I believe in the sudden, victorious and glorious return of Jesus Christ. Maybe you do, too. I believe His return will be unlike anything the world has ever seen. But I also believe many of us have subtly looked toward the return of Jesus Christ as an “escape hatch” from exercising leadership and personal responsibility at this vital time in U.S. and world history. We are paying a heavy price – and if we don’t soon reverse this trend, it may be too late. History may repeat itself in a very unfortunate way.
You may or may not believe in the “Rapture” – the belief in the sudden removal of Christians held so dear by so many. And if you believe in the Rapture, your view of its timing and circumstances may vary, depending on where you may be sipping coffee, lifting your hands in worship or perhaps serving at a soup kitchen. Christians can disagree on the reality of the Rapture – and the timing and circumstances – and still love Jesus Christ and one another. In fact, acknowledging one’s doctrinal differences, while maintaining unwavering devotion to the biblical Jesus and love toward others, is a sign of how well someone really knows and follows the Lord they may profess. It is this kind of mature love that reveals genuine discipleship.
JESUS CHRIST IS RETURNING
Beliefs about the Rapture aside, every Christian worth his/her salt believes in the return of Jesus Christ. This second advent is Christianity 101. Jesus is coming back. And, although there will be certain signs preceding His return, His reappearance will be sudden, global and undeniable:
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 (ESV)
Consider another sampling among many passages that affirm the return of Jesus Christ:
“. . . so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)
And finally, consider the importance of repentance (turning from self to God) and the literal return of Jesus:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” – Acts 3:19-21 (ESV)
A FEW TIMELY QUESTIONS IN LIGHT OF WORLD EVENTS
- In the 1930’s and 40’s American Christians did not lean on the return of Christ as the escape hatch it’s become among us today. What if they did so while Hitler was rolling through Europe, Mussolini was trampling over Africa and the Japanese were overwhelming the South Pacific? We’d all be speaking German, Italian or Japanese. But it’s not about language: it’s about the fascist beliefs by which we’d all be enslaved. Courage, not complacency, made the difference in WWII.It was the exercise of a strong sense of responsibility that broke the back of tyranny which threatened the world not so very long ago. Today we face as much (if not more) crisis as did our ancestors in the 30’s and 40’s. Are we American Christians leaning too heavily on the Rapture, or the return of Christ, as the solution to our problems? What if American Christians in the ’30’s and ’40s embraced our “what will be will be, Jesus is returning” attitude toward world events? What if we don’t reverse this alarming trend, today?
- What if the return of Jesus Christ is not as soon as many of us have been subtly assuming? We in America have lived very blessed, insulated, isolated lives. We’ve enjoyed unprecedented privilege – and this privilege has tainted our ability to remember what the majority of the world has experienced for centuries, and is now experiencing: oppression, hardship, difficulty, persecution. Suppose the Rapture, or the return of Jesus Christ, were not to happen for another 500 years? Would that change the way you view and act upon current world events?
- What if Christian courage, leadership and involvement are the very things needed to turn things around? Did God stop calling us to be salt and light in this very distasteful, dark time? I didn’t get that memo, did you?
- Where is it in the Bible where God’s people are told to merely occupy until Christ returns? The last words of Jesus to us all are “GO and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20). This is not a passive mission – at all. If ever there was a call to action, this is IT.
The return of Jesus Christ was intended to give us hope – but never as an escape hatch to shrink back from leadership in the midst of moral, political, theological or financial crisis. We American Christians have such a narrow understanding of history. And, in spite of all our seminaries, church plants and growth, we seem so shallow and powerless at the precise moment when we should be deep and wide. We shrink back so easily. This may be the very reason why history is about to repeat itself, in a very bad way.
But this need not be the case.May God wake us all up so that history is indeed repeated – but for the best, not the worst. Salt turns things from bland to savory. Light transforms darkness. This is our calling, from the very mouth of God – repeatedly. Courage. Responsibility. Leadership. Remember how central they were to the Christian faith? It is time, brothers and sisters, to live the calling of God for your life, family and church – while we still have time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and how God is moving you to change, accordingly.