"Every generation thinks it's the worst/thinks it's the end of the world" saith Wilco

Come on, children/
You’re acting like children/
Every generation thinks it’s the end of the world/
It’s the end of the world

All you fat followers/
Get fit fast/
Every generation thinks it’s the last/
Thinks it the end of the world

– from Wilco, “You Never Know

This week I was having coffee with someone who asked me if I have any friends or family who always seem to be consumed with the second coming of Christ. I couldn’t think of anyone in particular so this person told me about an acquaintance who mentions it almost every conversation. This person comes across as a bit depressed and defeatist. There is no hope for this world. It is corrupt beyond worth. Jesus must be readying his return right now!

There is a tension here. At one angle we want to join with the end of the Book of Revelation (22.20) saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”. It seems to me that the apostolic church lived in the expectancy that Christ could return today. If we are watching and waiting as people of the day we will not fall into the evil of the night.

Oh, then there is that other angle: it’s 2011.

Jesus has been gone for a very, very, very long time now. In one sense this can be disturbing. Of course, there is an irony. If Christ would have returned in 557, 791, 1211, 1784, or any of the hundreds of years between the ascension and now there is a likelihood that we would not be experiencing the inaugurated Kingdom and we would not be one of the many in history awaiting the Parousia and the resurrection where the Kingdom is finally and fully established.

So who are we to be? Are we to be like the person who thinks every day about the Second Coming? Are we to be more realistic than that? How to we avoid being just another generation with apocalyptic hopes that go unfulfilled (unless, of course, Christ returns)?

How do you live with this tension of anticipating Christ’s return while acknowledging he may not come back in your life time?