Immersive Van Gogh

WWIII, Disease, Earthquakes? How Does One Actually Prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

My first car was a pink Oldsmobile Delta 88 built the year I was born, 1956. It was a spectacle on wheels, especially with my “In case of rapture this [ridiculous] car will be unmanned!” bumper sticker slapped on its massive chrome rear bumper. It was 1972. I had just become a follower of Jesus and had devoured Hal Lindsey’s bestselling book The Late Great Planet Earth, predicting when and how Jesus would come a second time. I was not about to be left behind! Forty years later I’m still here and so are you. So how does one actually prepare for Jesus’ second coming? 

Moonscape in the Rockies

Don’t Get Fooled Again 

What do these six people have in common?

Hippolytus of Rome, Pope Sylvester II, William Miller, Hal Lindsey, Jerry Falwell, and Kenton Beshore.

They all predicted when and how Jesus would come back by interpreting various biblical passages literally and connecting them to current events and/or timelines. And they were all dead wrong. Well, Lindsey and Beshore aren’t dead yet but they are still wrong.

Bishop Hippolytus predicted Jesus would come again in AD 500. Pope Sylvester II marked 1.1.1000. Miller predicted October 22, 1844. Hal Lindsey expected Jesus around 1988. Beshore refined Lindsey’s math and predicted the rapture would happen in 2021.

Bare tree in AZ

As Lindsey’s and the other predictions proved empty and false, I took a second look.

When Jesus predicted the destruction of the Jewish Temple (which happened in AD 70), Jesus’s friends asked, “Tell us, when will these things happen?” 

Good question.

But Jesus told them instead, “Watch out that no one deceives you. . . . When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” (Mark 13:5-7) 

Jesus knew well our desperate desire to eliminate surprise and master mystery. He also knew naming how and when would eliminate any need for trust. So he offered no concrete details. Rather he warned, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32) Ironic how the end time predictors do not take this literal warning literally.

Twitter Predicts Jesus' Return

Being ready according to Jesus then had nothing to do with predictions, time-lines, cheesy bumper stickers, or best-selling books and movies about Jesus’ return.

Sir Winston Waiting

Comprehending apocalyptic biblical literature as poetic not literal better helps us understand prophecy. 1/3 of the Bible is poetry and more-over apocalyptic sayings use metaphor, hyperbole, symbolism, etc., best described as poetic. 

How Could So Many Be So Wrong?

In researching this blog, I stumbled on something telling. Only around seventeen major Christian voices prophesied Jesus’ return in the first 1800 years of church history. While nearly forty major “Christian” leaders have done so in the last 220 years. And that’s not counting the thousands who have not become famous.

Second Coming Predictions
prepared by Steve Keuthe

What changed?   

We adopted a modernist/mechanical view of life and the burgeoning belief that through reason we could answer any and all questions. This world view led people to literalize the entire Bible. When Jesus says, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light. . .’”, he must mean a literal eclipse. But eclipses happen regularly. Taken metaphorically this sign tells us his return will be unmistakable, though not predictable.

Why use poetic and metaphorical language for something so important? 

What if I say, “I love you 478,000 miles”? You might answer as my chemical engineer friend did, “So, there’s a literal end to your love?” Propositional, literal language puts precise limits on whatever it is speaking too. 

But if I said, “I love you to the moon and back” you’d know by the metaphor that my love has no end, despite that to the moon and back is 478,000 miles.

The Bride of Christ waiting for Jesus

Being Ready Means Expectancy not Expectation  

Poetic language leaves the meaning open and also drives truth into the deep emotional places we sometimes wall off. Propositional prose leaves us, as Eugene Peterson said in Subversive Spirituality, “in control, but in a poem we feel like we are out of control. . . . In prose we are after something, getting information, acquiring knowledge. . . . But in poetry we . . . . are prepared to be puzzled, to go back, to wait, to ponder, to listen. This attending, this waiting, this reverential posture, is at the core of the life of faith, the life of prayer, the life of worship, the life of witness. . . .” 

