“And now, little children, abide in him, that when he appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28, NKJV).
I have recently returned to South Asia where I will be for the next few months. When I arrived I was greeted with many smiles and sincere welcomes by those whom I have known for a considerable time. It was good to be back, and they seemed very happy to have me here.
I grew up singing old songs like “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes,” and “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d of Baked a Cake.” These played on the anticipation of welcome visitors, and of the need and desire for preparation in light of that coming. When someone drops in unannounced we are often somewhat embarrassed because we cannot treat them the way we would like to, or because they may have caught us at a bad moment in terms of cleanliness or some other vital factor.
The Apostle John wrote of an expected visitor who has still not come, but whose arrival is promised and may be at any moment. He was speaking of Jesus, whose return to this earth to receive his people and bring judgement to those who have rejected him is promised repeatedly in the New Testament (John 14:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-12). He is coming, but since no one knows when, many will be unprepared (2 Peter 3:10). The consequences of failing to be ready will be banishment and everlasting destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
For those who watch carefully for Jesus and abide in him (that is, believe in and trust him, following his commandments), his second coming will be a time of great joy. They will not be ashamed or embarrassed because they are not prepared to receive him. They will not look up to the skies in fear when he appears. There will be no dread of him. Rather they will greet him confidently as one who has been expected and whose appearance is welcome.
The verses of the song I remember from childhood focus on what one will see and do when “she comes around the mountain.” She will drive a carriage with six white horses, and her hosts will all be there with a warm welcome and a feast prepared. It will be a joyous occasion for all involved.
But all of our earthly experiences will pale beside the glorious appearing of the returning Savior. He will come with a shout and the blasts of trumpets, accompanied by angels. His coming will occasion the resurrection of the dead, and the ascension of the faithful to meet him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). None will fail to see him, or to be acutely aware of his presence. Rather it will be
“That every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
The other childhood song told of what would have been done, “If I knew you were coming.” With regard to Jesus, we have that knowledge. We have no excuse to be unprepared. He warns us, “Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13).