Occasionally I wonder whether I would be a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church had it not been for the fact that I was born into a Seventh-day Adventist family. Whatever the answer to that question, I am grateful that I am a Seventh-day Adventist and carry in my heart the hope of the second coming of Jesus. It is a hope that edges all my dark, discouraging and depressing experiences with the bright light of optimism and the prospect of one day knowing the full meaning of human existence.
My maternal grandfather, who was born in 1893, became a member of the church as a young man and thought that Jesus would return before he passed away. He died in 1985 but with the strong conviction that it was “almost time for the Lord to come.” That was also the conviction that the pioneers of our denomination had in their hearts when they banded together 150 years ago to form the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Hymns, such as “Never Part Again” (449 in our SDA Hymnal), which they frequently sang, tell us that many of our spiritual forebears had expected Jesus to come within months, years or decades. Sadly, after 150 years our world still groans under the weight of wars, injustice, poverty and the many other consequences of sin. Can we still believe? Is it time for us to reassess our expectation that Jesus is coming soon and accept that He might not come soon or at all?
Certainly Not! Jesus is coming again, as promised. This view is not based on some sentimental longing, tribute to my grandfather or loyalty to the advent cause but on my appreciation of the nature of the One we call our heavenly Father. We can take Him at His word for He is trustworthy and reliable. Throughout the Old and New Testament we find numerous examples of His faithfulness and trustworthiness. One verse of scripture that has served as an anchor to my personal faith over the years is 2 Timothy 2:13: “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” (KJV). The God’s Word translation renders this verse as, “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful because he cannot be untrue to himself.”
What a profoundly reassuring thought! God cannot be untrue to Himself. That is the basis of our belief in scripture as the word of God and in the second coming of Jesus. So, after 150 years we can still believe that Jesus is coming again and that He is coming soon. “In just a little while, he who is coming will come, and will not delay.” (Heb 10:37). The ‘little while’ is the unknown for us. I am reminded of an apocryphal story about a man who had a longing to meet God face to face. According to the story, while the man was walking along the Sussex Downs in England early one morning his dream came true – he met God. He said to God, “Can I ask you some questions?” “Go ahead, my son,” was the reply. The man asked, “Is it true that a thousand years with you are like a minute?” “Yes, my son.” Embolden by that reply he went on, “Is it true that a thousand pounds with you are like a penny?” “Yes, my son.” Then came the punch line: “Can you give me one of those pennies?” “Certainly, my son. Just wait a minute.”
God’s ‘little while’ is not our little while and His minute is not our minute. We must be careful about placing God within our own human constructs and interpret scripture as if we actually knew the mind of God. It is good enough for me that God has promised that Jesus is coming again. When that will occur, I do not know, but it will certainly come to pass. In the meantime my duty is to live in readiness for that climactic event and share the good news of my coming King with as many as I can. We can still believe, even after 150 years!