Left Behind : Christ’s Return Not Imminent and That’s Okay
Today, the new Left Behind movie will premiere across the country. Nicolas Cage will play Nicolas Stage as Rayford Steele in a remake of the uber popular Christian book series, “Left Behind”. If you aren’t familiar with the premise of the series, “Left Behind” takes the Biblical story of the Rapture/2nd Coming of Christ and puts it in modern times.
I’m sure the movie will be great, but is the 2nd Coming really so imminent that it could happen any day as the movie portrays? One favorite pastime of Christians seems to be predicting the Second Coming of Christ despite a terrible track record. Not to put too fine point on it, but to date, 100% of the predictions have, in fact, been wrong, yet we keep on doing it.
Even among Christians who don’t try to put a specific date on the event, most seem to believe that the return is imminent. I see it on Facebook posts, Tweets, and in conversations. While I agree its possible Christ could return at any moment, my study of scripture and the attributes of God leads me to conclude it’s not probable.
One of the core attributes of God is what theologians call His immutability. God doesn’t change. He’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. While things rarely ever happen the same way twice, we can look to past events to see principles that apply to the future.
While the Second Coming is a joyous event for believers, it is pretty much game over for planet Earth. Thanks for playing and we’ve got some lovely parting gifts for you. The Rapture is followed by the Tribulation, an incredibly destructive and deadly period of seven years. We can draw parallels to two Biblical instances where God unleashed his wrath in a destructive way: Noah and the Flood and the Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In both of those cases, God waited a long time before he acted. Noah preached for 124 years before the Flood. Sodom and Gomorrah were given over 400 years to repent.
Even more importantly, God held his hand until there was basically no one left who had a heart turned toward Him. In the case of Noah, he and his family were literally the last righteous people left on earth.
It gets even more interesting with Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible gives us an account (Genesis 18:16-33) of Abraham negotiating with God and begging him to spare the city for the sake of the righteous people still living there. He appeals to God’s justice and asks him not to destroy them along with the ‘wicked’.
Suprisingly, God and Abraham actually begin to haggle over exactly how many righteous people it would take in the city for God to spare it. Would 50 righteous people be enough? What about 45? Would God withhold judgment for 40? What if there were only 10?
God says He would spare the entire city if there were 10 righteous people in it.
Then he (Abraham) said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He (God) answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” – Genesis 18:32 NIV
But, as we know, there were not even 10. Only Lot and his family were left. With angelic intervention, God got them out and then destroyed the city.
We see parallels to both these events in the Second Coming of Christ. God is patient. He is waiting so that as many people as possible will turn to Him.
The 10 Righteous
But the biggest reason I don’t think the return the Christ is imminent is the 10 righteous. Based upon his actions at Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood, God will wait until nearly the entire world is against him and there is barely anyone left with a heart that loves God.
Even in my relatively small city of about 700k people, there are hundreds and hundreds of churches. Our community collectively supports no less than three full time Christian radio stations. All across this country there are people with a heart towards God. In other countries, communities of Christians are meeting and growing. There are 1000s of people in foreign mission fields trying to reach people who have never heard the redemptive plan of Christ.
Despite how our world may appear sometimes, there are still hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who love God and have a heart that seeks after Him. Our world does not resemble the times of Noah or Sodom. Maybe in another generation or two it will, but not right now.
I freely admit I could be wrong and I look forward to Christ’s return. There are days I’d love for it to happen sooner rather than later. But based upon my study of Scripture, and the pattern God set out the last two times He unleashed his wrath, I don’t think it’s imminent, and that’s okay.