Thursday, June 16, 2005

Second Coming, Part I: What Does It Mean?

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

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.

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

8 comments:

TCS said...

off the subject, but your tongue post at Mike Cope's for some reason still has me laughing!

DJG said...

Simple expectant longing faith...The thing that is so hard to accomplish because we are too busy, or too busy trying to figure it all out!

Brian Burkett said...

Amen, brother Keith...

Christians seem to spend all their time worried about what's going to happen at the end. I'm really not all that post-millenial, pre-millenial, or anything else. I just want to be on Jesus' side when He comes back...

In the meantime, there is work to be done here... now... We are disciples living in a Kingdom... NOW!!!!!! Get to work and stop arguing over things you cannot possibly know a definite answer to.

If you have an opinion about the endtimes, that's fine. I've got one too. I've also got a couple of armpits, and they usually stink.

Until we find out who is right, let's unite and expand God's Kingdom now... Now... NOW!!!!!!!!

jettybetty said...

Several times I have decided I was going to figure the end times out. I have read thousand page books (and only got more confused)--I have read the scriptures over and over--and I finally decided that God didn't want me to figure this one out.
At RH Rick introduced the concept of pan-millenial--and I like that--it will all pan out. God can do it however he chooses--right now, I am with Brian, there are many people that need Jesus.
What I particularly like about this post is that God reveals it on a need to know basis. I have never thought about that before. I am going to have to mentally chew on that one for a bit--it's very interesting!
JB

Raymond Fleming said...

It's not that the end-times* scriptures don't have a future application; they do! It's not that the end-times* scriptures didn't apply for those people in the first century; they did! So how do we draw comfort from and apply the end-times* scriptures (especially the book of Revelation) today?

If we say that everything Revelation speaks about was finished in 70 AD or is only confined for those people in some thinly defined future time frame (say next year or 1000 years from now), I think we deny the power of those words to speak to us and teach us now about things we're dealing with now.

I'm certainly not sure I know now, any more than twenty years ago (when I was so sure about things) how to balance the past with the future in the present. I think, though, the answer might be in that balancing act.

I'm intrigued by your ilustration of the falling "brick" as the image of judgement. This,also, is my idea about judgement, that God is going to someday smash and break everything bad and that we will live happily ever after in heaven (an oversimplification to be sure). But I heard someone say recently that God's purpose is "to put the world to right." This includes judgement, but so much more. I've been walking around thinking about that and how it challenges my views of things.

Sorry, I'm rambling now, on your blog, no less. I'll stop now.

Thanks, Keith, for giving me something to think about (especially the idea that "the battlefield's in our own hearts").

*I use the word "end-times" because, I think, most people know what I'm saying. I've been arguing with myself about whether or not those are the right words to describe what we're talking about.

Anonymous said...

The gods hate the Second Coming of Christ because he wants to reverse their prior decisions condemning The Damned. And they seek to defeat him because of it.

Keith Brenton said...

Of all of the interpretations and points of view out there, Anonymous, yours is certainly one of them.

mmlace said...

Okay, Keith, I realize I'm, like, three years late commenting on this one. (But give me a break, I wasn't even reading your blog three years ago!)

But recently I've read a couple of things that grabbed my attention and made me want to take a little bit closer look at this subject.

I've actually scanned this series of yours before, but didn't really delve into it. So I'm about to dive in now and see what I come out with.

Just so you know.