December 13, 2019 Thirteenth day of Advent
See, I am coming soon! Revelation 22: 7
When my son was in high school, the “Left Behind” books were very popular Christian novels. Written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, this series of books followed a set of characters who had been “left behind” after the rapture of all faithful Christians and who were doing what they could to get “redeemed” before Jesus” “second coming”. The books were an action-packed adventure series based primarily on a loose interpretation of the New Testament book of Revelation and the Old Testament book of Daniel (actually only the second part of Daniel). AJ and I read them all because they were entertaining. We did not read them because they described exactly what the “end times” were going to look like. That’s because Revelation and Daniel are not intended to be taken literally. They are a particular type of literature called “apocalyptic” that is entirely metaphorical. Such literature is hard to interpret and understand. But nevertheless, Revelation does speak to Jesus “return” as does Paul and to some extent Jesus. But the question remains, what does that mean and when will it happen?
Paul thought that Jesus would return in Paul’s lifetime. Jesus even suggested that the end times would come within the lifetime of at least some of his disciples. They are all dead and we still wait. Revelation just says “soon” and we all know that “soon” to God is not “soon” to us. We are like the Jews of Jesus’ day who waited generations for the Messiah. Waiting has become part of our Christian faith. Faith that God will come to live with us, again, and eternally.
It is appropriate that we ponder this during Advent. Advent celebrates the “waiting” for God to act. For Christians, we wait for God to act again. Jews understood God’s protection of and provision for Israel as a sign that God would act. We Christians should understand that the incarnation, the birth and life of Jesus, was that act, and that that act was God’s eternal act. What happens next, whether a “second coming” like the one in Revelation or some other unexpected “return” (remember Jesus did not really look like the Messiah the Jews expected, so his “return” might not be what we expect) is not part of Jesus promise of forgiveness. That was completed on the cross. As my favorite seminary professor, Bonnie Thurston, once said: “The war is over. Everything now is just a clean-up action.” Emanuel – God with us is sufficient for us all. That is why the “I am coming soon” quote is nothing to worry about. Just wait and see.