In the old version of the mass, the priest would invite us to proclaim the mystery of faith, and we would sing:
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
The first sentence is in the past tense.
He died once and for all, never to be repeated in all of the universe’s history.
The second is in the present tense.
The Resurrection of Jesus is something that is still occurring today. A few years ago, a website was doing a poll on who was the most important person alive today. They were overwhelmed with a write-in vote for Jesus. And this is the correct view of every Christian. Jesus isn’t dead. He’s alive, and not alive in the “He’ll-live-on-through-our-memories” type of living. His body is reunited with His soul. That is His current state, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But let us focus on the third part, the future part: Christ will come again.
As I wrote in a previous article, this is something we as Christians should be looking forward to. It is, as C.S. Lewis once wrote, the start of the never-ending holiday, where life only gets better and better.
This was an essential part of the preaching of the Apostles. It gave much of their mission a sense of urgency. It is one of the reasons that the Gospels were not written down until much later. Why write something down for future generations when the world will end in this one?
Of course, the world didn’t end right away. This led to a great deal of confusion among believers who had put all of their eggs into the Apostles’ baskets. Many of them were ready to depart from this world and be with Jesus.
But Jesus did not come back.
What was taking Him so long?
Jesus said that He was coming back soon. It became apparent that “soon” to Him meant something very different than “soon” to us.
But that makes perfect sense from a matter of perspective. Imagine you are a parent and tell your child that you will be going to Disney World. The child asks when and you say, “Soon.” In your mind, you are thinking in the middle of the coming summer, when you can have time off of work and save enough money to make sure you can travel in comfort. The child thinks “soon” means tomorrow and packs a bag for traveling that night. In the same way, what is “soon” from the Divine perspective may seem like a long way off from the human perspective.
But that still does not answer the question as to why He hasn’t returned yet. Why wait, even for the briefest of moments? The work of salvation is finished: Christ has died, Christ is risen. Sin and death have been defeated, but battle continues. In a sense, we are running out the clock so that victory can be declared.
But by not coming back, isn’t Jesus just allowing more evil to enter the world when there is no need? Because He is delayed, sin still rages against righteousness for the souls of the world.
It is true that while this fallen world persists, sin and evil will abide until He returns. So why wait?
The answer lies in 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Peter was dealing with this same question back in the first century, and his answer should resonate with us today. Jesus “delays” not because he desires that sin persists, but that he can get the maximum of those who can be saved into Heaven.
In other words, why didn’t Jesus return to Earth back in the time of the Apostles?
Because you weren’t born yet.
In a sense, the universe has persisted for so long because God wanted you to be in it so that He could save you. This isn’t about the numbers. God could instantly create more humans and force the issue. Instead, He wants you, the unique person that you are, from your historical and family circumstances that shape your personality, your life. And He patiently waited 2000 years just so the universe could make you so that He could love you.
So why hasn’t Jesus come back yet? Because there are still so many more people that need to hear the good news about Him. And we must join Him in this holy work until He does return.
Copyright © 2013, W.L. Grayson