“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:6-9 NRS)
When will Christ return? Sooner or later? How will we know? What will it look like? Will there be a sign or will it be sudden? It is not for us to know. It is for us to believe.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
We don’t know. We aren’t certain. We aren’t trying to prove or argue or insist or force. We believe. The journey with Jesus is a mysterious faith. It is a faith not solely based in one’s intellect. You cannot think your way into the Christian life or into heaven for that matter. It is a faith that forms our whole selves, every part of us, all together. Body, blood, spirit, soul, heart, mind, speech, sight, smell, taste, touch. All of it is shaped into the image of the mysterious, incarnate God-man: Christ.
It is a journey of faith not walked alone but in community: the Church. We are pilgrims traveling together on the path of becoming more like Christ. If you want to know what God looks like, look at Jesus. If you want to know what Jesus looks like, look at the Church. Paul put it this way:
“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT)
Furthermore, if you want a sign of Christ’s coming, look at the Church. This Spirit-filled, ragtag family of Jesus-followers, both sinners and saints, are the signpost that points in the direction of Christ’s return.
The Gospels and the book of Acts tell us: Christ has ascended. That is, he is now seated at the right hand of God and given all authority in heaven and on earth. That doesn’t mean he is now geographically located somewhere else, nor was he escaping this world to go to another. Rather the Christ has sent the Spirit, the palpable presence of God, to be in and with his Church. Christ now fills the entire cosmos with his presence. Christ is all and in all.
It is not for us to be certain or sure, to know all the answers or dates or facts. Free yourself from that burden, from that sense of fear and anxiety. It is for us to believe.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried.
The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again with glory
to judge the living and the dead.
His kingdom will never end.