the spice box ” Coming soon, but stay on guard “
By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel
This is the season of anticipation.
We anticipate the result of the national elections when we will finally know who will lead our country for the next presidential term.
We watch the ever-changing weather patterns, moving us toward winter.
We begin planning for Thanksgiving Day, hoping to spend time with family and friends, or maybe to serve a good, hot meal to those who might otherwise be alone, perhaps without a meal at all.
And we seem to grow younger in spirit as we anticipate the joys of the Christmas season when the prevailing spirit of generosity and good will be so often seen on the faces of those around us. It is, at its best, a reflection of the love and generosity of the one who gave us the greatest gift of all.
As the holiday season approaches, one other important day must be kept in mind—the day the Christian church has looked forward to with longing and anticipation—the day of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, himself. Presidential elections come and go, holidays slide from the future into the past, but that one great day of days will, with its coming, disrupt life as we know it.
Many theories elaborate on the end times. Each day, events—especially those concerning Israel and its neighboring nations—seem to indicate the immediacy of the day of Christ’s return.
For nearly 2,000 years the followers of Christ have felt this sense of anticipation, the sense of urgency that must precede that day. Some critics have pointed to this expectation, and in particular to the conviction that the day of Christ’s coming would be soon, in their own lifetime, as proof of believers’ gullibility.
Not so. God ordained that this sense of urgency permeate the Christian consciousness in order to keep his people fit and prepared at all times. He continually reminds us that the time is at hand, but that the exact timing of this earth-shaking event is known to him alone.
God has his reasons for not revealing the exact moment Christ will return. Some of those reasons are apparent. For example, when one believes he has identified the time of Christ’s return, the demonstrated reaction has been to “head for the hills,” to wait, along with the elect, for the advent. Often the believer chooses to separate from the world, rather than to engage the world for the sake of winning the lost.
Others tend to disengage, feeling that the immediacy of the expected event is proven by the wickedness of the times. Satan’s influence in the world is so rampant that nothing we do will make any difference. Still others feel that because God has ordained the events leading up to the end times, the perceived enemy is so entrenched that there is no real use in trying to reach out to the world in the name of Christ.
In other words, our tendency is to escape personal responsibility for the state of our world by making it all God’s fault. He ordained the state of affairs, and there’s nothing we can do to change it.
The fault in that logic is that while the events depicted in Scripture will inevitably come about, God still has some secrets, and one is, according to Jesus, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32-34 NIV).
God keeps his secret, because he knows us. The tendency of a person on guard duty is to become bored, sleepy, not alert, because he has identified no threat. God doesn’t want us to fall asleep on the job. He is concerned that his people remain alert to the task ordained for them. He has never revised his orders to move out, to engage the world, to win the lost for God, no matter how difficult the circumstances.
Peter got it right when he wrote: The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).