At this time of year, most Christians are turning their thoughts and hearts to the first coming of Christ. In some cases, churches will devote three or four Sundays and perhaps some special services to this momentous event.
In comparison, very little time and thought is given in the church’s calendar to the second coming of Christ.
Why is that? Why is a massively higher proportion of our attention devoted to the first advent compared to the second?
Perhaps it’s because there’s been so much wild speculation about the timeline leading up to the second coming, with some schemes ending up with two or even three more comings of Christ! Who wants to be associated with the fringe?
Or maybe it’s that we are so comfortable in this world, we hardly need deliverance to another world. When I spent a year with persecuted Christians in Eastern Europe in the late 1980′s, there were two memorable aspects to their Christian faith: unashamed singing of the imprecatory psalms and a constant longing for the second coming.
Another reason may be that it’s been so long since the prophecies were made. 2000 years or so on, and nothing has yet happened. All seems to be going along as it always was. The thought seeps in — “If it hasn’t happened by now, will it ever?”
Of course, there’s always just plain old unbelief. We simply don’t believe that it’s going to happen. We might not say that, but for all we think about it or long for it — we might as well admit, “I don’t believe it.”
Most commonly, I fear, is the idea that there are so many prophecies still to be fulfilled before the second coming (e.g. rise of the antichrist, conversion of the Jews, etc.) that there’s no chance of Christ’s return anytime soon. We forget that very few were expecting or ready for Christ’s first advent. They understood the prophecies only with the benefit of hindsight, and even then most were still in a major muddle. What makes us think we’re any better placed regarding the second advent. Given humanity’s record in interpreting prophecy, it’s a pretty major gamble to base our non-expectation of Christ’s return upon a timeline of events that must happen first.
Christ’s last words
It’s no accident that the last words of Christ to his church revealed in Scripture are “Surely I come quickly” (Rev. 22:20). In fact, he said it three times in the last chapter of Scripture, which surely requires we give much greater prominence to this doctrine in our churches.
I’m not arguing for less first advent. I am arguing for more second advent — in our consciousness, in our conversation, and in our congregations.