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OK! It's true that fervent Christians have claimed in virtually every generation over the past two thousand years, that the Lord's return is imminent! And, so far, they have all been wrong! So, I'm not going to try to claim that He will arrive next week or next year or even any time in this new millennium!
But, when He does arrive, what will it be like? It would seem that the consideration of such a future event must be total speculation. After all, the Bible is basically silent as to the when and where and how! But maybe not! There would seem to be a little information that might assist us. Combined with some basic logic, I think we can propose certain aspects of that wonderful day that are likely to be true!
A lot of Christians expect the spectacular style of His Return. They seem to extrapolate a few Scriptural references with their own interpretations as to what they mean. For example, Jude 1:14 could seem to imply a spectacular return, but verse 15 seems to make it clear that that might be a later event. The second half of 2 Peter 3:10 also seems to imply that. But the first half of that same verse, as well as 1 Thess 5:2, indicate that His Day will arrive as a thief in the night (also Rev 3:3; 16:15). Matt 26:64, Mark 14:62 and Luke 21:27 all indicate that He will "come in a cloud of Heaven". And Acts 1:11 says that He will Return in a similar manner as He Ascended into Heaven.
Keep in mind that there are at least six Scriptures that seem to clearly indicate that the time of His Return was very soon (Philip 4:5; Heb 10:37; James 5:8; Rev 3:11; 22:7; 22:20). So far, nearly 2,000 years later, that "soon" Return has not yet happened. I take this to indicate that we really have very little absolute Scriptural guidance on this subject. This is why I have chosen to explore the "quieter" possible way of His Return.
Think about all you know of what Jesus stood for and was. He was humble, unassuming, considerate, thoughtful and all the rest. He definitely was NOT arrogant, self-centered, power-hungry and He did not have any of the other self-centered characteristics of us sinful humans. What would make anyone think that He will arrive as a prideful and arrogant conquering hero? Rather than arriving with a huge angelic entourage or on a flying horse, doesn't it seem more likely that He would arrive riding on the back of a donkey (as He did in John 12:14)? If He is still the Savior we all think He is, He certainly still maintains His humility, and He would probably be offended by such show-boating.
This suggests to me that a flashy entrance seems unlikely. My suspicion is that He will arrive relatively similarly to how He arrived the first time. A comment needs to be made here regarding the First time He Lived on Earth. No Christian scholar believes that He was "actually" Born of Mary. All Christian scholars believe that He "Pre-Existed" (in Heaven, as God) before Mary, indeed, before Genesis. (Some of those scholars note that the word "We" is used in Genesis, and say that this implies that the Father, Son [Jesus] and Holy Spirit already existed by then.) Given that universal conclusion among Christian scholars, His Birth by Mary was simply His way of joining human society on Earth. Think about it. If He had arrived two thousand years ago in some spectacular manner, who would have ever questioned Him or doubted Him? Where would any need for Faith now be for us? Back then, He lived for around thirty years as a meek and humble, somewhat un-noticed, person, before the final three years of His human life which we know about from the Bible.
Therefore, I suspect that the general assumption, that Jesus had already "grown up" as a human and would therefore Return as an adult, might be wrong. I see it as far more likely that He would Return again as a Baby (somewhere) and then grow up without much notice, until the proper Time came for His New Public Ministry.
I think that most people, if forced to comment on this, might suggest that the modern equivalent of Three Wise Men following a Light in the sky, would foretell His Return. And that some woman, somewhere, might again have a miraculous Virgin Birth, so He would again join us!
I think a version of the second of these two possibilities is farf more likely. But, let's think about how that could happen in the modern world.
The moment that an unusual light appeared in the sky, researchers and news organizations everywhere would be trying to find out what it was. It wouldn't take long before some reporter got a line on the Wise Men. Imagine them going across a desert, followed by tens of thousands of reporters and news crews, followed by hundreds of thousands of well-wishers!
What kind of a quiet birth would be possible under those circumstances? A hundred teams of the world's best doctors would be standing by in case there was any emergency. That family and that Child would experience the most disrupted lives ever lived! They would never have any Peace! How could the Child go through a childhood? Could He play? Or interact with any other children? Or go to school? NO, to all!
