|The Second Coming
"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven..." (Mat. 24:30)
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- The Rapture and
- The Second Coming
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:8-9)
Has God ever asked you that question? Amid our frantic lifestyles, our tape-tranquilized commutes, and our computer-enhanced, televised reruns of reality, most of us would probably have to reply, "no." And we might quickly follow that response with an inaudible, "Thank heavens!"
After all, we're pretty busy with the problems we already have. Business is booming. The boss wants more overtime. The school wants more parental involvement, and the church needs Sunday school teachers. The notion that the God of the universe might actually want to talk to us is, well, even on a good day a bit more than we can deal with.
Besides, it wasn't a real voice at all, was it? Nobody around me heard it. Perhaps a drink to calm the nerves is in order. And another. Then another. But the still small voice rings in our ears. "Where are you, Bob, or Bill, or Kathleen, or Betty? Where are you, My child?"
Where are we, indeed? In a society traveling at the speed of light, yet going nowhere, where are we?
"For most of us, our 'god' is one with whom we are comfortable, a god who lets us do what we want and who gives us what we want. That's what the world of religion is tragically all about--counterfeiting divinity."--Jan David Hettinga, Follow Me, NavPress, 1996.
Such gods don't ask embarrassing questions like, "Where are you, my child?" Which is why they suit us so well. No break in our busy schedule is required. For the devout, a weekly laundry list of needs and wants can be presented during a moment of silent prayer at the Sunday worship service. An aunt dying of cancer, a raise at work, world peace.
After all, what would a real God, if He did exist, want with me? And tragically, few people are more uncomfortable with that question today than those inside the four walls of many churches. The pastor or priest sees pandemonium--every congregant hearing a personal voice from God and--gasp--acting on it! The leadership fears competition: "Hey, I was elected deacon or elder or overseer this year!" And the congregant fears disruption of his or her comfortable lifestyle. Far better for all of us if God would just keep quiet!
But of course, He won't remain silent. God's never been impressed by religion. We try to buy Him off with our church attendance and our offerings and our good deeds, but God will have none of it. He wants us, you see. "Where are you?" He doesn't seem to care that we are broken or fallen creatures, whose ancestors long ago decided to go their own way. He still wants a relationship. He still sees hope of salvaging us.
The Bible records the names of those who answered in the Old Testament as prophets, followed by a period of long silence. Then God became so concerned about us that He came to check up on things Himself. For His efforts at disturbing our religion, we nailed Him to a cross. The Good News is that this cross became the bridge between us. God still wants to know, "Where are you?"
More than a third of Americans in a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press expect the U.S. to be involved in a nuclear war during the next 50 years. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, think there will probably be a major terrorist attack on this country [the U.S.] involving biological or chemical weapons. Almost half said they thought Jesus Christ will return to earth in the next 50 years.
As we enter 1998, I can't help but think about how close we must be to the Second Coming--when the Lord will return for His church and personally rule over the Earth for 1,000 years.
Oh, I know, some of you don't believe in such things. You think it's just a bunch of silly superstition. You prefer I stick to writing about news events of the physical world rather than arcane spiritual matters.
But, as a journalist, I can't ignore hard evidence--no matter where it may lead me. And the more I study the prophetic scriptures of the Holy Bible and look at the condition of our world today, the more convinced I become that we are nearing that time. In fact, I think we are very close.
For just as Jesus' virgin birth in Bethlehem was foretold by the Hebrew prophets hundreds of years earlier, so, too, was His return to Earth predicted. The only question is when.
The most dramatic evidence for His imminent return our generation has witnessed was the rebirth of the nation of Israel 50 years ago. The Jews were, as prophesied, scattered over the whole earth for nearly two millennia beginning shortly after Jesus' death on the cross. Yet, the scriptures leave no doubt that the Jewish state would exist once again before He returned.
Interestingly, Orthodox Jews have long taught that the world would last for 6,000 years before the Messiah would come and usher in a 1,000-year period of restful human history. Since God created the world in six days, according to Genesis 1:31, and rested on the seventh day, according to Genesis 2:2, they reasoned the world's history would climax the same way. They cite Psalm 90:4, which says: "For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by."
Likewise, Christians have looked to II Peter 3:8: "But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
The early church understood this "six-day theory" of world history. It was widely accepted teaching for the first three centuries of the church. From the time of Adam, we've got genealogical records to show that 4,000 years passed until the time of Christ. From Jesus' time until the present age represents another 2,000 years, for a total of 6,000 years or six days.
There's also a three-day theory: Jesus rose on the third day. Would the beginning of the third millennium--or thousand-year period--not be the likely time for His return to earth?
In 1776, Edward Gibbon published "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," in which he cites early documents suggesting the Christian disciples of the first century were taught that Jesus would return after 2000 years. We'll soon find out if they were right.
For many reasons, I believe Jesus is returning soon--if not in the year 2000, certainly thereabouts. But I'm especially drawn to II Timothy 3:1-5, which describes the state of the world in the "last days." Tell me if this doesn't sound like our world: "But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."
Jesus came 2,000 years ago and died for our sins. Now we should be hopeful and expectant of His imminent return.
The world's institutions are breaking down. The schools. Law enforcement. Government itself.
This is no accident. Long before the political institutions we rely on to maintain civil order began to crumble, our major cultural institutions lost their moorings. The entertainment industry. The press. Academia. Even the churches.
We're on the downward end of a slippery slope. People recognize it. As we approach the dawning of a new millennium, it's only natural that people are asking: "With all the bad news in the world, is there any hope?" Left to our own devices, I'd say we're going down on the Titanic.
Fortunately, I don't believe we're on our own. There is order in this universe. There is One greater than us on Whom we can depend. He's always there for us. And He's got a plan for our personal salvation as well as a plan for a world without end.
At times like these--trying times--Saint Paul explained that "the righteous will live by faith." I don't think I could carry on for another day without absolute faith that righteousness would someday triumph in this world. There's too much pain, too much suffering, too much sin, too much evil.
This is the result of man exercising his own wisdom rather than relying on the laws of God. The Bible is replete with horror stories of such folly--beginning in the Garden of Eden.
For 6,000 years of human history, the story has been the same. Someone, some leader, some group, some city, some nation, even the entire world decides it knows better than God. The consequences are always dire. Whenever God is removed from the equation, something bad fills the vacuum.
But I am certain a better day is coming. And I believe it's closer than most of us think. How do we know that day is coming? Because the One who came, suffered, died and rose again told us so. He promised us--nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus told us to watch for the signs, and they are all around us. His return is very near. He is literally at the door. As surely as He rose on the third day, I believe He will come again in the third millennium.
Open your hearts, my friends, and rejoice. For He is risen. He is truly risen, and He's coming back to straighten out this mess. All we need to do is proclaim the truth. Help is on the way.
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