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The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Chapter 10
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Ps 96:11-13)
There are few topics within the doctrinal beliefs of the Church that have caused as much division and confusion as have issues relating to the End Times. Whether one holds to a pre-, mid-, pre-wrath, or post-tribulation view of the rapture of the church or is pre-, post-, or amillennial regarding Christ’s return to earth, sadly often determines how others will view that individual. Many times a person’s eschatology is derived from where they attend church, what denomination they are a part of, or perhaps what books they have read (fiction or nonfiction).
Unfortunately, beliefs about the End Times are frequently intertwined with great emotional feelings. As such, labels are quickly handed out and sides taken based on another’s church affiliation and/or the use of any of the above key terms in a conversation.
During the years I served as a pastor the most often asked question I received concerning the Christian faith, from both those inside and outside the church, centered on some aspect of eschatology. One conversation in particular that I will never forget was with a lady in the church that came to my office almost in tears over someone in the church who had taught that the rapture would not occur until the end of the seven year tribulation. Her statement to me was, "If he is correct, then I have no hope." She went on to say, "Knowing that I will not have to endure those seven years of affliction is my hope as a believer." I quickly reminded her that regardless of her or anyone else’s view of when Christ will return, the hope of the Christian faith has never been found in the assurance of avoiding suffering and affliction (which, ironically, the Church is actually promised in this life; 2 Tim 3:12). The hope of a believer is only found in the completed work and sacrifice of Christ for our sins. The hope of glory is not a promise to escape suffering, but a reprieve from the judgment of God and the reality of Hell. Suffering has always been a reality in the life of the Church (Jn 15:20; 16:2) and remains so in many parts of the world to this day. The real question that we as followers of Christ must ask ourselves is not when will Christ return, but are we ready for Christ to return?
In chapter 10, Chris Wright speaks of a general anticipation concerning "The Great Climax" of history, or as he puts it, the "Big Day". A day which he links to three specific events: the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment. While his discussion of the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment are important, I connected most with the first section, concerning the return of Christ. Without commenting on the timing of Christ’s return, Wright speaks about the certainty of it. A certainty that he says should deeply impact the believer. He challenges us as readers to ask ourselves what the sure return of Christ means to our lives today. Do we live as though Christ could return at any minute? Does the truth that Christ is the reigning and returning Lord have any bearing on our daily activities? What Christ’s return means to us is a question that should transform the way we think, speak and live every day?
It is easy to think of the "Big Day" as a time when Christ will return to deal out judgment to those who have done us wrong. The Day of the Lord, however, is more than just a day of judgment for unbelievers; it is also a day of examination for believers. It is an appointment that has been scheduled on everyone’s spiritual Outlook calendar. It is a day when we will come face-to-face with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The question is how are we living now in anticipation of that future day?
As you read chapter ten I encourage you to think about the following thoughts…
1) What does it mean for me that Jesus is the reigning Lord, the returning King and the redeeming Savior of the World?
2) Does the average believer live in light of the return of Christ? If not, why?
-David Frees, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Reference Resources
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