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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Is Christ Coming? Is Christ Already Here?

So, article 15 is a brief statement on what we believe, in the Church of the Nazarene, about the second coming of Christ.  Here it is:

XV. Second Coming of Christ

15. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again; that we who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus; but that, if we are abiding in Him, we shall be caught up with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air, so that we shall ever be with the Lord.

(Matthew 25:31-46; John 14:1-3; Acts 1:9-11; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 9:26-28; 2 Peter 3:3-15; Revelation 1:7-8; 22:7-20)

Something that I like, a lot, about this article is that it leaves room for various interpretations.  There are at least two reasons why this is important.  First and foremost, Scripture doesn't really give us a detailed outline regarding Christ's return.  I think there are a lot of people who would like to believe that it does, but when we start trying to piece things together, taking visions and prophecy out of their original contexts, we often end up with a very irresponsible interpretation of Scripture that does more harm than good.  If you're anything like me, you watched some sort of precursor to the Left Behind series when you were a kid.  Personally, I will never get the image of that unmanned lawnmower out of my head.  But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, because next Thursday we'll take a look at what happens next...

For now, let it suffice to say that Christ will return.  And with that, the second reason that I think it is important for us to remain intentionally vague about the details is that we are supposed to be a "big tent" denomination.  Everybody doesn't have to believe exactly the same things to fit into the orthodoxy of the Church of the Nazarene.  I love that.  It leaves breathing space.

I wonder if we might be able to be even slightly less detailed in our article here.  From my personal perspective, I would like to see us rely most on the passage from John 14, because I think it is here that we read the words that are essential.  These are Jesus' words declaring that he is coming back.  All of the other passages above might give some support or clarification, but I also think they are often misinterpreted in such a way that we miss the importance of the regular coming of the Holy Spirit, transforming this world, these people (us), this life.  The eschaton matters, but I'm not sure how relevant that is if we are constantly waiting for it at the expense of becoming who we were created to be in these moments.

I guess that means that I would like the article to read, "We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again and take us with him, since that's what he said."  I suppose no one wants me to re-write the articles, though...

Something that I think is worthwhile to explore is the idea that every generation, from biblical times right up until now, seems to think that they are living in the last days.  I would propose that every generation has been right.  We all only have so many days.  From the moment we are born, these are our last days.  Perhaps we should make them count.


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