WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR?
FOR JESUS TO COME BACK, SILLY!
Lately, I’m been posting my thoughts on the Rapture of the Church and following up on the TV interviews I did with Dr. Douglas D Stauffer. In this article, I want to stress why we should be watching for the Second Coming of Christ (the “Parousia”) regardless of what view of the Rapture we hold–AND whether we believe that the Parousia includes or doesn’t include the Rapture of the Church. This article is drawn from my book that focuses the Second Coming of Christ and the centrality of the Kingdom of God to Jesus’ message, Blood Moon: Biblical Signs of the Coming Apocalypse. This weekend I’m offering the Kindle Version of that book for just $2.99. I invite you to visit my Amazon author page (CLICK HERE) to check out that book and all my other books. I hope you make note of the latest, Mistaken Identity: The Case Against the Islamic Antichrist. It is available at Amazon on Kindle for $6.99 and also available at Prophecy in the News in paperback. Enjoy your weekend! And enjoy the article too.
COMING BACK FOR US IN THE SAME WAY HE LEFT
We read in Acts, chapter 1 (verses 6-8):
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of Him, saying, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
7 And He said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
We are taught that “no one shall know the day nor the hour” of the Lord’s return. The statement in verse 7 is slightly different but seems to convey the same admonition. Perhaps that is so. Perhaps we should never focus on when the Lord will return. But is this what the passage teaches, that His disciples should abstain from all wonderings about the time of His return? Hardly.
Here Jesus’ words imply only a mild rebuke, not for asking when He would return but in hoping for His return for the wrong reason. They remained focused on their ‘deliverance’ from the enemies of Israel. Therefore, Jesus set them straight. Their mission was not to foment an insurgency against the Romans or to retaliate against the leaders of Israel, despite the loathing which Jesus held for them. They should not see Jesus as the Conquering King—not yet. The agenda for the disciples was to be witnesses, first in the city of Jerusalem, then in their province of Judea, and then beyond their homeland. This plan was global in scope. They were not to think in terms of a Kingdom in Israel, but a Kingdom of God across the entire earth. This was their mission statement.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11 Which also said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
Within this passage, we see a paradox in the meaning of the Kingdom of God: it was not for them to know the exact time or season. And yet, time is slipping away. Jesus Christ will be returning—and soon! This is the strategic principle we will examine in this book.[That book being, BLOOD MOON: BIBLICAL SIGNS OF THE APOCALYPSE.]
Luke tells us that two men (suddenly) stood by them in white apparel and said, in effect, “There is no time to waste. You must get busy now. This same Jesus, which you have just seen ascend into heaven, will come back to this earth in the very same manner.” The implication was that they should assume He would be coming back within their lifetime, maybe within a decade or less! They must be witnesses and yet they must witness with haste, with a sense of urgency. They only thing they were to wait for was the coming of the Spirit, so that their efforts would literally be ‘imbued by power from on high.’ The mission was so critical that God Himself, in the form of the Spirit of Christ, would come to live in them that He might help them achieve their objective. The Spirit would enable their witness to the works of God, to the salvation Jesus Christ had just won for everyone in the world.
This was also a key aspect to the message: the emphasis was universal in scope. They were not to ‘hang out’ in Jerusalem and wait for Jesus to come back to save the Temple. He had already predicted that the Jewish Temple would be destroyed. “Not one stone will be left upon another.” (Mark 13:2) As magnificent as the Temple was, it was soon to crumble. The foundation of the new faith was not in a building made with human hands. God had once chosen to live inside the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. Solomon had built a house for Him—one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. But no longer would the LORD God dwell there. Now He would live within them. As stalwart as the stones were, as solid and indestructible as the Temple appeared, it would not stand the test of time. A different kind of stone would comprise the essence of the true religion from thenceforth.
This new faith as exemplified in the affirmation of Peter (Peter, the petra, the ‘little rock’)—a new faith that would become a giant rock (a petros) able to withstand all attacks. It would prevail against the very gates of Hell itself (Matthew 16:18). The coming destruction of the Temple stood as a not-so-subtle clue that the Jewish religion should not be their focus. Their very bodies would become the Temple of the Lord. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19) So they must revamp their way of thinking. They must get out of Jerusalem and go beyond their Jewish homeland. They must take the message to the ends of the earth.
And yet, this same Jesus would return again VERY SOON in like manner. Consequently, there is no time to lose! It was, after all, a very big world, bigger even than the disciples knew.
THE APOCALYPSE, A KEY ELEMENT TO THEIR MESSAGE
And yet, the passage remains puzzling for several reasons. We should not find it challenging because of the miraculous event which took place (Jesus ascending into the clouds) or angels appearing alongside the disciples with a message as firm as it was frantic in content. Many (if not most) who believe in Jesus Christ today believe miracles do happen and that these events as recorded in the Bible and are just as likely to be literally true as they are to be spiritual symbols of a living Christ. Jesus’ directive, however, seems to be in stark contrast with the statement from the angels. On the one hand, Jesus admonishes His disciples not to ask about whether the Kingdom is coming at this time. On the other, the message from His angelic ambassadors left no room for debate: Jesus will be coming back again, physically and “in the clouds, just as you saw Him leave.” His return will be spectacular. And when He returns, it will be too late for those who have not heard of Him, those who have not accepted His message. Otherwise, why would there be such a sense of urgency? Therefore, the gist of their proclamation was obvious: “Get the message out now. Hurry!”
Despite this splendid sense of urgency, here we are 2,000 years later and still Jesus has not returned in the same manner as He left. So we are inclined to wonder whether the message of Jesus’ soon return was perhaps a ‘bit’ overstated. Were the angels sensationalists, motivating the disciples with misleading information? Worse, was Jesus mistaken about a matter so vital to His legacy? I hardly think so.
