Coming and Going: Living the Advent Christian Life

Coming and Going: Living the Advent Christian Life

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by Thomas Loghry

The world is supposed to end on Saturday. That’s at least according to some crackpot astronomers/Biblical scholars. I do not want to give them the time of day in this space, but you can find fitting responses here and elsewhere. As Advent Christians, we are no strangers to foolhardy Biblical calculations and date-setting. After the excesses of William Miller and the subsequent “Great Disappointment”, Advent Christians know better than anyone else the futility of trying to pin down the time of Christ’s return, of which he himself said, "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” [Mark 13:32 ESV]

With our embarrassing mistake in one hand and this passage in the other, it would be no wonder if we shied away from embracing the “Advent” part of our name, that part that points to the Second Advent/Coming of Christ. While it would be no wonder, it would certainly be a mistake. In some ways, it seems to have been a mistake that we have made. Reviewing our theological priorities, it would seem that it would be more accurate to call ourselves “Conditionalist Christians” rather than “Advent Christians”.  But should it be so?

No!

I am wholeheartedly conditionalist and more fixed in that opinion than I am in many others. Even so, I do not believe that this belief should form the center of our identity. No, I believe the center of our identity must remain fixed upon the hope and expectation of Christ’s return.[1] This ought to be the case among all Christians, but it is not, and even if it were, I would continue to believe that the purpose of the Advent Christian Church is to continually remind her brothers and sisters of this truth. Our work in this regard will only end with Christ’s return.

The return of Christ only serves as a poor center if it is has been reduced to apocalyptic speculation. Admittedly, this has often appeared to be the case in our own history and in the history of the American Church as a whole. In saying that Christ’s return must be our center, I am not saying that our existence is to be taken up with what is often idle and perverse speculation about the coming judgment of the World. This sort of activity is not the fruit we are to bear in our expectation of Christ’s return. No, such expectation requires something else entirely.

Look to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:42-51,

42 "Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45 "Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes. 47 I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that evil slave should say to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, 50 then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, 51 and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [Matthew 24:42-51 NET]

This passage and the surrounding verses are worthy of a thorough commentary, but for our purposes and for the sake of brevity I direct your attention to verses 45 and 46. Notice that the sweeping point of Matthew 24 arrives here. Jesus emphasizes again and again that his return will be unexpected. He lays this all out, not to push his disciples to start working on their calculations, but to tell them to not even waste their time on such speculation. The disciples’ impetus for action is not to be drawn from whether they expect him to return today or 2,000 years from now, but from the fact that they understand themselves to be the slaves of a Living Master who they can be assured will return to them. Under this promise, every moment counts; there is no “free time”, every second of our lives is the Lord’s whether it be the year 1217 or 2017.

To live as Advent Christians means then that we live our lives as those who expect the Master to return. It means that the commanding priority of our lives is the way of Christ, the work he has set before us to make disciples in anticipation of His return. It means that at all times we desire to be found at work. This is the calling of all Christians, but as those brothers and sisters who bear the name “Advent Christian”, we should have a reputation for being those who are hard workers for the Kingdom of God. Whereas our predecessors may have been more often driven by their perception of the shortness of time, we ought to be driven exceedingly more by the simple desire to please Christ our Master, so that of us it may also be said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”[2] This is what it means to live the Advent Christian life. Christ has come and we must go and be found at hard work. There is no hesitation; we hold nothing back. We are confident in our expectation: Christ will return. 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I do think conditionalism is an important complimentary doctrine, rich with opportunities to further define us theologically, but it not as central as our belief in Christ’s return. This belief is admittedly basic and seemingly common, but it is nonetheless essential.

[2] Matthew 25:21 ESV

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