We’re Still Here

waiting

I have been wanting to write this post for such a long time, and have no excuse for not doing it. Today, I have been handed the perfect reason for getting it done. My motivation comes curtesy of the Seventh-day Adventists. I am going to reprint an article in it’s entirety from usatoday.com. Please click the link to the original article to soothe my conscience:

Adventists pretty sad about their 150th anniversary

The 17-million-member church will mark the event quietly, with a May 18 day of prayer.
How does a church celebrate a 150th anniversary when it didn’t even expect to be around for a decade?

Such is the conundrum Seventh-day Adventists are facing, reports Religion News Service (RNS) in a fascinating look at the coming May milestone. As it explains, the church was founded in the 1860s, and one of its major tenets is and was that Jesus will return to Earth — in the very near future (hence the name “Adventists”).

“If you took a time machine and visited our founders in May 1863, they’d be disconcerted — to say the least — that we’re still here,” the church’s archives director tells RNS.

“In one kind of way it really is a sad event,” says a vice president with the church’s governing body (the director of education calls it “almost an embarrassment”). “We have been hopeful that long ago Christ would have come and taken the righteous to heaven and this world would have ended.”

So the 17-million-member church will mark the event quietly, with a May 18 day of prayer and a smaller ceremony at its Maryland headquarters three days later.
And until the apocalypse comes, they’ll continue doing what they’ve done for a century and a half: make the most of the time they have left in the pursuit of social good. Upcoming plans include the opening of a Hong Kong hospital and health centers in disadvantaged areas, notes RNS.

The key is in the second sentence of the piece: “How does a church celebrate a 150th anniversary when it didn’t even expect to be around for a decade?” I have to give props to the director of education for recognizing this state of affairs as the embarrassment it is. But this embarrassment does not belong to the Seventh-day Adventists, alone, but to all of Christendom. The greatest disconfirmation of the Christian religion is the fact that we’re still here.

Jesus was an apocalyptic Jew. His closest disciples were apocalyptic Jews. And their followers were apocalyptic Jews. That means they had an eschatological message about the end of the world, and like all apocalypticists, that end would be very soon. If adventists are embarrassed about being around for 150 years, Christians in general, should have 14 times the shame, having been around for over 2,000.

Jesus:

As Jesus left the Temple and was walking away, his followers came up to show him the Temple’s buildings. Jesus asked, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, not one stone will be left on another. Every stone will be thrown down to the ground.” Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his followers came to be alone with him. They said, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that it is time for you to come again and for this age to end?”
… I tell you the truth, all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living. Mt. 24:1-3, 34

Peter:

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 1Pe. 4:7

Paul:

But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 1Cor. 15:51-52 (emphasis added)

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died[h] will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. 1Th. 4:15-18 (emphasis added)

While Peter settles for declaring that the end of the world will be coming soon, both Jesus and Paul make predictions that give us a timeframe to work with. The particular end-times events are not important. The only thing that matters is the timeframe. Both Jesus and Paul nail it down to their lifetimes, or at least, the generation in their lifetimes. Assuring us that he is telling the absolute truth, Jesus says, “all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living. ” No matter how hard you look, there is simply no wiggle room in that declaration. It was a direct response to his apostles asking, “what will be the sign that it is time for you to come again and for this age to end?” Jesus wants to be very clear on this point. “all these things will happen while the people of this time are still living. ”

None of them are still living. Christianity has a problem.

Three times, Paul inserts himself into the end-times timeframe. He very specifically includes himself as one who will be around to witness and experience the event. This cannot be written off as the wishful thinking of an aging disciple. Like Jesus, he prefaced each pronouncement with the verisimilitude that this comes to him directly from the Lord. If the detail about his involvement is suspect, so, too, is the whole message, and everything else he claims to have delivered from the Lord.

Paul is no longer with us. Christendom, we have a problem.

Not to be let off the hook, Peter still makes a time-based prediction. He didn’t say anything directly about his lifetime, or the lifetime of his readers, but it was still implicit. Peter was not speaking generally about things that didn’t matter in a contemporary context. He was saying things to help provide context to a contemporary situation. He was telling them how to live and providing a reason for them to take him seriously. They should take heed because the end of the world was very near. It suggests something that would happen in their lifetime. When people say that something is near, they mean that it is attainable, close. 2,000 years, and counting, does not qualify.

Conclusion

There are even bigger problems than the predictions of scripture that have plainly, not come true. There is a logical conundrum that I simply can’t shake. I present it in the form of a question: What is Jesus waiting for? Why are we still here? His resurrection was supposed to represent the first fruits of the general resurrection. The expectation was that everyone would start experiencing resurrection. Even Matthew wrote about the graves releasing their dead upon the resurrection of Jesus. So, where are these resurrections? If death has been conquered, why do we still die?

The same can be asked of deafness, blindness, lameness, muteness, and every other human malady. One of the main points of the Gospels was to show that Jesus: God enfleshed, had mastery over all these things. He died, rose, and came into his power. Why are his followers still in wheelchairs? Such problems have already been dealt with on a cosmic scale, yet we still suffer from them. What is he waiting on?

Jesus told his disciples, as recounted by John, that he had to go back to his father’s house to prepare things for us:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. Jn. 14:1-3

This makes so little sense, I don’t even know how to quantify it. Whatever preparations need to be made, it has nothing to do with making space in cramped quarters. Jesus assures his disciples that there is plenty of room. Then, he goes on to say that he has to prepare a place for each of them. Just how long does it take to put in the plumbing? I’ve heard of construction running late and over budget, but 2,000 years is getting ridiculous, wouldn’t you say? Clearly, this celestial holding pattern has nothing to do with a few, minor preparations.

Moreover, everyday that passes brings a new crop of horrors. Everyday, more lost souls are born than saved ones. Everyday, the tempter has another chance to disillusion a believer. Everyday is another day removed from the founding stories of Christendom, and that science gives us more reasons to disbelieve them. Everyday that passes is another testament to the failure of end-time predictions. It is another day we must seriously consider the question, why are we still here.

At least some of the leading Adventists are rational enough to be ashamed of the fact that they are still here, this, after only one-hundred and fifty years. How many thousands of years more will it take for Christians, in general to feel the sting of this embarrassment?

David Johnson

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