Almost everywhere I turn recently has been posing the question as to us being the final generation before Jesus returns. “Us” is a relative term as we have people alive today born a century ago and others born this morning, so who this “last” generation is is hard to say.
I’m 42 (for now). I have friends in their 60s and 20s. Who is this “last” generation?
Here’s a better question: does it matter?
John Wesley wrote sermons we still read today. St Paul was writing 2000 years ago. But they, and we, have something in common. Right now is the only generation we can truly affect. This generation. Our own. I’m not saying it’s not important whether Christ is returning. It’s critical. Almost all the New Testament books refer to His return as a key event to come, and that it will be a time to be feared and rejoiced over. The times we live in certainly appear to match the signs of the end of the age that Jesus spoke of, but I’m sure for every generation before us there has been a collection of events that seemed to indicate the end was close. The Crusades a thousand years ago to reclaim the Holy Land, the Spanish Inquisition, even events like the Great Awakening or Wilberforce’s bill leading to the end of slavery in the British Empire could have been seen as signs of the end in their day. The Welsh Revival or any of the great periods of growth the church has seen in the last thousand years could have been called a herald of the end.
So what’s special about today’s generation? Why have we suddenly become so preoccupied with the Second Coming? 2012 came and went without any major catastrophe destroying civilization. Every year there’s some nut who is taken with various degrees of certainty declaring the end is near.
I’m that nut.
The End is Near.
So what? What does it matter if we are the final generation? I’m still going to get out of bed in the morning, got to work, talk to people as God leads me to about Him and write here and anywhere else that cares to publish my work whether today is my last day or not.
I learned when my brother died in 1985 that life is short. He was just under ten years old. I learned as I grew in my faith that Life is relative. Life on this planet is short. In the context of eternity it’s less than a heartbeat. In “Holy Man”, Eddie Murphy spoke about the limited number of years we have.
The movie was funny, but it made me think. I’m over half the age my father’s father lived to. My dad died in his 50’s. We don’t know when Jesus will return, and I think that was the point of Him not telling us. Each of us has only a few short years on this planet before we move on to Eternity.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NKJV)
If that part of Jesus’ prayer its true then Eternal Life starts before we die, through knowing and growing in Him. So why should we worry about the Second Coming? Surely whenever that is scheduled – and remember even Jesus said He didn’t know, only the Father does – we have an obligation as Christians to live today as though Jesus will be here any moment? Perhaps we need to get away from the idea that we may be the final generation and get used to the idea that for the majority of us this is the only generation we will reach.
I’m certainly not famous, and I’m not well known even locally. My writing reaches people around the world through the internet, but realistically very few people really know me. I know very few people. The number of people I keep close fellowship with I can count on one hand, but that doesn’t mean I sit back and give up. After all, Jesus only had 12 when He started.
We need to seek a place where we can influence others with our lives and actions. Anything I write or say is worthless outside the context of my actions. My ability to affect the lives of others is limited by the people I choose to interact with – and that has nothing to do with whether Jesus is returning next Wednesday or not. It has to do with me letting Him grow in me, growing to be more like Him and living my life in the way He would. It means speaking love to my enemies, avoiding sexual immorality – not easy in this world. Hating sin but loving sinners and learning to differentiate between the two.
It means living, and not waiting.
We should wait expectantly for Jesus to return. It’s part of what the first century church did, and it needs to be part of what we do.
But in that 2000 years since Peter and Paul walked in Jerusalem “waiting” has changed. It’s become a passive exercise. Peter spoke on the day of Pentecost under the influence of the Holy Spirit because he was waiting for Jesus. He healed the cripple at the temple gate because he was waiting. Paul wrote the letters and travelled the known world because he was waiting. He was anticipating the close return of Jesus. We wait by sitting at home watching reruns of “Happy Days”. We’ve lost the sense of urgency that biblical waiting implied.
So no, I don’t believe we should focus on the return of Christ as a thing to be expected next week if it will paralyze us. But we need to motivate ourselves to walk and talk in His footsteps so if it is next week we can greet Him and know our friends and neighbours have had the chance because they saw Him in us to invite Him in.
So yes, we are living in the last days before Jesus returns. But we have been for 2000 years.
Let’s live as though this is the last generation we can physically affect – because it is!