|Jamie Buckingham and his wonderful wife Jackie|
"Are these the Last Days?" the person asked.
"Well, they're MY last days, anyway," Jamie replied.
These are the only days we get, in other words. Does it really matter to you or to me when Jesus will return, if it will be next year, or in the next millennium?
the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. As wedding attendants, they had to stay up all night waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. The five wise ladies took extra oil along, just in case. The five foolish ones ran out and tried to borrow some from the others. The wise told them to go buy some, as they might all run out otherwise.
A wise, albeit (from some modern perspectives) selfish statement. But that's a blog for another day, the mind-set that "real" love involves constant giving, giving, giving which leads to an entitled segment of society with unreal expectations of both their own responsibilities and those of others toward them. Again, for another time.
The parable's message was to be prepared. Jesus had begun his discourse to the crowds and disciples by speaking against the pride of the Pharisees. Then he left the crowds and taught his disciples privately about he end of the age. Jesus warned that there would be deceivers who claimed to come in his name. (check) There would be wars, famines, earthquakes. (check) Christians would be persecuted (check - and I don't mean being the subject of memes on Facebook. In other parts of the world, Christians are still martyred for their faith.) Christian love would grow cold. (An argument could be made that this would also be a check, although I see signs of abundant Christian love every day.) The Gospel would be preached in the whole world
Che- nope. Hasn't happened yet. In 2014 there are still unreached people groups that have never heard the Gospel. Dedicated missionaries are chipping away at the list, but to date, according to Global Research, there are over 3000 unreached people groups. 352 of those have populations in excess of 100,000. That's a lot of people.
Which is one reason why, when I hear of this or that famous evangelist say THE END IS NEAR, I remember Jamie's words. The end is near for me, nearer at 56 than it was at 55, but not THE end. Not the end of the world. Not the end of life as we know it. Not the beginning of the Great Tribulation. No sign of the Anti-Christ. No mark of the beast on the horizon.
The other big reason, an even bigger reason, I don't think Jesus is coming back any time soon is that he returns for a spotless Bride, the Church. Paul wrote, in his much-(and unfairly, I think) maligned discourse on marriage in Ephesians 5, the following:
Jesus is returning (he said he was, and I believe it) for a radiant Church. A spotless Church. A holy and blameless Church. Not little-c church as in the one you go to, or used to attend. The big-c Church, the worldwide group of all who believe that Jesus is exactly who he claims to be.
And if you've BEEN around any of us lately, you will probably agree that as THAT Church...to put it in very plain terms: We ain't done yet. I don't need to give any specifics, it's so epidemic. The Church is in process, but the process is nowhere near coming to an end. The Bride hasn't even chosen her dress. Jesus is pacing up in heaven somewhere, wanting to get. On. With. It. and the Bride is still thumbing through bridal magazines. Hasn't even picked out the cake. Bickering with the bridesmaids, broken out in acne. A mess.
A loved mess. A mess that is looking forward to the wedding, despite all the distractions. A mess that is accomplishing great good throughout the world. But a mess, nevertheless.
So. Is it the End Times? It's yours. It's mine. And we're supposed to be ready at all times, just in case. And also, because being ready means doing the things we're supposed to be doing: learning, praying, praising, giving, helping, affirming, strengthening, uniting, forgiving, loving, loving, loving.
Did I mention that we're supposed to be loving each other? Jesus mentioned that as well. More than a few times.
So yes, it matters. When Jesus returns matters a lot, because it reminds us to be ready. Even if the end isn't as near as some would say. Get ready. Stay ready. Be about the things we know to do (the short list, paraphrased):
- He has shown you what is good: do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. - Micah 6:8
- Do the Word. - James 1:22
- Be thankful. For everything. - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
- Follow Jesus. - Matthew 4:19
- Look after orphans and widows, and don't become polluted by the world. - James 1:22
- Don't be judgmental. - Matthew 7:1
No need to sit around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the Lord's return. Get busy! That love stuff is pretty much a full-time job.
- God is love. If you live a life of love, you're either on the right path now, or you'll get there eventually. (1 John and a little of mine)
(c) Ellen Gillette, 2014