What level of importance
should the doctrine of Christ's second coming have for us?
It is certainly not peripheral, and it shouldn't be the only thing we study. I'm putting myself in the middle here. I think it is an absolutely essential doctrine that Christ fulfill God's purposes for this universe--and this world in particular.
It is essential that Jesus come back in the flesh and that he triumph with finality over the devil and over all evil. He must banish all ungodliness and establish his kingdom. He must bring a new heaven and a new earth, so that there is only righteousness and peace. And that everything that God has designed for this world must come to its climax.
If we said that Christ didn't have to come back, and that all we had was a perpetual state of what we have now, it would be a tragedy. The Bible would abort and God's purposes would not stand.
So the redemption of our lives is not complete
until we have, as it says in Romans 8:32, our "adoption as sons, the
redemption of our bodies." And the redemption of our bodies happens,
according to Philippians 3:21, when the Lord of glory comes back in his
glorious body and gives us bodies like his glorious body. This
will happen at the second coming, and so it is an absolutely essential doctrine.
But if you get fixated on all the details of when and how the second coming will take place then you will probably become sectarian in your attitudes and behaviors--and in your church. Glorious things about the past and the present, and the way God works now, and how we should relate to culture now threaten to be obscured or lost altogether.
So don't let the second coming
of Christ and its surrounding events become the totality of what you
focus on. Let it be the end-time hope that satisfies your heart, and
then give yourself to a full-orbed understanding of all the Bible. Consider its application to family and business and culture and leisure and
entertainment and education and all the aspects of life now in which
we're called to be salt and light.
How does someone who is so involved with planning things for this life keep from losing sight of the importance of the next life?
If you're a good planner then you will plan for the next life. You will look at your day and ask, "In view of what's coming in the next life--and it could be very soon, you know. Death could come anytime--how should I structure my day?"
As for me, the next life is fixed. God has planned when that will be, and I try to let that truth have its powerful bearing on all of my present planning.
This means, basically, that I hold my plans rather loosely, because he has plans for me now and he can take me out of here any minute. I hope I'll be found faithful to him in my planning, but he's the ultimate planner.
Knowing that the next life is coming makes me
realize that, though I must do my best in planning right now, God is the one who writes the
script and he will bring the climax.
For those who are struggling with sin and can't seem to get the upperhand, is it possible that a greater focus on the second coming might provide the grace that a person needs to overcome?
Yes, in two senses:
1) It is very scary to meet Jesus unprepared, and fear has an appropriate place in the Christian life to sober us and shock us out of our sinning.
2) Christ's second coming is going to be glorious beyond all imagination. That's evident in 2 Thessalonians 1:10 when it says that he is coming back "to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed." We're going to marvel at him.
So there is a fear dimension that should shock us out of our sinning, and there is a marveling dimension that should so deeply satisfy our hearts now that we don't need to sin in order to be happy.
I think a right view of the second coming has powerful present effects on our holiness, our sanctification, our capacity to love other people, and our ability to renounce sin.