Last night I began teaching my summer/Wednesday Adult Elective class at church about Jesus’ second coming, and I’ll try to share some of what we talked about.
At first, there were just two besides myself in the class – then about halfway through, three more people walked in and doubled the number! (There are so many great choices at my church this summer.)
We talked about faith and knowledge, and their relative importance. I brought a brick out of my briefcase; a brick imprinted “Abilene” from the factory that went out of business there years ago, and described how much it meant to my son as his souvenir of where we used to live. I talked (briefly) about gravity; Newton’s universal law of gravitation, Einstein’s theories that fill in the holes in Newton’s law, the acceleration of a falling object and the power of gravity to bend light itself as it passes a star or black hole. Then I asked, “Do you need to know any of that if I hold that brick above your foot and tell you I’m going to drop it? How much do you need to know?”
I think it’s that way with the Bible’s revelation of Christ’s second coming and the judgment which follows it. God reveals it on a need-to-know basis. We want to know when and where the brick will fall; God just says it’s going to. Jesus said that, while He was in the flesh, even He didn’t know exactly when. But He did leave clues so that His followers would be ready; would see it coming.
In dealing with the uncertainty, we have tended to approach it intellectually. We’ve formed dozens – perhaps hundreds – of theories, explanations, rationalizations, and interpretations of the clues that scripture shares. We’ve debated, disagreed, and divided over our ponderings as if each was the gospel itself. We’ve written books, filmed “B” movies, made money, even formed political alliances based on the repercussions of our beliefs on the matter.
The plain truth is, we’ve pretty much failed to grasp it in any way other than intellectually. We’ve failed to simply accept scripture’s descriptions as truth itself, as a warning, as a call to “watch” and “be prepared.” It hasn’t reached our hearts … just our heads.
If its truth grabbed us by the throat with its apocalyptic descriptions of the intersection of time and eternity split wide open as a battlefield between cosmic good and evil; if we recognized that battlefield was our hearts, we would truly live what we believe.
In a sense, our faces would always be glancing upward – expectantly, prayerfully, longingly – and at the same time, fearfully, on behalf of so many people whom God loves but have not yet been reached by His love and its revelation in Jesus.