SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:39-40 (TM)
"You know that if the house owner had known what night the burglar was coming, he wouldn't have stayed out late and left the place unlocked. So don't you be slovenly and careless. Just when you don't expect him, the Son of Man will show up."
After 14 years of studying the Bible, William Miller became convinced that Christ would return in 1843. When Miller announced April 3 as the day, some disciples went to mountaintops, hoping for a head start to heaven. Others were in graveyards, planning to ascend in reunion with their departed loved ones. Philadelphia society ladies clustered together outside town to avoid entering God's kingdom amid the common herd. When April 4 dawned as usual the Millerites were disillusioned, but they took heart. Their leader had predicted a range of dates for Christ's return. They still had until March 21, 1844. The devout continued to make ready, but again they were disappointed. A third date--October 22, 1844--was set, but it also passed. This historical failure has been labeled, The Great Disappointment.
A little history: It was out of the Great Disappointment surrounding the failed predictions of William Miller that the Millerites wandered off to form two new religious movements – Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventists.
The numbers of misunderstandings surrounding the theology of the Second Coming of Christ are too numerous to mention here. I included the illustration of the Millerites only because of the two religious movements that found their footing from the former followers of William Miller.
Does scripture talk about a Second Coming? Yes, without question. Do we miss the message? Most often. So what should believers take from these references?
What I take from these biblical references is that Christians should always be ready to give an accounting for their faith. If we live with a sense of expectancy that any day now Christ could return, we will live differently than if we consider it a far off event.
When I was in college I had two approaches about being prepared for tests. For the professors who left us with the impression that any day there could be a test, I kept up my reading and studied every night as if the next day was test day. For the majority of my professors who talked about the final for their classes, I waited until the night before the final exam to study. Surprise, surprise – I did much better for the first professors than I did for the latter.
If we live out our faith in the sense of the great “what-if” we will be better witnesses to the truth that is in us verses living as if we have time to prepare because it is some vague concept that might or might not happen in some distant time period.
We really cannot put off until tomorrow a witness that is needed today.
And by the way, the Son of Man shows up constantly throughout the day in unexpected ways and in unusual people. Shouldn’t we treat everyone as if they are the embodiment of Christ himself? That was the driving force behind the outreach ministry of Mother Teresa – the Christ in her reaching out to touch the Christ in others.
We never know when he will show up!
May we ever be ready to give an accounting of the faith that is in us. Keep our eyes open and our ears ready to hear the soft whisper of your presence. Make us Christ-sensitive.