardship after hardship but had remained faithful.  Maybe Timothy wondered if he would be able to do the same—or if he would have to.  Maybe he even cried out to the Lord, “No, Christ, don’t let it be.  Won’t you just come back now and spare Paul the final injustice of execution?”

I’ve said something like that before.  “No, Christ, don’t let it be.  Won’t you just come back now and end that war?  Won’t you just come back now and spare those children this loss?  Spare my friend any more physical pain?  Won’t you just come back now and keep me from adding more sin to my history?”

So far, He hasn’t answered my prayer for His return.  But He will. This I believe, just as Paul and Timothy did: One day Jesus is coming back.  He promised. 

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:3)

Friends, one day all that is evil will vanish.  Justice will be done.  Tears, illness, wars—gone forever.  All that is good will be established for eternity.  Love, joy, peace—here to stay.  Every knee will bow.  Every believer will be overjoyed at the sight of the King. 

In the meantime, we groan.  When, Lord?  When?  I am impatient for that day.  Every bad news story, every hard day makes me more and more ready for His coming.  I am living in those days when people don’t want to put up with sound doctrine.  I have seen friends turn aside to follow myths.  Oh, I want to see what a “crown of righteousness” looks like!  I want to see Christ serving out righteous judgment!  I want to see angels and elders and martyrs and saints singing praises to the King!  These expectations are what Paul offered to Timothy as hope to get him through grief.  Just as Paul suggested, I temper my own grieving with dreams of a future, unified, remade Heaven and Earth.

But in dreaming of the joy and grace of Heaven, let’s not forget that there is also the joy and grace of today.  The God who will come back one day also resides inside our hearts right now.  Do you hear Him?  He speaks to us through songs, friends, and His Word.  He calls out to us through the morning sunrise, a good podcast, a moment of laughter, even a delicious dessert.  He IS PRESENT.  Every moment of your day is stamped with His love.  Do you see Him?  Do you recognize His companionship? Our God does not wait to be with us.  He has not left us to ourselves.  Psalm 145:18 promises, “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” We have such a merciful Father.

If you long for our Lord’s return, I hope you feel reassured that He is coming.  In the meantime, as Paul told his young friend, there are things for us to do.  Be prepared to speak your faith. Keep your head.  Evangelize.  Discharge the duties of whatever ministry the Lord has given you.  Above all, draw close to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  They are here, eager to live in moment-to-moment relationship with you.  You do not have to wait for Heaven. Today is the perfect day to enjoy the presence of the King.