Heaven and Earth

Last Sabbath, the theme of the day was definitely the second coming. The Sabbath School quarterly focused on it. Then the sermon centered on it as well. That afternoon, we couldn’t stop talking about it. And one of the main questions that kept resurfacing was, if we really believe the second coming is soon, how do we live our lives today?

This is a question that has pulled on my brain for good chunk of my adult life. Growing up, it never occurred to me that the idea that time was almost over was hard to reconcile with planning for a future. Then one day, perhaps my junior year of college, it hit me. Wait. If the world is coming to the end so soon, why in the world did Adventist build such huge hospitals? Schools? Why am I suffering through these classes?

From my studies of the history of religion up to that point, I knew there were two groups of Christians: the ones who thought that this world would only come to an end if humans made it perfect, and the ones who thought there was no hope in making this world a better place, and the worse it got, the more evident it was all going to be over soon.

But I saw in my own religious tradition a kind of hybrid of these two views. How can this be? Trying to answer this question led me write a 100 page thesis, Doers of the Word. I got closer to the answer–even the building of institutions was in preparation for a better world–but definitely still had questions.

Then, about a year later, I stumbled across this C.S. Lewis quote that I reflected on both on my old blog and here:

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those  who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great mean who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get the earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

At the end of the day I shared the chapter this quote comes from with some friends as we closed Sabbath. My conclusion from the day’s discussions was that yes, we need to remember heaven, but we can’t let the hope of the second coming become a form of escapism, an excuse to neglect our God-given duties today to help those around us. And helping those around us is crucial, for them and us, it reminds us of Jesus as we teach others about Him. What’s the point of looking forward to the second coming when we’re not looking forward to being with the One who is coming? Too often we look forward to the event of the second coming, and not the Person of the second coming. If that continues to be true, we will be the ones to whom He will say “I never knew you.”

I had almost forgotten all of these loosely connected thoughts from last week. But this afternoon I was reading a short book on hymns, and the author pointed out some lyrics from the hymn When We All Get to Heaven:

Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.

When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!

And it all seems to still fit together. Let’s do what we need to do here, in hopes of heaven, yes, but even more, excited to see “just one glimpse of Him in glory.”

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