When I grew up in Gainesville, Florida, I had a friend, Tommy, whose grandfather had lived in Atlanta. Since Tommy and I knew each other in the 60’s and 70’s, I guess his grandpa lived in Atlanta around 1900, or earlier. Tommy once told me that his grandfather shared with him that he had a chance to buy stock in the Coca Cola Company in the very beginning, but did not think it was a safe investment. So Tommy’s grandpa turned down the opportunity. It seems his grandfather shared this truth with some regret. If he had known the truth of what the future held for Coca Cola, Tommy’s grandpa would surely have bought stock. But, he didn’t know and he missed out. Perhaps you’ve heard similar stories.
If you worship in a Christian congregation which uses the traditional church calendar, this past Sunday was the last Sunday of this past church year. This coming Sunday, the First Sunday in Advent, is first Sunday of the coming church year, sort of a New Year’s Day. The assigned Scripture readings for a 3 week period have focused on a topic which Jesus spoke about often, but a topic which is often ignored in our world today. This topic is His Second Coming, which we sometimes call Judgement Day.
Jesus’ final coming was important to Jesus and He taught about it often. But, there is some discomfort associated with what Jesus tells us the future holds. At a time when people declare, “No one can tell me what to do,” the idea that there will be a final reckoning is considered close-minded. The idea that there is such a thing as right and wrong seems old fashioned and un-enlightened to many in our world. Therefore, this teaching of Jesus’ final coming to judge the world is often ignored or denied by many today.
But God’s children do know Jesus’ promises about the future! In the readings for this coming Sunday we will hear Jesus speak in Matthew 24. “35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:35-36) Whether people ignore or deny what Jesus says, we believe that the end IS coming. However, we do not know when that will be. In truth, if we die before Jesus comes, that, in effect, is our Judgement Day. Most often, we don’t know when that day is either.
Since Jesus’ sharing the truth of this final day speaks of consequences and ultimate justice, it is a teaching of God’s law. But, that is not all Jesus teaches about the coming Final Day. In the assigned Gospel Lesson from Luke 21 in worship two weeks ago, we heard Jesus give a different perspective on His final coming. He spoke good news, or Gospel. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28) Christians, people who believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, have a different view of Jesus’ Second Coming. Yes God will finally declare judgement and bring justice. But, Christians believe that God executed His justice on Jesus when He was on the cross, in order to forgive us and offer mercy to us. Jesus paid the price for the sins in the world. All who believe in Jesus are forgiven and are saved. So when Jesus returns, Jesus who paid for our sins, those who believe in Jesus see His coming as a day of redemption. Jesus comes to take us out of the pain of this world, to heaven.
Therefore, those who know and believe in Jesus want to be prepared for this final, ultimate, truth. Jesus says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24;42) We know what the future holds. The practical side of Jesus’ important teaching is that we want to be ready. We want to be living in faith, following Jesus, when He comes, no matter when that is.
My friend, Tommy, told me the story about his grandfather, implying regret that his grandpa missed his opportunity. The important message which Jesus teaches is that He is coming again as Judge. The world will come to an end. This is not just an old fashioned idea, it is God’s truth. We do not want to miss the opportunity for redemption. We want to watch and be ready when Jesus comes.
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