God is extremely intelligent. Far more so than any of us. Would He submit His Child to such a circus life? Not a chance!
Now, consider that the Bible makes reference to only a single significant incident in the life of Jesus, (after His first few days of life) before He began His Ministry at about the age of thirty. Luke 2:42ff tells us that when He was about twelve years old, He went to Jerusalem with His earthly family, and strayed from them to spend time in the Temple there.
(The Bible does tell us in Matthew 2:13 about Joseph taking the family to Egypt, but nothing is really said about the Baby there.)
At the end of that incident in the Temple, He made a comment regarding the Work of His Father to His earthly parents (Luke 2:49), who did not understand what He meant (Luke 2:50).
This is really important! Mary and Joseph did not understand!
There are many consequences of this. If they did not understand, then they certainly had not been treating Him in any special way. They didn't realize His true Nature, and so they must have always raised Him like a normal kid! Other than a very unusual Conception and Birth, Joseph and Mary were therefore apparently unaware of just how Special their Son actually was!
Now, if they weren't aware of His special Nature, that certainly implies that the other children didn't know, either. So, at least up to the age of twelve, He almost certainly lived an absolutely normal life, with the exception of the first week of it!
There were a lot of Jews at the time who were looking for the Messiah, because of prophecies in the Torah (Old Testament). If the slightest word had gotten out about the possible existence of the one they were looking for, they would certainly have swarmed around Him for His whole childhood and whole life. But that didn't happen. He apparently lived a quiet life. If He hadn't, for example, if He had ever done any Miracles, He would immediately have been in the limelight. [There were several later (300 AD to 500 AD) Books written that resemble Bible Books that describe the Child Jesus creating birds out of clay and doing many other Miracles to entertain His childhood friends. These Books have been conclusively proven to have been written hundreds of years later, by authors who could not have actually witnessed or known such things. In addition, if the Child Jesus had done even one such Miracle, the rest of His life would have been enormously altered, forever being the center of attention of countless people who would have followed Him around begging for some Miracles.] So, whether he could have done Miracles or not as a Child (another interesting subject to speculate about!), He certainly did not perform any miraculous type things in His youth.
This same general situation certainly continued until He was about thirty years old and began His Ministry. If He had ever done any Miracles even once before then, large numbers of people would have started following Him around, like they invariably did later when He DID miraculously heal and cure people (John 6:2).
We KNOW this had not been the case, because His early Ministry actually involved rather few people! Clearly, no one really seemed to be aware of exactly who He was!
Even for the entire first year of His Ministry the developments were pretty slow. Most of His notoriety occurred in the very last few months of His life.
In other words, if someone met him on the street (before He began His public Ministry), it is certain they really wouldn't have thought Him different or special in any way. They probably would have been impressed by his demeanor but would have just concluded that He was a REALLY nice guy!
During His Ministry, did He ever ask any of the Twelve to carry him on a Royal Litter? Not even close! Instead, He washed their feet! (John 13:5). Sound like any Monarch YOU have ever heard of?
Doesn't all this make it seem unlikely that He will return in any flashy way? That seems to suggest to me that He will more likely return in a quiet, unassuming way, much like He visited us before.
In addition, similar to the experience of Jesus long ago, His return will almost certainly involve a pretty normal Childhood. Since Joseph and Mary didn't understand Jesus' comment when He was twelve, they clearly didn't even truly realize His uniqueness (except for His unusual Birth!) So, they would not have seen cause to teach Him about such matters. This is certain to be equally true when He returns. The parents will not really even be aware that He SHOULD be treated special. (Other than how Special all good parents treat their children!) That means that He will certainly be able to lead a normal and uneventful childhood.
Can you imagine the stress in the parents if they KNEW that their child was God? Would they ever yell at Him to be quiet? Would they ever reprimand Him at all in the process of getting a child to learn the countless things a child must learn? I would think that instead, they might just assume that God would already know respect for others, right and wrong, social skills, etc! Such parents might have therefore have entered the room with gasps of awe, and not the standard parental attitudes and behaviors. This is another reason why Jesus' Childhood Divinity had to have been unknown to Joseph, Mary and all the other kids, and possibly even to Jesus Himself.
