The Verse Where I Once Lost My Faith

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” ~ Jesus, Matthew 24:34 (also its parallels, Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32. And don’t forget Luke 9:27.)

“This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” (Essay “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)

It was a dark time in my life almost thirty years ago: my first marriage was failing and so was my faith.

Like Lewis — one of the most profound Christian thinkers I’ve yet encountered — I read what Jesus said about (as many Bible editors knowingly add as a subhead) “The Destruction of Jerusalem and Signs of the End Times.” And I reasoned that, since it had not happened in Jesus’ generation as He had predicted, He was wrong; and if He was wrong about that, He could have been wrong about a lot of things.

I had spent my due diligence time in the Harding University library (no Internet then) reading the theories and explanations: that “generation” might also mean “race;” that He might have been referring to the generation of the end times rather than the generation of Jerusalem’s destruction; that He wasn’t necessarily referring to the end times when He said “all these things” … and all the rest.

I read the systems that explained which verses referred to which parts of the prophecy; and which were already fulfilled and which were yet to come; and the reasons they were all jumbled up in Luke 9:21-27, 17:20-37 or chapter 21 but not its parallels Matthew 24 or Mark 13 where Jesus stuck to the system; and why perhaps He skipped about among them and …

None of them was persuasive.

None of them agreed with each other (possibly because there are no book deals to be made in agreeing with what is already published), and none of them was complete and none of them strictly adhered to both the scriptures and the rules of logic.

And for a time, I lost my faith. Like my first marriage, it simply ended. I had moved to another city and had no church home for a time, and for a shorter time I didn’t even attend church sporadically. Sunday became a day of rest and contemplation and recreation as it is for most of the not-believing (and quite a bit of the believing) world, and I liked it that way.

But my one-year assignment in that city came to its close, and I moved back. I missed my church family, and I went back home there, and I tried to forget the one-verse tripstone that had catapulted my faith and me heels-over-head-and-flat-on-my-fanny.

As the Internet became a part of my intentionally forgetful world, though, I one day stumbled across that quote by Lewis. And I crept back into the due-diligence mode, because … well, if you’ve read my self-description at this blog for the past seven/eight years, you already know … I am “someone who questions reality and won’t settle for an evasive answer.”

Rejecting virtually everything I had read and rejected before, I read and rejected just about everything else I could find — and for the same reasons.

And I just meditated on it. I had time. My marriage was — still is — flourishing wonderfully, and I felt no pressure nor desperation. There was plenty of other scripture to believe in even if I couldn’t accept this one, was my reasoning at the time. So I believed again. Mostly.

In time, as all of the authors/writers/thinkers I had read, I put together my own best guess.

And it goes like this:

What if there is no system, no separate prophecies, no skipping around? What if the subject Jesus spoke about in all of these situations (and through His Spirit, in many many other instances of scripture) was in fact one, just as He and the Father are one? Just as there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism … you get the picture.

What does it do to the prophecy if Jesus is speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem as The Day that He returns on the clouds/is revealed and judgment takes place and fire destroys and deliverance arrives but it is One Very Long The Day? What if — just as each sin we commit is connected with the sin of Adam and Eve and the salvation we receive when accepting Christ is connected with the cross and the tomb — what if the moment of each individual death is also connected with the moment of His return and revelation (and also in a temporally-inexplicable way)? What if He began coming in His kingdom then and still comes when each believer dies and along with his angels gathers His elect from the four corners of the earth, taking one and leaving the one next to him or her behind? What if it is not so much an event in this world, but in the nearby world of eternity that Stephen saw before the first stone flew at him? What if it’s not so much an event at all, but a process?

In my reasoning, this theory does nothing in contradiction to the prophecy.

But, you see, that is my theory’s greatest flaw and weakness: in my reasoning.

Reasoning got me into a loss of faith and I doubt very much that reasoning is going to bring anyone’s faith fully back because I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows exactly what it means.

Nobody knows exactly how or when the world ends, or even for sure what that means. Even Jesus didn’t, when He still held a mortal form and breathed the air of this world and loved life in it and dedicated Himself to living it and losing it and receiving it back from the Father so that the rest of us could, too.

