One of the most intriguing aspects of Christianity has always been the negative side; the quest for the answer as to when the end will come?
Associated with that of course, is almost always the return of Jesus or more commonly known as the “second coming” of Christ.
This is not strictly speaking limited to Christian theology; many other of the world’s religions are plagued with this same intrigue associated with their messianic figures and end time beliefs as well.
This seems to be a result of human curiosity in the divine, interacting with his intelligent creation by having lived among us, making a dramatic impact on us, then leaving and promising to return again at some point. The “some point” has always been the great and mysterious issue.
Within Christianity, every generation since Jesus’ ascension has thought Christ would return within their life time; it appears to be a fundamental demonstration of faith, hope and trust. It is also a reinforcement and reaffirmation that our belief in Christ is real and genuine. In much respect it reassures us that Jesus Himself is real.
In fact when Jesus did not return by the end of the mid first century C.E., the apostle Peter began speaking out to those Christian followers who had started falling away. Many of these faithful became skeptical and began leaving by the droves because they saw no evidence of a “soon return of Jesus”. They no longer wanted to put their families in danger of persecution by either the Roman government or Jewish religious hierarchy. The entire two epistles of Peter to the church seem to hint at or emphasize this fact. Second Peter chapters two and three are especially emphatic as to the second coming of Christ. The apostle Peter is careful to emphasize that “the when” of Christ coming is not as important as is the reality that He will ultimately return. Peter even points out in 2 Peter 3:10 that the day of the Lord will come like a thief. In other words it will be sudden and without warning; no one knows when it will happen.
It seems there has always been something or someone to spark the flame of curiosity among Christians to the nearness of Christ’s return to earth (and everything that entails).
The Jewish/Christian diaspora by the Romans (forcing the banishing of Jews and Christians from the empire), the Crusades, the Hun and Islamic wars on Christians, the black plague/black death, discovery of the new world, King Henry and King James of England, numerous Kings of France and Belgium, Napoleon, Vladimir Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Communism and Mao Zedong as well as a variety of Popes have all supposed to have been part of the “signs of the end times” and ushering in the return of Jesus to earth.
United States Presidents have also been linked to this eschatological thought including (but not limited to) Roosevelt, Kennedy and (most recently) Barack Obama. Each supposedly has been linked to either the anti-Christ or second coming.
Even Abraham Lincoln was accused by preachers from the South of being the anti-Christ with freeing of the slaves. Some at the time actually interpreted our Civil War as the Biblical Armageddon which the “anti-Christ” Lincoln had started. After his assassination, it was inevitable that many preachers of the time proclaimed Lincoln’s death by a head wound was confirmation he was indeed the anti-Christ; after all it was right from the Bible.
It certainly must have seemed like it was the end time since our Civil War was such a bloody war and America had been proclaimed as the “New Israel” and lost tribe of Israel for decades at that time. Added to that was the fact that our founders based the United States on the Roman form of government and saw us as the resurrected Roman empire and you have the making of "instant fulfilled prophecy".
Preachers, pastors and theologians have all joined in the parade of the proclamation of Jesus promise to return as well.
In the last millennium, men such as Jonathan Edwards, John and Charles Wesley, Billy Sunday, C.I. Schofield, Lewis Sperry Schaeffer, Dwight L. Moody and in our time Dr. Billy Graham with his ever popular book, “World Aflame” spoke boldly, dramatically and even systematically of how Jesus was soon to re-appear on the stage of mankind but still we await His return.
Most recently after archeology pointed to the Mayan Calendar being the most accurate calendar ever created by man yet ending on December 21, 2012, not only did science but Christian pastors and theologians get on the band wagon of predicting the end; or at least the beginning of the end and the return of Christ or the rapture of the church.
Contemporary preachers, theologians and televangelist all speculated as to how the Mayan Calendar possibly had some link to Israel having become a nation in 1948, the son of perdition and the anti-Christ; as well as an indication as to possibly when the rapture of the church would take place.
Men like Hal Lindsay, Jack Van Impe and John Hagee all were espousing some relationship to the Mayan Calendar; how be it even a slight link to the second coming of Christ.
December 21, 2012 has come and gone and as this article states Jesus was a no show again.
This is not to say this writer/pastor doesn’t believe in the second coming of Jesus Christ and the rapture of the church; to the contrary.
The irony to all of the preaching and teaching about the return of Jesus is that Jesus himself said that not even he knew when He would return nor did He ever actually instruct us to preach about it.
Jesus final instructions to us were what are commonly referred to as the “great commission” found in Matthew 28:18-20: Go (literally “as you go”) and make followers of all the nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to do all the things I have told you. And I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
In other words, Jesus will eventually return but that isn’t the center piece of His teaching and not the emphasis to be proclaimed.
The emphasis to Jesus teaching is that very simple message most of us grew up with found in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only (begotten or genetically possible) Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
The emphasis of course is God’s love for us through giving us Jesus and allowing us to return His love and believe in Him while passing on that love to the world.
When we live out our Lord’s final commission, we deter from the thoughts of skeptics that Jesus is never coming back and emphasize that He is alive and well in the hearts and lives of believers in both spirit and truth.
God bless each of us who await the glorious and triumphant return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
© 2012 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III