The Anticipation Is Killing Me So Will It Really Happen?
by Dr. Henderson Ward
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On the night before Christmas many children are so overcome with anticipation that they can’t sleep. Many individuals on the night before their wedding do exactly the same. We all know from experience what we go through when some long-awaited, joyous event is near, birth of a child for example, and expectancy becomes unbearable. All of these emotions, and a lot more besides, are in play as we wait for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.
Over two thousand years ago Jesus Christ the Son of God came to this earth and lived a perfect life as a human being. His death at the age of 33 years was untimely and cruel but it was all foreseen and every thing happened in accordance with God’s will. Before Jesus departed this world, prior to his death and glorious resurrection, he made an important promise, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:3).
Two thousand years to keep a promise, in terms of human thinking, seems to be a long time and many have grown weary and lost all hope. The skeptics are having the time of their lives for they never believed the promise in the first place and it seems events are supporting their contention. But the doubters are wrong for they confuse their myopic timescale with God’s well-planned timescale; they fail to differentiate between a seeming delay and a cancellation and even more so they fail to understand the scriptures and God’s compassion for mankind.
Our scripture for reflection is Acts 1:11 when in the last few minutes of his earthly existence Jesus is ascending to heaven and his faithful disciples, who were with him day and night for three and a half years, just cannot take in what they are witnessing. They are seeing it, and seeing is to know, seeing is reality and yet something tells them “this can’t be happening”. Their sensory perception was overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the event and as they gazed disbelievingly into the sky two men stood by them in white apparel and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Ac 1:11) If this was the only scripture that supported the doctrine of the Second Advent of Jesus Christ we would be confident that it will take place because God’s words need no corroboration or affirmation to establish its veracity. But as we shall see in this reflection the Bible is full of references to the Second Advent, for this is the blessed hope of all believers and you are invited to come with me as we examine together the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.
First we note regrettably that the godless disbelieve his coming
This is not a recent phenomenon for there has always been doubters going right back to the beginning of Christianity. Just as it was in Jesus’ day the same is true in our day; there are those who disregard the teachings of Jesus and nothing will convince them. We owe it to ourselves to respectfully examine these godless people to see if they can teach us anything of value.
It is fair that we examine their disposition
There is a human tide of godless people sweeping over the land infecting everything it touches and it is particularly hostile to the concept that Jesus Christ will return to this earth. Among this group are anarchists, and those who believe that man’s existence is pointless and those who see everything as a meaningless accident with no future. The Apostle Peter, writing to Christians everywhere warning them of corrupt teachers and the like, called these people scoffers, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lust, and saying , Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4a). Their outlook motivates them to mock, ridicule, make fun of and deride anything spiritual. You do not have to look very hard to recognize it today! People such as these, approaching biblical concepts with a closed mind and a hard heart, will not avail themselves of the knowledge and grace of the soon returning Jesus Christ though both are freely available.
Many today laugh at and pour scorn on Christians’ belief and sneer along with these godless people, especially the atheist, but nothing they say or do will affect the Second Advent in any way for God is going to surprise them all.
It is reasonable that we scrutinize their demeanour
These godless people are obstinately adhering to a rotten lifestyle, which they do not want to give up, meaning that they are willfully and forcefully poking fun at God’s coming judgment. This conduct becomes comfortable and acceptable to them and before long becomes conventional just as the people of Noah’s day were so inclined. “For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away…” (Matthew 24:38-39a)
It is mighty hard to convince those wallowing in such behaviour that something cataclysmic is approaching or even likely for they will respond only when disaster strikes. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were similarly disposed, “And Lot went out and spake to his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.” (Genesis 19:14).
The world today is in very great slumber, indifferent and disbelieving but it makes no difference with God and the world will soon find out!
It is rational that we study their disparagement
The doubters look back over their tiny lifespan and heap derision on God because he has not performed to their expectations, “And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3: 4) They are contemptuous of Bible prophecy and take neither the time to enquire and understand its provisions nor appreciate the total accuracy of its performance to date and the Bible warns, “Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44).
God can come for this world and bring closure at any time and it matters not what you or anyone else thinks! We should not delude ourselves that our refusal to accept certain truths has some impact on those truths. Because some people believed the earth was flat did not make it so.