We know that historical Jesus somehow became aware of His special Nature by the time He was twelve. The Bible does NOT tell us how He knew that or when He learned it. But, even afterward, He apparently did not do anything out of the ordinary, until many years later when He began His Ministry.
It seems certain that this will equally be true when He returns. This will allow Him to live a life around "normal" people such that He could learn their ways. That matches the pattern that was certainly true of Jesus' life.
I had often wondered about this regarding Jesus. If He had worked as a carpenter prior to His public Ministry, I speculated about how unbelievably perfect the work of God would be. But, there are two VERY good reasons that I have now concluded that was not the case. If His carpentry was SO much superior to that of human carpenters, word would have quickly spread of His talent, and it wouldn't have been long before a lot of people were hanging around Him, if only because of His astounding carpentry expertise. In addition to this, once His public Ministry began, there would have been many people that would have coveted His earlier "perfect" carpentry products. People being what we are, it is certain that very soon (especially after His Crucifixion) those artifacts would have been worshipped as icons.
Remembering the Golden Calf incident of the Old Testament, it's clear that such symbols and artifacts must not endure to become objects of reverence in themselves.
I am not aware that anyone has ever tried to study the history of any furniture or other carpentry products that Jesus might have created prior to the beginning of His public Ministry. Obviously, many such objects must have still existed at the time of His Crucifixion, only three to ten years after such products were made. Why DIDN'T avid Christians try to locate them? Or even the Twelve. Obviously, it's good that this did not occur, because that action would have distracted the focus of Faith and belief away from Jesus and His Sacrifice for us.
I realize that I am here exploring a basically irrelevant area regarding the life of Jesus. But, this essay is actually centered on when He will Return. It is hard to imagine that we will all be on our best behaviors! More likely, anything He touches will be grabbed and sold! Whatever school He had attended as a child will probably be dismantled and sold brick by brick! If He had had a career prior to His upcoming public Ministry (like carpentry), herds of people will lust after the products of that craft, either for their own personal Faith token or to try to sell to the highest bidder. Very sad to say, but probably very likely to occur. I wonder how God is going to arrange things to minimize this situation?
Since I'm commenting on areas that are rather irrelevant details of the life of Jesus, I might as well add another that has long mystified me. At times, in the last months of His earthly life, there were crowds of hundreds and even thousands that came to listen to Jesus and that would follow Him around. These people surely comprehended that He was somebody Special, even if they did not understand that He was the Messiah. Doesn't it seem likely that a few of the artistic ones of them might have made a drawing or painting of Him? (I realize that the Biblical stricture against graven images in Exodus 20:1-5 might have discouraged that type of artistic expression as being idolatrous, but most of those people really still did not realize that Jesus was the Lord, and they might have made such artwork due to simple respect and admiration). Or written a poem about Him? Or written and sung a song about Him? Sort of like we try to honor our modern celebrities? A button off the sleeve of a rock star becomes a coveted item. An autograph is treasured. ANYTHING associated with a famous person becomes valuable and desired. Even AFTER the Crucifixion, when people started to truly understand just Who He was, doesn't it seem likely that artists, painters, musicians, sculptors, poets and others who had earlier met Him, would have made permanent artworks of Jesus, as Memorials, from their own personal memories of Him?
If any of these things actually occurred, no artifacts seem to have persisted. By forty years later, when the Christian Church was becoming well established, there were apparently NO such artifacts in existence! Isn't that remarkable?
For the record, historical evidence indicates that the earliest existing paintings that anyone seems to know about that depicted the appearance of Jesus, including the intense image of the Crucifixion itself, dates from about 450 AD, more than twenty generations later! The earliest known music (actually, chants) arose later yet. It seems pretty certain that artwork depicting Jesus probably existed earlier, as far back as about 313 AD, after Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan. There was also certainly a substantial amount of narrative art that existed about that time, so the largely illiterate general populace could be taught Christian stories and lessons (illuminated manuscripts).
