He IS Coming Back–Honest!
Reading: Romans 12-14
In the days of the early church, the followers of Jesus expected the imminent return of the Lord. In part that explains the urgency they felt as they spread the Gospel to the far corners of their world. The Lord had left them a commission, a task to fulfill, and they were certain that the time was short in which to do what Jesus had asked of them. The imminent return of the Lord is something that has been preached, taught, sung about, and argued over, for centuries.
These days we hardly hear a whisper about it. Those who fought over pre-, post-, and A-, have mostly gone on to heaven where they could now care less exactly how the Lord is going to return. We don’t sing much about heaven or about the Second Coming. With the aid of modern technology we live in a fantasy world where someone, somewhere, will let us know via Skype or FACEBOOK when all the nations of the world have heard the Gospel and then we can worry about getting our house in order for the Lord’s return.
In the meanwhile, life goes on.
The “rules” haven’t changed. No one is going to get advance warning of Christ’s return–no technology will ever be that good. He will come “at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44, NIV). Earthquake counters and war watchers will not be able to predict His return.
The simple truth that we are much closer to that return than were those who lived in the period of the early church, should remind us of just how important Paul’s instructions in Romans are. He writes:
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does not harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”
“AND DO THIS, UNDERSTANDING THE PRESENT TIME. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because OUR SALVATION IS NEARER NOW THAN WHEN WE FIRST BELIEVED. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies or drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissention and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:8-14, NIV, emphasis mine).
By the time Paul wrote to the Romans there were things on his heart that went beyond the urgency of the mission. He saw that those who claimed to be followers of Christ were not only losing their urgency to spread the Gospel, but also had lost the urgency to live as people who didn’t have a lot more time left to model Christ. When Jesus didn’t come back, that urgency turned into an apathy that was reflected in how they lived out their lives. Paul doesn’t urge his readers to complete the mission. That would be impossible unless they returned to modeling the Saviour Who had sent them on that mission.
It is also interesting to note that Paul only focused on the second half of the commandments, the last six dealing with man’s relationship to man rather than the first four which dealt with man’s relationship with God. I suspect he was thinking about Jesus’ words “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24. NIV).
Fix what’s wrong in your love relationship with man, then come and express your love for God and complete His mission through lives that reflect His glory. Why? Because He’s coming back, and whether it is sooner or later shouldn’t make a difference to those whose priorities are right.