Next we view with delight that God decided his coming
God’s determination is according to his wisdom
God does not work to the timescales and impulses of ignorant men, lets agree that if he did he would not be God, but rather to the wisdom and counsel of himself for the greater good of mankind based on his superior wisdom. The Bible asserts this superior wisdom like this, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9). Man makes flawed decisions and then scrambles around trying to find people to blame for his mistakes but this is not God’s way.
God plans, then executes and stands ready to verify the rightness of his decisions. People forget that Sovereign God is in charge, “But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases.” (Job 23: 13 – NIV). The timing, tone and tenure of the Second Advent of Jesus Christ have been decided by God alone and to him be the glory for his matchless wisdom.
God’s intention is according to his will
The greatest comfort to all mankind is that God’s sovereign will prevails supremely in all matters where God so decides and man can neither influence it nor set it aside. He worked according to his will in forming this world, “Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33: 8-9). He worked according to his will in sending the Flood, “And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…” (Genesis 6:7a) and did just that, “And all flesh died that moved upon the face of the earth…and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth and every man.” (Genesis 7:21). He worked according to his will in sending Jesus Christ to die for mankind and offer us redemption, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
In like manner God has determined when it is right to destroy this world, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now by the same word, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment…” (2 Peter 3:7) Believers need not fear for God will deliver his promises exactly in compliance with his decretive will.
God’s timing is according to his word
We will never know in this life but perhaps in the life to come the full substantiality, power and reach of that which proceed out of the mouth of God. God does not lightly give his word, but having given it is bound by it forever. “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89) and this is boldly affirmed in Matthew, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18) This is related to the word of God given by law through Moses and completely honoured by God but the honouring of his word went far beyond the law to his every pronouncement as shown here, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matthew 24: 35).
God has told us through his prophets that his everlasting kingdom will come, headed by the Messiah Jesus Christ, and it will come just as it is declared in God’s word. It is for good reason that believers live and die by it for God’s word is eternally reliable.
We observe thankfully that God apparently delayed his coming
For many in the world it would seem that God’s coming, the Second Advent of Jesus Christ is long overdue. Some early Christians too were convinced of his immediate return and had stopped working and were literally waiting on the mountaintops and fields for his return and Paul had to set them straight as told in 2 Thessalonians. What to us is an apparent delay or a sign of unscheduled lateness is nothing of the kind but patently part of God’s original plans. As we consider this “delayed coming” we should contemplate several important factors.
God’s apparent delay compels us to contemplate the present reality
God’s time clock runs to a different scale from man’s and the eternal God is totally oblivious to a divine urgency, “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8) God’s reality is eternal and time has no definitive influence but man’s reality is temporal and time is of the essence. We are admonished accordingly, “Redeeming the time for the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) The time of judgment (and therefore his Second Advent) is coming, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) and Jesus himself will be Judge, “…and testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead.” (Acts 10:42b) It may be difficult for us but we absolutely must see this Second Advent from God’s perspective rather than our own.
God’s apparent delay requires us to consider this reminder
Because the eternal God is not working to our timescale and program does not mean he is sloppy and slack as some would charge. The Apostle Peter says this, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Remember always that God’s timing is perfect and because he is God he will not be coerced into precipitate action but will act when he is ready and not before. It is just possible that the time is near that all who will be saved are saved and then the world’s existence becomes rather pointless from God’s perspective.
God’s apparent delay is positive so cherish this reason
If God’s coming is delayed as viewed from a temporal standpoint then it is so for redemptive purposes based on God’s compassion and tolerance. Humans have this capacity for wanting things done their way and to their timing. It is like a bus waiting to leave the terminal and it is already a few minutes late when you manage to get on. You now become impatient for the bus to leave completely forgetting that if it had left on time you would have missed it. God’s timing benefits mankind, “…but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). But the wait will not be forever just as the bus will surely leave the terminal, the train will without doubt leave the station and the Second Advent unquestionably will take place.
Whatever the reasons for the apparent delay the time to act is now. Behold now is the accepted time, tomorrow may be too late. From the first day the flood was proclaimed until it swept away the Noah’s generation was 120 years, but it came!
Jesus is coming again to bring an end to time and usher in eternity. The Bible is clear that at a time of God’s choosing Jesus will come as a Judge and not as a Savior and if we are not ready then we will be judged and be sentenced to eternal damnation as told in Revelation 20:12-15. Some may scoff, mock and make fun of Christ Second Advent and for believers the anticipation may be so great as to be overpowering but relax for in God’s time it will really happen.
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