Now, you can hang your hat on that truth. Anyone can understand it. Anyone can — and should — bet his or her life on it. It is simple and true. But while everything Jesus said was true, not all of it was simple.

And not one of the authors I read — Lewis included — had what it took to just say, “I don’t know.” Instead, they reasoned. Then gave their reasoning the weight of scripture.

It’s painfully ironic to me that C.S. Lewis — who wrote his children’s novels of Narnia, a world where time passed at a different rate than here on earth — could not grasp the possibility that eternity’s The Day might pass at a different rate than a day on earth. Surely he did not forget the paradox stated by Peter:

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ” ~ 2 Peter 3:8

Peter’s talking about the Lord’s return here. You can tell by the subhead that many Bible editors knowingly put over the paragraph: “The Day of the Lord.”

So Lewis made an assumption, that “this generation” meant “this generation” and that was it; it could not mean anything else. It was to be a single-day event, taken or left behind: clouds are clouds, days are days, stars are stars, the sun is the sun, the moon is the moon, trumpets are trumpets. All of that in spite of hundreds of years of prophetic language (and the Revelation to John yet-to-come) where virtually nothing is literal.

And he could not see the possibility of my theory.

Which gives me comfort, because it helps me see possibilities. But what if I’m wrong.

I probably am. I pretty much expect to be.

I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know, and here’s what I’ve learned: Belief is not contingent upon full comprehension.

Some things God shows and some things God hints at and some things God hides for another day.

So believe anyway.

It won’t do you any good to stand defiantly right where He can see you and demand to know all of His secrets while standing on one foot before you are willing to believe. Trust me on this.

Been there. Done that.

Well, now you know what I’ve learned, and about the verse where I once lost my faith, and the reason why my blog is titled “Blog in My Own Eye” and about the absolutely arrogant idiocy that’s involved in thinking that you know enough to judge God based on your own understanding.

Just be willing to say, as I will now say for the third time: “I don’t know.

“Yet I believe.

“Lord, help my unbelief.”

He just might, you know.

He did for me.

A Generous Eschatology

First of all – I know I shouldn’t borrow titles from books I haven’t completely read, but the title of this Brian McLaren opus fits too well to pass it up.

Because, secondly, what I want to write about is eschatology – “end” things – and I want to remain completely generous in my view toward them and toward others’ interpretations of them.

Thirdly, my byword on this and many other subjects is a disarmingly honest “I don’t know.” I can afford to be generous about my stupidity because I lose nothing by confessing it. I don’t hold any advanced degrees, nor does my lowly professional position require one. Same for my reputation and my ego.

Finally, to the point: I favor my unique view of Christ’s (ongoing) return because it is generous. It’s generous with God’s greatness. God is the Person whom, Peter tells us, regards a day as a thousand years and vice-versa. So, about three of His years could equal about a million of ours. Or the reverse! I’m certain, in fact, that one of those thousand-year-long days for Him was the day His Son hung on a cross.

God’s greatness remains undiminished by our limited perception of it. I think He understands that, and expressed His eternal truths in the simplest possible terms for our impossibly simple minds.

It’s also generous with the potential lifespan of the earth – “Men come and go, but earth abides (forever?)” implies the Preacher. “The earth and its fullness are God’s,” observes another inspired writer of antiquity. That means I have a responsibility toward it; toward generations that may well follow me. I may be part of the humanity charged with subduing it, but we’re not charged with selfishly wasting and destroying it.

The “new earth” promised to His children might be parallel to this one … but it might also be this very one, completely renewed, currently only a shadow of its glory to come. And that fate could still be consistent with Peter’s description of its total destruction at some point in the future. (Think of that “Genesis wave” sequence in Star Trek II and III, except animated by God.)

Can children who have wasted a gorgeous, delicate, precious toy be trusted to be given another that’s even more fabulous?

So I’m generously willing to concede a lot of points offered by differing views of eschatolgy – excepting, of course, those which are inarguably contradictory to what God reveals in scripture.

