A gracEmail subscriber reacts to a recent column: “This line caught my attention, ‘during this pause in the End of the world . . . .’ With all that is happening what insights might you offer? I’ve always thought the Lord could come back in my lifetime.”
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And well he might, for Jesus himself urged: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). Events unfolding in our own day do not excite me nearly so much as the things that happened 2,000 years ago and which are reported in the gospel story. For those things — the Messiah’s coming, the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit poured out, forgiveness of sins — are all portrayed by the Hebrew prophets as End-of-the-world events. For example, most Jews living when Jesus was born believed that at the end of history, God would send his Messiah (Gk: Christ = “anointed one”) and the Resurrection would take place. God would pour out his Spirit on his own people, forgive their sins, and renew or restore the physical earth for their eternal dwelling.
When God raised Jesus from the dead, it was as if God said: “# 1,” and the Resurrection began, which also authenticated Jesus as Messiah. On Pentecost, God poured out his Spirit and announced forgiveness of sins. The End of the world had begun. But then God punched the “pause” button. The End of the world that had started was suddenly placed on hold. At a time known to God alone, he will resume the End of the world. Jesus will reappear, the Resurrection will continue with #2 and #3 and so on. The final judgment will take place. The redeemed, raised or changed immortal, will inhabit new heavens and a new earth. Those finally lost, who were not given immortality, will suffer the second death in hell.
So we live in these days that God has appointed for us, these days during the pause in the End of the world. The End that might resume at any moment and usher in the fullness of the Age to Come. These are critical times; “the ends/goals of the ages” have come upon us (1 Cor. 10:11). All the prophets spoke of these days — these days of messianic fulfillment (Acts 3:10-24). If we focus closely on the time of messianic fulfillment, we will see that it happens in two stages, each marked by a coming (or Advent) of the Christ. And there, betwen his first and his final Advents, are our days — these days split by an interim, these days of the great Until (Psalm 110:1; Acts 3:20-21).