(All quotations are from Acts 1, NIV. Individual verse references are purposely not included because I want you to read the whole chapter for yourselves.)
The Time of the End has been a primary focus of many Christians since before the Civil War. The imagery and mystery of Biblical end-time prophecies fascinate us, the pearly gates and streets of gold are alluring, the anticipation of meeting the Lord in the clouds lifts our world-weary spirits, and the unparalleled joy of eternity with our Savior is, well, unparalleled.
In fulfillment of Daniel 12:4, many are going to and fro and knowledge has greatly increased. Online search engines instantly display any Biblical phrase that inquiring minds want to know. Events in the Middle East are far beyond erupting and videos of the Four Blood Moons have gone viral. Our leaders decline to honor the National Day of Prayer, while the not-quite-fiction work The Harbinger is a New York Times best seller.
Which brings me to pose a question, if I may be so bold: Are we devoting more time to the contemplation of the Second Coming than we should?
The Word of God reveals to us that once Jesus’ disciples were assured that He would come again and receive them unto Himself, they were not to unduly dwell on this fact. Instead, there was a work of eternal importance to be done: Once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they were to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Awed and elated at the Master’s resurrection, the disciples still misunderstood the nature of the coming events. The first chapter of Acts records them asking “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” The risen Jesus gently guided them away from their flawed view of His work, telling them “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.” He pointed them to a grander theme than delivering Israel from Rome, commissioning them to tell all nations everywhere that they were delivered from Evil and Death.
Even as the Lord ascended into the heavens the fog remained. Slow of understanding as humans are ever wont to be, His followers gazed intently after the Lord until angels appeared asking them, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”
That “(coming) back in the same way you have seen Him go” is the most beautiful promise any of us shall ever hear, and I do not mean to minimize its impact or absoluteness. The Lord’s return is promised and the promise is sure. Yet no amount of contemplation about The Great Day can allow me to know the time of this blessed event, although I can certainly see that it is quickly approaching. Nor can I hasten the coming of the King of Kings by any word or deed. Thus, my primary concern at this time must be my Lord’s command to be His faith-full witness. My failure to carry out this Great Commission can have eternal consequences.
I liken this premise to the prayer of faith.
I earnestly prayed to the Father for the salvation of my children and grandchildren. In response, He assured me that He loves them even more than I do, and that He is ever wooing them and interjecting Himself and His servants into their lives. In Isaiah 49:25 He promises, “I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.” The battle for my children’s souls is not mine, but the Lord’s. By faith I accept God’s promise and do not continue to pray again for the salvation of my precious ones. Rather, when I think of them I thank Him and praise Him for the work He is doing in their lives – even if I see no evidence of that work.
Accepting His promise for my loved ones allows me to release their future into His hands so that my hands are free to be used in His service.
In this same faith, I move my fascination with and anticipation of the Second Coming to a secondary position. The great event is a divine promise. It shall be accomplished at the appointed time. I already know it for a fact, releasing me from the need to gaze intently into the sky.
Accepting His promise that He will come again allows me to release my future into His hands, leaving my hands free to carry the truth of this “so great salvation” to the uttermost ends of the earth.