Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Dark Side of the Second Coming?

My title is taken from this weeks Lesson study guide ( Tuesday June 24), the subject title for the week however is “His Return as King and Friend”. The dark side it appears, being similar to what happens when a group of home invaders in the midst of their pillaging are surprised by a SWAT team’s arrival with tear gas and guns. The criminals fun brought to a sudden end while the victims are filled with joy at the sight of their saviors.

I have never been good at predicting the future, I am part of a church who has one of the worst records of predicting the future yet that has not stopped them. Maybe it should but we all love to predict the future, after all the Bible gives us indications. The lesson study guide mentioned the Left Behind series, which aside from the pre-tribulation rapture is probably the most literal of interpretations of the book of Revelation you can get. I am quite sure that their vision of the future is just as mistaken as ours however. What if we played with the idea that the second coming does not have a dark side?

There are two ways that I can see this happening. One is universalism. That is the idea that God will save everyone from Hitler to Mother Teresa. After all we are all born into a defective world with defective characters, as much as some of us may want to deny it we love to sin it feeds something insatiable inside us. Not really our fault we were born into this world and it is no hardship for God to change us into people that want to be with Him. I have to admit I like that idea, but then it has some Bible verses that go against it. (Dan 12:2, 2 Thess 1:9, Rev 20:15)

The second way is found in the concept revealed in such verses as Matthew 24, where people’s love has turned cold and if not for God cutting short time with His second coming no flesh would survive (Matt 24:22). What would it be like to be in a world so filled with violence where there was no love and people were fainting for fear. The Second Coming would then be a relief even if you hated God. Rather like the welcome release of death after a painful sickness. But then we have verses such as where people cry for the rocks to fall on them. (Rev 6:16) We also have verses where life seems to be going on completely normally (Mat 24:37-47).

The Left Behind theory references troublesome verses to refer to different events. Such as Matt 24:37-47 being about the pre-tribulation rapture and verses about troubled times being right before the second coming. We as Adventist have some similar traditions. For instance Ellen White speaks Matt 24:42-44 as not being about the Second Coming but about the leaving of the second apartment in heaven.

“Jesus has left us word: “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” We are waiting and watching for the return of the Master, who is to bring the morning, lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping. What time is here referred to? Not to the revelation of Christ in the clouds of heaven to find a people asleep. No; but to His return from His ministration in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, when He lays off His priestly attire and clothes Himself with garments of vengeance, and when the mandate goes forth: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, 1885 page 190

Ellen White quotes Mark 13:35 The verse certainly contextually seems to be talking about the Second Coming Mark 13:26-37:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (NIV)

It is a parallel to verse Matt 24:42 (NIV) “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

It seems that we Christians can be very elastic in what we believe regarding future events. Could it also be possible that the Second Coming may not have a dark side even for non believers? Could it be that God is King and Friend to even those who despise Him, like Jesus on the cross forgiving those who tortured and killed Him? If the Gospel is really the Good News about God can the Second Coming really have a dark side? As I said I don’t predict the future too well, but maybe if I was to play that game…

Don’t ask me for the answers, I’ve only got one that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son.” - Larry Norman, The Great American Novel 1973

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