I write … to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken by the holy prophets and our Lord and Saviour through the Apostle. Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come … (saying) ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? … everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’. – 2 Peter 3, vv 1-4
In the 19th Century, the idea of a literal ‘second coming’ of Christ was largely discredited by Biblical scholars, particularly in German Universities. Studying the Bible as literature rather than as an historical witness, they reinterpreted this great hope that had sustained the early Church through persecution and fiery trial, into a symbolic allegory of human progress. Those scholars studied at a time when the world, indeed, seemed to be progressing to a bright future, enjoying an unprecedented period of peace and economic prosperity (for some). The idea of ‘Armageddon’ was just unthinkable – but not for long.
In 1914, those same German scholars were, in their turn, discredited, when they supported the Kaiser’s imperialistic war aims and humanity was rudely awakened from the dream of unstoppable human progress. Ensuing global conflicts brought the unthinkable possibility that we could destroy our planet and ourselves through conflict – even nuclear war.
This period also saw revived potential for the fulfilment of many Biblical prophecies about the consummation of history, that scholars had long considered dead and buried, with the return of Jews to their homeland and the reestablishment of the nation of Israel.
The succeeding decades have seen continuing turbulence with six other prophetic conditions for the calamitous consummation of God’s Kingdom falling into place: increasing conflict, environmental crisis, persecution of the Church across the globe, erosion of morality and social order, the possibility of an all-controlling global secular Government and the spread of the gospel to nearly all parts of the world.
The idea of a literal ‘second-coming’ may seem bizarre but Jesus still exhorts us from within the pages of the Gospels to ‘understand the signs of the times’. And we pray for God’s Kingdom ‘to come’ and His will to ‘be done on Earth as it is in Heaven’ nearly every time we meet. What are we hoping will actually happen when we pray these words?
This Advent Season and the dawn of a new year always bring hope – it’s a hope of a better world that may be nearer than we ever imagined. Let us continue to watch and pray and try to discern God’s coming – now and in the future – however it may happen. Let us prepare for a better world by making it happen – wherever we are. Looking forward with 2020 Vision…