Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The second coming of Christ: is there a question? Update

Know this first of all that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following their own lusts. And saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)
“They [The New Testament writers] spoke in urgent and immediate terms about what they believed to be impending apocalyptic events. Nearly two thousand years later, it is clear that what they believed would take place never did.

Does this call into question the truth or relevancy of these early Christian writings? I don’t think so, though it does demonstrate the fallible human elements of our sacred scriptures.” (John Vest, Be Ready)

No, the Lord has not come yet—but he will—for those who love his appearing. Does that mean Christians are to set lazily by waiting in case he comes in our generation? Absolutely not.  Paul at one point even commanded that those who would not work should not eat.
But Vest has promoted two unacceptable teachings here. One is that Jesus will not return and the other is that the New Testament writers didn’t know what they were writing about. They were in error about the return of Christ.

Vest promotes the idea that humanity will bring in the Kingdom of God and that by the help of Christ whose presence with us is his second coming:

I tend to think that what Jesus talked about as God’s kingdom has been emerging slowly over time. The “return of Christ” that the early Christians anticipated and that many subsequent Christians have waited for seems to me to be a metaphorical concept. As Easter people, we speak as if the risen Christ is present with us already, and I believe that to be true.
There have been those in the past and even today who teach that the body of Christ will bring in the Kingdom. But they have not denied that Jesus will return, just that he will return after the Kingdom is here.  That is called post-millennialism. But the belief that Jesus will never return, that he only gives us his presence, has often been part of the teaching of aberrant Christian groups.  

When the New Testament writers were writing of the last days they were writing of that time which existed between the first coming of Jesus and the second coming of Jesus. The church though out her long history has anticipated the soon coming of Christ. It is not false teaching, but faith in the promise of God.

In another posting that I wrote in 2008, I quoted John Henry Newman:

'Though time intervene between Christ's first and second coming, it is not recognized (as I may say) in the Gospel scheme, but is, as it were, an accident. For so it was, that up to Christ's coming in the flesh, the course of things ran straight towards the end, nearing it by every step; but now, under the Gospel, that course has (if I may so speak) altered its direction, as regards His second coming, and runs, not toward the end, but along it, and on the brink of it; and is at all times near that great event, which did it run towards it, it would at once run into. Christ, then, is ever at the doors.'[1]

Something I want to add here is about the simplicity of the good news, and yet the depth that one finds in its every corner and cranny. To take the word that God has given us as believers and attempt to explain every portion and teaching with post-modern suspicion leaves nothing but empty grain husks which in reality are filled with meatiness and goodness.

We have a hope! Maranatha!  
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wanting any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Update: A friend just pointed me to a video-which I must put with this--just skip the ad, please:

[1] John Henry Newman, “Waiting for Christ, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vi (London, 1896) 241, in F.F. Bruce, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1970) 65.


dhollifield said...

"Dear friend, he is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness to be..."

Viola Larson said...

Thank you so much. I had not seen that video. The guitarist is a friend from my Warehouse ministry days, and Charlie Peacock was also a musician there.