Voices

Second Coming

It's a reality that should not be ignored

Issue: "2008 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 13, 2008

Are you eager for the Second Coming of Christ?

Too often people go to extremes. Some people end up overexcited about the Second Coming, others forget about it.

You know something about the overexcited ones, because they draw attention to themselves. A group gets worked up by its leader, who claims he can predict when Christ is coming. They sell their property, dress in white robes, and go out to a mountain on the appointed day.

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It is not always so extreme. But William Miller, the founder of the Adventist movement, predicted the Second Coming of Christ in 1843-44, and gained many followers. He narrowed down the time to a cut-off date of March 21, 1844. When that passed, it was reset to April 18, 1844. One of his followers reset it again to Oct. 22, 1844.

Charles T. Russell, who is the original figure behind Jehovah's Witnesses, predicted that the Second Coming would occur in April 1878. The Jehovah's Witnesses later had 1914 as a key date.

One book gave 88 reasons why Jesus Christ would come in 1988. When that failed, the author reset it to 1989.

The Bible gives us a simple answer for all these speculations. "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:7-8). In other words, do your job as a Christian, and do not try to find out what God has not told us.

Among Christians today the prevailing mood threatens to go to the opposite extreme. We forget about the Second Coming and then become immersed in worldliness. In practice we have the attitude that this world is all there is, and that it is never coming to an end. That is little better than what skeptics have repeatedly said: "Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing. . . . They will say, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation" (2 Peter 3:3-4).

But God Himself has promised, and Christ has promised, that Christ will return and that this present world will be dissolved (2 Peter 3:10-12). "According to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13). A solemn exhortation comes with God's promise: "Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness" (2 Peter 3:11).

Jesus tells us to be alert in expecting His Coming. "But watch yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap" (Luke 21:34). Be fervent in serving the Lord. Know that your time is limited. Make "the best use of the time" (Ephesians 5:16).

However long you live on earth, it is only a short span in comparison with eternity (Psalm 90:1-4). If you invest the time in yourself, you have nothing. If you invest in fellowship with God, through Christ, then already in this life you will have eternal life in Christ. "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). And your sufferings in this life will be outweighed by "an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). Wait patiently but actively for His coming.

Vern S. Poythress
Vern S. Poythress

Vern is professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

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