Up On The
The return of Christ has been covered from seemingly every angle in Christianity: from victorious promises of the King's triumphant return to assuring reminders that we all will go with Him. There are humorous anecdotes about the Rapture and even a song to leave behind for all those who will wish they'd been ready. We've covered every angle except one; and sadly, this one is the most important.
Every time the Second Coming is mentioned in the New Testament, it is brought up to encourage us to live now with greater intensity. Peter asks after reminding us of the coming of the Lord, "What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives" (2 Peter 3:11). After teaching on the Rapture Paul concludes, "So then, let us not be like others who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled" (1 Thess. 5:6). Christ concludes His own teaching on the subject by saying, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns" (Matt. 24:45-46).
Even the Book of Revelation, whose major theme is the return of Christ, begins with a strong warning against spiritual mediocrity in this present age.
Biblical teaching on the Second Coming is always given for a reason to wake us up to the reality of life here and now. The time is short; we have much to do. Let's get on with it.
But sadly, contemporary Christian culture is singing another tune in relationship to the coming of Christ. The song that exemplifies the current mood better than any other is not even a "Christian" song; it's a "moldy-oldy" first recorded by the Drifters in 1963: "When this old world starts to gettin' me down . . . I know a place that's trouble proof . . . up on the roof."
What a fitting theme song for our born-again culture to which the Second Coming has become no more than a way out. It's as if a whole society has taken up residence on the roof, far away from the noise and filth of the streets below, and is presently waiting for the holy helicopter to come and take it home where it belongs.
Our rooftop correspondent declares, "Yes, we're playing Christian music, doing Christian aerobics, and having a great time up here! All the prophetic indications tell us it could be any moment now, so check your rapture watches and stay tuned to Christian TV for the latest update!"
Twinkle, twinkle, coming Christ,
Take us all to paradise.
Escapism that's the real danger. Escapism is a predominant theme in our culture in general today. Video games, TV, stereo "Walkmans," rock 'n' roll, sports, alcohol and drugs all attest to that. In many ways, preoccupation with the Second Coming has become simply one more means of avoiding reality.
But God always thrusts us into reality and responsibility by faith. He wants to stretch us, to bring us to maturity. His Church is His bride, but she is not ready for the wedding. She is not complete. It's a classic question of who's waiting for whom? We're sitting around waiting for the Bridegroom to show up while He's waiting for us to grow up.
But there is another reason why God is waiting. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise [to return], as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to
perish, but everyone to come to repentance . . . Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation" (2 Pet. 3:9, 15).
Every day that the Lord tarries means more people are able to be saved. How selfish of us to want Him to close the door once we're in! Noah didn't go on board, shut the door, and wait for the rain. He was earnestly preaching a message of salvation right up until the first heavy drops of rain fell from a judgment-laden sky.
Even some people making missionary appeals have the audacity to motivate Christians to go to the mission field because Christ is not going to return until the Gospel has been preached to every nation. There are groups right now calculating which nations are left and are hard at work getting people to those nations who haven't heard so Christ can hurry back. The American Christian Church is pumping large sums of money into the nation of Israel under the presumption that it will fulfill prophecy and speed Christ's return.
This attitude translates to: "Okay, you guys, we want you to sit down and pay attention to the Gospel. We don't really care what you do with it (nor do we care about your physical condition, which, by the way, looks pretty bad right now); we just need to fulfill our obligation to preach the Gospel to every nation so that Christ can come and get us out of here. Did everybody hear? Good . . . Now, how many does that leave us, Joe? Hurry, the helicopter is waiting to take us back to the roof."
It's actually very simple. Our task, like Noah's, is twofold: to build the ark (to grow up together into maturity in the body of Christ), and to encourage everyone to come into that ark and be saved. It occurs to me that if Christ isn't in a hurry to get here, maybe we shouldn't be in such a hurry to leave.
Come on, let's get back down on the street where we belong!
Chapter 35 || Table of Contents