The uncertainty of the future has caused many to live in fear. This is further aggravated by the thought that the world may come to an end soon, with all of the signs pointing to the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, no one knows the day or hour when Jesus will return. Jesus himself made this very clear when he said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:36-39).This scenario that will precede Jesus’ coming is very evident today. Many go about their daily activities without regard for spiritual things. They are preoccupied with accumulating and enjoying the things of this world. This is particularly true this Christmas, when everyone is busy shopping for gifts and forgetting the true reason for the season.
There is good reason for many to be fearful of the end of the world, because the Bible clearly states, “The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11). There shall be no escape when it happens. If it is indeed dreadful and that we do not even know the hour and the day of the Lord’s coming, it is imperative, then, that we do our part to be ready anytime. The best preparation is to respond to the first message that Jesus preached when he started his public ministry here on earth. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 4:17). No one who continues to live in sin will ever enter heaven. Therefore, we need to go to God in repentance and be changed. Using the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to be “born again” to enter the kingdom of God. Needless to say, heaven is reserved as a dwelling for the righteous.
For the Lord to honour our repentance, it should be more than lip service. The Lord said, “Even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:12-13). God honours our repentance if it is done with humility and not for outward show, like merely ripping one’s garment. It is the heart that has to be ripped open, so that it will be completely cleansed of all kinds of impurities and defilement. Even to these days, God shows compassion to those who come to him in repentance. He forgives them their sins and restores them. He is full of grace and we can only count on his grace for our survival and salvation.
The need for true repentance is magnified when the apostle John said, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death…” (1 John 5:16). What John referred to as sins that do not lead to death are sins that have been committed, yet the transgressors are quick to rip their hearts and turn to God. They choose not to live in sin, but turn away from it. On the other hand, the sins that will lead to death are those that are willfully committed, and the transgressors have no intention of repenting or turning away from it. If ever they show remorse for what they have done, it is just for show. It is not the godly sorrow that leads to repentance, which the apostle Paul referred to in his epistle to the Romans.
When Jesus comes, will he find us faithful? It all depends on how we live our lives. While no one is expected to be forever blameless in this life, we are, nevertheless, expected to repent of the sins we have committed. Failure to repent of our sins will only harden our hearts, so that we will wake up one day and find that the things we consider sins today will no longer be sins. For this reason, we need to search our hearts and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us things that we need to repent of. As the prophet Joel said, “Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God” (Joel 2:14). Indeed, God is gracious and merciful. He will forgive as we rend our hearts and not our garments. Let us humble ourselves before him and admit our transgressions and be blessed with his forgiveness. Hallelujah!