Sunday, March 1, 2015

Scattered Ramblings on the Second Coming of Christ

At church this morning, during the prayer part of the service, someone in the congregation said that he heard that Christ will return in 2022.  Someone else then said that Christ can come at any time.

I don’t put any stock in attempts to place a date on Christ’s second coming.  People have been setting dates for over a thousand years, and Christ has not come yet.  I’m reminded of the old Jewish proverb: if you are planting a tree and someone tells you that the Messiah has come, plant your tree first, then go to see if the Messiah has come!

On the whole deal about how Christ can come at any time, well, it depends on how one interprets the Scriptures.  If you believe that certain events have to take place before Christ comes—-the two witnesses, the Beast, and the Great Tribulation—-then Christ cannot come at just any time.  He can only come after those events take place.

Unless one believes in the pre-tribulational rapture.  In this scenario, Christ will come to take his saints—-living and dead—-up to heaven, and that will be followed by the Great Tribulation, which includes the Beast and the two witnesses.  After the Great Tribulation, the scenario continues, Christ will come to earth, destroy the powers of evil, and rule.  In the New Testament, there are some passages that suggest that Christ can come like a thief—-unexpectedly—-and other passages that present him coming after certain events have taken place.  Believers in the pre-tribulational rapture say that this is because these are two different comings of Christ.  Christ’s coming to rapture his saints can occur unexpectedly, whereas his coming to rule the world will proceed certain events.

I can also envision a partial preterist believing that Christ can come at any time, though I cannot support this.  It’s just that partial preterists believe that so many prophetic events were fulfilled in the past—-the Beast, the two witnesses, etc.—-and that would mean that there is nothing that necessarily must take place right now or in the future before Christ comes back.  That stuff has already occurred in the past.  If that is the case, then Christ can return at any time.

I recently read a book of sermons delivered by an itinerant Seventh-Day Adventist pastor.  I’ll be reviewing this book tomorrow on my blog.  This book reminded me of what turns me off from apocalyptic mindsets—-the us vs. them mentality, and the idea that God will wipe out most of the human race, while preserving those who believe and behave a certain way.  I was thinking: “How do I know any of this is real, anyway?”  Not sure if I do.  The thing is, does our world have much hope if it is not real—-if Christ will not return and defeat evil?  I don’t know.  On some level, things are getting better.  Poverty is declining throughout the world.  Yet, there is still a lot of wickedness and exploitation of others.

I was reading a status-update by a liberal religious thinker whom I read.  He said that we’re all Messiahs with a responsibility to make the world a better place, and that too many people look for a heroic coming Messiah to absolve themselves of their responsibility, thinking this coming Messiah will fix everything.  I can see that.  Yet, even with the apocalyptic mindset that was at my church this morning, we still read in the liturgy that we are to go out and to serve others.

Back to that Seventh-Day Adventist book.  It quoted Jesus saying in Luke 21:34: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”  That passage tells me that Christians are to be watching for Christ’s return.  They are to keep it in mind.  They are not to be content to stay in this corrupt world, but they are to be spiritually mindful.

Luke 21, though, is partly about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  Some may say that this passage and its parallels (Mark 13 and Matthew 24) were anticipating Christ’s return soon after the disaster in 70, which did not happen.  Others say that Christ “came” in the sense that he judged Jerusalem.  Still others say that these passages are talking about the historical destruction of Jerusalem but also the second coming of Christ in the future.

Let’s go with the idea that these passages relate to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  Jesus is telling his disciples to watch—-not to get caught up in this life and getting drunk—-because the things in their world that they take for granted are about to be destroyed.  God is about to judge Jerusalem for its sins and corruption, and their desire should be not to be swept away with the city.

That sort of message can still apply, even if I doubt that Christ will return anytime soon.  America can still fall.  The places that we have gone out of our greed and our covetousness, and the sad consequences of our lust and devaluation of people, can lead us to horrible and destructive territory.  Can we take our present prosperity for granted?  Look at the nations of the past that were prosperous and fell.  If we desire security, should we not throw ourselves at the mercy of God?  I’m not talking about a superficial national repentance designed to appeal to the religious right and get its votes.  I’m talking about individuals in a corrupt age going to God in repentance and seeking mercy.

As Jesus said: Watch.

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