Saturday, May 27, 2017

The More Things Change...

For as long as I can remember, I've been hearing people in Christendom talk about how it's been "nearly 2,000 years since Jesus was crucified." And of course, that is true. But I mention it because in the minds of some, the fact that Jesus has tarried for nearly two millennia is proof positive that Jesus' return is not going to happen and that Christianity is a fraud. From them you hear echoes of Peter's critics who declared even in the first century that the Second Coming was a hoax because it had not taken place in the 30 years of so before Peter penned his second epistle (2 Peter 3:5ff). People's impatience can sometimes know no bounds!

But you may be interested in knowing that even within the church, the Lord's imminent return has been misunderstood. Early in the fourth century, in the wake of a savage official Roman persecution, the church suddenly found itself at peace with the Empire. Constantine's defeat of his foes in 312 AD, ushered in what historians term the "Peace of the Church" as Constantine promulgated the so-called Edict of Milan granting tolerance to the Church. Thirteen years later, the first ecumenical council undertaken by a now at peace church, took place in Nicaea.

Although the purpose of the council had nothing to do with eschatological matters, many of those in attendance and many in the church at large began to look upon their time as the beginning of the golden age of the church. In their minds, the peace that had come over a decade before and the fact that now even the Emperor was a "Christian," was a clear indication that the millennium was about to be ushered in; you could almost say that the Church at Nicaea was quite "Post Millenialist." Several decades later, Emperor Theodosius--his name appropriately meaning "given by God"--officially declared the Roman Empire a Christian one. The stage was set, in the minds of many, for the millennial reign and the return of the Lord to reign over his people in peace.

Alas, as it has happened time and time again throughout the history of man, the predictions were all wrong. Less than 100 years later, Romulus abdicated as Emperor and the Roman Empire in the West officially came to an end. The great hope that the church had felt in the fourth century, quickly deflated as the fifth century brought about the demise of the once mighty Empire. And just as with the Israelites of old, the pagans began to complain that their gods had punished them because the Empire had ceased worshipping them.

Fast forward to today. Our society is in the midst of a revolution. The current revolution, however, is unlike any that have come before. Our society is rushing to the exists when it comes to organized religion. The easy “believism” movement, which makes no demands on its adherents, is making great inroads into a generation that has tired of waiting. Waiting for a Lord which seems too far away and too far from coming to truly commit to. After the proverbial 2,000 years, Christendom is now focused on itself rather than its Lord. And the results are telling. We are no longer the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Rather, our primary goal is to make people feel good. We have been infected with the "self-esteem" culture and are paying a heavy price for it. The dangers of an anthropocentric Christianity are seen all around us. Instead of God being the center of our worship and lives, we have become the masters of our destiny.

The truth of the matter is that many have been mocking the Lord's coming from the beginning, as we saw above. That, however, should not change our stance or our faith. The Lord will come, but he will come in His own good time. If we set ourselves as the arbiters of when He will or will not do something, then our god is no greater than we are. And that is something that really deserves to be mocked. "Even so, come Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20).

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