I remember my shock when I first heard that the book of Hebrews had been written to Jewish believers discouraged because Christ hadn’t yet returned.
 
I heard that, by the way, in 1985.
 
Jesus, we have been told, could have (should have) come back already. Fine—though I’m convinced that it’s not so important when He does just as long as He does.
 
The key is the state of the dead.
 
The dead, we know, “sleep” (even if sleep is to death as a haircut is to a beheading). A few years ago I had my first surgery (to fix an ankle broken in a hockey game). After I was wheeled into the operating room, the nurse stretched out my arm on a gurney, and I said it reminded me of a lethal injection. He assured me they would spare me the potassium . . . and the next thing I knew another nurse was waking me in the recovery room.
 
I had no idea how much time had passed. Twenty minutes, 20 hours—it would have made no difference. Now, if a drug-induced coma can do that to our experience of time—even when we still have quite a bit of brain function—what would death do to that experience when we have no brain function or, if dead long enough, no brain?
 
Whether Abel, the first recorded dead man, or whether the last saint to perish before probation closes, or whether the untold number of deceased in between (including the discouraged recipients of the letter to the Hebrews)—as far as they are concerned, Jesus comes instantly. Our eyes close in death, and our next sensation (whether after five millennia or five minutes) is Christ’s return. Abel’s experience will be the same as everyone else’s who has died in faith.
 
For the dead, at least timewise, there’s no difference in their experience and in what is erroneously assumed to happen according to those who believe in an immortal soul that soars to bliss the instant the body dies. In both views, experientially, the reward comes at once.
 
The dead, therefore, know no delay in the Second Coming. It’s we, the living, who fret over it, but only because we look from the wrong perspective, the perspective of the living. But that’s too narrow a view, because most people are dead a lot longer than they are alive. From 
the perspective of the dead, things appear quite differently.
 
Yet even for us, the living, the Second Coming is never any longer than an instant after our life span. We won’t wait long centuries for Christ’s return; only the poor antediluvians did that (“Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died. . . . Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died” [Gen. 5:5-20]). “All the days” are much fewer for us than they were for them.
 
Though we want Christ to return soon, even if He doesn’t we will wait only a moment longer than our lifetime anyway. The longer we live, the longer we wait. We mourn those who die young, but from their perspective they don’t have as long a wait for the Second Advent as do the aged.
 
Besides, what do those who live longer often say about life? How fast time goes. How quickly life passes by. How quickly the years go by. And considering how hard life can be now, especially in contrast to what is promised when Christ returns, it’s a blessing that it does go quickly.
 
Perhaps now we know why Jesus, almost 2,000 years ago, could say clearly: “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done” (Rev. 22:12). “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll” (verse 7). “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’” (verse 20).
 
How quickly? How about like “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14)?
 
Quick enough?
 
__________
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. This article was published June 16, 2011.





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