Below is the text from the message from yesterday and the discussion questions that guide our conversation following the message. Would love to hear your thoughts, comments, questions, push back, etc...
We are on our 3rd week of a 6 week series (over the course of 7 weeks….Palm Sunday March 24 we will take a week off from our series and participate in what we call The Table which is a simple meal, feet washing, and communion) entitled Surprised by Hope, which we are taking from the book by the same name by English Theologian NT Wright. And I would definitely encourage you that if you have a chance to read the book, do so. I read it and was deeply moved and challenged and now Kaytee has my copy. So either pick it up at a bookstore, on Amazon, library, or bug Kaytee to let you read it.
Over the course of these 6 weeks we are immersing ourselves in Hope. 2 weeks ago we covered the Hope for the World, and Matt lead us into discovering what the Hope of a Christian was. That it isn’t about escaping this world and going to the next, but that it is about the Kingdom of God and the rule and reign of Jesus in our lives and in the world.
Last week we talked about the Hope of Heaven and that Heaven and Earth are overlapping realities, which overlapped in Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection. And that the gospel isn’t the story of taking earth to heaven when we die, but bring heaven to earth while we live.
This week we are covering The Hope of Jesus’ Second Coming. And this is a tricky conversation to have. So many people have ideas and theories about the “end of the world.” And they hold tightly to that theory. And so many people try to come up with dates, time lines, etc… But I don’t really want to come up with timelines, etc… Because you see I really believe that all Christian language about the future is a set of signposts pointing into a mist. I do want to say this about the second coming before we jump into the Scriptures for the morning. The second coming of Jesus (along with the ascension) are vital Christian doctrines, because if you don’t hold to the belief in them, we have not rounded out the whole Kingdom of God’s theology.
So let’s look at 2 different Scriptures this morning and see how they might shed light on the Hope of the Second Coming and what that might say for us today for how we live our lives in our postmodern, ever-increasingly Post-Christendom world.
So the first Scripture we’ll be looking at is Acts 1:9-11, which says, “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Here we see Jesus gathering his disciples, giving them last minute encouragement, and the “game plan” to make disciples, and then ascending into heaven. And so Jesus is lifted up, indicting to the disciples not that he was heading out somewhere beyond the moon, beyond Mars, or whatever, but that he was going into God’s space, God’s dimension.” And so Jesus ascends into heaven and the disciples are all looking up into the sky when two angels drop the bomb that Jesus will come back in the same way that they saw him go into heaven. Jesus, having gone into God’s dimension of reality, will one day be back. Be back on the day that God’s dimension and our present one are brought together once and for all. That promise hangs in the air over the whole of Christian history from that day to today. This is what we mean by the second coming. It isn’t about God sweeping down and scooping up his people to rescue us from a dying planet. Rather, it is about Jesus returning to redeem the earth, heal his people, sort out all that is wrong, and reign in glory. And so you and I, the church, and all of creation awaits the return of Jesus and the final consummation of his work here on earth.
But there are two other things that are happening in this text, with connections to the Old Testament and to the culture of the 1st century that many, if not all, of Luke’s readers and hearers would immediately pick up on that many of us in the 21st century would totally miss out on. One of these connections would again show to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, Anointed One, Savior while the other connection would be to show that Jesus was true King, and that he came to subvert the current understanding that there were other sons of God’s, King’s, etc.. who we call Caesar.
One of the central OT promises for the early Christians was in Daniel 7:13-14 which says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” For those who would have spent lots of time pondering this text, as the early Christians would have, the story of the ascension of Jesus indicate that Daniel 7 was fulfilled in Jesus.
Secondly, many of Luke’s readers would know that when a Roman Emperor died, it had become customary to declare that someone had seen his soul escaping from his body and going up to heaven. The message of this is clear; the emperor was becoming a god, thus enabling his son and heir to label himself as the son of god. The parallel is not that close, this time since it wasn’t Jesus soul that ascended into heaven, but his whole, renewed, bodily, and complete self. But what is really cool… is this. It is almost as if, Jesus is upstaging anything the Roman emperors might imagine for themselves. Jesus is the reality and the emperors are the parody. Not the other way around.
And so you might ask, what does all this have to do with the second coming? A few things. First, we see that Jesus is to come again in the same way that he ascended. Which means returning again in a whole, renewed, bodily, resurrected and completed self. Also just like the early disciples who were tempted to stare off into heaven, and were questioned by the angels, so can we be questioned. We aren’t to peer up into the sky wondering when Jesus will arrive. We are not to create fanciful scenarios about how Jesus will come. Instead, we are to invest our energy and time in caring for his creation, loving each other, sharing his grace, seeking justice, celebrating beauty, and living with confidence that Jesus will return one day. Until that final consummation, we live each day with a profound awareness that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Which brings us to our next Scripture which fits perfectly in the discussion of the final consummation and the fact that the consummation will show that Jesus is truly King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. The next Scripture that we’ll unpack a little bit together is Philippians 3:20-21 which says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
The first thing we see is this idea that we are citizens of heaven. This doesn’t mean that our true home is in heaven and we are just waiting around until the day we die so that we can go there. To properly understand this idea we need to understand the 1st century and what it meant to be a citizen of a country (or empire), mostly the Roman Empire. The task of a Roman citizen, who didn’t live in the city of Rome, but in another colony of Rome, say Philippi for instance (since we are reading out of Philippians) was to bring Roman culture and rule to Philippi and to expand Roman influence there. And if a Roman colony, like Philippi were under attack, the emperor himself, often called Savior or Rescuer, would come from Rome to change the situation, defeat the enemies and establish the colony as firmly and gloriously as Rome itself. This is the exact picture of Philippians 3:20-21. The church is at present a colony of heaven, with responsibility for bring the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth. Our hope then is that the true Savior, the true Lord, King Jesus himself will come from heaven and change everything. He is going to transform the entire world so it is full of his glory, full of the life and power of heaven. And so the hope of the second coming is based on the biblical confidence that Jesus will 1 day return to this world, restore creation, heal his people and make all things new. So what does that mean for you and me today in the way we live as individuals and as a community of Jesus followers? How does or should the hope of the second coming affect the way we live today? Let’s spend some time talking about how we apply these Scriptures to our lives today in the 21st century.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. do you have regarding the message and the Scriptures? 2. How can you and I live as citizens of heaven individually and as a colony of heaven corporately? Give me some concrete examples and ideas 3. What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it? 4. What do you think God is saying to us? What should we do about it?