But – can I say “in the end”? – the view of a continuously-unfolding eschatology that I tend to favor gives me the same level of comfort and discomfort that I find in the rest of scripture – and for the same reasons.

‘Both/And’ Eschatology

Last night I finished teaching my series on Jesus’ parousia or second coming, with a wonderful group of brothers and sisters who had great questions and some great answers to match them. A lot of my answers were multiform, sharing several possibilities or interpretations and concluding – as all of scripture does – that the important thing is to watch, be ready, be prepared.

Yesterday afternoon our church laid to rest the body left behind by one of our elders – O.V. “Bud” Holeman – when he went to be with the Lord. I saw very little sorrow or grief on the faces of those who emerged from his memorial service; he was dearly loved and his destiny certain. He had suffered from cancer several months; had agreed to be moved to hospice care recently to ease his transition in a comfortable surrounding where he could enjoy short visits from his church family members. He was ready. It made our discussion about eschatology more urgent in class last night.

I tip my hat to Edward Fudge, whose gracEmail today includes this quote about different views of eschatology from N.T. Wright – neither of whom obviously has any truck with the limitations of “either/or” thinking and who embrace “both/and”:

“If you think simply of souls ending up in a disembodied heaven, you will anticipate that in the present by a life of quietist, detached spirituality, denying all those things that speak of the universe of space, time and matter. That is Platonism, not Christianity. If you think simply of helping people to improve their social, cultural and societal lot in the present world, you have nothing to say . . . . If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But if, instead, we set our gaze firmly on God’s promise of new heavens and new earth, of the whole creation renewed from God in Christ, we see that our anticipation of that future in the present is to be a rich mixture of what we have called ‘spirituality’ and what we have called ‘kingdom-work.’ They go together, because together they anticipate that time when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.” (Dr. N.T. Wright in sermon “Christ the Power of God and the Wisdom of God” (July 2, 2005), at www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Christ_Power_Wisdom.htm.)

Second Coming, Part XIII: Epilogue

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

There’s a lot of ground I didn’t try to cover in this study.

For instance, I didn’t try to go into the heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus, who said that the resurrection had already come. It would seem that these two had the same conception of a much more spiritual interpretation of parousia that some Thessalonian Christians had. (I think it’s intellectually dishonest to accuse preterists of this heresy and of hypocrisy, when it’s pretty obvious that these two “godless chatterers” lived before the time that preterists think Jesus was revealed, at the destruction of the temple in AD 70.)

I didn’t try to give definitive answers to troubling questions. True to my nature, I just raised more of them. But as don pointed out in a comment a few posts back, it’s the questions that help us think and pray and propose our own interpretations – rather than just gobbling up the latest theory in paperback and, having no time to research others, accept it at face value as the truth.

I didn’t mean to slight tumultuous events in the world today (like the London transit bombings) which make folks wonder if we’re living in the last days.

And I didn’t point out why I thought it was important to spend all these pixels on this study.

What we believe about Jesus’ parousia affects every other aspect of our belief: our theodicy, our views of servanthood, fellowship, grace, love and faith itself. Most importantly, it affects the way we respond to God’s love toward us. It even affects our personalities.

I occasionally used to read the content of a preterist-view Web site operated by a brother in my fellowship. Though I disagreed (and still do) with many of the conclusions there, I was always impressed by the scholarship; the passion for truth, for scripture, for others and their beliefs on the matter. Lately, though, the personality of the site’s caretaker seems to have changed, and it saddens me. Recent posts there exult in the cowardice of disagreeing brethren in refusing to publicly debate him. The site has become more about him than about eschatology and the parousia of Jesus.

It’s not a subject about which we should be choosing up sides and smelling armpits. What we know about it is what God has revealed through His Spirit in His Word. Whether my interpretation, or this brother’s, or that sister’s, is correct really doesn’t matter one atom; it will be fully revealed in God’s time.

We need to preach what we know. Christ promised to return for us. We need to watch, anticipate, be alert, be ready, look forward to it, pray for it, and bless again as Christians once did with the phrase maranatha:

Lord, come quickly!

