On Good Friday, hope died. At least, that's the way it must have seemed to Jesus' followers. They had been absolutely sure he was the promised Messiah, the one God had anointed to free Israel and set everything right. Then he died.
He'd tried to tell them, but they couldn't understand. He had to die. His death was necessary to set everything right. Sin had to be atoned for, and he had to triumph over the grave. But they couldn't see that far ahead. They were caught between Good Friday and Easter, between the cross and the resurrection. Their sins were paid for; they only waited for death to be defeated.
We're stuck between Easter and the rapture. Death has been defeated, but we wait for it to die. The war is won, but the battle still rages.
The US Civil War ended when the Confederacy surrendered on May 9, 1865. The last battle of the Civil War occurred on May 12, 1865. Why the discrepancy? The war was over, but not everyone was ready to lay down their arms. They wanted to keep fighting, even though they knew their cause was lost. Our war is the same. The end is decided, but the battle still rages, the enemy determined to do a little more mischief.
It's been nearly 2000 years. People scoffed at the Lord's promised return in Peter's day; it's no wonder we can begin to wonder if it's ever going to happen. We must keep reminding ourselves, "the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2Pet 3:9).
But the day is coming. "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1Thes 4:16-17).
"Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1Cor 15:58). Whether it’s enduring persecution, hard labor for the gospel, or the long, slow work of holiness, it will all be worthwhile because we will be raised to be with Christ. As the saying goes, the work is hard, the hours are long, and the pay is low, but the retirement benefits are out of this world.