We are all waiting for something to happen, something to change and if we’re honest, there’s probably some of us who wish Jesus would hurry up and come back, snatch us all up so that we can live happily ever after with him in Heaven. What is he waiting for?
Except is that really what the second coming is all about?
The Greek word used for the Second coming of Jesus is Parousia, which is used to suggest the arrival of a royal or important person; it suggests the official presence of the person. The implication is that when Jesus returns it will be for us to enjoy the arrival here of his official presence in a way we don’t know yet. And this suggests something different to the popular idea that we will go somewhere else to be with Jesus.
I have to say that I’m with the English theologian N. T. Wright in his challenge of the assumption that when Jesus returns it is to take us away from this world into another. Rather, he suggests in his book Surprised by Hope, that Jesus’ return will be about making all things new here on earth and to raise us to a gloriously transformed new and bodily life.
To quote Bishop Wright:
“There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world which Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present, and will be an agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers.” (p148)
What’s more, the renewal inaugurated by Jesus’ resurrected body continues, albeit incompletely, here and now as those who follow Christ are empowered by the Spirit to usher in God’s sovereign rule of justice, peace and love. This is what we pray for when we pray ‘ Thy will on earth as in heaven.’
It’s the ‘now and not yet’ tension that we live with as Christians. We know that Jesus will make all things new, indeed he is already transforming us into his likeness here and now but this work will not be made complete until he comes again.
Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, a church that was full of division and strife as it attempted to live out the transforming life of Christ in a city devoted to the worship of idols, lays out what he believes about the resurrection of Christ and of when he comes again in glory. The believers were waiting anxiously for this supposed second coming and beginning to doubt that it would happen.
Paul tells them in chapter 1, that God,
“will keep [them] strong to the end.”
And that they
“do not lack any spiritual gift as [they] eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”
And there is that word parousia again – Christ’s revealing, his arrival is what we are waiting for but while we wait we have been given everything we need to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth. That’s what Pentecost was about. That’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.
What does God’s kingdom look like then?
Who does the King care about? Where is his heart?
Which brings us back to Christmas and a teenage pregnancy, a man whose wife is having a child he knows is not his own, a baby boy born in a place where animals are given shelter, a family forced to flee from the threat of violence, to live as refugees in exile only to return to a land under occupation to live as second class citizens, oppressed by an empire whose only goal is domination and expansion.
Jesus’ whole life is lived on the margins, with those deemed unworthy, unwanted, unwell. His whole message, his manifesto is that these are the blessed, to the least of these belong the Kingdom of God. It is for these that he came, for these that he will make all things new. He is the Prince of Peace.
Listen to Psalm 80
Hear us, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock; you who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us.
Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
The world cries out in pain and anguish. We only have to think about Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya. We only have look closer to home at people losing their jobs and homes, those suffering addiction and depression, those falling through the cracks in the system for whom Christmas will be the loneliest time in the year.
There is a collective cry around the world through the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring, saying ‘enough is enough’, we are tired of being down trodden, tired of being exploited, there must be more to this.
And we cry, Marana Tha! Come, Lord Jesus! Restore us, O God, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
Parousia is the Greek for arrival, presence. The latin term is Adventus.
What are we waiting for?
We have this treasure in jars of clay – the hope that all things will be made new when Jesus comes again but while we wait, there is transformation, restoration, healing and justice by the power of His Holy Spirit for all who call on his Name.
We can start to live this hope now, to share this hope now, to work for justice and peace now, to give generously, to share graciously, to love extravagantly now and share the good news of God’s Kingdom with those whose hope is thin on the ground. And we are promised that we “do not lack any spiritual gift as we eagerly wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
What are we waiting for?