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Second Coming, Part XII: The Revelation to John

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Nothing makes the study of Jesus’ parousia more real than the death of a Christian friend.

Tonight her family, church family, neighbors and friends – about 250-300 of us – gathered on the front lawn of her home where the shotgun fell from its case this morning and discharged. We sang softly, prayed, and wept together. She, her husband and two sweet children came to our Church of Christ as Baptists a couple of years ago and stayed where they were loved – and they have returned that love many times and many ways.

None of us has any doubt that Jesus receives her with joy into His eternal kingdom.

Standing there, I wondered if she could see us; if she wished she could share words of hope with us, but would have to wait a nanosecond of eternity until we all join her and therefore know those comforting truths first-hand.

Time and Tense and Tension

I hesitate to quote this since I haven’t been able to track down and read the entire essay, but I’ve read in several places now this heartbreaking quote from a theologian whose work has so often inspired me:

“The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” (Essay “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385)

“Heartbreaking” I’ve called it because this same C.S. Lewis authored the extraordinary children’s fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia about a world where time passes more swiftly than in ours … yet he didn’t seem to realize that God’s eternity and our world’s continuum could experience time very differently, too – and that God is Lord of both.

I haven’t tried to be comprehensive in this study, or to quote all of the passages I’d like to. But I’ve included others that I think most folks would leave out, because I see something relevant in them. That’s the case with these excerpts from the first part of the Revelation to John of Patmos. I think we make a great mistake to study this work, skipping the opening seven epistles. Because the language used seems to get progressively more urgent:

Revelation 2:5, 16; 3:3, 11, 20 – “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. … Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. … Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. … I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. … Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Did you catch it? “I will come” … “I will soon come” … “I will come like a thief” … “I am coming soon” … “Here I am!”

Chapter 20

This is the chapter so many focus upon when expounding their eschatological views. It does indeed have to do with judgment, but beyond that goes way beyond my wisdom or understanding:

Revelation 20: “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

“When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

If you’ve come this far to find out what I think the Abyss is, or who Gog and Magog are, or whether the thousand years is literal or symbolic or past or present or future, you are about to be disappointed.

What I try to remember when reading Revelation is that it was – like all of the books of the New Testament – written by men with a specific audience in mind. While the Holy Spirit inspiring them may have nudged them to include eternal truths, the writers’ primary concern was to encourage, admonish and offer hope to the persecuted believers of the first century.

I don’t have an answer about conditional resurrection as opposed to eternal punishment for all non-believers. I don’t have any comment about the martyrs of century one being promised special honor. I don’t have any clever conclusions to draw about the various tenses in which Revelation is written or decryptions of apocryphal symbolism.

And for those who insist on taking every word in Revelation 20 literally, may I point out that right next door is the beautiful wedding story of Revelation 21 in which a cubic New Jerusalem is presented – coming out of heaven – to the bride by the groom – and it is big enough to barely fit inside a sphere the size of the moon. Far too big to land on this earth without considerable landing gear, rather than gemstone foundations! (Though I’m open to the idea that the new earth may not be like this one at all, including a shape other than spherical ….)

Judgment

What stands out to me in chapter 20 is that “…the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

I don’t have a problem with that.

It is perfectly – and disturbingly – consistent with what Jesus said in Matthew 25.

I think Christianity has pendulum-swung a little too far by backing away from the truth of these passages. I’m well aware that there was probably an over-emphasis on them for perhaps hundreds of years (the last part of which includes my childhood!). I agree that there was probably not enough emphasis on grace and the power of Christ’s blood in forgiveness and the loving sovereignty of God.

But I believe, and have blogged many times before, that God is not an either/or proposition. He is love; He is also justice. He is mercy; He is also righteousness. If He were all righteousness, He would never have sent His Son to be tortured and die in place of those of us who deserve punishment. If He were all love, He would never have needed to send His Son to be stripped, spat upon, pierced, slugged, flailed and crucified in our place; he could have just extended blanket forgiveness to all who sin.

