Read: John 14:1-3; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
If my father and stepmother were still alive, they would have celebrated their anniversary this week, and they would now have been married for more than fifty years. I don't recall a great deal about their wedding day after so many years have passed, but there was one very unique little mishap that occurred that day. It was the only time I have ever been left at the altar. May I explain?
For the wedding, on that cold November day, I, along with my uncle had been chosen to be the maid of honor and best man. After the service had ended, people began to leave. Except me. There I stood waiting to be escorted down the steps so we could continue with the day's festivities. I know that it surely wasn't very long until someone noticed that I wasn't going anywhere, but it was a strange feeling to be "left at the altar." Of course, I was eventually remembered, and as the old saying goes, all was well that ended well. The truth is that as awkward as I felt just standing there waiting, I knew that someone would eventually accompany me to where we needed to go next. I simply had to wait.
In Today's scripture readings, we are reminded that the Bible has sweet promises for God's children who were sometimes troubled and confused. They were anxious for Jesus to take His rightful place as King over His kingdom and wondered when that would occur. They were, if you will, "waiting at the altar." Oh, how we can relate. The world around us gives us many opportunities for sorrow and confusion too. With that in mind, let's look a bit into some of the hope laden promises the Bible holds out to us. These words, given to us by the Living God Who cannot lie, Titus 1:2, assure us that God won't forget us. In His time, He will fulfill every promise He has made concerning His kingdom. Both John as well as Luke in the book of Acts, hold out promises that Jesus has a prepared place for us, and that we will be with Him, John 14:1-3; Acts 1:6-11; John 17:24.
We will not always be waiting. As the disciples watched Jesus' ascension into heaven, the angel reassured them that He would, someday, come back to earth in the same way they saw Him leave, Acts 1:11. Jesus also reassured His men that He had places for them in His Father's house. They would be with Him. Oh the joy of being with One Who loves you enough to prepare a special place for you. Someone Who loves you and knows you completely. That is what Jesus promised them as they waited. No, they didn't know, as we don't know, when the waiting will be complete, but it is clear that the waiting should bring us joy because no promise that God has ever made will ever go unfulfilled. The disciples could understand this picture because a bridegroom would add on to his father's house, before taking a wife. It was only when his father said the place that he prepared was right that the man could marry his bride. She was brought into a prepared place.
Joe Stowell is a Christian author and teacher, and I love a story he told concerning a friend who worked with mentally challenged folks. They understood that Jesus loved them and had received His salvation, and they knew that their limitations and weaknesses wouldn't last forever. Why? Because they knew Jesus had promised them a kingdom where He would rule and that they would be made whole. Because of this truth, they would wait with great anticipation. They would put their hands and faces close to the windows and watch. They would wonder whether or not each new day might be the day Jesus would do what He has promised. Therefore, the windows in that facility were always dirty because the folks who live there truly believe what the Savior had promised.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we are reminded that a day is coming when Jesus will bring together His children. Both those who have already died and those who remain alive. What a reunion that will be. The waiting will be ended, and all of those who belong to Jesus, John 1:11-12 will be together. We will all be with our Savior forever. No wonder that paragraph ends with the words, "comfort one another with these words." What a beautiful reason to wait with joy. Just as Jesus came the first time at just the right time, Galatians 4:4, He will also return when He knows the timing is perfect.
In 2 Peter 3:9, we are told one of the reasons why we are still waiting and that we are not waiting alone. Jesus also is waiting along with us. Why? Because there are more people whom He knows will be saved. Maybe even some whom we love. That's another reason to wait with joy. More people who are precious to the Good Shepherd will come to Him while we wait. What a precious thing it is to know that while we are waiting, Jesus is still seeking and saving, Luke 19:10. What a privilege it is that we can work with Him until He escorts us into the place He has prepared for us. Yes, even while we are waiting, our citizenship is secure in heaven, Philippians 3:20.
Yes, we are waiting for the Savior Whose coming is certain, and while we wait, we hold out His truth whenever we can.