Article 24 : Letters from the desk of a Great-Grandfather
SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO.
A couple of things on the news have caught my attention recently. First, the constant warnings about a second wave of coronavirus have now been fulfilled and we are urged to stay away from certain things: enclosed areas, crowded places, close contacts and so on. This is a most unpleasant second coming! But there's another second coming that is very different - that of the visible return of King Jesus to our world and our lives.
Secondly, many folk in Western USA have been told to prepare a grab bag packed with essentials to pick up quickly and run when danger threatens. I suppose it contains a torch and batteries, clothing, toiletries, emergency rations etc. What would we put into a spiritual grab bag for the day when Jesus returns? A baptismal certificate? A list of good deeds and achievements to justify my inclusion?!! The reality is that on that day there'll be no time even to snatch a grab bag. By then, decisions will be over, time will be no more. But it is so important to be prepared and ready. It will be unexpected and sudden. There'll be no time for last minute swotting and activity.
None of us knows what Jesus looks like, but in a few years time I will! At my age, you get over the "personal immortality of youth" and realise, as Clint Eastwood said, that tomorrow is guaranteed to no one. Years ago I was preaching at our young Emmanuel Church in Durham to a crowd of largely students, everyone under 25, when I warned them that death could be nearer than they realised. They could leave the meeting, get hit by a bus and be standing before God in judgement. After the meeting ended and we were clearing up, a young man came back in. He'd gone 40 yards down the street to a main road, stepped out, and a bus missed him by inches! He came straight back and gave his life to Jesus.
I will personally see Jesus face to face (not 2 metres apart) in reality before too long, as will some of you reading this. But perhaps we all will! We may not need to go to God, for he may come to us. God is and always has been personally involved in history. He hasn't finished with history, but the day is coming when he will finish history! Gloriously!
And what a day that will be. A total and final collision between this world of time and space and the other non-material and timeless, spiritual one. We get some idea of it all from Scripture, even if we stick only to clear and direct references and avoid dipping into imaginative interpretations of prophetic description. We don't and can't understand it clearly but we have enough to get the picture.
It will be just an ordinary day, with folk asleep, or at work, or in self isolation, when suddenly.....SURPRISE SURPRISE! Jesus will appear to everyone everywhere simultaneously. Churchyards and graveyards will be full of surprised and delighted people as they check up on their new resurrected bodies and realise who is and who isn't there around them. What strange expressions there'll be on faces between wake up and take off! And take off we surely will! Not like the wonderful air ambulance man we saw recently with his jet pack, but to a rendezvous above Jerusalem. And all the bad stuff will be over. Forever!
It might be tough at present, worse for some than others, but it will not last. A date has been set, it's in the diary and every day brings it closer. The future is assured, golden, indescribable and light will finally dispel darkness.
Who knows? It might be next week. I had a dear friend, a student, who was looking forward so much to this great day - but not before the summer please for he was getting married in July.
It has been said that two things in life are unavoidable - death and taxes. Well, there's another. And I'm looking forward to it, not as an escape from the pain and frustration of the present. It's a reminder that the future is sorted and it's great!
In the meantime we press on, as Paul said. Doing what we were chosen to do, becoming what we were chosen to be. Churchill said "Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts." So make sure you are prepared and ready. Your homework is to list the ways you can prepare and then do them.
Stay safe. Stay resolute. Stay ready.
KBO. (Keep Battling On!)