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January 9, 2013

A Google search retrieves over 11 million hits for “Maranatha” (many associated with names of churches or ministries), so clearly this word is very popular. A brief informal survey of believers reveals the majority were uncertain of the meaning of Maranatha which prompted this post. Maranatha is used only once in the Bible by Paul who closes his first letter to the Corinthians with the surprisingly strong statement “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed (anathema). Maranatha.” (1Cor 16:22-note). Similar to Hosanna, Hallelujah, and Amen which are transliterated Hebrew words, Maranatha is a transliterated Aramaic word, which has one of two meanings: “Our Lord has come” or “Our Lord, come!” Thomas Constable notes that “It is strange to meet with an Aramaic phrase in a Greek letter to a Greek Church. The explanation is that this phrase had become a watchword and a password. It summed up the vital hope of the early Church, and Christians whispered it to each other, identified each other by it, in a language which the heathen could not understand.” In short, “Maranatha” became the early church’s “Mindset!” The apostle John clearly had a “Maranatha Mindset” when he prayed “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” in response to Jesus’ promise “Yes, I am coming quickly.” (Rev 22:20-note) The majority of modern Bible versions and commentaries interpret Maranatha as a prayer beseeching the Lord Jesus Christ to return quickly/soon! Indeed, every time we pray “Thy Kingdom come” we are in a sense crying “Maranatha,” asking for the return of the King of the Kingdom (Mt 6:10a-note, cf Rev 19:16-note).

Paul writes that those with a “Maranatha Mindset” have a sense of urgency and know “that it is already the hour for us to awaken from sleep (from spiritual slumber, apathy, backsliding!), for now salvation (Our Savior and our final redemption and glorification) is nearer to us than when we (first) believed. The night (spiritual darkness of this present world) is almost gone and the day (of His Return) is near (we are standing on the “edge of eternity”!) Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness (including attitudes and actions we think are “secret” but in fact are fully exposed to God, Pr 15:3-note) and put on the armor of light…put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh (thinking of ways to arouse, to indulge or) to gratify its desires!” (Ro 13:11-14-note) Puritan William Gurnall (author of the classic: The Christian in Complete Armor) wrote that “Christ hath told us He will come, but not when, that we might never put off our clothes, or put out the candle (Mt 24:42-note, Mt 25:13-note, Mk 13:35-37-note).” “Since He may come any day, it is well to be ready every day.” (Hudson Taylor) Amen!

The famous hymn writer Fanny Crosby although physically blind had a vibrant “Maranatha Mindset” which gave her “vision” and passion to pen words like “Take the world but give me Jesus–In His cross my trust shall be; Till, with clearer, brighter VISION, Face to face my Lord I SEE!” (1Cor 13:12-note) Maranatha!

One scholar has noted that in the 260 chapters of the NT, there are 318 references to the Second Coming of Christ which means that about 1 of every 30 verses refers to the return of the Bridegroom (Mt 25:6-noteJn 3:29-note, cf Rev 19:7-note)! It is also notable that for every prophecy describing Jesus’ First Coming, there are eight which look forward to His Second Coming! Surely the Spirit desires to stir up in the Bride (Christ’s Body, the Church – Eph 1:22-23-note, 2Cor 11:2-note) a “Maranatha Mindset” which causes us to long for our Beloved, much like Solomon’s bride who cried out “Hurry, my beloved!” (Song 8:14-note)! And so it is fitting that James encourages us to live with a “Maranatha Mindset” writing “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:8-note) Augustine said “He who loves the coming of the Lord is not he who affirms it is far off, nor is it he who says it is near. It is he who, whether it be far or near, awaits it with sincere faith, stead-fast hope and fervent love.” Beloved, we can be ready for the last moment by being ready at every moment (Luke 21:36-note)!

Illustration of a “Maranatha Mindset:” In 1950 Florence Chadwick crossed the English Channel in record time and the next year crossed in the other direction. In 1952 she attempted to swim the 26 miles from Catalina Island to California, but after 15 hours a thick fog set in causing her to begin to doubt her ability to complete her course. After telling her mother she didn’t think she could make it, she swam for an hour and still unable to see the coastline due to the fog, stopped swimming. It wasn’t until she got into the boat that she learned that the shore was less than half a mile away. At the news conference she said: ‘All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore I would have made it’. Two months later, she tried again, but this time when the thick fog set in, she continued to swim, because she focused on her goal, the shore. Beloved, we all experience “dense fog” from time to time for a variety of reasons, and it becomes difficult to fix our eyes on our goal (Php 3:14-note), Christ Jesus, the Author and Finisher of the race of faith (Heb 12:2-note). As this world grows darker, the promised return of the Son grows brighter. Paul who ministered with a Maranatha Mindset continually looking “not at the things seen, but the things unseen, remembering that the things seen are temporal, while the things unseen are eternal”(2Cor 4:17-18-note, cf Col 3:1-2-note), encouraged Timothy (and us) with his very last words (always important words): “I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have LOVED HIS APPEARING (~living with a Maranatha Mindset).” (2Ti 4:7-8-note) The great British expositor G Campbell Morgan modeled this mindset writing “I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. I am not looking for death, I am looking for Him.” Little wonder that Morgan was so mightily used by God in His Kingdom work!

What we believe about the eternal world to come, shapes how we live in this temporal, passing world (cf Ec 1:2-3-note, Ec 12:13-14-note). C S Lewis said that “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world, were precisely those who thought most of the next (~Maranatha Mindset). It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this (world). Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments.” Yes, enjoy life, but anticipate heaven by living with a Maranatha Mindset continually “looking for the Blessed Hope (which is) the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13-note) If we are looking for Christ to return at any time, this “uplook outlook” will be a powerful incentive to spur us on to fight the good fight of faith (1Ti 6:12-note) necessary for godly living and bold proclamation of the Gospel (cf 2Cor 3:12-note, Eph 6:19-note). Am I living with a “Maranatha Mindset?” Do my day to day choices reflect the reality of my expectant attitude? “Expectant looking” is always a great “antidote” for “apathetic living.” “The certainty of the Second Coming should touch and tincture every part of our daily behavior.” (Blanchard) Indeed, “Uncertainty about the date of the Lord’s return is calculated to keep believers in an attitude of constant expectation and to preserve them from despondency.” (Ryle)

John Piper asks “Does your mind return frequently to the truth of Christ’s appearing? When your mind turns to the truth of His appearing, does your heart want it—is there an eagerness to see Him? Do you pray for His coming? Maranatha, prayed the early church! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Full sermon)

C H Spurgeon sums up this “Maranatha Mindset” declaring “Oh, that the Lord would come! He is coming! He is on the road and traveling quickly. (Rev 22:12-note) The sound of His approach should be as music to our hearts!”

May the cry of our hearts continually be “Hallelujah! Hosanna to God in the highest. Maranatha (Our Lord, come)! Amen.”

Take a moment to play and sing “Maranatha” as your prayer

Michael Card sings another version of “Maranatha”

See in depth study of Maranatha

See related post on “The Blessed Hope”

See related commentary on Titus 2-13 “The Blessed Hope”

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