Religion has often been criticized for a tendency to draw believers away from life here and now toward some better afterlife. The criticism is that the focus on another realm becomes a form of sanctified escapism and renders the believer of less benefit to the world and to society. At times, believers have left themselves open to such criticism, sometimes even cultivating, preaching, and practicing these kinds of attitudes.
And, too, we have terrible examples of those in power telling the poor and oppressed to just accept their sad lot now because, when Jesus returns, all will be made right.
Yes, our world is a fallen, broken, and tragic place—and there is nothing wrong or misplaced in longing for the time when God will set the world right; when He will bring an end to injustice, pain, and sorrow; and when He will replace the current disorder with His glorious and righteous kingdom. After all, without that hope, without that promise, we really have no hope at all.
In His sermon on the end of the world (see Matthew chapters 24 and 25), Jesus spent the first half of His discourse detailing the need for escape, even getting to the point of saying that “if those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (Matt. 24:22, NIV). But this is more an introduction to His explanation of the significance of these promises of God. To focus solely—or even primarily—on the “escape” aspect of the Christian hope for the future is to miss some of the deeper points Jesus was making.
Read Matt. 24:1-25:46, NIV, (Matthew 24 and 25). What are the most important points from your reading of this sermon of Jesus? How would you summarize Jesus’ instructions for how we are to live as we wait for His return?
What we believe about the future has important implications for how we live now. A healthy reliance on the promises of God about His future for our world should be the catalyst for energetic engagement, the spark for a life that is rich and deep and makes a difference to others.
|How can and should the hope and promise of Jesus’ return impact how we live now, especially in the context of helping those in need?|