The residents of Naples, Italy live in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. The ancient city of Pompeii was buried under 20 feet of burning ash when Mt. Vesuvius erupted almost 2,000 years ago.
The ruins of Pompeii are the biggest tourist attraction in Naples, and they serve as a constant reminder of what could happen when Vesuvius erupts again. Geologists believe that another violent eruption could happen at any time.
Despite the danger, millions of people live near Mt. Vesuvius, having been lulled into a false sense of security over time. Every day that goes by without an eruption feeds the illusion of safety – the feeling that it will never happen again.
OK, you’re probably wondering, Why the geology lesson?
Because it’s the perfect illustration of our attitudes about Christ’s inevitable return.
After Jesus ascended into Heaven, two angels appeared to his disciples while they were still looking up at the sky. The angels asked, "Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way... (Acts 1:11)
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, we read more about Jesus’ return: 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…
Jesus will return publicly, and dramatically. Everyone will see it. It will be impossible to miss. It will be the most awe-inspiring event in history. What will Jesus do after his triumphant return?
He will judge everybody, and people will go to one of two places for eternity.
In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul writes, We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
The judgment of Christ is not a comfortable truth, but it is a Biblical one. This is difficult for many to accept, especially when there are constant attempts to re-brand Christianity as a religion without any type of judgment whatsoever.
Because 2,000 years have gone by since Jesus ascended into heaven, many Christians have been lulled into a false sense of security about Christ’s return and the final judgment.
In the same way that a lack of eruptions feeds the illusion of safety for those living near Mt. Vesuvius, each day that Christ does not return lulls many of us into believing that he might not be coming back to judge anytime soon (or at all).
The truth is, however, that the passage of time has not made Jesus’ return any less likely. In fact, it is more likely with every passing day. Jesus’ disciple Peter addressed this very topic in 2 Peter 3:8-10, writing With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish…
Christ wants as many people as possible to be saved before he returns. That is why he has waited so long. As Christ-followers, we are supposed to live our lives with both a joyful anticipation of Christ’s return, as well as a solemn urgency about those who do not know him.
Jesus will surprise us when he comes back. It will be the most mind-blowing surprise in history. It could be 50 minutes from now, or 500 years. Either way, it is going to happen. We must not allow the passage of time to hypnotize us into thinking that he is not coming soon.