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According to Jesus, the best way to keep watch is to faithfully live day to day doing the small, ordinary things of life with love.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.” —Matthew 25:31


In a small studio in Memphis, Tenn., Elvis Presley and his newly formed quartet of musicians recorded a song with a pulsing eight-bar blues progression. Called “Heartbreak Hotel,” it was released in January 1956 and rocketed to No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard chart.

Presley’s popularity continued to soar as he released more hit singles, including the title song of his movie “Jailhouse Rock.” Then, in 1958, Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed overseas. Released from active duty after two years, he returned to acting and found a cookie-cutter movie formula that proved wildly successful. For the next eight years, Presley starred in more than 20 films and gained immense cultural popularity as a movie star.

But Presley grew increasingly dissatisfied. He longed for more dramatic roles and felt stuck in the superficial scripts that marked his movie career. Moreover, while he was starring on the silver screen, the sound of American music had shifted dramatically. By the late 1960s, Presley had been largely sidelined as a touchstone musical artist, and many considered him to be a nostalgia act of a bygone era.

But out of the blue came a resurgence that surprised everyone: the ’68 Comeback Special.

On Dec. 3, 1968, NBC aired this 50-minute Elvis concert. An astounding 42% of TV-watching Americans tuned in to watch Presley curl his lip, rock his pelvis, and sing his greatest hits. At the very end, in a moment that has become iconic, Presley emerged from the shadows, wearing a white suit and singing a new song on an otherwise bare stage. His backdrop was five giant illuminated letters: ELVIS.

Presley’s comeback was heralded a triumph.

A Biblical Comeback

Two thousand years ago, on the island of Patmos, the apostle John had a vision of the greatest comeback of all time. With trembling hands and eyes full of wonder, he managed to write, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. … On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev. 19:11,16).

The early church believed that Christ would come back within a generation. These first Christians could never have imagined that 2,000 years later the church would still be waiting. But we continue to wait with expectant hope because Jesus promised that he would come back, though no one knows the exact day or hour.

When we think about Christ’s return, we eagerly pray with generations of Christians, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” However, the unknown timeline can cause an uneasy feeling to settle in the pit of one’s stomach. In Matthew 25, Jesus paints a picture of his surprise comeback with three parables of people who were ready and people who were not. When we read these stories, our hope is to be counted among those who were prepared, but many of us are still afraid we’ll be caught unaware, unprepared, or preoccupied with nonessentials. But notice that Jesus’ conclusion is not “Therefore, be afraid.” Rather, his teaching at the end of the first parable is “Therefore, keep watch.”

To “keep watch” means to live our everyday moments in harmony with the everlasting melody of how everything will be one day.

According to Jesus, the best way to keep watch is to faithfully live day to day doing the small, ordinary things of life with love while paying special attention to those around us who are most vulnerable. In the last of these three parables, Jesus lays out some practical ways to harmonize with the everlasting melody of heaven. Matthew 25:35-36 says, “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

However, our uneasy feeling might persist if we put these simple instructions into practice while viewing God as a cosmic critic marking a checklist. The key to “keeping watch” while avoiding a stress-induced ulcer is to have a clear understanding of who is coming back.

Philippians 2 is clear: Christ, the King of heaven, took on human flesh, died on a cross, rose from the grave, defeating sin and death, and then ascended to sit down at the right hand of God. This King of heaven who humbled himself in generous, self-giving love for the salvation of the world is such good news that the apostle Paul boldly declares: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).

Elvis and Jesus

After the success of the 1968 Comeback Special, Presley embarked on a seven-year residency at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. At a concert in 1974, under the flare of the lights, his sequin-covered white jumpsuit sparkled while a throng of passionate fans pressed against the stage. One devoted fan was holding a sign that said “The King.” When Presley saw the sign, he said, “Thank you, darlin’, thank you very much. … But I can’t accept this kingship thing because to me, there’s only one, which is Christ.”

When Presley came back in 1968, he was crowned the king of rock and roll. When Christ comes back, riding on the clouds, everyone on earth will see him, bow their knee, and declare Christ the undisputed King of heaven and earth.

No one knows the day or the hour, but when history crescendos and Christ returns, God’s generous love will calm our fears as we put our faith in him. Trusting that God is completely for us, we can rest in the promise that nothing we do or fail to do can ever separate us from God’s faithful love. Because of this reassuring truth, keeping watch for the greatest surprise comeback in history need not be anticipated with fear, but with confident hearts full of thanksgiving and with grateful hands and feet always ready to serve.

On that day we’ll surround the throne and sing with full voice the same song we’ve been gratefully humming in our hearts every ordinary day of our lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. What have you learned about the second coming of Jesus? Did you learn this from primarily Reformed sources?
  2. How did you feel about Christ’s second coming? Did it bring forth hope or fear? Or some other emotion? Why?
  3. What are some examples of the daily “small, ordinary things of life” that you can do with love?
  4. What do you most look forward to when Jesus returns?

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