Ha! That got your attention didn't it :-) A lot of people believe that though. Or they believe that He's coming back in the next 10 years or so. Some older people feel that they will not die before Jesus returns.
And what's wrong with thinking such ways? The signs of the times certainly seem to indicate that the day is drawing near. It is surely a lot more like 'the last days' than it was when the NT writers talked about it being 'the last days' in their time! And yet I still have a problem with thinking like this.
My mum thought she probably wouldn't get married, because Jesus was coming back so soon. Now she has grandchildren! :-) Imagine, though, if she had truly believe this, and lived that way. She might never have studied at college, never have bothered working -- Jesus is coming back so soon, we must evangelize the world immediately! Abandon all visions of the future, respond to urgency!
I want to see the world saved, and I believe the need is urgent. But I don't believe that fear of Christ's imminent return is the right motivation. In fact, I don't really agree with a lot of what some Bible prophecy experts say. Their beliefs are often described as 'futurist', whilst I am an 'historicist'.
What do these terms mean? Well, it's basically how you interpret the book of Revelation. John's revelation was written in a time when the Church was facing great persecution. What he wrote contained some very exciting promises for those who were enduring torture and martyrdom for Christ. But if he had written literally of the fall of the Roman Empire and similar things, the book of Revelation would have been destroyed as treachery and treason before anyone had a chance to read it.
So, he had to write in code. Some of this code is obvious, and in hindsight we can clearly see what it meant. Other portions are very intricate, and we can only speculate as to what they mean. And still others have multiple possible intepretations, so we can be sure what to ascribe them to! This is where the difference between 'futurist' and 'historist' is drawn.
True to the term, 'futurists' believe that the majority of John's revelation is yet to come to pass. They place current world history in the early chapters of the book. Historisists, on the other hand, believe that most of the events described in John's revelation have already happened, and we are looking forward to the exciting completion of it's many promises!
Interestingly, the futurist view was first raised in the mid 1500s, where it languished for 100 years or so before being raised up again. Thus, futurism has only been established in the last 200 years or so, somewhat in parallel to the dispensationalist movement. Prior to that time, everyone believed in the historsist view! But of course, that doesn't really prove anything, and I'm diverging again :-)
The point of this article is not so much on what eschatology you believe, but how it works out in your life and your world view. My biggest nit pick with futurism is that its propents spread fear and despair into all who hear it. Ahh, the tribulation! Ohh, the mark of the beast! Eek, the great dragon! The fruit of this message is often not good. Not that it has to be that way, but unfortunately that is often what people are left with.
Worse, however, is the chronic short-sightedness that embracing this fear can bring. People stop planning. Kids stop caring. Since Jesus is coming back so soon, it doesn't really matter, does it? A generation of young people are devoid of purpose, and instead of offering answers, the church merely agrees that the future is dim and doom is near!
If you really believe Jesus is coming back before 2000, then why are you living like you are? Even if you believe He's coming back in the next 10 years, where is the conviction and desperation that such a revelation should bring? Why are you not weeping for souls, begging God to wait just a little longer so that Uncle Jim and Aunt Edna can realize God's saving grace? Sometimes, I feel that people who believe along these lines are not living very true to their convictions.
But again, it is not really important to me which way you want to believe. What is critical to me is whether you are still preparing and building according to God's plan. As described in the other articles in this section, God's plan is clearly to build generationally. His plan is always from fathers (and mothers) to sons and daughters.
Our focus is not on our ministry, our work, our deeds. Proverbs 13:22a says "22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children" God's standard of goodness cannot even be judged until the grandchildren rise up and receive their inheritance!
Unfortunately, those who buy into the fear and immediacy of futurism all to often end up focused only on the immediate future, with no thought of planning for future generations. We need to build according to God's plan. We need to minister with a focus of handing on that ministry to our children. We need to work with a focus of handing on that work to our children. We must build in such a way that it inspires hope and destiny in the next generation. We do not want them to have to start over again! We do not want to force them build the foundations one more time. We want to leave them a heritage. We want to be cathedral builders.
Cathedrals took 100s of years to build. They started when someone sowed some oak seeds into the ground. Those seeds became the beams of the church. Over years, over generations, fathers and sons built that church. This wouldn't happen today. Too often, we only have a vision for things we can do in our lifetime. We do not embrace the impossible, we don't take on the things that can never be done in our lifetime. But these are the very things that God desperately wants us to do!
He wants us to change the world, but we say it's too big a task. But time after time, God has shown how he can use one man to change the world. The problem is, it stops with that man! Or, if we are lucky, it continues for one generation. Moses passed on the mantle to his spiritual son, Joshua. But Joshua was too busy trying to overtake the land to raise up a son. He missed the point! He put all his focus on the task, and forgot about the next generation. And as a result, the full inheritance of Israel was not achieved until King David! Worse still, Israel fell in to apostasy just one generation after Joshua.
King David is another example -- he had a son, who was mostly good, but shared his weakness for women. The whole of David's dynasty is a story of kinds who finally come back to God only for it to wear off after one or two generations, because they never imparted a vision to their sons. It's the same story for the kingdom of Israel, and all too often, it's the same story for us.
Do you want to have an Elisha, or a Gehazi? Elisha was Elijah's spritual son. He persued him, and asked for a double-blessing, the first-born's inheritance -- and he got it! Twice as many miracles occurred as a result of his ministry as did in Elijah's. But Elisha did not have a son, only a servant. This servant, when the time was right, went after the gold and glory instead of serving his father's heart.
I pray that you will consider your world view, and build for the generations. I don't mind what you believe about eschatology, or when Christ is coming back. Even if it's next year, we still have time to build according to God's plan! It is the only way to succeed.
Look back through history, talk to those older than you -- people have always thought that Jesus was coming 'really soon!' It's good to have an urgency about you. It's good to get a burden for souls. But is is not good to allow such hopes and expectations to dominate to the point where all other dreams for the future are swept aside, and all that is left to the next generation is a vague and unfulfilled desire, like grasping at the wind. Let's be those who follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Four generations of impartion brought forth a ruler who not only changed the world, but saved it!© Copyright 1997-1998, Nathan Bailey, All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to print these articles for personal use, in whole or in part, provided the extract references the original URL, http://www-personal.monash.edu.au/~nate/christianity/generations/, so that people can find the latest version.