“All of these events are signs of the times, and evidence that Jesus is coming soon…” These are words and phrases that many of us have heard, especially recently with some of the latest news. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, they seem to carry a very real danger that is seen lived out in the lives of many who profess to be followers of Jesus.
But the 2nd Coming of Christ is such good news, right? So what is the danger of this statement? In short, the danger is that many use this as an unconscious excuse to not get involved, not get their hands dirty in helping those around them. They keep the concept of Christ’s coming as theology and rhetoric, and do not have any practical ways of what Christ’s message of hope lived out in the real world looks like. Following Christ and looking forward to His coming becomes mere platitudes with no real-life application. It becomes a sort of feel-good pat-answer to any crisis at hand.
Once again, there’s nothing wrong with the message of a soon-coming Savior, but isn’t the Gospel more than that? Isn’t the concept of the Kingdom of God a reality that begins right now, in the way we live our lives everyday? It is according to Jesus, as He began each parable with the phrase “The Kingdom of God is like…” and then went into discussing what a culture of God’s love looks like right here and right now. The concept of the 2nd Coming of Christ is so much more than a future event. Yet so many people treat it as a separate occasion that is the end-all answer to any crisis. In fact, when someone says, “don’t worry, these are signs of the end of the world! We should rejoice that we are living in such exciting times…” This is almost a slap-in-the-face for those who are living in horrible situations, situations that maybe you and I were placed on this earth, by God, to help alleviate.
Let’s break this down into a few real scenarios where I have heard this phrase be used:
- Environmental Issues
- When those who have a passion about the environment speak out about the importance of recycling, going “green”, etc., sometimes they are met with this phrase “well, Jesus is coming soon, so of course the world is being destroyed…”. It’s as if those who say this forget the part in Genesis where God commanded us to take care of the earth and the animals, etc. (Genesis 2:15). In fact, this is perhaps our greatest form of stewardship. So to use the phrase that Jesus is coming soon, (as if He’ll come quicker because we let the earth go to waste faster), is actually to squander the natural wealth that God has given to us to protect and enjoy.
- Helping Refugees
- If anyone has watched the news, you have seen the wave-upon-wave of refugee families fleeing their country, longing for a place of safety where they will not be killed. You’ve seen the mothers carrying their babies for hundreds of miles, or worse, you’ve seen or heard the stories of hundreds of people drowned at sea in overcrowded boats that have capsized. When supposed followers of Jesus see this and use the phrase, “see, Jesus is coming soon, and people are being persecuted…” but do nothing to actually help these desperate souls, they are aligning themselves with those from the parable of Jesus, where Jesus says “whatever you didn’t do for the least of these, you didn’t do for Me…” (Matthew 25:45)
- Those who claim to follow Jesus and then say that we cannot help the refugees because they might be terrorists, forget that Jesus and His family were refugees. They forget that if you live in the U.S., we all were once refugees. So to use the phrase “this is a sign that Jesus is coming soon” and they keep going to church and worshiping a “Refugee”, is not this the greatest form of hypocrisy you could have?
- Racial Violence & Injustice
- Recently, there was a statement that went out by a church organization that encouraged its members to not get distracted by events happening in our country, but to keep persistent in preaching a soon-coming Jesus. This statement primarily came out after some of the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. Really? How can we, as followers of God, separate preaching about a God of Love, and not actually show what that Love looks like in public? How can we proclaim that Jesus is coming soon, but not start to live that reality of His Kingdom now? How can we claim to worship a man who stood up for the injustices of those who were not being treated as equal, and yet not stand up for our sisters and brothers who are not being treated as equal? How can we claim “all lives matter” and turn a blind eye to the ways that certain people are not treated as if all lives matter? And then, if some who do get involved in raising their voices for the inequality of others, they are encouraged by certain churches not to get involved! How can one claim to follow a God who got His hands dirty with saving our world, but not get their hands dirty in helping to save the communities around us? How can we claim to be a part of the Body of Christ, but then reject parts of the same body when they are being mistreated?
These have just been a few of the examples I have seen, where the 2nd Coming of Christ has been used as almost an excuse to not get involved, or worse, as a gleeful reminder that it’s just a sign that He’s coming back, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show of the world falling apart.
What if certain people throughout history had taken this stance? What if Esther, who had the courage to go before the King and request safety for her people, had used the phrase, “well, this is a sign that the Messiah is coming soon, so…”? Would she have still gone before the King? The whole phrase that comes from that story, “you have been created for such a time as this…” (Esther 4:14) screams the fact that we are meant to be people of action, not people of rhetoric.
What if Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 thesis, would have believed this idea that since “Jesus is coming soon, I don’t have to get involved” – would we even have churches today? Would there have been a Reformation? Would we understand what Grace is?
What if Martin Luther King Jr. had believed this misconception, and had thought that the injustices of the 60’s were just a sign that Jesus was coming back, so preach that message even more…would there have been the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the marches? Would there have been the strides towards equality that he helped start? As he mentioned in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, “…I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid…” Martin Luther King realized that when we are a follower of God, it means that we live His Kingdom NOW, and not just merely refer to it as a future event. (To read the entire Letter From a Birmingham Jail, click here).
What if Jesus Himself used this – “well, I’m coming again soon – I don’t need to preach the gospel to the world. I don’t need to heal this blind man. I don’t need to train these disciples.” Obviously that’s ludicrous! Then why is it so acceptable for us as followers of God to not get our hands dirty? Why is it so strange to get involved and actually love people in action and deed? Why is it crazy to step out and actually be the church to our communities?
What if we started living like the Kingdom of God was real?
What if, instead of saying we are living in the end times, we actually lived like today was our end time – our last day, and got involved in changing the lives of others?
What if we actually believed what Jesus said, what we would DO greater things than He did? (John 14:12)
What if we began to believe that perhaps Jesus created us for such a time as this?
What if we began to realize that maybe Jesus doesn’t want us to talk so much about His 2nd Coming – but maybe He wants us to live it out?