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Hope. It’s what keeps us going from day to day. Hope that a broken relationship might be mended. Hope that somehow the bills will get paid. Hope that physical healing will come. Hope that a natural disaster won’t strike again. Hope that tomorrow will somehow be better than today.

Several years ago, I happened to be talking with a woman who was a suicide-prevention counselor. I asked her, “What have you found to be the main reason that people contemplate suicide?”

She replied, “They’ve lost all hope. When they look at their future, they can’t imagine it getting any better, so they give up.”

But even when everything seems bleak, things will get better—and there is hope. There’s hope for this hurting world. There’s hope for you—the second coming of Jesus. And when we know what the Bible teaches about His return, we can look forward to it with great anticipation.

Finding that hope

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the signs of His coming, He answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:4–8).

This world certainly has experienced many of these signs within the past few years. But according to Jesus, this is just the beginning. He went on to say in verses 10–12, “At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”

And then, in verse 13, Jesus made one of the most reassuring statements in the entire Bible: “But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

That’s it! That’s the hope! If we stand firm, if we don’t give up, we will be saved.

When we watch the news and see what a mess this world is in, it’s tempting to get discouraged. But when we know that these are the signs leading up to Jesus’ second coming, we can be filled with hope instead.

How will Jesus come?

About a year after my family became Christians, we had a strange experience. One day there was a knock on our front door. When Dad opened it, he saw a man standing there with only a pair of jeans on—no shirt or shoes. He had long hair and a beard, and he was carrying a bow and arrow.

“I am Jesus,” he declared. “I have come here to set up my kingdom in the hills, and I want you to be my commander.” “I have a problem with that,” Dad replied. “I’ve read my Bible, and I know that when Jesus does return, He will come in the clouds, and every eye will see Him.”

The man couldn’t convince Dad, and he finally walked away. Evidently, some people in our town did believe him, because we saw him several days later walking across a busy street wearing a long robe, and he had a few followers walking behind him.

The Bible tells us clearly what we can expect at the Second Coming: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

This isn’t some silent, secret event that only a few people will know about. The Bible says that Jesus will come with the clouds and “every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7).

What will happen next? “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

The Second Coming cannot take place in secret. The ultimate rescue of God’s people is too great an event to happen quietly! Jesus will come down from heaven with a shout! Trumpets will sound! Graves will burst open! And every eye will see Him coming in the clouds.

Getting ready

When I was a teenager, our church youth group was very active for God. One young man believed that Jesus was coming so soon that he bought a trailer and moved to the hills. Rather than helping us spread the good news of the Second Coming, he focused on himself—on becoming holy in order to get ready.

I know several people whose lives seem consumed with “getting ready” for the Second Coming. They live in fear that they’re not good enough, so they bury their heads in their Bibles and wear out their knees in prayer.

But the good news is this: if you’ve sincerely given your life to Jesus, you’re already ready. How can this be? Because salvation is a gift. You can’t earn it. Jesus bought it by dying on the cross in your place.

Does that mean you can say, “Jesus, I give my life to You,” and then go on living your life any way you want, expecting to be saved at the Second Coming? No, that would be presuming on God’s mercy. Giving your life to Jesus means living for Him—not for yourself—and imitating Him in your daily life.

Our focus shouldn’t be on getting ready, but rather on being ready— living our lives in such a way that no matter when He comes, our hearts are ready. A friend told me recently, “I used to think that eternal life would begin when Jesus comes. Now I realize that the Bible says it begins when we accept Jesus.”

The gift of eternal life became yours the moment you gave your life to Jesus, and now you’re waiting for it to be realized at His second coming.

Will Jesus keep His promise?

Because it’s been more than 2,000 years since Jesus promised to return, some people wonder whether it will ever really happen. I believe without a doubt that it will! Why would Jesus have come to earth to die for us and return to heaven to prepare a place for us if He didn’t plan on returning for us?

In John 14:1–3, Jesus Himself spoke these reassuring words to His disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

The disciples must have been thrilled by what they heard! His promise made good sense to them because of a marriage custom people observed in their day. After a man proposed to a woman, he would leave her and return to his father’s house. There he would build a home for the two of them, and when it was completed he would return for his bride. There was no doubt in the bride’s mind that her groom would return. His purpose in leaving was to prepare a home for them. Likewise, there doesn’t need to be any doubt in our minds that Jesus will return for us.

Next month, many Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus and, just as the Old Testament promised, Jesus did come the first time to our world to save us. And before He left earth to return to heaven, He promised to come a second time to take us home.

Hope came once, and hope will come again!

Hope for a Hurting World

by Nancy Canwell
From the November 2013 Signs