That’s why there is a chapter 20 and a chapter 21 – where God is pictured descending with His temple in the New Jerusalem to dwell on the new earth with his new creation in their incorruptible bodies, stooping down to wipe away the tears of His beloved children. (Tears of grief for loved ones lost? Perhaps. Maybe we’ll understand then that there were some who were never willing to believe and love and serve God in spite of what their lives seemed to be. But God might also wipe away tears of inexpressible joy so that we can see Him face-to-face, in all His glory. Just a thought from someone who has shed a few today.)

John closes the record of his vision with the “maranatha” blessing of other epistles. I don’t know how many years I read this, thinking that the call to “come” was solely a call to those who do not yet believe. (Too many years of singing invitation songs and hearing altar calls, I suppose!) The call to come is also clearly from God’s Spirit and the church (the bride) to the groom, Jesus. He will come – like the groom in his Matthew 25 parable of the ten virgins – to claim His bride at an unexpected hour of the night to sweep her off her feet and carry her to the home that He and His Father have prepared for them; for a feast and a celebration and a reunion of far-flung family. It is the ultimate in romance; the epic among love stories.

No wonder the bride should be eager for Him to come!

Revelation 22:17, 20 – “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. … He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Second Coming, Part XI: Hebrews, James, Peter and Jude

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

The writer to the Hebrews makes a mention of the last days, pointing out that Jesus was around for the first days as well:

Hebrews 1:1-2 – “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

Reinforcing a “once and for all” theme throughout the epistles, the Hebrews writer repeats the pattern “creation,” “end of the ages” and “a second time.” This is also as close as we get to the phrase “second coming” in scripture.

Hebrews 9:26-28 – “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Can there be any mistake about the plainness of the expression “… man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”? Can there be any exceptions? When Paul writes of “those who remain (alive)” being raptured away, hasn’t the end of this life come for them? Is that why they will not precede the dead, who will be taken first – yet all will (timelessly?) meet Christ together?

Have you ever noticed that New Testament writers chronicling events after Christ’s resurrection rarely use the words “die” or “death” with regard to a believer? They use what may seem like euphemisms instead – “fallen asleep,” for instance (taking a cue from Jesus’ diagnosis of Jairus’ daughter?). Were they trying to express the truth that when Jesus claims a believer, death cannot take him or her away?

James, the Lord’s half-brother, was very pragmatic – and not surprisingly, very reminiscent of Jesus – in his general letter, and also uses the term “last days.” If he wasn’t speaking specifically to people of his time and their particular sins in those “last days,” to whom was he speaking? He echoes Jesus’ description of moth and rust corrupting clothes and metal coinage. And he compares their gluttony and greed to “fattening” themselves – not a calf – “in the day of slaughter.”

James 5:1-9 – “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

“Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”

His warning is also a lot like Jesus’ warning: Stand firm! Be patient! Wait for it! Or you will be judged.

Peter declares the same timeless nature of Jesus Christ, using the same term “creation” compared with “these last times” to illustrate it:

I Peter 1:20 – “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”

And now the fisherman-turned-fisher-of-men speaks plainly. The end is imminent:

I Peter 4:7-11 – “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

But his advice is timeless: Love deeply. Serve willingly. Speak wisely. Praise God through Christ.

He continues with the term “last days” and “day of the Lord” in his second letter, predicting (as Paul did to the Thessalonians) skepticism and confusion about Jesus’ parousia. His answer, once again, cites the timeless, eternal nature of the Lord, from creation to judgment. He might even be citing Paul’s letters to Thessalonica; we can’t know for sure.

II Peter 3:1-18 – “Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

Peter confirms a cosmic dimension to the day of the Lord; those who will be skeptical about its occurrence are correct in thinking of it in those terms. They’re just wrong to conclude that it won’t come because it hasn’t yet come.

Trying to make the some occurrences of the words “heaven” and “earth” and “elements” take on new meanings (in order to conclude that Christ’s presence was revealed by the destruction of the temple as He prophesied and no further “coming” can take place) is a difficult task. Many have tried their hand at it, and skilfully. But I’m not convinced.

