Christ’s Second Coming and Christian Hope
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thess.4:13).
Hope is a powerful ally in the Christian walk. There is nothing as seemingly uncertain as the future, yet there are few things that motivate us more. Christianity is a religion of hope. Christians hope for the betterment of humanity within the world. This motivates us to preach the gospel to the lost in the hopes that they will repent by changing their lives for the better. There is no shortage of lost souls needing change. This, however, is not the extent of the Christian message. For our Lord says, “But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:30). The future is important to Christians.
Many eastern worldviews (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.), as well as the contemporary self-help philosophies of the “new age” would have individuals abandon the future and focus on the present. Living in the moment, we are told, will remove all desires regarding the future, lower individual expectations, align the planets, and usher in an era of peace and harmony – the Age of Aquarius. The folly of such thinking is revealed in the fact that the Age of Aquarius has not arrived despite great efforts to the contrary. The so called advice of “living in the moment” and the hope of a “new age” yet to be ushered in, are two objectives wholly at odds. Ought humanity’s efforts to be invested in the future new age? If so, then living in the moment is not the end-all solution it is touted as being. This is fantasy, not hope.
Atheism also offers no real hope for humanity. Those who have adopted the naturalist worldview believe that one day the sun will expand and burn up the earth so as to make it uninhabitable. Should mankind venture into space and survive the earth’s demise, nevertheless, all stars will eventually go out. Then, the only source of heat remaining will be black holes. However, after a very long time, these too will expire. Ultimately, all things will break down into microscopic particles, and the heat death of the universe will occur. Humanity will be no more, extinct along with everything else. Humanity will not even be a memory as there will be no one left to remember. There is no hope here.
Within those who profess Christianity, there are those who pervert the biblical message of hope. Scores of individuals have claimed that they know the exact date of Christ’s return. The most recent of these claims was that Christ would return on May 21st, 2011. What is sad is that faith in the biblical message is undermined when such false claims are made. Long has the scripture declared that the hour of Christ’s return would be known to no man (Matthew 24:36, 24:50, Mark 13:32, Luke 12:46). Many other scriptures make it plain that Jesus will return “as a thief,” that is, unexpectedly (1 Thess.5:2, 4, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3, 16:15). Those who set forth a specific date for Christ’s return are setting forth a false hope, which is no hope at all.
Another false hope is that the physical world will be transformed, renewed, and populated with the saved. Peter declares clearly that the earth and everything within it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10-12). The promise of a new heaven and new earth is consistent with that for which the patriarchs sought. “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16). This is the house not made with hands, eternal, and in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). It is that place Jesus has gone to prepare for the faithful, which place is in the Father’s house (John 14:1-3). We should not set our hope upon the physical earth as the future abode of the righteous, but upon the eternal kingdom of God, which cannot be inherited by flesh and blood; corruption cannot inherit incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:50). The physical earth as the eternal dwelling place of the saints is a false hope.
Just as there is only one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is only one hope (Ephesians 4:4). This is the hope of Christ’s return when he will bring with him the saints and resurrect all from the dead (1 Thess.4:14-16, John 5:28-29). He will judged and separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-33). The saved will enter heaven to be with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for eternity (Matthew 25:34). The wicked will enter hell to dwell with Satan and his angels forever (Matthew 25:41). This is the true and only message of hope: eternal life for the righteous and eternal punishment for the wicked. Only this message of the future motivates to pure and godly living in the present (1 John 3:3, 2 Peter 3:11, 14). May we united upon this message and not be deceived by the false proclamations of others; herein is mankind’s only true hope.