What an irony: every passing day brings us one day closer to the second coming of Jesus, yet every passing day makes it easier to doubt the promise of His return. Here we are, more than 160 years after our pioneers proclaimed the coming of Christ. Of all the generations that have come and gone since then, we should be the most on fire. Yet it seems that, for some of us at least, the blessed hope of Christ’s appearing would only interfere with our own purposes and plans.
What can rekindle in our hearts a desire for Christ’s second coming? The answer for me is in His first coming.
Think about it. What’s the purpose of the first coming if not the second? What good was Christ’s death on the cross if it doesn’t lead to the resurrection of the dead and to immortality, all of which happens at the second coming? To be justified, to be redeemed, to be pardoned—what are these apart from the resurrection except bogus theological terms that no more reflect reality than Star Trek films reflect life at NASA. Without the second coming, Christ wasted His time at the first. Who really believes that?
But, you say, Christ left us a good example on how to live and how to treat others. Fine. But so did Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi.
But believe me, we need a lot more than a good example. We need a Savior, someone who bore “our sins on a tree” (1 Peter 2: 24), who tasted “death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9) and who became “sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). More than we need someone who can tell us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, or love our enemies—we need someone who can raise our dried and crusted bones from the dirt, who can clothe our mortality with immortality, who can exchange our corruption with incorruption.
Mother Teresa and Gandhi can’t do that for us. Only Jesus can, and He will, at the second coming—which is why it, and it alone, is where our great future hope lies:
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 54, KJV).
That’s our hope. Anything that doesn’t end in the resurrection to eternal life isn’t good enough. We need Christ’s second coming—a promise made certain by His first coming. Sure, we are Seventh-day Adventists, and the name itself reveals how central the second coming of Jesus is to our identity. But let’s not limit the “advent” in Adventist to the second advent, since it was what Jesus did for us at the first advent—offering Himself for our sins—that gives us not only the hope of the second but makes it absolutely certain.
And that stays true, no matter how many more days, or even years, pass by until it happens.
Clifford Goldstein, author of many books and articles, is the editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide at the General Conference.
Republished from the January 2006 issue of Outlook magazine.