Molly and I were discussing my idea for my four-week Advent Bible Study Breakfast beginning at the end of November. "Well," I said, "it's about the Advent theme of the Second Coming of Jesus. About his promised return."
Usually in Advent I've tried to keep the Christmas spirit of expectation with the wonderful story of the STAR, of Wise Men from the East following it, of shepherds in fields hearing angel announcements from the heavens above them. Of the miraculous birth in a barn in Bethlehem.
But, in angry, divided, perilous times, I thought I should turn to the other Advent theme of Jesus' many announcements that He would return. "You will see the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory."
That has been picked up by some traditions in modern Christianity, as the "Rapture" theology. To other Christians the "Left Behind" theme seems implausible and has been rejected.
But Jesus has been clear that in His resurrected life, and His return to heaven, from whence He had originally come, and His taking His place outside The Father, His purpose, part of God's plan, was that there would be an end time when the Kingdom of God would fully come to earth, and that He, Jesus, would Himself return to earth to reign "over the united, eternal Kingdom." "You will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of glory."
He said "in that time, don't go in from the fields, or down from your roof top." In fact, He spoke of one person being taken and another beside him would be left.
They are strange words. They do imply judgment. They hint at a great reckoning for all of us.
That has always raised the question the disciples asked, "if getting through the narrow door of salvation, is as hard as a camel getting through the eye of a needle, who then can be saved?"
And if some will be saved and others not, God must already know who will be saved. So the idea of "the elect" rose up. God must know who will be saved and who won't - an idea with which John Calvin wrestled.
Many issues arise. But Jesus clearly taught that He would return. He also said, "If I go to My Father's Home, I will come and get you so that you can be with me there."
And we wonder, "Will I get in?"
Luther was offended that our good works might get us in, and posited instead that we "would be saved by grace and not by anything of our own doing."
Yet, how we live our lives was clearly important to Jesus. "Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it to me - so enter into eternal life. But you who did not do it to the least of these, didn't do it to me." So enter into eternal fire.
Very different, paradoxical words. But Jesus' words - to be taken seriously by us all, and to be part of our hope.
We'll try to think together about that. Our path as followers of the Lord Who loves us. To take seriously His coming, and God's power, and the need to be faithful, and live true. And, most of all, watch for Him. Be alert. Be always ready. Important work for us, in turbulent days like these.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES