This is, of course, Palm Sunday. We read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, being hailed as a king. But of course, just a few days later, that same crowd would turn on Jesus. Incited by the Pharisees and the other Jewish authorities, they would demand that Jesus be crucified. And of course, he was.
But he promised that he would come again, and that’s what we’ve been talking about in our sermon series, “The End of Time”. We’ve looked at some of the prophecies that say there are lots of bad things that are going to happen before the end comes. Last week, we looked at what happens after those bad things. We looked at how God wins, and how if we stay faithful to God, we win, too, and God will dwell among God’s people forever.
So you may be wondering, what’s left? If we know what happens before the end, and we know what happens after the end, what do we have left to talk about?
Well, what we have to talk about is the waiting period. Because we know the end will come sometime, but we don’t know when. As I said at the beginning of this sermon series, the end may come thousands of years from now, maybe even tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years from now. Or, the end may come before we finish the service today. We have no way to know. In fact, Jesus said that while he was on the earth, even he did not know.
It’s already been two thousand years. And some people wonder why Jesus has not come yet. There are, after all, passages in the Bible that seem to indicate that Jesus was supposed to have come long before now. In fact, that’s what the early church thought. The reason the gospels were not written until twenty or thirty years after the fact is that the early church thought Jesus could be coming back any time. There was no time to write things down, especially as hard and time-consuming as the writing process was back then. They were spreading the word by talking to people, and they were doing it as fast as they could. It was only after twenty or thirty years had passed, and Jesus had not come back, that people who’d been with Jesus and had known him started to think, hey, you know, we might not still be around when Jesus comes back. We’d better write some of this stuff down, so people will know about it after we’re gone.
And, in fact, some people mock Christianity over that very thing. You’ll hear people say, “I thought the Bible said Jesus was coming back soon. It’s been two thousand years. Where is he, then? What’s keeping him?”
That’s not a surprise. That’s exactly what Peter predicted. Listen again to what he wrote:
“Scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’”
It’s natural. And sometimes even we wonder about it. After all, it has been two thousand years. And everything does seem to be going on as it has since the beginning of creation. The sun rises and the sun sets. The moon goes through its phases. The plants sprout in the spring and die in the fall. People are born, people have children, and people die. We get up every day, and everything looks the same as it did yesterday. There’s no obvious reason to think Jesus is going to come any time soon, if ever. So why should we believe it?
Well, remember a couple of things. First, when Jesus comes again, it’s going to be quickly. Remember, when we looked at what Jesus himself had to say about the second coming, he said this:
When the Son of Man comes, it will be the same as what happened during Noah’s time. In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking. They were marrying and giving their children to be married. They were still doing those things until the day Noah entered the boat. They knew nothing about what was happening. But then the flood came, and all those people were destroyed. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. Two men will be working together in the field. One man will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain with a hand mill. One woman will be taken and the other will be left.
Peter confirms that, too. He says, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief.” It’s going to come quickly. We’re not going to get a warning. There’s not going to be time for Walmart to advertise a second coming sale. The way it sounds, when we get up that day, it’s going to look like it’s the same as every other day. Until, all of a sudden, we realize it’s not.
As for why Jesus has not come yet, well, Peter had an answer for that, too. He said, “do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.” In other words, what seems like a long time to us may be a very short time to God. Remember what we said at the start of this sermon series: God sees time in an entirely different way than we see it. If someone lives to be a hundred, we think they’ve lived a long time. This country is two hundred thirty-nine years old, and we think that’s a long time. But to God that’s nothing. The blink of an eye. God exists outside of time. God created time. God was here before time, and God will be here after time.
But is that just a dodge? Is that just a way to avoid the question of why Jesus has not come yet? And for that matter, even if we agree to that, why has Jesus not come yet? What’s he waiting for?
Peter answers that, too. What he’s waiting for, basically, is us. You and me and lots of other people. Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God is waiting to give us more of a chance. Not just us as the church, not just us as Christians, but all of humanity. God is waiting to give all of us more of a chance. God does not want any of us to experience the “second death” that we talked about last week. But even God’s patience will not last forever. Peter tells us that God is being patient, but Peter still says that the day of the Lord will come.
God wants to save all of us. And of course God could do that. God is God. God can do anything God chooses to do. And you know, it must be tempting for God to do that. After all, God loves us. God does not want anyone to experience that “second death”. It must be tempting for God to just throw open the gates of heaven and say, “Come on in! Everybody come on in! I don’t care if you’ve asked for forgiveness. I don’t care if you’ve repented. I don’t care if you even believed. Come on in anyway. There’s plenty of room for everyone!”
But God does not do that. Maybe we wish God would—after all, I don’t want to think of anyone experiencing that “second death” either. But that’s not how God works. Why not? Well, as I’ve said many times, I cannot read the mind of God. But we need to remember that, while God is a loving God, God is also a righteous God. And we also need to remember that God gives us free will.
That means God gives us the right to make choices. And that includes the right to choose to reject God and God’s salvation. I’m sure God is not happy when we make that choice. But God still allows us to make it. God does not impose God’s will on us. Sometimes God gives us some strong nudges and some strong hints, but God still does not force us to believe or to follow. God gives us the choice. And of course, we then have to deal with the consequences of our choice.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph. Less than a week later, he was killed. But Jesus triumphed even over death. And at some point, Jesus will return in triumph, entering the New Jerusalem. We don’t know when that day will be. But we know it will come.
Everything that is on earth will end at some point. This sermon series is ending. Our lives on earth will end. Someday the earth itself will come to an end. In fact, someday even time will come to an end. But the one thing that never ends is God. God always has been, always is, and always will be. And if we have faith in God and believe in Jesus as our Savior, we will never end, either. We will be God’s children, and God will live with us forever.