So, all of the beautiful images we see of Jesus (and Mary) are probably not actually based on direct contact with Him, but on "artist's license" many centuries later. Another interesting little detail!
I personally think that this is another one of those subtle examples of the infinite knowledge of our God. He knew that if we could ever find such artifacts, we would irrationally attach FAR too much significance to the artifact itself. SOMEHOW, He quietly saw to it that every such artifact that might have had a direct connection with Jesus happened to either get destroyed or would otherwise lose its association with Jesus. We have an incredibly Thoughtful God!
This also implies that He will NOT be born with a name that fulfills any obvious prophecy. So, He may not even be named Jesus! Maybe 1 Corinthians 15:45 tells us His name will be Adam!
We are not likely to know ANYTHING about His (new) true Nature until He chooses to let us all know. So, when the time is right, there will be SOME individual who will come to our attention as the returned Messiah. He probably won't even "promote" Himself, but others around Him will recognize Who He is. At that point, we collectively will need to try to judge His credibility. With the instantaneous news coverage these days, as soon as He would do a Miracle, we would all see it on the Nightly News! But I have a feeling that He would not perform miracles to amuse the media.
This hypothesized situation makes it even more clear about why Jesus' gave us the warnings about "false prophets" (like in Matthew 7:15, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22 and others). Jesus KNEW the circumstances in which He would return, and He realized that others could and would try to impersonate Him.
So, each time someone comes along that claims to be the Messiah, we should pay close attention, because one day, it WILL be Him! Before He returns, though, He told us that we will face many impostors. It will be up to us to sort through them. Whenever a David Koresh comes along and claims to be Jesus, we need to have the discernment to determine that he is not.
Jesus warned us that there will even be some impostors that will seem to be able to do miracles and other impressive things (Mark 13:22). He has instructed us that we will have GREAT difficulty in discerning whether such experiences are truly from when He returns of if it is just the presentation of an evil impostor (Mark 13:23).
In any event, our learning of His return seems likely to be a rather different experience than public opinion might think!
There is another interesting consequence if this is indeed what will happen. If even the parents are not aware of His unique Nature, then it seems quite possible that even He might not be initially aware of it, either! During His youth, He may not even realize what His future will include! At some point, He would apparently become aware of this. Jesus apparently knew by the time He was twelve years of age. There is no way of knowing how old He will be at His Return when He understands.
This could conceivably mean that some very devout Christian presently living might have a future as our Messiah! That guy over on the other side of the Church on Sunday! Hopefully, this idea will not encourage thousands of people to come forward claiming to be the Messiah! They will NOT be! But, some day, that seems like a very likely possibility as to the way that He will come to our attention.
I generally respond to such e-mails by noting that, if that person were actually correct about being Jesus, then necessarily the other 400 who have similarly informed me would have to have been wrong. Only ONE Jesus, right?
I also mention that many, many thousands of people have previously also believed they were Jesus, including Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the Doors rock band. None of the countless thousands of prior claims have turned out to have been true. That seems to suggest some skepticism regarding each of the many claims that even I happen to get!
I point out that the One person who would actually be Jesus would certainly be capable of doing true Miracles. Not just unusual accomplishments that might get the attention of the Guinness Book of Records, but true Miracles. So, if you happen to be one of the many people who believes that you are Jesus Returned, unless you can do things that are considered absolutely impossible, you probably aren't! But if you can cause a building to rise a hundred feet in the air, turn around and gently settle back down pointed a different direction, maybe you are! If you (not a Doctor) have clearly accomplished bringing individuals back to life after death, before credible witnesses, maybe you are!
There is nothing wrong in contemplating such possibilities. But keep in mind that many thousands of people have previously done such contemplation and then concluded that they ARE the Lord, and then publicly announced it, and all of them have been wrong so far. There is nothing wrong is being a very Devout Christian and a very good person. The Lord appreciates that! I am not sure that He really appreciates it when someone tells people that he is Him! Especially when the motivation for doing so often seems to be a selfish desire for fame, publicity, or personal wealth (through donations). Such motives are completely opposite what the Lord stands for!
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C Johnson, Pastor,
A Christ Walk Church