John Piper: How you can love Christ's Second Coming


Christian Life

Maarten Stolk, RD

John Piper. Photo RD, Anton Dommerholt

The Lord Jesus is coming back soon, Christians profess. But they often live as if they don't believe in it. US pastor John Piper wants to teach believers to love the Second Coming, which may well happen in "five or six years".

After a short holiday in Portugal, Piper (77), author of books such as "The Dawning of Indestructible Joy" and "Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die?", is in Amsterdam for a few days. There, the US pastor meets 45 international contacts of his organisation Desiring God, through which he calls attention to what he believes is man's highest goal: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

From the Netherlands, there is Marcel Vroegop of geloofstoerusting.nl, who arranges an interview at a hotel. Piper wants to stay a bit under-the-radar, but he is happy to talk about his latest book, "Come, Lord Jesus. Meditations on the Second Coming of Christ". "It is a privilege for me to talk about the most precious things in the world," he says afterwards.

Do Christians dwell sufficiently on the return of Christ?

"No one loves the Lord Jesus as they should, and that includes His appearance. When Christ returns, the distance we experience now disappears. Then we will see Him face to face.

A text that helped me a lot is 2 Timothy 4:7-8: " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing."

So the crown of righteousness, which God gives, is for those who love the appearance of Jesus. Today, as in the days of the apostle Paul, people love the world too much. What struck me is that Paul says two verses further on that Demas has loved the present world and travelled to Thessalonica. He has left the faith. What a contrast: Demas, who loves the world, and Paul, who says we should love the world to come and the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Too many Christians barely think about the end of history and the coming of the Lord Jesus. But being born again inevitably bears fruit in our lives. And one of the fruits is love for the Second Coming."

How does the Holy Spirit work that love for the Second Coming?

"Think of two planes flying in formation," says Piper, moving both his hands simultaneously through the air. "The Holy Spirit merges with the Word inspired by Him. He works through faithful preaching about the Second Coming. A preacher should not expect people to love the return of Jesus if he never preaches about it."

Some Christians hardly get around to loving the Second Coming because they doubt the significance of Christ's first coming for their lives. What do you say to them?

"Whoever does not rest in Christ's finished work on the cross has no reason to love His Second Coming. In this, Scripture is clear. So the Second Coming is both good and bad news: good for believers and bad for non-believers.

There can be all kinds of reasons why people struggle with the certainty of faith: their personality, certain circumstances. See, just now at lunch, I was talking to Josh, who is jet-lagged. He feels discouraged and dejected, as if all his energy and creativity have gone. That's an anxious feeling. Likewise, sincere Christians have different seasons in their lives of faith.

Photo RD, Anton Dommerholt

In fact, the Holy Spirit can also use the Second Coming of Christ to give hope to challenged Christians. "Set your hope fully on the grace," it says in 1 Peter 1:13. I would then preach on that text. The Judge comes not only with justice but also with mercy. He died on the cross to cover our sins, now and in the day of judgement."

At the same time, He will "will repay each person according to what he has done", says Matthew 16:27. What does that mean?

"The Lord Jesus teaches in the parable of the talents that some will be given ten talents, others five and still others four, according to the measure of their faithfulness. There will always be something to praise His children for. At the same time, we will be saved "as through fire". Much of what we have done will be burnt as wood, hay and stubble.

When you enter eternal life through the gates of heaven on the last day, I don't think the face of the Lord Jesus shows disapproval. You are His child; He bought you with His precious blood, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, accepted, loved, and forgiven. And He made sure you walked in righteousness, for Christ's sake. All our sins will be burned away.

We must leave it up to God what that reward in heaven will look like. I believe the reward has to do with how much we share in the joy of the Lord. But even if that joy will be smaller, we will still be eternally satisfied with God."

What does it mean that the coming of Christ is near?

"Several texts in the Bible show that you can look at the coming of the Lord Jesus in at least three ways. The first is that He is "possibly near". Those who hear that the Second Coming will happen soon and think it will be a while yet, are warned by Jesus: Make sure you do not sleep spiritually, be ready at all times and live as if I might return at any moment.

The second way to look at the Second Coming has to do with "divine nearness". Peter, writing about people scoffing at Jesus' coming, indicates that " with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." According to the Lord's timing, the Second Coming is always near.

The Bible, and this is the third way, makes it clear that we are living in the last days. The coming of the Kingdom of God is the beginning of the end.

I lived in Pasadena, California, for three years. North of our house was Mount Whitmore. If you drove there, you had to cross at least three big hills. When the weather was foggy, these seemed to form one mountain.

So it is in the Bible: one of the hills is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the next is a period of persecution, a plague, disease or earthquake. And the last hill is the Second Coming. But in the prophetic perspective of Matthew, for example, they form one whole: the Second Coming is near."

One of the signs of Christ's return is the completion of the great commission to preach the Gospel everywhere. How is this going?

"In Matthew 24:14, it says that "this Gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." That refers to all nations, all people and ethnic groups. From God's perspective, this means that all the elect in the various people groups must have heard the Gospel and that the Lord Jesus will then return. So we will not know that the great commission is completely completed until that time.

In addition, the Bible shows in Romans 11 that there is a future for ethnic Israel, and hope for her conversion in this age.

Meanwhile, we are tasked with working, bringing the Gospel. And to pray. On my phone, I have an app from the Joshua Project, which allows you to pray for unreached peoples. This morning I prayed for a people group in India whose name I have forgotten. Then I asked, "Lord, send out workers. If this group is reached with Your Word, it is one step closer to Your coming, which I so long for."

The Second Coming could be a hundred years away, you write, but it could also happen within "five or six years". Why?

"The Thessalonians thought the Lord Jesus would return very soon, but Paul corrects them. First, an "apostasy" will come into the church and reveal an anti-Christ figure, the "man of sin, the son of destruction", who wants to be like God. I wondered: how much time is needed for that? I don't know, but if you look at this world, at how quickly ways of thinking change, five, six years is a possibility. But the return of the Lord Jesus could also take hundreds of years.

Of course, I hope He comes back during my lifetime. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5: "Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." This is true.

The Second Coming means you don't have to die in pain. Death is not pleasant. No, I say it wrong: dying is not pleasant, but death means I am immediately in the presence of the Lord. That will be wonderful.

The Second Coming and judgement also mean comfort for those who suffer and are afflicted. And also God's wrath for those who persecute His children. This should lead to prayer: "Lord, do justice in this world, take away all ungodliness, all tears and pain, and let righteousness and peace reign."

How can we be both vigilant and patient?

"Indeed, the Bible calls us to both. Firstly, not to fall asleep spiritually and become worldly-minded. And on the other hand, to be sober and not try to set the date of the Second Coming at any cost.

Scripture makes it clear that in the meantime, we should just keep doing our work in the family, the church and society. Blessed is the servant who does the Master's will when He comes.

The most beautiful image of the Second Coming is the parable of the meal. The Master's servants sit at the table, and He serves. It is the same Christ as in Revelation, sitting on a great white horse, while a sword comes out of His mouth: He destroys the evil world, brings justice and conquers all His enemies. And now He goes from table to table like a slave, giving food to His children.

In heaven, the Lord Jesus never gives up the right to be Servant. We will never be the benefactors. He will serve forever, and we will fall to the ground, with our faces to the earth, and worship Him."


Come, Lord Jesus. Meditations on the Second Coming of Christ, John Piper. Crossway; 304 blz.; € 22,36 John Piper RD

This article was translated by CNE.news and published by the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on July 13



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.