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22 December 2017

Set your hearts for Jesus’s return.

Before Jesus returns, there’s a whole lot of lawbreaking.

Different scholars have different ways they wanna interpret the Greek word parusía/“[second] coming.” Most of the time “appearance” or “coming” or “return.” When used to describe what Jesus is up to, it has more of a sense of “arrival,” or even “invasion.” Certain gutless commentators leave it untranslated, and just refer to Jesus’s parousia, as if it’s too difficult a concept to convert into English. Rubbish: The popular idea of “second coming” works just fine to describe it, 1Th 3.13 so that’s how I translate it.

Today I wanna point to Jesus’s brother James, and how he referred to it:

James 5.7-8 KWL
7 So be patient, fellow Christians, till the Master’s second coming.
Look, the farmer awaits the land’s precious fruit,
patient about it till they can get early- and late-season rain.
8 Be patient yourselves as well. Strengthen your minds:
The Master’s second coming has come near.

So. Ever since Jesus’s rapture, Christians have expected him to return at any time. True, he’s taking a mighty long time, but as I regularly point out, he’s trying to save everyone he can, and may put it off a great deal longer. Regardless, he’s one day coming for you individually. And me. And everyone else on the planet. Everybody dies, and we don’t always know when. So be ready.

James used the analogy of a farmer who looked forward to his crops. And yeah, at the time James wrote this, a few things had to happen before Jesus returned. In the analogy, the farmer had to wait through early- and late-season rains. Most Christians accept the idea the “early-season rain” has already happened in some form. Not all of us are agreed the “late-season rain” has happened yet. I figure they have; others insist it’s part of a future End Times timeline.

But either way, Jesus is taking his time about returning. And either way, we need to be patient. Which is a serious struggle for those Christians who want him to return today, and wrest our governments away from the fools and opportunists who currently have the reins. Much easier to have Jesus fix everything, than clean up our own messes. (And some of us are hoping Jesus does so with a whole lot of bloodshed; and yes, that’s seriously f---ed up of them. They need to get saved.) The End takes place on Jesus’s timetable, and not our timelines. If we gotta wait, we gotta wait. Still, let’s be ready.

The Pentecostal misinterpretation.

In the earliest days of the Pentecostal movement, while the first revivals were still taking place in 1906 at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, a number of these early Pentecostals came out of dispensationalist churches. More specifically, churches which’d glommed onto John Nelson Darby’s views about premillennial dispensationalism, and the idea God turned off the miracles during the time between Jesus’s first apostles and the End Times. And, these dispensationalists insisted, God wasn’t turning ’em back on till the End Times.

Well, in the Pentecostal revivals, God was obviously doing miracles. So what were these dispensationalists to think? Right you are: It’s the End Times. God just turned the miracles back on! Jesus is coming back any second now! Hallelujah!

So according to these Pentecostals, the early church would be the “early rain,” and their present-day supernatural activity would be the “latter rain.” In between all that time, the Holy Spirit sat on his hands and didn’t do anything miraculous. But now that the End was near, he was back at work among Christians, prepping the world for Jesus’s invasion.

Yeah, I know: It’s a half-baked idea. Because it’s based on the even less-baked belief God turned off the miracles in the first place. People had come to the movement with pre-existing bad theology, and were trying to adapt their bad theology to what the Holy Spirit is actually doing, instead of realizing their entire worldview was top-to-bottom wrong.

They also discovered Darbyists don’t believe as they do because of, say, actually studying the scriptures in their proper context, nor actual belief in the Holy Spirit’s activity, ancient or present-day. The Darbyists were so wedded to their End Times timelines, they absolutely refused to make any adaptations for the Pentecostals. (Plus the racists among them strenuously objected to blacks and whites worshiping together in the Pentecostal churches, and figured that couldn’t be of the Holy Spirit.) Devoted to cessationism, they dismissed the Pentecostals and their miracles as being from the devil. Many still do.

Faced with rejection, Pentecostals began looking for evidence of their point of view in the scriptures. A number of us (’cause I’m one of them) realized the problem is Darbyism and dispensationalism themselves: God doesn’t have multiple plans of salvation, and the Spirit never did turn off the miracles. A number of us still hold to, and practice, what they call Latter Rain Dispensationalism: Basically it’s Darbyism with the return of miracles shoehorned into the End Times timeline… although it’s growing harder and harder to argue Pentecostalism is a just-before-the-End-Times event, considering the movement is more than a century old.

In any event, Pentecostalism was not at all what James had in mind when he wrote these verses. He wasn’t predicting a new Christian movement; I seriously doubt he expected a “Christian movement” where God supposedly quit working among his people, and the Christians in it vigorously defend the absence of divine activity. And their own faithlessness.

We still have prep work to do.

James didn’t write about dispensations at all. He wrote of the stuff which has to happen before the Master invades. Namely the groundwork we the church have to do, in preparation for his return.

What’s this groundwork consist of? Getting ourselves ready. Jesus doesn’t want to come back for an unprepared, unready, unsteady, pathetic church. He’s returning to rule the world, and he expects us to help him do it.

And a lot of Christians are wholly unprepared for this. Some of it is because they don’t expect to do anything. They figure since God’s almighty, since he does all the work of saving us, he’s likewise gonna do all the work of running the world… and therefore they needn’t lift a finger. They’ll just kick back on a heavenly lounge chair and watch him fix the world.

Or they imagine they’re still gonna sit on their behinds, but now in some position of authority. ’Cause they know we’re meant to “reign with Christ” Rv 20.4 —but they’ve never had to work in leadership before, and naively believe it consists of sitting down and barking orders. To whom? Angels, maybe; they figure we’re gonna judge them, 1Co 6.3 so maybe we’ll command them. But the scriptures don’t say they’re anything other than fellow servants Rv 22.9 —our equals, not our betters, nor our subordinates.

Such Christians have obviously learned little from Jesus’s example at his first coming. The way he rules over people is to serve. He came down from his throne in heaven, made himself nothing, and saved us. Pp 2.5-8 He’s coming down from heaven again, but this time around, far too many of us imagine his personality has taken a complete 180-degree turn: He’s gonna go from being a friend of sinners, to a judgmental despot. You know, kinda like the Christians who covet power, and wouldn’t mind so much if they got to rule that way. Some of ’em already do that with their churches.

Nope; Jesus’s mindset isn’t gonna change to match ours. Ours must change to match his. We have to get into the practice of serving one another, and serving our neighbors. Otherwise we’ll be entirely unfit for God’s kingdom. We can’t expect to reign over others in any other manner than Jesus already reigns over us.

Those who imagine Jesus is as bossy as they… well, either they have to undergo some sort of massive retraining program, or maybe they’re not cut out for the kingdom at all. I hope it’s the retraining program. The alternative is kinda scary.

In the meanwhile, retrain yourself! Strengthen those minds. Develop the Christlike attitudes of humility, encouragement, patience, and compassion. It makes the best servants, and therefore the best rulers.