Three men died and met St. Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter says to the first one: “Let’s see, you have lived an outstanding life. You haven’t committed any major sins and you have never been in trouble with the law. You have been faithful in your marriage. You can go right on in to heaven.”
St. Peter says to the second man. “It says that you have lived basically a good life. However, you were involved in some mischief as a kid. You can go into heaven but you will have to spend some time in purgatory to repent of your sins.”
St. Peter says to the third man: “You have lived a troubled life. You broke into a convenience store, you stole a car and got into fistfights. And it says here that for the last five years you have been carrying on an affair with your wife’s best friend. You’ll have to go to purgatory for a long time to repent of all your sins. The third man heads off to purgatory and then St. Peter stops him. “That’s a Georgia Tech jacket you are wearing (apologies to my GT friends. I had to pick on somebody). Are you a Tech fan?” “Yes, I am.” “Forget it,” says St. Peter. “Just go right into heaven. You’ve been through enough already.”
Was the Apostle Paul thinking of Tech fans when he said in 1 Corinthians 15 that we Christians shall be whisked away to heaven in the “twinkling of an eye.” Those Christians in first century Corinth had suffered enough. Paul believed, as did most Christians of that day and time, that Jesus would come again in his lifetime. Soon. Very soon. “We shall not all die,” Paul said. Well, they did all die, and they never got to experience the Second Coming of Christ.
But what about us? What about the second coming? There is a great deal of emphasis on this subject in our culture. It sells. Millions and millions of books have been sold on that subject. For a small fee you can join the Left Behind Prophecy Club Web Site. No kidding. Or as someone sarcastically called it, the Beast of the Month Club.
Many Christians seem to love the idea that the trials of this world can be escaped by one sweep of the heavenly Hoover vacuum cleaner as Christians are sucked into the great beyond. It is the kind of stuff that thrillers are made of. It is good versus evil where good wins and the evil ones are “left behind” smoldering in the dust. Is that all there is?
I love gospel songs when they talk about “the sweet by and by”, but if we are not careful, we will overemphasize heaven and miss the point of the gospel. If we are not careful, then our theology will boil down to “Drop Kick Me Jesus” out of this world and into the next.
If the primary focus of our Christian life is to get off this third rock from the sun before it is blown away, then tell me, why is the Bible so thick? If it is all about going to heaven, then why are there sixty six books telling us to love our neighbors, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and take up our cross? Why? Maybe what we need to do is quit looking up and start looking around at our world.
I ask again, why is the Bible so thick? If we can’t make a difference and change this world then why so much in the Bible about loving our neighbor and righting wrongs? I like the bumper sticker “Jesus is coming, look busy.” Truth is, we don’t know when He is coming. In fact, He said that only God knows.
So, I wonder what all the fuss is about. But if He does come in our lifetime, what will He find us doing? Will we be caught looking up or scanning the latest newspaper for an apocalyptic sign, or will we be found doing the work of the kingdom now? Will He find us making this world more into what he created it to be in the first place? You don’t need a subscription to a Left Behind web page to tell you all you need to know. Read the sixty-six books. Instead of spending money to be a prophesy insider, spend it on a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or church youth group. Keep working and serving.
And if you really want to have hope, pick Bama (I couldn’t resist).