Waiting is a big part of many Bible stories. Abraham waited for the birth of a child. The Israelites waited centuries for deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Moses waited four decades for the call to lead them, and then four more decades for a promised land that he would not, in the end, be allowed to enter. David was on the run, hiding from King Saul for many years, as he waited for his promised coronation as king. Prophets waited for the fulfillment of their own strange and terrible and wonderful predictions. All Israel waited for the coming Messiah, and then the disciples and everyone else waited for Jesus to act like the power-hungry Messiah they had expected. Even Jesus’ cousin and for-runner John the Baptist asked of Jesus, “Are you the one, or should we wait for another.” The Bible is filled with hopes and fears and waiting.
And still we wait. The nuclear threat from the USSR has faded, along with the USSR itself, but now we fear ISIS and terrorism. In 2003 the whole world watched nervously as dozens of people died of SARS in Southeast Asia. That slowly disappeared from the news and then in 2004 hundreds of thousands died in Southeast Asia from a tsunami. In the 1970’s there were fears of advancing glaciers and a new ice age, now the fear is that the glaciers will melt in global warming and flood all the coastal cities. The Vietnam War is now only an item in the history books, but we worry about North Korea. How will it all turn out? We all just have to wait and see. Still trapped in the ‘now’ we simply do not know– and so like Abraham and Moses and John the Baptist, we wait.
In one sense, of course, we do know how it will all turn out. We will, one day, all be dead. In 1923, economist John Maynard Keynes, frustrated with the indecision of other economists who were always saying ‘in the long run this, and in the long run, that,’ observed quite accurately that, “In the long run, we are all dead.”
The Bible also takes this long range view. The central event of the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and that has everything to do with what it is we are waiting for. After Christ rose from the dead, he told his disciples that he would be soon leaving them for a time, but that he would be coming back. And then he told those disciples that in the meantime they should go out into all the world and tell everyone that He was coming again, so that all may believe in Him and be ready for his return.
As we look at all these crisis, wars, and problems of our generation we might well wonder how it will all turn out in 10, 20, or 30 years. But whether we look back 30 years or forward 30 years or any amount of time, we see the same general pattern– some problems are solved, and new ones always arise. The tragedies, the evil, the death, and the destruction will not ever end– unless Jesus is God, and rose from the dead, and is coming back. Because then, just as He made good on his promise to rise from the dead on the third day, he will make good on his promise to raise all the dead and to make all creation new again. That is the goal and promise we look forward to, and even if it doesn’t happen for another thousand years, Jesus said that he will wake us up for it and we will be there.
God will make that happen no matter happens to this old planet earth, be it nuclear war, global warming, a meteor strike, or a new and unstoppable strain of bacteria that kills billions in a plague. Nothing can change that promise of God. He who created and sustains this world, has promised to bring us to a new home. That is what we are waiting for. (continued…)
Hebrews 9:27-8 — Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Revelation 21:5a — He that sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
Revelation 21:1a…3-4 — Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
–Apostles’ Creed, Third Article