The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Religion

June 13, 2014

Imagine Christ’s return – and exult in wonder of it all

From the Pulpit

- — IT seems like evangelicals everywhere are speaking, writing and talking about the “end times.” There have been predictions that have come and gone. I remember in 1988, Edgar Whisenheart released his book “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be In 1988.” Whisenheart claimed in his book Jesus would return between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13, 1988. Turned out to be a compelling and convincing read to many evangelicals.

I make no claim to be an eschatology expert nor do I know as much about end times as Whisenheart did. Neither do I claim to know eschatology as well as many of the experts of today. This article is also not intended as an exegetical study of passages listed.

I have been studying and preaching from the “Apostles Creed.” This is a wonderful doctrinal statement of the “universal church.” As I was studying the phrase, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead ...,” I noticed something that made me imagine the Second Coming of our Lord differently than I ever have before. Luke 24:50-52 informs us that as Jesus “... lifted up his hands to bless his disciples ... He was reaching towards the heavens as a High Priest would give his blessing, and while he was blessing them, he began to rise from the face of the earth” – evidently without any warning whatsoever.

Acts 1:9 describes this same scene, in the New King James Version: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in like manner, as you saw him go.”

My daughter recently gave birth to our first-born grandson, Theodore Joseph. I had nine months to prepare a prayer of “blessing” for Theodore. I took him in my arms and as I held this precious gift of God, his parents and both sets of grandparents laid hands on him while I prayed God would bless him. I still get emotional thinking of that moment. We were all touching him.

When I read any story I use my imagination to picture what I think is happening in the story. In my imagination I see Jesus walking with his disciples, touching them, because he knows it will be the last time he physically touches them and they touch him. As they reach a private destination somewhere near Bethany, he begins to “bless” them.

As I think of this scene and as I ponder the scripture in Acts 1:9, thinking ahead to the time Jesus comes again for me, this is the scene that comes to mind. Suddenly and unexpectedly I feel someone touching me. It is not like any touch I have ever experienced before! It is the touch I have longed for all my life, it is the touch I have spent all my resources trying to experience. It is a touch that sends billions of sensations deep in my soul. It is a touch that say’s, “This is the moment you were created for!” This is the day that I have longed for, this is what has always been missing, the longing deep within me. The touch starts at my hand and I can feel it pulling me into an embrace and I look up and I see the face of my Lord, my Creator, the face I have longed all my life to see! He has returned, just as he left. This is not a dream or vision, it is the literal Jesus The Christ of Bethlehem, the Jesus that died on Golgotha’s hill that death could not conquer, and now he stands holding me in his embrace! This is a day beyond my imagination, beyond my ability to comprehend. I don’t need to fear the Second Coming. The only preparation I need is to be in right relationship with God accepting his free gift of forgiveness and restoration.

My mother used to tell me I have a big imagination; perhaps it is true. I still have this promise, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

Mark S. Erskine is pastor of Grove City Nazarene Church.

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