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A Guide to the End of the World 


Have we lost sight of the reality of Christ's second coming - and what are the consequences of this? By Pete Lowman

 


A Guide to the End of the worlWhy is it most white British Christians (people like me) have very little imaginative grasp of the reality of Christ’s second coming, and even less of the doctrines surrounding it?

Among British black-majority churches, and churches in the Global South generally, it’s usually very different – but what does this mean for churches where it’s gone right off the radar?

What does it mean? Well, doesn’t the Bible say rather clearly that losing our vision for the second coming tends to go hand in hand with losing our vision for holiness? (I’m thinking of passages like 2 Peter 3:3-5 and Matthew 24:48-49.)

Again: doesn’t losing our vision for the second coming hit our passion for evangelism, because we lose the sense that God’s offer of salvation has a deadline when, as Jesus’ story of the ten virgins has it, the door to the banquet gets shut (and see 2 Corinthians 6:1-2)?

And doesn’t losing our vision for the second coming mean we lose the joyous sense that God really is in charge – that there is enormous evil in the world, but it won’t go on forever, God is going to say ‘Enough!’ and return as King to put it all gloriously right?

And doesn’t losing our vision for the second coming mean we lose the sense of the temporariness of everything here? (Compare Colossians 3:2-4 with 2 Peter 3:11.) So that laying up treasure on earth (for ourselves, not for the poor – something Matthew 25 says Jesus will ask about when He returns – if we’ve held on to that thought)… and grudges and hurts, and career plans and disappointments… and ‘earthly things’ in general (see Philippians 3:19-20) all start to matter a whole lot more than they ought?

And doesn’t it mean we stay unhappily out of the Book of Revelation, and quite a few other parts of Scripture too? Too obscure, too bizarre, too much stuff we don’t know how to think about… But surely to our impoverishment?

And then, of course, there are the related biblical doctrines. The ‘rapture’ – whatever do we make of that? Whatever else we think, 1 Thessalonians 4 does make clear that when Jesus returns He’s going to snatch all His people up to be with Him (the same word as in Acts 8:39 and 2 Corinthians 12:2); and Jesus also makes clear that this coming will occur (which implies that that ‘snatching’ is going to happen) just exactly when we aren’t expecting it. (But anyway, we can relax with the certainty that it won’t happen this week! Mmm.)

And can we remember what we make of Paul coolly warning us in 2 Thessalonians 2 to be aware of the coming of an end-time evil dictator? We know, because Jesus told us, that when the gospel has spread to all nations the End will come. Given how widely the gospel has spread in the last 50 years, is that going to need more than another 50 or so? Does that mean we, or our offspring, are being a bit daft if we don’t pay some attention to this issue? (And if we don’t want to drag the Animal, the end-time satanic dictator of Revelation 13, into this, are we sure why not? Of course it might be that there will be some ‘rapture’ that means we don’t need to be geared up to be faithful through all the unpleasantness in Revelation – but, how likely is that?)

It all seems to have gone off the radar. Even while we’re seeking to bring in the transforming kingdom here now, to get as much heaven on earth as possible here now, we’re really impoverishing ourselves if meanwhile we’ve lost the sense that this will be completed when the King comes back – and that after He does, there’s going to be glory beyond our imaginations! Because this, says Paul (Thessalonians again) is meant to be our helmet protecting our thinking; this, says Hebrews 6, is meant to be our anchor…

It’s to those who are ‘waiting for him’ that Jesus brings salvation, says Hebrews 9:28 (and compare 1 Thessalonians 1:10). ‘Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup’, says Paul about communion, ‘you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes…’ (1 Corinthians 11:26, italics added).

Whenever we find we’ve lost sight of a key biblical theme, obedience to the God of the Word demands that we make it a priority to get it back into our imaginations… Is this one something lots of us need to get our heads back into?


 
Pete Lowman was a pastor at Wycliffe Baptist Church in Reading for 15 years, following eleven years of student ministry in Russia. He has recently written A Guide to the End of the World, seeking to get these issues back into our conversational space.

A Guide to the End of the World is published by Instant Apostle (ISBN 978-1-909728-85-1, RRP £8.99), available from Christian bookshops and online.

 

 

Baptist Times, 18/07/2018
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