We drove past an old cemetery in Mineral Wells, Texas, that was marked with a historic seal. That seal means some of the headstones probably date back to the Civil War or earlier. I’m fascinated by the history and all the stories represented by the headstones. In many ways, cemeteries tell the stories of life on earth.
A new thought occurred to me as we drove past that cemetery: there are no cemeteries in heaven.
Last week, I taught a verse from Romans that has returned to my thinking several times since. I realized that it needed to be my words for the blog post this week.
The verse is from Romans 5, and I prefer the wording in the NIV version that says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). God picked the perfect time to send Jesus to this world so that he could live and then die for the ungodly.
Jesus was born the first time, at a perfect time, and he came for the sake of the ungodly. When Jesus returns, it will be a perfect time as well, but the next time Jesus steps into this world, he will come for the godly.
The perfect time
Many articles relate to the phrase “at a perfect time,” and many quote verses from the prophets. Jesus picked the perfect time in history to be born in a Bethlehem stable. He began fulfilling Old Testament prophecy with his first moments on earth. But there are also a lot of practical, earthly reasons that made it a “perfect” time.
Rome was the world power of the day, and the world was unified under one government, as it had never been before. The phrase “all roads lead to Rome” explains one of the most important reasons for Christ’s timing. For the first time in history, people, soldiers, and ideas traveled, and everyone’s worldview grew as a result. Not only were roads built for travel, but the shipping industry was also vastly improved and ports had opened up to vessels from all over the known world.
Would the early Christians have been able to leave Jerusalem for other cities without those roads, ships, and the protection they offered?
The Greek language was the universal language of the day. Every city had people who knew Greek and could serve as teachers and translators. Would the news of Christ have spread throughout the region if everyone had needed to learn Hebrew to understand it?
And, most importantly, God’s people were truly looking for their Messiah, knowing the prophets had promised God would send him to restore and save them from the hardships of this world.
So, on that spring morning in Bethlehem, Jesus was born. Paul described the first coming of Christ saying, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).
Jesus entered the world at the perfect moment in history so that all people could be redeemed by his sacrifice and become God’s adopted children. And the adopted children of God were promised a new home.
His return will be perfectly timed
I was reviewing the book of Romans for my Bible class, getting ready for our last weeks of the study. I taught a significant verse from each chapter, which is why I was reminded of the verse about the perfect timing of Christ’s birth. One thought led to the next, and I began to wonder what the perfect timing of Christ’s return would look like.
I’ve heard discussions about the end times, but those discussions end with the certainty that none of us will predict that time and all of us will be surprised. The point of the end-times discussions should be that we are living aware, expectant, and ready. Jesus’ parables teach us those truths.
The apostles thought Jesus would return in their lifetimes. There have been many times in church history that would have indicated his return was imminent. Yet the church remains in the world, still looking.
Consider all those things that indicated a “perfect time” the first time Jesus came to earth. Then consider all that has happened in recent years as a result of the internet.
- The whole world is open for travel at the push of a button.
- There is one language, or a program that enables a computer to translate.
- The movement of ideas and information can travel anywhere a smartphone can go.
We began our internet ministry years ago and later realized that, for the first time in human history, Christ’s words from the Mount of Olives were able to be fulfilled. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
It is interesting, even exciting, to realize the perfect time for Christ’s return could be soon. It could also be a thousand years more. That said, predicting Christ’s second coming is not the point of this blog post.
The next time Jesus returns, it will be for the godly.
Who are the godly?
Most Christians don’t think of themselves as godly, but we are. We belong to God, and through Christ’s sacrifice we have been made godly.
We could all pick up paper and a pen and create a long list of ungodly decisions we have made . . . just last week! But, that isn’t the way Scripture defines who is godly.
It’s important that we hold the biblical viewpoint that says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).
Godly people are those who belong to God through faith in Jesus. We will never act completely godly until we are completely God’s, in heaven. Until then, we can glimpse our potential through his Holy Spirit.
Jesus is coming again
There are a lot of reasons to believe this would be a perfect time for Jesus to return. There is every reason to live like it could be tomorrow. Jesus would tell us to share the gospel until time is perfected by his return, or when we are perfected in heaven.
I hope those thoughts will linger in our minds this week.
This might be that perfect week and we want to be ready.