Summary: A Message of HOPE for Advent.
The Hope in Christ’s Return
In the late 19th Century in America, there was a wave of enthusiasm for prophecies predicting the actual date for Christ’s Second coming.
One such self proclaimed prophet was William Miller. And it is in his movement that both the Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.
Miller first predicted that Christ would return on March 21, 1842, but then revised the date to April 2, 1843. Over 3,500 of his followers jammed the Boston Advent Temple, only to be disappointed.
You might have thought that the movement would have died, after such a let down. But it didn’t. Rather it continued to grow.
Miller decided to recalculate his date for the Second Coming and soon published a new date – April 18, 1844. When the Messiah did not show up on that date, there was again frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.
Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a third date – October 22, 1844. The date was published as the Millerite publication True Midnight Cry. And, surprisingly, this third date surprisingly rallied his followers.
They began to spread the news of the new date of the second coming with an enthusiasm that had not been seen before. Churches which did not accept this message were denounced as agents of “Babylon” and the devil.
And despite opposition from established, mainline religious groups, thousands of people – including many clergy – began to defect to the Millerite cult. As doomsday approached, the Millerites began to prepare.
One account notes that “Fields were left un-harvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no thought of repayment.
Huge press runs of Advent publications like the Midnight Cry warned the public that “the Time is Short.” “Prepare to Meet Thy God!” and “The Lord is Coming!”
William Miller himself began peddling white “ascension robes” to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.
But as we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on October 22, 1844.
In fact if they had heeded this morning’s text, they would not have been taken in by Miller’s false prophecy.
For Jesus speaking about the Second Coming said: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed; keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.”
For many of us, Advent is a time when we look back to the Birth of Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem. However, it is also the time we look forward to the Hope we have in Christ’s Return.
There are three things in this passage this morning that I feel express the meaning of Advent for us.
I. Christ is Coming Again (vv. 24-27)
a. The disciples had been a little confused and thought that the destruction of Jerusalem would b the end of the world.
i. Christ sets them straight and shows that they day of Christ’s coming and day of judgment are after that tribulation.
ii. He give them prophecy here of the dissolution of the very components of the world.
iii. Finally he tells of His appearance in the clouds and the gathering together of His believers.
On November 2, 1992, the “Mission for the Coming Days” church disbanded after a very tough weekend. Lee Jang-Rim, the Korean church’s founder, was in jail and the embarrassed congregation returned to their respective homes and places of employment. The central message of this church has been Christ’s imminent return on October 29, 1992. It was the largest of the South Korean churches that were predicting the impending end of the world. Hundreds, and possibly thousands of these believers sold property, left their families, quit schools and jobs, and deserted military duties. Of course, they should have checked the pastor’s financial portfolio before banking on the October rapture date. Pastor Jang-rim had swindled four million dollars in donations and had $380,000 invested in bonds that would not mature until the following May.
b. This distinguishes prophecy and guesswork.
i. You see Jesus gives us prophecy of hope here.
ii. He tells us of His second coming, and gives us a basic timeline to work with, while NOT giving us a date and time of any clarity.
iii. Why do you think Jesus doesn’t just come out and throw out a date?
iv. His emphasis is clearly that the date and the time are not so important as how we consistently live our lives in the knowledge that it is coming at any time.
v. But Christ is His infinite knowledge doesn’t want anyone to misunderstand, and so he illustrates this with a parable.