You know how writers often start with the ending of their book? The conclusion shapes the story from the beginning on. Life is much the same. What we believe about our “ending” deeply informs how we act now. With that in mind, the other day I was thinking about the Second Coming of Christ and had a possibly crazy, probably wrong, but potentially super cool and new (for me) take on the event.
Around CE 30 Jesus the Christ was crucified and killed by the Roman Empire on a cross in Israel. Christians, like me, believe three days later he rose from the dead and came back to life in a glorified body. After this he spent a short time with his followers before “ascending” to heaven. Since that time Christ followers have generally believed Jesus would return again and finish making the world a harmonious, peaceful, and loving place.
As I’ve understood it, the Second Coming of Christ has been understood to be like the first (i.e. via a singular physical being), only way more dramatic. In short, it will be so spectacular the whole world will know something huge is going on, and big changes will occur globally in the blink of an eye. Without discarding this, or any related, storyline, I’d like to offer another idea. What if Christ’s return already happened, is happening, and will continue to occur?
To get at what I’m proposing, let’s start by rewinding. Before Jesus came to earth, for a decent amount of time the Jews had been expecting God’s anointed, the Messiah, would come and “save” them by freeing them from Rome, making Israel an independent and strong nation again. They expected a militaristic, violent, political, and triumphant king. Jesus, though, defied all expectations by coming as a loving, nonviolent, inclusive, and self-sacrificial king. My point here is if the first time Christ came it wasn’t at all what “we” expected, doesn’t it stand to reason his return will alsobe different than we expect?
The Apostle Paul wrote much of the Bible’s New Testament and, after Christ, is probably the most important and influential figure in Christian history. Interesting, Paul was a super zealous Jew, and for a while after Jesus departed he was a leader in persecuting the original Christ followers (later named Christians). As he was on his way to arrest and possibly kill some Jesus people, Paul had a mystical encounter with Christ. Christ asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?”
A person who was in a different plane of existence asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting ME?” I think it’s this encounter that leads Paul to repeatedly refer to the Church (i.e. anyone who follows the Way of Christ) as the Body of Christ. In other words, weare Christ here and now. Taking this in tandem with Jesus’ declaration that we will do greater things than him leads me to wonder: Has Christ already come again by entering our spirits? Is Christ coming again now by filling us with Divine peace, joy, and love? Will Christ continue to come again by continually pouring the Light and Love of God into willing humans everywhere?
Christians have a saying, “already and not yet.” In short, this means since Jesus 2,000 years ago, Divine love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5.22-23) has already entered us and the world, but they haven’t been fully realized. In other words, heaven has already come to earth, but it’s not entirely here yet.
With all this in mind, as politics get increasingly crazy, the climate keeps changing, and people groups get further divided, I ask/wonder: Has Christ already answered our prayers for a better world, communities, and lives by filling us with the Divine goodness we need to make the changes we want to see … with more to come in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
Grace and peace,