I’ve been giving some thought today to two aspects of the advent of Christ:
- The timing of His coming
- The nature of His arrival
The timing of His coming
I’ve heard many sermons about the fact that before the time of Christ, we find what Christians call the “intertestamental period” wherein the prophets seem to be silent. It’s a kind of calm before the storm before Jesus breaks on the scene and teaches like no other rabbi or prophet ever.
Will there be a calm before the storm before Jesus returns a second time? The voices (prophets if you will) of our day are being silenced. In the east because of the rise of militant Islam or religious radicals in places like India. In the west because of the rise of militant atheism or political correctness. Could it be that the second coming of Christ will take place in a time where the voices of the prophets are not heard in the land?
The nature of His arrival
We tend to think of Jesus’ arrival on earth — in flesh; as one of us — at Bethlehem, but really Jesus arrived so to speak when He began His public ministry. (We speak of someone arriving on the scene; entering the public consciousness.) You can date this arrival by His submission to John’s baptism and identification by John as “the lamb of God;” or you can choose the wedding at Cana or the beginning of His teaching ministry.
We tend to think of Jesus’ second arrival as being signaled by the sound of trumpets and his appearance on a white horse.
I am not, in the following paragraphs, suggesting that it’s possible that Christ has already returned and is alive and on earth now; so please don’t write me off as a heretic.
What I’m wondering is, if it’s possible for Jesus to embed himself here on earth somehow for a short period of time, and then, suddenly, there is the sound of trumpets, there is the appearance of the conquering King on a white horse (as opposed to the submission symbolized by the donkey the first time around) and every eye sees and every ear hears. I say that only because that was the nature of His first coming. There was a beginning in Bethlehem that preceded — in this case by 30 years — the beginning of His taking up His spiritual office.
Before you jump all over this and find it full of flaws, remember, at the time of His birth, it is the belief of many commentators that nobody understood the “…then a virgin shall conceive…” passage as meaning exactly how we know today the story played out. Bruxy Cavey is a pastor and author who maintains the prophecy should be read ‘backwards’ to see how God was in control all along, not ‘forward’ to try to predict the future. On the other hand, author and pastor Rob Bell teaches that every Jewish girl envisioned herself as being “the one” who would give birth to the Savior. Nor does this possibility discount the aspect of “being caught up to meet Him in the air.”
I’m just saying it would be most consistent if, in addition to the timing of His second coming following the pattern of His first coming; that the nature of His arrival should also include something that has an element of process to it. That perhaps instead of looking up we should be looking to the left and to the right; scanning the horizon for the Lion of Judah who has massed his forces, or, more likely, will mass his forces, right here prior to that moment when every eye will see and every ear will hear.
Or perhaps it’s something closer to the more traditional view, but there is a physical presence — similar to the angels at Bethlehem singing ‘Glory to God in the highest’ — followed by the taking up of the spiritual office. A period, a moment filled with signs in the skies followed by a dawning of the great significance of what is happening. Only instead of it taking up to a year for the Magi to arrive on the scene bearing gifts, we have CNN carrying the event live.
People speak of the timing of his birth as offering the maximum potential for word of his life, his teachings, his miracles, his death and his resurrection to be carried to widest parts of the Roman Empire. Clearly, we have reached a point in terms of technology where the the timing of his second coming optimizes the message being carried instantly to the entire world. (Though a miraculous, non-technological approach to his return being visible to everyone is equally valid.)
Either way of course, it will also be a dramatic intervention into world history on a par equal to His first coming; but seen and known by everyone instantaneously.
The point is, ultimately we just don’t know. However, though we don’t know “the day nor the hour,” we can know “the times and seasons.” And we can be prepared. Are you?
My point is to ask, “What if…?” We read scriptures with many built-in assumptions, and I think we need to be challenged to think outside the box, without tossing out the basic elements necessary for the Grand Story to play out to completion. Is it heretical to ask, “What if…?”?
I am convinced that if the scriptures tell us there will be the sounding of a trumpet, or there will be shout, then that means there will be a trumpet and a shout. I’m just having some fun with the idea that perhaps his return won’t be so much of a breaking in as it will be a breaking out; the idea of his return not being comparable to a sudden fanfare, but perhaps the product of an extended crescendo.
That would after all more closely resemble his first coming.