Before we consider the answer to the question at hand, let us establish some facts regarding the second advent of Christ.
First of all, the fact of His return is found in Acts 1:9-11:
And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Also we find in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
Secondly, let's consider what is to take place at his return the second time. Again we will consult two different writers, as well as what Jesus said himself as recorded in Matthew's Gospel.
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day [2 Thessalonians 1:7-10].
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up [2 Peter 3:10].
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left [Matthew 25:31-33].
It is recommended that the reader consider this passage to the end of the chapter and also to read prayerfully Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43, and 47-50.
Before we could adequately answer the question at hand and build on a solid foundation, we need to consider one other important fact. This is the event relative to the mission of the Church or the kingdom of heaven which must be accomplished before Christ returns. If we fail to understand this one fact, we cannot possibly have the correct attitude toward the "second advent" of Christ.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen [Matthew 28:19-20].
We find here the mission of the Church as well as it's duration. The marginal rendering of the phrase in verse 19, "teach all nations," is "make disciples, or Christians of all nations." Jesus taught also in his parables of the kingdom as being comparatively small in its beginning, but having a mighty influence, so that it became great. This certainly agrees with the Prophet Daniel where he refers to an everlasting kingdom, which could consume all other kingdoms.
It appears from these Scriptures, as well as Romans 11:23-26, that not only all Gentile nations, but also Israel should be so moved upon by God through the preaching of the gospel, so that they could be called "Christian" nations. All of this must be accomplished before the "end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). See also Acts 3:19-26.
The following is from Wesley's sermon "Scriptural Christianity," which the reader is urged to read in its entirety.
§III, ¶1. But shall we not see greater things than these? Yea, greater than have been yet from the beginning of the world? Can Satan cause the truth of God to fail? Or his promises to be of none effect? If not, the time will come when Christianity will prevail over all, and cover the earth. Let us stand a little, and survey... this strange sight, a Christian world. 'Of this the prophets of old inquired and searched diligently:' of this 'the Spirit which was in them testified': 'It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.... And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not life up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.' 'In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people. To it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again to recover the remnant of his people; ... and he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth.' 'The wolf shall (then) dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.... They shall not hurt or destroy (saith the Lord) in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.'
Wesley had before in his sermon shown how Christianity had begun to spread itself in the earth. He further states in §4
Having thus briefly considered Christianity as beginning, as going on, and as covering the earth, it remains only that I should close the whole with a plain practical application.
1. And first I would ask, Where does this Christianity now exist? Where, I pray, do the Christians live? Which is the country, the inhabitants whereof are 'all(thus) filled with the Holy Ghost'? Are all 'of one heart and of one soul'? Cannot suffer one among them to 'lack anything', but continually give 'to every man as he hath need'? Who have all 'put on bowels of mercies, humbleness of mind, gentleness, long-suffering'? Who offend not in any kind, either by word or deed, against justice, mercy, or truth, but in every point do unto all men as they would these should do unto them? With what propriety can we term any a Christian country which does not answer this description? Why the, let us confess we have never yet seen a Christian country upon earth.
Let us now answer our question regarding our attitude, with a question found in 2 Peter 3:11-12. In verse 12, where Peter says "hasting unto the coming," the margin says, "hasting the coming." Adam Clarke says this literally means "earnestly desiring or wishing for." Another writer in The Methodist Commentary on the New Testament says
Not that God's eternal appointment of the time is changeable, but God appoints us as instruments of accomplishing those events which must be first before theday of God can come. By praying for His coming, and by furthering the preaching of the gospel for a witness to all nations, we hasten the coming of the day of God. Christ says, "Surely I come quickly, Amen." Our part is to speed forward this consummation by continually praying; "Even so; come, Lord Jesus."
In view of all that has been said, certainly our attitude toward Christ's return should be one of anticipation, but this anticipation can only be truly reflected in our laboring with prayer and faith for the salvation of souls. Our faith should be in the power of God, expecting Him to grant revival, and a gathering in of souls. Of course, we must be certain that we are not guilty of sins of commission or omission, as the text in 2 Peter 3 implies.
Reader, there is a world out about you which is unconverted and therefore unprepared to meet God at the judgment. They cannot be reached by a Church which has not faith which works, hope without patience, and love which labors not. Will you allow the above to challenge you to look above the conditions which seem to prevail and look to God in faith, believing His Word?