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“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32-33)

The catchphrase “I’ll Be Back” is associated with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He used it in his first role as the title character in the 1984 science fiction film The Terminator.  It has been high on the rankings of famous movie quotes of all time. The Austrian-American actor once admitted that he had had difficulty pronouncing the word I’ll and would rather have said “I will” but was not permitted to do so.  This allowed for various characterizations through the years, always with a great amount of imitation placed on the “I’ll” part of the phrase.   Schwarzenegger himself used the same line, or some variant of it, in many of his later films. A similar saying was once used by General Douglas MacArthur who served as chief U.S. military advisor to the Philippines before World War II. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, MacArthur was forced to leave the islands due to a Japanese invasion. Months later, he was informed that relief of his forces trapped in there would not be forthcoming. Deeply disappointed, he issued a statement to the press in which he promised his men and the people of the Philippines, “I shall return.”

This promise would become MacArthur’s mantra during the next two and a half years, and he would often repeat it in public appearances. For his valiant defense of the Philippines, MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and celebrated as “America’s First Soldier.” But it was not until September, 1944, that the General was poised to launch an invasion of the Japanese-occupied Philippines. After a period of indecision about whether to invade the Philippines or Formosa, the Joint Chiefs put their support behind MacArthur’s plan. On October 20, 1944, a few hours after his troops landed, MacArthur waded ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte. That day, he made a radio broadcast in which he declared, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!” Over the next months, Japanese forces were cut off, and the Philippine capital of Manila fell. Only one-third of the men MacArthur left behind in March 1942 survived to see his return. “I’m a little late,” he told them, “but we finally came.

It’s difficult at times to place logical timeframes on when it might be possible to see someone again. After Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels declared to the apostles, “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘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 you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:11). Today followers of Jesus still await His return, this time not as a suffering servant but rather as the conquering King with the armies of heaven at His side. Modern Christians are often so captivated with the Second Coming that they overlook the ways Jesus comes to us each and every day.  When the tragedies around us, the suffering of people we love, and even the stresses of daily life all seem bigger than the fixes on the horizon – we fail to see that Jesus meets people in the midst of these critical events. We discover that God is still at work in the messes of society, and we suddenly receive a reality check that the story isn’t always about us. Sometimes it’s about God’s plan to give time to others who don’t yet know His Son. As the words of Peter remind us: “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:8-9). Our attachment to this world often keeps us from living in anticipation of Jesus’ return as we should. In an increasingly chaotic world, what a hopeful thought that this could be the day or the year Jesus returns. More comforting still is the anticipation that all who trust Him for salvation will be gathered together, relieved from this world’s suffering, sorrow, and fear. Our prayer should be that we will always be mindful of His inevitable return. Meanwhile, we should help to equip others with the knowledge that this world is not all we have and affirm that a blessed eternity awaits all who know Him personally as their savior. Regardless of whether we pray for Jesus’ coming or we expect him to come soon, one thing is sure: He will return . . . maybe even today!

REFLECTION: Do you eagerly await Christ’s return or are you more concerned with storing up earthly treasures? What would you do differently if you knew Jesus was returning today? Would you be motivated and excited or frightened and alarmed? Consider these things in prayer and ask the Lord to make you eagerly await His return.



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