To me, the simple interpretation is that “parousia” means both “coming” and “presence.” He is present in the believer’s life through His Spirit. He is also coming for each of his beloved at the time that death would otherwise claim them. There will come a time when – through cosmic catastrophe, divine intervention, possibly even the simple fact of entropy – the earth and all that’s in it will be destroyed. It wasn’t made to last forever in this form.

In this way of thinking, Jesus’ parousia is both an event and a process. The event may have been the destruction of the temple in AD 70; it may have set into action a chain of consequence reaching forward and backward in time throughout eternity. It may well be that this day of the Lord is not just a thousand years – or a thousand millennia – but much, much, much longer. And we could still be connected with it, by God’s patient grace … through Christ’s loving sacrifice ….

One day.

What all of these writers, over and over again, realize is that the HOW and WHAT and WHEN of our reunion with Christ is not nearly so important as the HOW we live now and WHAT we’re willing to give and WHEN we are ready for that reunion.

Because that determines whether He meets us in joy, or in judgment.

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Second Coming, Part X: Paul to Two Cities and Timothy

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Paul had lots of nice things to say to the Christians of Philippi. And, since he was talking to faithful Christians who had already repented, his mention of the “day of Christ Jesus” is full of hope and joy – as compared to the warnings of Jesus prior to His crucifixion and resurrection to an unrepentant Israel.

Philippians 1:4-11 – “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”

When Paul writes to Thessalonica, he seems to be answering a question they had about Jesus’ parousia and the resurrection to come with it – and he makes it clear that there is still a strong element of warning to those who do not believe:

I Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 – “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

“But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Paul echoes the image of the pregnant woman Christ used in illustrating the suddenness of the day to come. The image also calls to mind His warning in Luke to the women who wept as He trudged to Calvary.

He confirms Jesus’ words that the day will come like a thief in the night – unexpectedly – but to those who belong to the day would be watching.

Paul’s answer seems to be that there is an order to the resurrection: the dead will be raised before the living ascend, but they will be caught up (raptured?) together to meet Him in the air – right after the trumpet call Jesus described in Matthew 24.

Is this a literal description? Is it accurate? Poetic? Apocryphal language? The best description available given the limitation of language? All of the above?

In the letter we number as second, Paul again seems to be answering questions. This answer brings more questions to my mind:

II Thessalonians 2:1-15 – “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

“Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”

What understanding did the Thessalonians have of the parousia that made them wonder if it had already happened? If it is an earth-shattering, sky-darkening, once-in-a-creation event, how could they have thought it was all over?

Who answers the description of the “man of lawlessness” and who was holding back his power and why?

Does God really send powerful delusions so unbelieving people will believe a lie? Like the Old Testament “lie” that there’s a huge army when it’s really just a few Israelites with lanterns, clay pots and horns?

Did God choose some he loved from the beginning of time to be saved? Or just from the beginning of the ministry of the gospel?

Paul talks to Timothy about the last days. The “last days” – wherever they’re mentioned – seem consistently to precede “the day of Christ.” Other descriptions are more cataclysmic than this one – but if this were the only one, I can understand why some folks think we must be living in the “last days”:

II Timothy 3:1-5 – “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Are we in the last days?

I don’t believe so. It’s a little arrogant to think that our little span of eternity is somehow worse than any previous one, or picked out to be specially treated because of the herculean efforts of Christians against such wickedness to force God’s hand in their lifetimes. I also think it’s too late to be living in the last days. That dubious distinction belongs to the pioneers of the faith in the first century.

We live in the era ushered in by the coming of the kingdom. We live in the kingdom age. Oh, it’s not here in it’s fulness; believers don’t have incorruptible bodies (yet); and a lot of other things are yet to come. But we haven’t been left behind, either.

Death has been conquered, once and for all. He’s out of a job. Now Christ and His angels gather believers home – and exact justice upon those who will not believe.

Stick with me now. Hear me out.