Modern theologians believe that Jesus was literally a man of his time—and He was flat wrong about the end of the world. While that modernist conclusion is easy to draw, it obviously makes Jesus out to be something of a fool. That perspective may occupy the highest citadels of theological scholars, but it lies at the bottom of a very dark and dank pit of gross error. Jesus was not mistaken about His Second Advent. There was much more to the story than what such conventional wisdom supposed.
Lest we fail to get the point like the disciples failed to understand, let me draw out the point plainly. The disciples were to be His witnesses throughout the world and for the remainder of the age in light of the very fact that He would come back. The message was not inaccurate at all—not if we realize that the coming apocalypse comprises an indispensable element in the Christian gospel just as much today as it did two millennia ago.
The Lord requires we be forever vigilant about His return. In essence, that is what this book contends. We should be watching—everyday. As my friends at Prophecy in the News have always said in closing their television program, “Keep looking up!” No doubt there are times when such advice could get you into trouble. Goodness knows (when walking around in the pasture) ranchers here in Oklahoma are careful NOT to look up.
The Apocalypse, however, constitutes the sine qua non of the gospel of Jesus Christ. What does that Latin phrase mean? The words literally mean “without which not.” But Merriam-Webster tells us that sine qua non means something that is absolutely indispensable. It is essential. If you do not have this element then you have nothing at all.
In the context of the Apocalypse and the Good News of Jesus Christ—His gospel—there is no gospel if there is no apocalypse. As we will discuss later, Jesus placed the apocalypse at the center of His message. His understanding of the Kingdom of God was not an ethereal spiritual cosmology such as the Gnostics propounded when they twisted the gospel to fit their perennial philosophy already ages old by the time they sought to corrupt Christianity with its arcane assertions. Neither was it a sentimental conception of religious meaning which we encounter in New Age books or lectures. It was not enlightenment granted by the Buddha. It was not empowerment through mastering magical incantations or rituals. No, to Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God was a physical, historical, “in your face” turning of the tables on the unrighteous powers that control the world. As His beatitudes emphasized, the world would soon be turned upside down. Those in power would soon find themselves put out to pasture. Those that were poor in spirit who feel estranged for their inability to manifest what religious leaders lauded as true religion—they would be the role models of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who were meek and controlled nothing in this present age, would soon inherit (possess) the whole world in the age to come. Those who were in last place will win the blue ribbon and those who were first in line will be made to wait until the very last. The Kingdom of God consists in a monumental reversal of fortune. The Kingdom of God envisions this radical change in the way the world will be governed and how its citizens will live their lives. This is the gospel Jesus preached.
KEEPING A KINGDOM MINDSET
Given this paradoxical character of the Kingdom of God—that Jesus’ disciples are asked to embrace the paradox of seeking to convert the whole world even while they remain vigilant waiting for His return—perhaps we should stop asking the question of “when will it happen.” Perhaps we should only ask, “What must we be doing today since Jesus is coming very soon?” There is little doubt that we should maintain a Kingdom mindset in more ways than one. Not only should we realize that the methods and standards of the present age are anathema in the age to come. We should also face the ever-present proximity of His return. We live in a transient time—we are between two ages. We must relinquish the values of the old age. We must embrace the values of the new, even though the new world to come awaits consummation. This contradiction comprises “the already, not yet.” It constitutes the tension within which the Church of Jesus Christ must practice its faith—exemplifying the new Kingdom. We are to model that Kingdom today, even though our lifestyle will not be fully in fashion until the Kingdom comes.
So does this make the question of when Jesus will return a non-sense question? Should we live like the existentialist who finds meaning by embracing the paradox of meaninglessness? Should we commit ourselves to an existence in which a final resolution never arrives? Given that Jesus demanded His disciples believe in His immediate return, all the while knowing that His Kingdom was at least two millennia away (Jesus had awareness that His Kingdom was not to come until many centuries in the future). What manner of man was this that asked his followers to adopt such an irrational lifestyle, conflicting with the values of the world, and their everyday common sense and better judgment?
If we assume (incorrectly I might emphasize) that there was never to be resolution in the form of a physical, earthly kingdom, then clearly the gospel of Jesus Christ must mean something very different than what the Church has taught its members for most of its 2,000 year history.
No, the intention of this paradox must be that the followers of Jesus Christ ought always to remember that for each of them, the duration of their waiting, their anticipation of the Kingdom, remains bounded by two very real truths: one—we are all finite and we will die someday; two—that someday may be today.
We never have that much time left in the bank. At most, we will enjoy no more than 80 years of service, and then we will move on to the next phase of our existence. Likewise, we never know whether the day in which we find ourselves will be our last day. Like Job, we should recognize that our life is but a breath—our existence hangs by a thin thread (Job 7:7). When our number is called and our time is up, we will be with our Lord and the Kingdom of God, for each one of us—separately—begins at that distinctive moment. Either (1) living in light of the imminent space-time return of Christ, or (2) the transition to living consciously in His presence. Either way, the same reality stares us squarely in the face, whether or not we realize just how real and imminent this outcome is.
And I might conclude that this fact doesn’t change no matter which position we profess: “Pre-Trib”, “Mid-Trib”, “Pre-wrath”, or “Post-Trib”. One day soon, we will meet our maker. For Christians who eagerly await His coming, that day can’t come soon enough. But for those that don’t know Him, the coming of Jesus should provoke in them an enormous sense of dread. They certainly hope that day will never come.
Nevertheless, the return of the LORD is meant to motivate Christians to get the word out, to purify themselves, and to be looking up (daily)! His apocalypse (His revealing) is that climatic moment for which Jesus admonished his followers to be watching, for it is THE main event that we in the community of the believers in Jesus Christ await.