Sunday, September 20, 2015

Jesus is coming back! (Soon ... right?)

Subject: God's timing
Target passage: II Peter 3
Date: Sept. 20, 2015

"... Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.'" (vv. 3-4)

Would it be wrong for me to say to any such detractors, carpers, picadors, quibblers, and any variety of athesits and agnostics, "Good question?"

When, pray tell, is Jesus coming back?
Soon, which is why if the early church had a motto at all it would have been "come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

Rather than getting into an unprofitable debate over when the Day of Jesus' return to earth will be (see Matt. 24:36, Mark 13:32 as to why that's a fruitless endeavor), Peter cuts right to the scoffer's heart. Why God must respond according to our timetable -- or, for that matter, act according to our wishes, conform to our own morality, celebrate what we celebrate, etc. -- is barking up the wrong tree.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." --Isaiah 55:8.

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." --I Corinthians 13:12.

If God's thoughts (including his rationale, his methods of strategy, his standards of holiness, etc.) is alien to our own, and if we only see eternity "imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror" (New Living Translation rendering of the above verse) then how can we presume to assume that Jesus is too late, and therefore is not coming back anytime soon? Even if we could grasp it all as some formula it would likely be too complex for our limited minds to approach. And those who have tried have become laughingstocks.

Yeah ... that didn't happen.

More prickly subjects such as hell, God's wrath, and earth's elements "melting with fervent heat" (v. 10) often seem as equally alien to our peacetime, prosperous civilization. That kind of "fire and brimstone" preaching (cliche alert) may have been popular once upon a time when frontier wars and cholera threatened to wipe us all out. But TODAY? We balk at such apparent, primitive notions! And we have entire Mainline denominations who have swept all that bad salesmanship under the rug.

We serve a timeless God. One whose wrathfulness differs from ours. One whose holiness is vastly different than even our highest morals. And One whose grace is far more lavish than what any of us would ever expect.

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (v. 9, NIV).

God is not willing that ANYONE should suffer his wrath. Did you get that? Yet he is willing to respect our free will to such a degree that he will let us perish. He's also willing to postpone his Son's second coming for as long as it takes to accomplish his purposes.

"Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation -- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (v. 16)

"... The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." --Paul, I Corinthians 1:18.

Hard to understand. Maybe even foolishness. Yet faith is so simple.

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