The Forgotten Hope of Christ’s Return
For thousands of years, the coming of the Messiah was foretold, while year after year they looked with expectancy toward the One who would make everything right. But, year after year they died, passing into eternity, leaving behind only the hope of the One who would come, passed down from generation to generation through stories and writings that were meticulously shared from person to person, tribe to tribe, family to family.
It’s probably fair to assume that by the time the promise was fulfilled in the person of Jesus, many had set aside what they had heard from their ancestors and simply gone about their everyday lives, raising their families, working to provide shelter and food, and in many cases, being enslaved and put to hard labor just to survive.
Is it possible that they had taken their eyes off of a millennia-old promise as they went through the motions of what was culturally expected of them?—going to the synagogue, bringing sacrifices that checked a box, offering perfunctory prayers? I think I could very easily have been in that spot, and I’m sure many of them were as well.
Then He happened. Even though the details of Jesus’ coming lined up with Scripture exactly as it had been foretold, a people who had by this time institutionalized their belief in a coming Savior were unable to see what was clearly set before them in stunning yet simple brilliance. And I totally get it.
By this time in history, there had no doubt been countless times when the answer to the question, “Is this the One?” was yet another in a line of “no’s” that eroded at the faith these dear people had been holding onto. Before Christ, the temple was the cultural and religious hub concerning Jewish life; many looked to it for guidance and truth rather than to Scripture or to God himself.
So, it’s not surprising that when the leaders in the Jewish religion at that time decreed that Jesus was not the Messiah, most of the faithful Jews, already with a sense of hopelessness and waning faith, just went about their lives as if nothing of significance had happened. “There’s nothing to see here, folks…just move along.” And they did. You and I might have as well.
Once Jesus left, all was lost…again. Any hope that had sprung up within the people was dashed as they looked at Him hanging on the cross, leaving behind an uneducated, lost and wandering small group, preparing to go back to their previous lives and wondering what went wrong.
It was only in hindsight that time was literally split into “BC” and “AD”—starting a stopwatch that’s running to this day, keeping track of the time since He came. Culture has decided to change the term to “BCE,” meaning Before the Common Era, yet the date the “common era” is based on is the birth of Christ. So, call it whatever you want, but Jesus entered into time and transformed our world at a time when nearly everyone had stopped looking, stopped hoping.
For what seemed like countless years, He was coming; and then just a few short decades later, He was gone. But He left us with a promise that feels eerily similar—the ancient promise that foretold of His coming. He promised that He was coming BACK and upon His return, He would establish the Kingdom of God once again, as it was in the beginning, without sin, pain or the devil. That’s a pretty hopeful promise!
New Testament writers wrote of the second coming of Christ as if it were imminent, that any day now He would be back to establish His kingdom on earth and make everything right. This promise of His return, among other things, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit, launched the Church into existence, and it exploded onto the scene with excitement, purpose and passion.
Yet, year after year they looked with expectancy toward the One who would make everything right. But, just as in the past, year after year they died, passing into eternity, leaving behind only the hope of the One who would come again, passed down from generation to generation through stories and writings that were meticulously shared from person to person, tribe to tribe, family to family.
It’s probably fair to assume that after 2,000 years of waiting for what seemed imminent, many have set aside what they have heard from their ancestors and simply gone about their everyday lives, raising their families, working to provide shelter and food, and in many cases being enslaved by a culture that places achievement and success above all. Is it possible we have taken our eyes off of a millennia-old promise as we go through the motions of what is culturally expected of us—going to church, doing good deeds that check a box, offering perfunctory prayers? I can very easily be in that spot, I’m sorry to say.
As we look forward to celebrating yet another year passed since He came, let’s not forget the promise of His return. Randy Alcorn, in his book The Treasure Principle, refers to our lives as the “dot” and to eternity as the “line.” So much of our lives are spent focusing on the dot, this infinitesimally limited amount of time where we find ourselves alive in this world—an average of about 80 years for us, maybe 90 if we’re lucky. We get so bound up in creating a world that doesn’t require a Savior that we no longer place our hope in His return. We no longer have (or never had) words to express what a better life could be, because we have so bought into the lie that we have it all now.
Of course, all you have to do is look under the hood. Even we as Christians know how to put the veneer of success, happiness and joy on our faces while we hide the emptiness of life spent pursuing dots instead of lines, the pain of broken relationships, the fear of sickness and death. We’ve checked the box of accepting Christ as Savior, but the entanglements of the trappings of a good life have taken our eye off the ball.
He’s coming back! It’s imminent! Any day now, the Savior of the world will return—your Savior, the One who rescued you. He chose you before the foundations of the world, you are always on his mind, and He wants nothing more than to be with you for eternity. So, the very least we can do in light of this truth is to live our lives as if is true.
This Christmas season, may you be blessed by the Father with a renewed awareness of what the birth of Christ really meant. May you have time to reflect on what His death and resurrection means to you personally and the chance to think and pray about how the promise of His imminent return should impact your life today.