Almost all of the current interpretations of eschatological scripture are right about some things and wrong about some others. That kind of thing happens when you mismatch scriptures or insist on only one method of interpretation or wrest old words into new meanings to fit your own perception.

The one and only value that I can attach to this interpretation is that it satisfies Occam’s Razor. It’s the simplest explanation that fits all of the available facts. So I prefer it.

If you declare that all prophecy was fulfilled at the revealing of Jesus when the temple was destroyed and that this life is “eternally” blessed by His presence through His Spirit, you take all of the power out of the anticipation (or dread) of real eternal life.

If you insist that all prophecy is yet to be fulfilled in the future – probably in our own time – but only foreshadowed by the events of AD 70, you imply that the “in this generation” imminence that Jesus and His followers identified with the coming of His kingdom was a cosmic fib.

If you insist that all prophecy was simply metaphorical, apocryphal language you preserve is poetry but destroy its power to warn and encourage for all generations.

If you panhandle your interpretation of prophecy uncaring whether you destroy the faith of others or to make a few bucks or to advance some political agenda, you are of all people the most pitiful.

But if you accept that God reveals what He wishes to reveal, trust His mercy and righteousness to do so adequately, praise His Lordship of heaven and earth and space and time – that’s the attitude that inspires me to live out my hope, my faith, my love to others.

I could be wrong about this. As I’ve said before, I’d be happy for God to prove me wrong in His own way and His own time.

Because He has a much more exciting imagination than mine!

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Second Coming, Part IX: Paul to Rome and Corinth

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

This part of the study I like to think of as “Six Authors In Search of an Ending.” They are Paul, Peter, James, Jude, John of Patmos and the writer to the Hebrews. They all have something unique to add to the discussion – and they frequently reinforce each other with Jesus’ words and concepts.

Paul warns Christians in Rome with the urgency of an imminent parousia:

Romans 13:11, 12 – “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

It doesn’t seem as pressing early on in the letter to Corinth, but it’s still on Paul’s mind:

I Corinthians 1:8 – “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When he responds to the idea of some Corinthians that there is no resurrection, the subject gains importance – and urgency. Paul connects the subject directly with the parousia of Jesus:

I Corinthians 15:12-58 – “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ?has put everything under his feet.? Now when it says that ?everything? has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

“Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day – I mean that, brothers – just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.

“But someone may ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

“So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

“I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

So Paul tantalizes us, describing with beautiful words of poetry the indescribable transformation to an incorruptible body. It is no mere floating, ghostly spirit he describes – but a realness that is, if anything, MORE real and substantial than the bodies we now have. They are so real that they are immortal, incorruptible, imperishable. The essence of us that lives now in these bodies will be “clothed” with new and better ones. Now we occupy the seed; then, the flower. Now we are dirt; then, we’ll be heaven. Now we are tiny points of light; then, we will shine like the sun.

Is Paul describing the same kind of body in which Jesus appeared for forty days after His own resurrection; a body with scars in hands and feet; a body which ate fish?

And the change is instantaneous – in the “twinkling of an eye.”

Darkening the explanation are questions for which we have no clue: Did Paul really fight wild beasts at Ephesus? If the question was hypothetical, why did he specifically mention Ephesus, instead of just saying “in the arena”? Was he describing as beasts the chanting mobs at Ephesus who praised Artemis/Diana and demanded criminal action against the Christians?

What is the meaning of “baptism for the dead”? Did it mean “on behalf of the dead”? Was Paul tacitly approving the practice of being baptized in behalf of someone who had passed away? Or had he already taught that such baptism was unnecessary; that the dead are left to God’s grace and He would judge them righteously and mercifully? In that case, was he citing their desire to perform that baptism as evidence of their belief in the resurrection?

Who blows that last trumpet? And where did the teaching of a last trumpet come from? (John of Patmos picks it up in the Revelation!)

Paul uses the teaching to urge Corinthian Christians to live worthy lives; to watch and not be caught asleep at the wheel – just as Jesus did with His followers.

But maybe the most heartfelt of Paul’s defenses of this doctrine of hope is the simple logic of his saying: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Second Coming, Part VIII: That Won’t Preach

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

I’ll be on vacation and offline for the next six days.

