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The Second Coming: 50 Years or Less?

Wildflowers on fire

This week’s adult Sabbath School lesson covered the hope that Christ’s second coming brought early reformers, and how we should experience that same hope as we look forward to Jesus’ return. 

Years ago I participated in a Bible study group discussing the second coming of Christ. We conversed about the Bible’s statements that nobody knows the exact time when Jesus will return. Someone made an interesting point that has stuck with me since: “I know Jesus will come back in 50 years or less.” We all looked at each other unsure what to say. They continued, “I know this because based on life expectancy on this earth and calculating the age I am now, the second coming will come in 50 years or less for me.” They added that Jesus would come while they were alive or if they died, the first thing they would be aware of next would be Christ’s return, making his coming in 50 years or less for them. For someone older, the time of Christ’s return would be sooner, they said. 

This new approach to the hope of Christ’s return helped put time in its place. But is the coming of Jesus just some future event?

Jesus said multiple times in the gospels that the kingdom of God is happening now: “The kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:21); “The kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15);” and every parable Jesus began with the phrase “the kingdom of heaven is like . . .” 

Christ’s followers don’t have to wait til the new earth to live out the kingdom of heaven. Yes, we look forward to the second advent physically taking place, but for now, according to the gospels, the kingdom of God is a culture that can be embodied by his followers. As Christ comes into our hearts, our lives should be an outflow of his kingdom in the world around us. 

For example, I have heard Adventists say they don’t need to care for the earth or be concerned with climate change. They state that there is no reason to conserve water or recycle because it will all burn in the end anyway. Some have even proposed that our neglect of the earth will hasten the coming of Christ. Yet humanity was charged with the care and keeping of the earth back in Eden. If we disregard our responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources, we are neglecting a command from God from the beginning of time. However, when we live out the culture of the kingdom of God now, we embody that edict given at Eden. We should do all we can to continue to preserve the earth that was given to us to protect and enjoy.  

Another example of living out the kingdom of God is how we encounter systems of injustice. These systems can show up in our workplace, in the church, in our family systems, in relationships, just to name a few. Unjust systems are revealed when people groups are marginalized. Marginalization and bias usually show up in policies and practices that benefit some at the expense of others. Some may say it is not our responsibility to care for others, and may even pose the same question that Cain did when God asked him where his brother was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” To which we should be ready to hear the response from God “. . . your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” Just as we are stewards of the earth, so we are stewards of each other. We are our brother’s keeper. When people have the kingdom of God within them, they will begin to do the work of dismantling systems of oppression.

Why don’t more Christians live out this kingdom of God culture in the here and now? The sacrifice of living out God’s kingdom, with actions that go against the systems and kingdoms of this world, can result in losing social status, an aspect of social capital. 

South African professor and theologian Jacques W. Beukes explains, “Social capital is about the effects and consequences of human sociability and connectedness and their relations with the individual and social structure.”  Social capital is not good or bad. It depends on how people use it. Many times, people can base their own value on their placement within the social capital structure, and stay silent or dormant for fear of losing their social capital standing, thus perpetuating systems of injustice. However, one of the ways social capital can be used for good is through the concept of bridging. “Bridging social capital tends to bring various people together across diverse and social divisions” usually for the greater good of society or the world. This is what the church should be known for.

The physical coming of Christ will take place. For some of us, based on our age, that could be sooner or later. But more important is the fact that the kingdom of God is now, and those who claim to follow Jesus should be living out that kingdom culture. Whether it be in our stewardship of the earth or our stewardship of our fellowman, we are called to be kingdom-of-God ambassadors in all we do.

About the author

Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin is the former vice principal for spiritual life at Auburn Adventist Academy. She has served as a minister, teacher, and administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church for over two decades. She is currently completing a PhD in Transformative Social Change, with an emphasis in Peace and Justice Studies. More from Krystalynn Westbrook-Martin.
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