HAS GOD SET A DATE?
The first Christian writer that believed in the immediate return of Christ was the Apostle Paul. He expected to be changed and be taken up with Christ (I Cor.15: 51). He refrained from setting a date, except that it shall be sudden and unexpected (II Thes.5: 1-2). Jesus, too, gave the impression that His followers and His enemies could witness His return in the clouds of heaven (Mt.26: 64). However, in His end-time speech, His follower would witness the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem and not the end of the world (Mt.24: 1-6). God had not disclosed a date for the final event of the world. Even small events happen when they are due without God setting dates (Mk.13: 32). John was informed that the end would not come until all the saints, yet to be born, would have come in (Rev.6: 11). God has and is giving every human ample time where he/she wants to spend eternity (II Pe.3: 9).
God has no timetable. For Him, a thousand years are but one day (Ps.90: 4). For man, time is of the essence. He has no eternity where he can lay up treasures that shall bear eternal dividends. All that work must be done here on earth (Mt.6: 20). It is not lip service that leans on grace, but deeds that please God the Father (Mt.7: 21-23). We prepare ourselves by putting substance into our faith (Ja.2: 14-26). In particular, when times are difficult, the followers of Christ must perform more nobly so that the name of the Lord is even more visible (Mt.5: 14-16). It is a little matter when we are good to our own kind. Jesus promised special recognition to those that dare to love and serve their enemies (Mt.5: 43-48). Deeds of kindness outweigh all our beliefs and confessions.
The delay of Christ’s return has been critical. Christians themselves have become cold and loveless. Evil has prospered. The Holy City and Land have been trampled on for nearly two millenniums. And the Gospel can now reach the globe. This most definitely is a time when Jesus’ faithful are looking for the return of their Lord (Mt.24: 9-22). And it is precisely at such a time, that we must stop looking for Christ’s return anywhere in this world. Such a Christ is an imitation, sent by the tempter (Satan), to deceive the most faithful ones of Jesus. We are told not to believe such rumors (Mt.24: 23-28). When the true Christ returns, He shall come with such visible demonstration and force, that no one shall have any doubt and there shall be no question where the faithful ones went (Mt.24: 29-31)? Revelation give us this glimpse, “There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made out of goat hair, the whole mountain turned blood red. And the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from the fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place” (6: 12-14).
Please note the reference to the “strong wind.” It is used as a weapon to destroy what God had previously built. It is a synonym for the Spirit or breath of God. In Genesis 1: 2, it is the creative power. It gives life to man (Gen.2: 7). In Noah’s time, His Spirit did punish (Gen.6: 3). In John 3: 8, the wind signaled the rebirth of the Spirit in the followers of Christ. This was confirmed on Pentecost (Ac.2: 1-4). Towards the end of time, that wind or Spirit shall become less and less visible in the world. The lawless one shall have no more opposition from God’s Spirit until Jesus returns and destroys him with the breath of His mouth (II Thes.2: 1-12). The triumph of evil is the most predominant sign that the end is near for many of Christ’s followers, but not for the end of the world. That secret, God has yet to reveal.
Meanwhile, we are not to run after Christ; rather, we need to do what He would be doing. We are to serve each other and others in such a way that we shall not be surprised when the Lord shows up. We will not be prepared by withdrawing from the world and sit on our belief. We cannot let our guard down. By being faithful in carrying out our chores, we shall be able to look into each other’s eyes and into the eyes of our Creator. In connection with Jesus’ statement on the end of all things, He left us three Parables that we can follow (Mt.25). The oil, in the Parable of the five virgins, is indicative of being a blessing in the world; the two men with talents rendered rewarding service and the sheep shall be rewarded for their in-obtrusive service. The five foolish maidens, the one talent man and the goats are not admitted into Christ’s world. Salvation shall come only to those that “stand firm to the end” (Mt.24: 13). It does not mean the end of time but the end of a person’s life. My time began at my birth and ends with my death, but my influence passes on into eternity. Nevertheless, before the end comes, everyone must hear the Gospel (Mt.24: 14). And that can only happen when the last human being has been born and heard God’s news.