What If Jesus Had Returned Yesterday?

Most of us have heard sermons or devotionals based on this question, but I think it is a question we would all benefit from asking ourselves on a daily basis when we consider the seriousness of what the question is implying. The question is serious because it would mean that all of our fates would have been sealed. There would be no second chances. There would be no time to right all the wrongs. There would be no more discussions of how we plan on eventually getting things right in our lives. I believe all of us could benefit a great deal by asking ourselves this question everyday, and then using our answers to motivate us to live better for Christ today than we did yesterday. The question reminds us just how short our lives are and the fact that we must always be watchful and ready for the return of our Lord. James wrote, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). And, the New Testament often compared the return of Jesus to the coming of a “thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). We must always be prepared for the coming of that great and glorious day, so let’s examine several facts that would be true if Jesus had actually returned yesterday.
1. If Jesus had returned yesterday, it would be too late to obey the gospel. There will be no more second chances after the return of Christ. This life is a test. Christ used the parable of the faithful and wicked servants (Matt. 24:45-51), and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) to teach this fact. Once He returns (or we die) it will be too late to decide to obey Him. It is a sad fact that the day after the return of Christ will be a day where many will look back on their lives with regret because of their failure to make the right decision.
2. If Jesus had returned yesterday, it would be too late to repent of sins in our lives. Repentance is required to obey the plan of salvation, but it is also required of those who have put on Christ and then fallen back into sin. God has given His disciples a means of forgiveness when they commit sin. We can confess (1 John 1:9) and repent (Acts 8:22) of our sins and the Bible teaches us that God will forgive us, but if we are negligent in doing so, it may be too late. We must be diligent as we strive to “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). If we become complacent in our spiritual life, we could be standing among those the day after Christ returned who are realizing it is too late.
3. If Jesus had returned yesterday, it would be too late to get to work for the Lord. Many Christians have the belief that they can wait until later in life to get busy for the Lord and His church. Christianity is a full time commitment from the day you come out of the waters of baptism until the day you die, or the Lord returns. We can’t “gamble” with the fact that we will be around later in life to start working for the Lord. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
4. If Jesus had returned yesterday, it would be too late to forgive that brother or sister who sought your forgiveness. Christians should never forsake an opportunity to reconcile a loving relationship. Whether it is seeking forgiveness, or forgiving someone who has sinned against us. Jesus stated, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14,15). Our relationships with one another have a direct effect on where we spend our eternity. I’m sure the differences we had with one another will seem very insignificant as we look back on them from the day after the return of Jesus. It’s a shame to think some people will lose their souls because they could not forgive or seek forgiveness.
There are many other points we could consider, but I hope these will help us see the need to be watchful and ready so the day after Jesus’ return will be a glorious and joyful one. -Ed