Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent, Day 15

The time is surely coming, says the LORD,
when the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps,
and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them upon their land,
and they shall never again be plucked up
out of the land that I have given them,
says the LORD your God. - Amos 9

See? Even Amos has a good day eventually.

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. - 2 Thessalonians 2

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord. - Revelation 22

One of the most fascinating things about the New Testament is the tension that develops around Jesus' "Second Coming," something we're still trying to figure out. If you read the New Testament books and letters roughly in the order scholars think they might have been written, 2 Thessalonians is one of the first, and Revelation is one of the last.

Paul was convinced that Jesus would literally return to earth, oh, maybe next Thursday afternoon, and his letters reflect that belief. He suggested that nobody even bother to get married, lest that distract folks from being ready for Jesus' return. But as the years and then the decades wore on, people began to lose hope, and some drifted away from the faith over this point. It was in this context that Luke quoted Jesus as saying, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, 'See here!' or 'See there!' For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." Yet the Revelation to John encourages a continued waiting for Jesus.

Of the many Christian tenets that people believe different things about, the Second Coming may be the hardest one for people in our time to swallow. It's another of those mysteries. Some people really do believe that one day, oh, maybe next Thursday, Jesus will come descending out of the clouds (a notion clearly based on pre-Galilean cosmology) to sweep the faithful up into heaven. Others say, "Why would God suspend all the rules of this carefully constructed universe, just like that, all of a sudden, after 13 billion years, just because of us presumptuous humans on this tiny little planet?" Some believe that Jesus' Second Coming has to do with each of our individual deaths.

As for me, I don't mind living in the tension. I don't think Jesus will literally come "with clouds descending," but hey, I've been wrong before. As I wrote yesterday, all houses will be destroyed. I think that extends to the universe -- it probably had a beginning, so it will probably have an end. Will there still be humans around to see it? Probably not. Rather, I think the Second Coming has very little to do with timeline. The "already" and the "not yet" get folded into each other in a way that's beyond even Einstein to demonstrate.

And as Amos quotes God saying, "The time is surely coming ..." Many good gifts are in store for us in this wondrous universe.

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