Jesus wants us not to literalize how and when he will return but for us to open our hearts to his. Jesus wants us ready, living with expectancy like unwrapping an unasked for gift rather than being disappointed because what you demanded is not inside the box.  

The Jews in Jesus’ day had much in common with The End is Near predictors of today.

They misread teachings about the Messiah coming. Instead of a conquerer he came as a healer, teacher, and suffering servant. Just as he came the first time in a hinted at unexpected way, to a stable, to a poor carpenter, so the lowest to the highest had access to him, so he will come again in unexpectedly. Be ready to be surprised.

What Does that Look Like?  

In 1948 C. S. Lewis wrote On Living In An Atomic Age. Reminiscent of Jesus he warned: “In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. . . . This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.”

Fruit in bloom

I rewrote Lewis’ final paragraph with Jesus’ return in mind:

 “This is the [main] point to be made: and the [main] action to be taken is to pull ourselves together.” When Jesus returns, which he will, let him find us “doing sensible and human things.” Let him find us living resurrected lives in the peace he left us. May he find us sharing his life and grace over coffee, beer, or a meal with our families, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. May he find us worshiping, working, hiking, napping, playing, making music, jokes, art, and even making love. May he find us serving meals to the hungry, teaching children, smiling at store clerks.

Beer at the Prost

And may all of these activities be stained with Jesus’ unmistakable redemptive love and hope.

May he not find us cowering in fear, arguing over pre, post, or a-tribulation. Nor filling our basements with emergency supplies having connected the latest news cast with our interpretation of scripture. Nor acting as if he will never return, building our bank accounts, resumes, and reputations, living as if it all ends here. Until he comes let him find us loving God and our neighbors heart, soul, strength, and mind.

Rainbow in aspens

Unbelievably someone stole my pink Olds, ran it out of gas, and abandoned it by the side of the road. I never expected that. Maybe that’s a metaphor of Jesus main point. 

16 thoughts on “WWIII, Disease, Earthquakes? How Does One Actually Prepare for Jesus’ Second Coming?”

  1. I am sure you heard about the classic church prank… The youth group leader fell asleep.. So everyone left some clothes, and quietly left the room… And then blew a shofar.!!
    A rabbi taught that the way to hasten the coming of Messiah is by doing good works, being friendly… Basically what you said😊

    1. Hahaha. I would have loved it had my youth group kids done that to me!! I think that doing good works was what most believed would bring the kingdom before both world wars happened. Those changed us.

  2. Well Done!
    Loved the photos, the explanations were the most accessible I’ve read.
    I hope everyone comes up with a comic caption for what the dog at the window is expectantly waiting for…

  3. Georgie Ann Kettig

    I was 10 years older than you were “back in the day” of the modern era “end-time prophets” you mention (Hal Lindsey, etc),… it was kind of “fun”/intriguing listening to them,… I was kind of a “newly evangelized Christian”, who had been previously culturally inundated with all kinds of (supposedly) “human learning and wisdom(s)” that had eliminated (or by-passed) God as being an important factor,… televangelists and popular Christian book-writers were having great and exciting exposure in the culture-of-the-times,…

    I don’t think that this particularly “bothered me” in the sense of their “accuracy”,… I felt like I already knew “all too well” that human thought is a very fallible proposition, when compared to God’s Wisdom and Knowledge and Truth and Accuracy in all things,… we are basically, “absolutely nothing” by comparison,… but that is “ok”,… we just try to do the best that we can, to express our concepts and feelings as well, and as honestly, as we can,… in fact, we are “safer” with the (as you say) “poetic” descriptions, as then we are not claiming our own personal “infallibility”,…

    yes, there are “prophets” who speak the words that God has “put in their mouths”,… but the example of Noah also shows us that God can then “repent” of what He has said/”prophesied” (through them), because those who heard and listened had repented themselves,… in this way, even God is not simply “arbitrary” in the things He does or says,… it appears that He is trying to “work WITH us”,…

