My kids surprised me in mid-March by driving and flying into Landisville to share a special celebration of my 60th birthday. On Saturday during their stay, we made a visit to the Lancaster Central Market. While traveling through this awesome place we were “greeted” by people with a message, button-holing us with the news. “Jesus is coming May 21, 2011.” Most of us made a point of walking past or around them. My son Chris, always loving a debate, went back to “chat.” His question, “How do you know he’s coming May 21st?” One guy attempted a somewhat obscure explanation, but they others couldn’t answer that question. They had simply been told this “fact” but not told how the Bible guarantees it. Personal note: Just given how bad the world had become (the Japan earthquake had just occurred the day before), it seemed like a good idea.
Please understand, as a Christian I believe that Jesus who died on a cross, was raised on the third day, and ascended into heaven is returning. In fact, given humanity’s long-proven ability to self-destruct; the greatest hope we have is that He will return to establish His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The Bible does teach that clearly. My problem with the guys in the Central Market, and the same issue that my son Chris(who by the way has read the Bible, too) raised is, “Why do you feel compelled to put a date on that which we are told we will not know until the day arrives?”
Jesus himself said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. ” Mark 13:32. And we read in Acts 1:7:” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
I also believe that for those who already have let His kingdom come, His will be done in their lives here on Planet Earth, his returning will be a time of indescribable joy–of hope realized as ultimate reality.
What disturbs me is how many people – Christian and non-Christian alike — seem fascinated with dating the end instead of preparing for His arrival. Usually that dating is used by some as an evangelistic sledge hammer warning people to get their act together. It is often done with a spirit that I once found on a bumper sticker in the 70’s “Jesus is coming again and boy is he pissed.” The combination of the two becomes a “turn or burn” message with just a hint of self-satisfaction. “You sinners are finally going to pay for messing up the world.”
What I find to be far more worthy of my time as a Christian is doing what Jesus would be doing until He returns. And that should be done with an intensity and an urgency that he could arrive tomorrow. Instead of trying to convince people with signs — earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars – why not convince them with the Good News of the Kingdom proclaimed and practiced?
“For God so loved the world …” is a message for people who have long lived as if they themselves were our only hope and have found that message wanting. Earthquakes in Japan are opportunities to share the cup of cold water in Jesus name (for which we who profess a relationship with Christ will be judged when He returns) is as important activity of preparing people for His returning as standing with a bullhorn on a street corner declaring a doom people are already experiencing. Continuing to work for justice in His name, especially for the victims of injustice; instead of waiting for God simply to judge us for our injustice now. that is both the message and the work of the Kingdom God is establishing.
Naming the date makes a mockery of the Word of God because we have now selectively ignored a clear teaching of the Word of God. Living and speaking as people for whom the Kingdom of God has already come into their lives is what Jesus is looking for when He returns.
When the Son of Man comes will he find faith in action? Or will he find people too busy trying to do the calculations and packing their bags to be doing the work of the Kingdom?
(c) 2011 by Stephen L Dunn