Infrequently a well-intentioned & thoughtful Christian will ask me some variant of this question:
“Marty, when will the LORD return?”
My answer is always two fold.
Point One: No One Knows the Time!
Some things about how we interpret the teaching of Jesus are left for interpretation – for example, the use of parables. But, some of the teaching of Jesus seems quite plain, utterly straight-forward & simple. Jesus said, as recorded in Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36 essentially this (in my loose rendition): “No one know the day, hour – not angels, not me!” That being true, then, it is pointless & futile for Christian persons to get caught up in any issues regarding predicting the time! It is misguided for Christians to be anxious or worried! [I usually couple this fact with a few intentionally playful anecdotes. (A) I tell people, “So far, 100% of the persons who claimed to know the time of the LORD’s return, have been wrong. I’d not worry too much about the possible prediction you’ve recently heard!” Ha! Or this one which is a bit more cheeky, (B) “Since no one can know the time - per Jesus words – if someone claims to know the time, you can be sure that the LORD can’t come back at that time, since, if the LORD comes back at that time, it will look as though some person did know the time!” Ha! I might joke even further, “We should just keep predicting the day and hour of the LORD’s return and we can put it off indefinitely – since whenever we claim to have it predicted, God will have to replan so we can’t be correct!” Ha!]
Point Two: No Matter when - Live Holy Lives Now.
While some of the teaching of Jesus might be subject to interpretation, the clear sense of Jesus teaching is indisputable. Followers of Jesus are to extend love. Followers of Jesus are to work for better systems of life for all people, with concern especially the poor and downtrodden. Followers of Jesus are to establish an ethic of life for goodness that shapes relationships of all kinds – including the relationships at a personal level that shape macro level relationships in economic systems, political systems, social systems, enemies and for nations and between nations! The earliest letter of the New Testament, demonstrates the earliest concern of Christians included worry about the return of Christ! And in this earliest letter, 1 Thessalonians, Paul encourages a lifestyle of holiness, in the midst of discerning the “casual” and “everydayness” of other things! Paul encourages them to live holy lives as they love one another, as they were taught!
To reiterate then, my answer to the question of when the LORD will return is two simple notes: (1) We do not know and never will know and (2) in our not knowing, what we are supposed to do is clear – love and care and live holy lives!
What then should we do?
Perhaps for those caught up in concern and worry we should be asking different questions!!
Instead of questions about when the LORD will return – we should ask:
- “Am I living holy today in a way that reflects the lifestyle of Jesus?"
- “Am I loving today in a way that reflects the intentional love of the LORD for the whole world?”
Perhaps when these questions become the focus of Christians everywhere, the LORD will arrive in ways that surprise us . . . even somehow present in our very lives now!
Photo Image credit - Marcin Sobas - from Tuscany