Maranatha: Longing for His Return

Why the biblical phrase "Our Lord, Come" is a proclamation of hope

Do you long for the return of Jesus? I definitely do, and because you’re reading this, I imagine you do, too. The Bible describes people like us:

And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.Revelation 22:17

But not everyone feels the same way. Sadly, many people do not long for Jesus to come back—especially not in the way this passage teaches.

There are two major reasons for this.

Emphasizing Fear

First, too many prophecy teachers offer fear instead of hope. They do this by placing disproportionate emphasis on the terrible things that will mark the last days, rather than the wonderful things that will happen. It’s true, for instance, that “in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1). Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we should sugarcoat this. The Tribulation will represent the worst years in human history, which is why I am so thankful that Christians will be raptured before it begins (keep reading for more about this).

But on the other hand, remember that the Great Tribulation will also coincide with the Greatest Revival that the world has ever known! In Revelation 7, John sees a vision of “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues… who come out of the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:9,14). Many will come to belief in Jesus during the Tribulation.

Furthermore, the horror of a few years of the Great Tribulation will be a blip on the radar compared to the splendor of reigning with Jesus Christ in a thousand-year Golden Age, followed by an eternal state, where God the Father declares all things new. In that day, our Father will wipe away not only our every tear, but also the cause of every tear!

This is reason for great hope. 

Emphasizing Suffering

The second reason many people don’t look forward to the end times—and this is often related to the first reason—is that they believe they’ll have to suffer through the Great Tribulation.

As I mentioned above, I have written about this extensively, especially in my two-part series, “Ten Reasons to Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture” (Part One, Part Two). It totally makes sense why people would fear the end-times if they thought they had to suffer more than any generation in history—who could look forward to that?! 

It’s a tragedy that so many people misunderstand the nature of our hope and the timing of the Rapture, because it prevents us from the blessing of Revelation 22:17. In this verse from the beginning of this article, we learn that the church (“the Bride”) and the Spirit are of one heart when we desperately cry out for the Lord to come. 

“Our Lord, Come”

The early church had a word for this desperate cry—maranatha. This phrase is a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic phrase, which most scholars interpret to mean, “Our Lord, come.” Believers used to greet each other with this expression because in the midst of their suffering and persecution, the return of our Lord offered them hope, not fear!

Maranatha can also be found in one of the earliest Christian documents separate from the Bible, known as the Didache. There, we learn that contemporaries of the Apostles used to conclude their participation in the Lord’s Supper with this Aramaic expression, asking their Lord to come using the language He most commonly used. (The New Testament is written in Greek, but Jesus and the disciples spoke Aramaic.)

As you can see, it is terribly important that we don’t allow fear to disrupt our hope for Christ’s return. When we pray, “Maranatha,” not only do we align our hearts with the Holy Spirit, but also, with the Church throughout all of Christian history.

But there’s also another reason why it’s important to nurture within ourselves the maranatha cry: It reminds us of the critical need for evangelism.

Vertical and Horizontal

In the second half of Revelation 22, the church’s vertical cry for Christ to return becomes a horizontal appeal for the lost to be saved. When we read, “And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’”—this is not just a repetition of the Bride’s maranatha cry to Jesus. The last half of the verse clarifies that “him who hears” (what the Spirit is saying to the churches) turns his maranatha cry horizontally toward his fellow man, appealing to “him who thirsts” and “whoever desires” the free gift of eternal life. 

If you’ve read this verse before, did you ever see that in the text? This makes perfect sense when you think about it. 

If you’re terrified of Christ’s return, you won’t be excited to tell anyone about Him. You probably don’t even want to talk about it. But if you’re thrilled at the prospect of His return, your vertical maranatha cry extends to your friends, family and others around you. Your desperate plea for the Lord to come becomes a desperate plea for others to come to the Lord.

I’ve experienced this personally. In fact, it’s one reason I am writing these articles! The more vibrant my hope is for Christ’s return, the more likely you are to find me talking about it—sharing Jesus with the woman in the checkout line or the old man on the park bench or the neighbor taking down his Christmas lights. 

Hope is contagious.

Unfortunately, however, fear is also contagious. 

That’s why the last thing we need is for prophecy teachers to amplify fear. I know I’m not the only voice you’re listening to in your email in-box or over the internet. My appeal to you is to prioritize those Bible teachers who offer hope and avoid those teachers who stoke fear. 

Then join me in praying, “Maranatha.” Come, Lord Jesus.