How to Look Forward to Jesus' Return without Suffering PMT (Pre-Millennial Tension) aka Millennium Madness
Someone asked Pope John what he would say to the church
today if he knew the Second Coming of Christ was going to happen tomorrow. With
a wry smile and a twinkle in his eyes, the pope answered, "Look busy" Of course
he was being facetious. But the question remains as to how we should live in
the light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. The problem is the world and
even much of the church isn't even asking the question any more. They are too
preoccupied with what is happening in the world. "The End of the World!?!
Y2K insanity! Apocalypse Now! Will computers melt down? Will society? A Guide
to Millennium Madness." OHP of Time Magazine, January 18, 1999 (front
page). In December I preached on the return of Jesus Christ. If you missed it,
there's a copy on the web site. On that occasion I answered five questions.
1. Why Will Christ Return?
2. When Will Christ Return?
3. What Will be the Signs of Christ's Return?
4. How Will Christ Return?
5. How Should we Live in the Light of Christ's Return?
I don't propose to repeat the answers again. Instead I am going to amplify that last point and consider, the Formidable Grounds for PMT, the Biblical Answer to PMT, and thirdly, how to look forward to Jesus return?
1. The Formidable Grounds for PMT
Y2K is big business, not just in computer circles. It breeds fear and sells books. There is now a great deal of highly dubious millennial teaching of one kind or another. Examples of anxieties - secular and Christian. Global Warming, Genetic Engineering, Nuclear Holocaust (see web site for studies on what is known as Armageddon Theology - place of Israel and the Middle East in all of this)
John Calvin once said, 'Zeal without knowledge is like a sword in the hands of a lunatic.' Sadly, in eschatology, as in every other area of theology, it is the emptiest minds which are the most easily led.
2. The Biblical Answer to PMT
The countdown to the year 2000 has well and truly started. 330 days and five hours to go. We wait with bated breath to see what will happen, and how the dawn of a new millennium will be celebrated. Here are seven observations we would do well to ponder while we wait.
1. The year 1000 wasn't dramatic in historical or religious history (unless you believe Lief Ericson discovered America).
2. God does not have 10 fingers, and does not necessarily use the decimal system. In duo-decimal (a base of 12 is surely more biblical), the year 2000 becomes 1148. Hardly a notable date to celebrate.
3. Jesus Christ was certainly not born in the year zero. The venerable Bede got it wrong, slightly, and God is not bound by Bede's dating. The 2,000th anniversary of our Lord's coming to earth was a few years ago.
4. The uncertainty over the dates of Christ's birth and death are, I think, meant by God to prevent us making too much of a particular date.
5. In the New Testament, the signs of the end of the age have nothing to do with the numerical value of dates.
6. Christians eagerly await his 'appearing' not the page-turn of centuries. The question is, do we long for his coming, is it our daily thought and motivation?
7. If Jesus does come back on or before AD 2000 it will not be because the Bible enables us to predict it, but because God in his sovereign purpose wills it so. Maybe the Lord will return sooner than we think.
The Biblical answer to all the fear and anxiety generated by PMT or Millennium Madness is simply this - God is in control of this world. Nothing will happen to you and I without his knowledge and consent.
2.1 Jesus will Return to Judge the World (1 Corinthians 4:5)
At His Return Jesus will Bring History to its Climax, and reveal the true nature of our lives and to divide between those who love and serve Him and those who do not.
2.2 Jesus will Return to Gather His People into His Presence (Mark 13:27) The end of the present era will mark the beginning of God's new, perfect kingdom in which we shall live for ever.
2.3 The Return of Jesus will mark the end of all Pain and Evil.
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4).
Without the hope of his coming and a life beyond this life, we cannot make sense of the problem of evil. Wolfhart Pannenberg writes, "In some sense atheism has a point in arguing that the world ought to be different if there were a God who cares for man and even for every individual... Only the full manifestation of God's kingdom in the future... can fully decide about the reality of God." That is why we await patiently for the consummation of the hope that he has placed in our hearts.
The apostle Peter had these words of encouragement for Christians living through traumatic times in the First Century.
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this `coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him... Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. (2 Peter 3:3-18)
The Formidable Grounds for PMT, the Biblical Answer to PMT.
3. How to Look Forward to Jesus Return
Belief in the second coming of the Lord, the knowledge that He is coming again, is something meant to sustain us in trial, to strengthen us in weakness, to solace us in mourning, to stir us up in service. It is something that explains the past, cheers the present and promises perfection in the future. The second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is, and is meant to be, a continuous power in the minds of those who know and believe in Him as the one who died for our sins and rose again for our justification. A power to change our behaviour. This is how Paul put it,
"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, While we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ," (Titus 2:12-13)
It is sad therefore that there appear four very different attitudes manifested in the professing Church towards this blessed hope; aggressive hostility, listless apathy, fearful apprehension and loving expectancy. Some hate the thought of it, some are totally ignorant of it, some are afraid of it, and only some love it. That is what we are instructed to do, love His appearing.
3.1 Long For His Appearing: 2 Timothy 4:8
"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.""
Do you long for his appearing? Does it excite you? The Bible describes the Church as the Bride of Christ. Jesus repeatedly used the imagery of the bride and groom to describe his relationship to his disciples. Does His return fill you with anticipation? That's the first test. Longing for His appearing.
3.2 Looking Forward to His Appearing: 2 Peter 3:10-12
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives As you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming."
It is true that terrible judgements lie ahead for a world that has rejected the mercy and salvation of God when Christ returns. Only the wilfully blind can fail to see that. But God's eternal purpose includes the final vanquishing of Satan and his hosts of evil, and the establishing of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness will reign. Are you looking forward to that day or not? Story of George Muller's priorities in the light of the Second Advent... Are your personal priorities taking you nearer or further away from that day? Longing, Looking and,
3.3 Loyal Until His Appearing: Revelation 3:11
In Luke 18:8 Jesus asks a question, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith in the earth?" Most of the speculation about the return of Jesus Christ is misplaced. We are asking the wrong question. Our "Wills" are in the wrong place. "Its elementary Watson", said Shirlock in, "The Case of the Misplaced Will". We are preoccupied with asking the question "When will the Lord come?" Instead we should be asking ourselves, "When the Lord comes will he find faith?" Jesus will look for faithfulness on our part. As Dwight Prior once said,
"I hope he finds me diligently serving his Kingdom in the tasks he has assigned, using fully the talents he has given. Success is not mine to evaluate nor the glory mine to receive; but faithfulness is mine to give and that in him is the victory that overcomes the world."
Precisely because we don't know when he is returning, we should live diligently, as if the Lord were returning tonight, but planning and building God's kingdom on earth as if it will be here another 1000 years - hence our Millennium Project to provide Sunday school classes.
Longing, looking, loyal until his appearing - indeed we should actually be praying for the return of Jesus. In response to the very last words of Jesus in the Bible (Revelation 22:20), "Yes, I am coming soon.", the Apostle John prays, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." So, let me ask you, are you looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ? Or are you afraid or apathetic? Is there unfinished business in your life? then finish it quickly. Be ready before its too late. Is there anything more important than Jesus in your life? then its too important. Revise your values before he has to, to your shame. If you knew that the Lord was returning tomorrow would you change your priorities today? Then change them tonight. Live today as if it were your last. Live as if it were only yesterday that Christ died, as if He rose from the dead today, as if He were coming back tomorrow. Then you will not be ashamed at His appearing and you will not lose your reward. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus. Amen.