End Times is a big topic. Much ink has been spilled and breath expended on the topic of Christ’s second coming. Eschatology, as it is called by theologians, provides endless fascination (and sometimes distraction) about the End. Shoot, even Nicolas Cage is cashing in on our obsession with the second coming of Jesus.
We’re told this is coming soon, to be ready! “Keep awake,” Jesus warns, “for you do not know in what day your Lord is coming (Mt 24:42).”
Okay, check, got it – he’s coming very soon. Immanence.
Then, we’re thrown a curve ball. Jesus speaks of tarrying, slowness, delay. In Mt 24, he tells a parable about how the Master was delayed in returning. In the next chapter, during the same teaching, he tells another about the delay of the bridegroom.
Immanence and delay. It’s the tension that each believer finds themselves living in. On the one hand, scripture pleads for our preparedness. “Be ready, stay awake!” On the other hand, Jesus himself informed us of a delay. “The Master was delayed…”
Amid all the glitter and glam of Hollywood’s eschatology, the mystery and vagueness of apocalyptic books like Daniel and Revelation, and the hope and anticipation of Jesus’ teaching, remains this one, nagging question that boars a hole in the back of our minds…
Why hasn’t he come back yet?
We look around the world and witness horrible atrocities, irreparable brokenness, and a complete distortion of God’s good creation. “How long, O Lord?” we may cry with the Psalmist (Ps 90:13). How long can you stand by and watch the enemy warp and deform and ruin your good creation?
How long, O Lord? It’s a big question, one I’m not sure we honestly wrestle with enough as believers. Clearly, it was something that the early church pondered. Peter lovingly reassured his church that although people will make a point to mock the delay of Jesus’ second coming, it’s going to happen nonetheless (2Pe 3:4).
Honestly, they were in common company with the whole of Israel even before Jesus’ first coming. We see ancient Israel wondering the same thing. Habakkuk 3:2 declares, “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
But the question remains, why the delay (if only from our perspective). And if we scratch the surface just a bit, we begin to see why the question remains. We see why we have difficulty living in the tension of immanence and delay.
I believe that reason is the question of God’s goodness.
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
If God is so good, and there is so much evil in the world, why doesn’t he do anything about it?
This is perhaps one of the longest running objections to the Christian faith. People have been wrestling with this question for years. In fact, this objection (in its various forms) is so famous that it even has its own name – theodicy.
Honestly, though, it’s not that difficult to answer. God is good and he is doing something to quell evil once and for all. That something is the restoration of all things through Christ Jesus.
Yet, even in this answer we see unsatisfaction, maybe even in our own stirring hearts. “Of course, God is doing something, but why is it taking him so long?”
There it is again – the tension of immanence and delay. If God is so good, and he is doing something to quell all evil, why is it taking him so long?
This version of theodicy is, in my opinion, much more formidable than the popular version first mentioned because it hits at the heart of questioning God’s goodness. It pushes us to second guess God’s sovereignty, to disagree with God’s works, to cause doubt to lead us down the path of skepticism.
So, what is the reason for the delay? Hasn’t God seen enough death and destruction and brokenness to move him towards fixing what the enemy has broken?
THE REASON FOR THE DELAY
Herein lies the problem of asking this question – We, along side the enemy, are the reason there is so much death and destruction and brokenness in the world. Lest we forget, we were the ones who hurled God’s gift of existence and creation and community down a flight of stairs, cursing him at the same time.
So, when we ask the question “Why hasn’t God returned to deal with evil in the world?” what we’re really asking is, “Why hasn’t God returned to deal with the evil in me?”
Now it takes on a different flavor, doesn’t it?
God isn’t delaying because he isn’t good. On the contrary, God is delaying precisely because of his goodness!
As Peter explains, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2Pe 3:9).”
The reason the Father has not yet sent the Son is because he wants to offer his creation ample time for repentance. He wants to allow for us to recognize our part in evil and turn from it. He patiently awaits the day when we come running into his arms crying, “Abba, Father!”
It’s not as if God is standing by without care for his creation’s suffering. Quite the opposite, God is restraining himself for the sake of his creation’s repentance! He is not standing idly by, watching helplessly as evil runs rampant throughout the world. Instead, he is sitting on his throne patiently waiting for our own sake.
If we are to question God’s goodness due to the delay of the Father sending his Son, let us not do so with a lack of his goodness in mind, but the abundance. Let us not ask, “Is this delay evidence of a lack of God’s goodness?” Rather, let us ask, “How far does God’s goodness extend with this delay?”
Remember, at the heart of God’s delay is the delay of our hearts.