Peter, James, John, and all the other original apostles were convinced they would be alive when Jesus returned. The Apostle Paul believed he would witness the event. In reality, believers in every generation since the Ascension have believed that their generation was the generation that would see Christ return.
So far they have all been wrong.
Rev. Camping was wrong.
Every generation of believers have been convinced Jesus would return in their lifetime. Yet, Jesus still has not returned. There are at least two possible reactions to this:
First is the reaction of the skeptic. The skeptic mocks and laughs and ridicules and throws “Judgment Day” parties. The skeptic uses false predictions as another reason not to believe. As if they needed another reason.
Second is the reaction of the faithful. The faithful disciple of Christ recognizes that the purpose of the reality of Jesus’ return is not to predict a date but to change behavior. If I am convinced that Jesus could return at any time, and if I am even more convinced that He will return in my lifetime, that will affect how I live my life! It will affect my ethics. It will affect my attitudes. It will affect my budget and my priorities. It will affect how I love my wife and kids and how I serve my community. It will affect how I teach my students at school and how I pastor my church.
If, on the other hand, I believe Jesus could return at any time, but deep down I think it is still a long way off in the future, or I don’t really think about it until I hear a sermon or someone makes another prediction, then that will affect my behavior as well.
Maybe, what all this means is that the when and the how of Jesus’ return is not so much about eschatology as it is about ethics.
My granddad was in his 90s when he died. I don’t know if I have ever met anyone who believed he would witness Jesus’ return more than he did. He prayed for it and talked about it daily. I heard him numerous times say in the mornings, “Today could be today,” and he was genuinely excited about it. Later in life, when he became sick, he wanted to sit, and sleep, by a window, so he could look outside and see Jesus coming through the clouds. My granddad would have never predicted a date, but if he were still alive, he would have been brokenhearted that Rev. Camping was wrong. I believe he would have cried like a child who just learned Christmas had been cancelled.
I want to be like my granddad and live each day convinced Jesus could return today.
Many believers woke up this past Sunday and sarcastically said to others or posted on facebook, “Everybody still here?” or something to that effect. I doubt very seriously they asked that question again Monday morning, but they should have; and they should ask that question again Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, Thursday morning, Friday morning, Saturday morning, Monday morning……..