People talked about it quite a bit in the church that I grew up in.
In college and seminary, the conversation carried on, usually with louder and more intense voices.
Christians love to talk about the return of Christ. And that’s a good thing. But sometimes we talk about it so much that we miss the point. We make scary movies about what it will be like for those who might be left behind. We print out charts to prove how right we are concerning the exact details of Christ’s return. Churches have even split over those exact details.
I’ve seen scary movies about the return of Christ. I’ve walked on haunted Halloween trails devoted to reminding me of how terrible the tribulation is going to be. I’ve gotten caught in the middle of conversations that nearly turned into WrestleMania because people just couldn’t come to an agreement on the finer points of the tribulation. I’ve even heard of churches splitting up over those finer points.
But there are places where I have never heard those conversations. Hospitals. Nursing homes. Death beds. I’ve never had a guy who just found out that he’s got two weeks to live want to argue with me about the thousand year reign of Christ.
Here’s what we do talk about.
We talk about hope. We talk about Jesus’ victory over the grave. We talk about the day when Christ returns and all things, including our aging and decaying bodies, will be made new. It’s not that the details of Christ’s return can’t or shouldn’t be discussed. They should be. But hospitals, hospices and death beds remind us that all of those details come together to point to something greater.
Because of Christ’s resurrection from the grave and his promised return, all believers have hope beyond the grave. We may disagree on the order that these things will play out but what we can agree on is greater than what could potentially divide us.
We all hurt. We know what it’s like to not feel quite the same way we did 20 years ago. When we get down on the floor to play with kids or grandkids, we make noises on the way back up that we didn’t make two decades ago. Some are all too familiar with the pain of a serious disease or injury. Others need the help of one of those pill containers that has a slot for every day of the week just to keep track of the medicine that keeps their body functioning properly. Even the healthiest among us have seen how cancer can damage the body of a loved one. Every person’s body may not know the pain of a deadly disease but every person’s hearts does.
But for believers, the pain of an aching body is overshadowed by the hope of a returning Savior.
That’s where we find the real heart and soul of the second coming of Christ. Not in proving ourselves right in some lunchroom conversation in seminary. Not in arguing in the church parking lot. But in the hope that comes with knowing that Jesus died, rose again and is coming again to make all things right.
Even bodies ravaged by ALS.
In Christ, we are not promised to have all of the answers or all of the details. But we are promised that he will return to redeem this broken world and our broken bodies. And that hope is enough.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 (ESV)