    does God ultimately know when and how everything will “turn out”?,… how would I know?,… but I can believe that He does,… I can believe what Christ says, that even He doesn’t know, nor any man, but only the Father,… I think it’s probably wise to remain aware that “we’re all in this together” ~ God, His angels, “saints”, sinners, nature, (what else is there?),… our words, actions and prayers, things we do and don’t do, think and don’t think, all contribute to our environment, which is still groaning unto the Day of Redemption,… (sorry, I’m paraphrasing ~ no quotes, but I think I could find them),…

    certainly, remaining “in Faith”, as Christians, and not succumbing to the “fear tactics” of the “World and the Devil” is a tremendous “Witness and Comfort” to not only ourselves, but to those around us,… our “weapon(s)” are Love-based and powerful in ways that may not be “visible to the naked eye”,… but it penetrates the atmosphere,… when we “do the best we can” to maintain a God-honoring disposition in this Life, and wish to be a Blessing to those around us, and even extending to those we do not see, we are helping to bring about the ultimate “triumph” of God’s Will,… even if we do not know “when or how that ultimate day/time” will come,…

  4. Georgie Ann Kettig

    correction, so sorry ~ “Jonah” (and the whale story/Nineveh, etc) is what I meant, instead of Noah!,… I wasn’t really “checking my thought processes” very closely, while writing,… my bad,… excuse, “tired”,… (-:

    1. Georgie Ann Kettig

      here is a verse that kind of goes along with my transition to having respect for “God’s Words” vs “human say-so” ~

      “I came into the world to divide it, to make the sightless see and to reveal to those who think they see it all that they are blind.”—John 9:39

    2. Georgie Ann Kettig

      another verse:

      1 Corinthians 13:12
      “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

  5. Georgie Ann Kettig

    another verse:

    1 Corinthians 13:12
    “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

    1. Paul makes an excellent poetic point, as do you. We cannot trust our own reason to the extent that we know absolutely. This does not call for faith or build faith. I even wonder if a date and time are set, as in marking it down in a chronos calendar or whether it is in God’s kairos calendar.

      1. Georgie Ann Kettig

        to me, it’s not something that I think I need to “worry about”, (although, of course, I should be praying about it),… in fact, I had to look up the meanings of what you were referring to!,… I think I “get it”, that as far as “evangelizing what appears to be Lost” (i.e., plenty of stuff), humans with that “gift and/or calling” may feel that they need to be “urgent” in their appeals ~ sure, because it’s even hard enough “to get their attention!”,… I’d be very “forgiving” about most efforts that a sincere evangelist felt “led” to make,… just because we might mention that “the end is near!”, doesn’t mean that it’s an exact prophecy that went wrong,… (as a matter of fact, for any particular “one” of us, “the end” could be near at any time ~ no harm, no foul, there),… and yes, in some cases it appears that some (probably cultish folks) were deluded about a date,… but if they were that cultish, I would suspect that they were deluded about more things than just a date,… as far as I am concerned, God is the One who sees and knows and understands “what’s what” in these things, and is also “the One” who judges ~ not me,…

        as far as evangelizing, I prefer “a gentle life-witness approach”, that I “live as a Christian”,… it may take a longtime, but over the long haul, I hope that people will notice that “I treat them well”, and with honesty and sincerity, and I hope that I make them feel that I do sincerely care about them and their well-being,… other than that, “let the Lord lead”,…

        Philippians 4: 6,7
        “6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

  6. james b herndon

    The dog, as are we, is waiting for his Master.
    May we to be found as faithful.

    1. Well said, James. Thanks for reading. I always hope the images communicate along with the words. Have a holy Easter.

  7. Terry Hagen

    Thank you Eugene. I am content with the one waiting for the master. I loved the reference to the apocalyptic.

    1. Terry, my pleasure. This was the written form of a sermon I preached a few years back. Hope you enjoyed the eclipse.

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