While I’m gone – if you’re not bored to death by this series and are still tracking with it – consider some reasons why the “hellfire & damnation” approach to gospel preaching was popular 100, 200 years ago (and is still rampant in some circles today):

  • Immediate results, validation for the preacher
  • No depth of study required
  • Prospect of falling out of grace brought parishoners back for a moral recharge

You can think of more.

It’s hard to preach, “I don’t know what to make of this. I’ve studied it out. The Bible doesn’t talk about Christians going to heaven, after all. God comes down from heaven to join us on a new earth. Punishment is eternal, but I’m not clear about whether it is ongoing torment or obliteration.”

If you’re an “h & d”-type preacher, all you’re left with is to turn red in the face, bug your eyes out, pound on the pulpit and shout: “So as near as I can tell, we believers will all go to DISNEY WORLD! And the rest of you sorry sinners WILL SPEND ETERNITY IN CLEVELAND!”

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

Second Coming, Part VII: John’s Gospel

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII

First of all, sorry for all of the long posts. They’d be shorter if I didn’t feel so compelled to post the scriptures which have the really useful and relevant information, rather than just my blither-blatherings.

I know I’m starting early in John and I’ve been there before in this blog, but I hope to get to a point with it eventually:

John 4:19-26 – “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

Short point this time. The Messiah’s coming was expected. Even by a wayward woman in Samaria who disagreed with mainstream Judaism and its expectation of where people must worship. John felt that it was important to point this out – possibly knowing that three other writers had left it out – and I have no argument with his reasoning.

Besides, I can’t build a long post from this gospel; John spends almost no time and few words on the subject of eschatology. No signs in the heavens; the sun, moon or stars. No coming in clouds. No wars, no earthquakes. Perhaps he thought the Synoptic writers had covered it sufficiently.

Then there’s also the fact that Jesus uses a peculiar phrase here – “a time is coming and has now come.” How can it be both? How can a time be both come and already here? How can God be the God who was, who is and who is to come? All at the same time?

I dunno. I can’t explain it. I just believe it. Let’s move on.

John 5:24-30 – “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”

Resurrection, however, is another matter. John spends plenty of time and words on the subject. Here it’s tied to judgment. And Jesus uses that peculiar mixed-tense phrasing again: “a time is coming and has now come.” In the conversation with the Samaritan woman, He used it in connection with the how and where of worship. Here, it’s in connection with resurrection and judgment. Is there a link? If I knew what it was, I’d hyperlink it. But I dunno.

Next:

John 12:28-32 – “Father, glorify your name!”

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Judgment comes now! Jesus says. What exactly does He mean by “now”?

Whose world is this, anyhow?

Does Jesus still let demons live inside of people? Wouldn’t that be a sign that the prince of this world had not been driven out? Right then, when Jesus said, “now”? Okay, He does use future tense (“will be driven out.”) Later, speaking at the final meal, Jesus tells his followers about the Holy Spirit: “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” Is it possible that the apostles took care of the last of the clean-up work demon-wise because the demon prince no longer had the authority to put them into people?

Is it possible because when Jesus was lifted up from the earth and drew all men to Himself, that the demons could not go in His direction? When was the moment of judgment? Is it still happening today? Rolling backward in time from that moment as well? Rolling forward to our day and age? All the while raising those who are in their graves at the sound of His voice; those who did good, to life – and those who did evil, to condemnation?

Is judgment a fundamental truth of eternity that simply transcends time and our meager understanding of it?

John 14:1-4 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Of course they knew. You told them, Lord: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life …”

Now this is a real message of hope. He promises to go prepare a place for us among the many rooms of His Father’s house. He’ll come back for us. We’ll live with God!

But a little later, the Truth will have to hurt:

John 16:16-18 – “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

And, lest we smugly think we know and understand … do we know when we will see Him? or where? or how?

Shouldn’t it motivate us to live purer, more sacrifical lives to know that it’s just “a little while”?

Part I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII