“This is a matter of the heart, not simply adherence to a doctrinal statement.”
Since its earliest days, around the start of the 20th century, the modern Pentecostal movement has been characterized by a fervent belief that Jesus’ return is imminent. For the early Pentecostals, this was not simply a doctrinal confession, but a heartfelt persuasion and one that many writers agree led to passionate missionary service.1 Within a Canadian context, the pioneers of the Pentecostal movement in this country were certain they were living in the final days of the age of grace.2 Along with salvation, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and divine healing, the doctrine of the Second Coming became one of the fundamental doctrines of the young Pentecostal Fellowship in Canada.3 Our Fellowship, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), was established to conserve the fruits of the labours of the Canadian Pentecostal pioneers.4
Approximately 100 years have passed since the early days of the Canadian Pentecostal movement. PAOC missionaries have carried the gospel to many nations throughout the world, yet the Lord has not returned. The temptation may be to relax our expectation of Christ’s imminent return, and possibly even to rethink our theology concerning Christ’s return. But here, I believe, we must tread carefully¾and prayerfully¾for at least three reasons.
First, the New Testament describes a healthy Christian experience as being characterized by an eager anticipation of the appearing of the Saviour. The Apostle Paul talks about waiting “for the blessed hope¾the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). To the Philippians Paul writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). He writes about the Thessalonians, who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead¾Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:9b,10). And in Revelation 22:20, when Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon,” the response is “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
These passages collectively reveal that Christians should be looking for and awaiting the appearing of Jesus. This is a matter of the heart, not simply adherence to a doctrinal statement. And it need not be associated with an unbalanced preoccupation with the signs of the times. Rather, it is an attitude of the heart that is rooted in an awareness of God’s Word.
The second reason I believe we must not abandon our sense of expectancy is that it cultivates intimacy with Jesus. A heart that loves the Lord will want to be with the Lord. As a bride-to-be longs to be with the man she loves, so the church should long to be with the Lord. This longing is rooted in relationship and cultivated through intimacy with Jesus. What a beautiful picture our Lord Himself gave us when He promised: “… if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). Having a heartfelt sense of expectancy regarding the Lord’s return can help to further cultivate intimacy with Him by drawing our focus away from the things of the world and onto the Lord whom we love.
Finally, maintaining a heartfelt expectation for Christ’s return is important since this very expectation can motivate us to live Spirit-filled lives characterized by Spirit-empowered witness. Historically, as a Fellowship, we have adopted a belief in both the imminent coming of the Lord and the premillennial coming of the Lord. That is, He may come at any moment to take His church to heaven prior to God’s end-time wrath, while His glorious Second Coming to earth will introduce a 1,000-year kingdom age we call the millennium (Revelation 20:6). There is considerable agreement that early Pentecostal expectation of the Lord’s imminent return stimulated missionary zeal.5 Furthermore, their understanding of the end times led them to a preoccupation with soul-winning.6 A heartfelt conviction that Jesus is coming soon and a biblical knowledge of the end times as a whole will motivate us to be Spirit-empowered witnesses seeking to do the Lord’s work before He comes.
If Jesus’ coming was believed to be “soon” in the early days of our Fellowship, how much closer must it be now? The temptation to relax our expectation of His return must, by God’s grace, be resisted. Instead, let us stir up an even more passionate expectation that we could be with our Lord at any moment! The teaching of the New Testament, intimacy with Jesus, and Spirit-filled lives characterized by Spirit-empowered witness—these are just three reasons why we as a Fellowship must never lose our fervent expectation of, belief in, and passion for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Maranatha!
Adrian Isaacs is a doctoral candidate (theology) at Wycliffe College. He lives in Toronto, Ont., with his wife, Tammy, and daughter, Annalisa. He and his family attend Global Kingdom Ministries.
1. Wonsuk Ma, “Pentecostal Eschatology: What Happened When the Wave Hit the West End of the Ocean,” in The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy, eds. Harold D. Hunter and Cecil M. Robeck Jr. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006), 230.
2. Thomas W. Miller, Canadian Pentecostals: A History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (Mississauga, ON: Full Gospel Publishing House, 1994), Dedication page.
4. Ibid., Dedication page.
5. Ma, “Pentecostal Eschatology,” 230.
Image ©istockphoto.com. This article appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.