When I was in high school, many of my guy friends had this saying, motto or slogan or whatever you call it: "Bachelor 'til [the] Rapture." And while I understood the passion which motivated the sentiment, it was both baffling and annoying to my oh-so-hopeful heart that the best and...da! ONLY Christian guys around were patently NOT going to get involved with a girl, not now, not ever. Their desire to stay single had a profound effect on my life, no matter what I wished or hoped or dreamed, which seemed very unfair. (I do thank God now that He protected them--and me by extension--because our lives have been much richer for having our concentrating on Him during those first, important years of faith)
These earnest, serious, Christ-loving young men believed (as we all did!) that His return would be soon and very soon. But we weren't alone, of course. Throughout history, Christians have been looking at the skies, expecting to see Him returning in His glory. The apostles didn't even believe a generation would pass until that day would come. But generations passed. Christians fell asleep...er, died still waiting for Him.
And, of course, the prophecies grew. Predictions began almost immediately. And you know what? So far, every single one of those predictions about when Jesus will return have been wrong. DEAD WRONG. Of course, men and women will continue to look at the skies, continue to try to read the scriptures--particularly those certain books that hold mysteries, God-inspired mysteries--to figure out the season, date and time of Jesus' return. There's that whole Nostradamus thing that people pile onto every few dozen years. You remember him, don't you? That's the book in the Bible where...oh wait, that's right, he was just a man. Just a plain old man looking at the sky--at night--and thinking he had it all figured out, with a few thousand caveats, of course. You know, all those outs so that when his predictions were wrong it wouldn't be on him.
Because of course he was bound to be wrong. If man or woman could predict it, God wouldn't have told us Jesus' return would be like a 'thief in the night.' A thief in the night, folks. Is that so hard to understand? You can't see Him coming. I mean, think of the first time. Think of the ridiculously unexpected way He came the first time, to that fourteen-year-old girl all alone wherever she was, in a backwater town that by all accounts nothing good had ever come from before that day. That most holy of holy days when a seed was planted in a girl's womb--who could have predicted that? Even Isaiah, whom God had told, didn't know what he was saying.
That's how God works. That's how God always works. Unexpectedly, even ridiculously to our human standards. So there was no way, no way on earth the world was going to end today. I was going to say, no way in hell, because Satan might have wished it just to show he is more powerful, but that battle was won 2000 years ago on an April weekend in a small country in the Middle East. In fact, if you think about it, the most important battle of all was on a hillside alongside thieves, so that's the symmetry of this story, if you're looking for one--He died between thieves, and will return in glory like one. Imagine that for a moment. Talk about counter-intuitive. Would we EVER think of Him like a thief? Never in a million, because we're pretty much like the Pharisees. We're all about power and big gestures. The big moment. We're looking for fireworks. I wonder, though, if part of the surprise is that we won't get it. We might just miss Him because we're expecting something else, something more like a Hollywood blockbuster and less like God's majesty, which I can't even begin to imagine.
However, here's the other thing--the more salient point: What if the world had ended today? What if this was the day, that great and glorious day when the roll is called up yonder, as that great rollicking hymn says? Are you living your life so that whenever He calls will be a great and glorious day for you? Will you?
Are you ready?