Summary: Four ways focusing on Christ’s second coming can help us in the spiritual journey today.
Few things are more difficult than driving a long distance with small children. No matter how many activity books, games and tapes you bring, you still hear the steady drone of, "Are we there yet?" How do you respond that?
The Irritated Response: "We’re closer now than the last time you asked."
The Threatening Response: "If you keep asking when we’re going to get there I’m gonna to turn around and go home!"
The Sneaky Response: "Let’s play a game and see how long we can go without asking if we’re there yet."
Yet no how you respond, on long trips kids seem totally focused on the final destination.
Now in some ways that’s not a bad thing, because at least you really have a destination. Without a clear destination, a journey lacks focus, it lacks any way to measure progress forward because you don’t know what way forward is. We’ve been in a series through the New Testament book of 1 John called A ROADMAP FOR THE JOURNEY. The Bible pictures the Christian life of following Jesus Christ as being like a journey, and we’ve been seeing how John’s little letter provides us with a roadmap so we don’t get lost. So far we’ve looked at how to find joy for the journey, we’ve talked about God’s call to authenticity in the journey, we’ve looked at how to please God in the journey, we’ve identified some of the hidden dangers along the journey, and then finally last week we looked at what to do when we experience spiritual betrayal in the spiritual journey. Yet all of this assumes that this journey, like all journeys, has a specific destination, a specific focus that we’re moving toward.
Where is this spiritual journey of following Jesus Christ headed, what is the final destination? Well the Bible teaches that it’s ultimately heading toward the end of history, when Jesus Christ returns again to this earth to set up his kingdom. For every one verse in the Bible talking about Jesus Christ’s first coming, there are 8 more verses that describe his Second Coming at the end of the age. One Bible scholar has estimated that Old Testament mentions this second coming of Christ 1,845 times. In the New Testament the second coming of Jesus Christ is mentioned 318 times. Many people today believe that Jesus Christ is coming again. According to a recent Gallup poll 62% of Americans believe that Christ will come again at the end of history. Christians throughout the ages have believed that one day Jesus Christ will come again to this earth. In a way, if we die before Jesus Christ comes again, we experience that second coming sooner in the sense that we’re face to face in God’s presence in heaven. So this is the final destination of the spiritual journey, Christ’s second coming at the end of the age or our physical death when, whichever comes first in our particular case.
Yet as we look back at how Christians have viewed Christ’s second coming in the past, we find many people obsessed with figuring out all the details and making predictions. Let me give you a quote: "The last days are upon us. Weigh carefully the times. Look for him who is above all time, eternal and invisible" (Kyle, The Last Days Are Here Again 27). That statement was not made by a modern prophecy expert. That statement did not come religious TV. It was made by a Christian named Ignatius, who lived in 110 AD, just a few decades after 1 John was written.
Let me give you another quote: "There is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power" (Abanes, End Time Visions 337). No that statement wasn’t made by a radio prophecy teacher . It was written by a Christian leader named Martin living in 375 AD. In the year 236 AD a church leader named Hippolytus predicted that Christ was sure to return by 500 AD. The years between 999 and 1030 AD were characterized by excessive speculation about Christ’s second coming among Christians, so much so that it led to social chaos as farmers didn’t plant crops for the next year, buildings weren’t repaired, and the details of daily life were neglected because they thought Christ would return in their lifetime. In the 1500’s the Protestant reformer Martin Luther said, "We have reached the time of the white horse of the Apocalypse. This world will not last any longer… than another hundred years" (Kyle 55). Christopher Columbus said he was sure the world would end by 1656 (Abanes 338). The year 1666 saw an explosion in end time speculation, so much so that one pastor wrote in his journal that every time a storm hit people thought would go to church to await Christ’s second coming. In the 1800s a Christian named William Miller said, "I am fully convinced that somewhere between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844 Christ will come" (Kyle 87). When Miller’s date came and went, hundreds of people walked away from the Christian faith. If their pastor was wrong about that, what else was he wrong about?In our own generation, many modern day prophecy experts guessed that 1981 would mark the rapture of the church and the beginning of the terrible 7 year tribulation period that would culminate in the battle of Armageddon. Now as we near the year 2,000 dozens of prophecy experts on Christian TV, radio and in books are making new predictions related to the year 2,000. Christian historian Richard Kyle cautions us, "Through two thousand years of Western history millions of…sincere, devout, and knowledgeable people have seen the end as [about to happen in their own lifetimes]…But they have all been wrong" (11).