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.