Today’s GPS systems alert us to trouble ahead. They display traffic slowdowns and stoppages. They give us the option to choose an alternate route. When we ignore those warnings, we can find ourselves stuck for hours on a freeway turned into a parking lot. Have you ever ignored one of those warnings and wished you had not? If so, you won’t want to miss this message.
Last week, as I reflected on the woman trapped in a fiery car crash, I wrote about the importance of sharing the saving news of Jesus with others. Today with the start of Advent, I can’t think of a better time to reflect on our own readiness for the second coming of Christ and need to be saved from eternal damnation.
Advent is a time of reflection, anticipation, and preparation. We reflect on the birth of Jesus in a manger long ago, while at the same time, we prepare in anticipation for His second coming. The overarching theme of Advent is preparedness. We are told that the second coming will come like a thief in the night.
In the time of Noah, some people refused to listen and were washed away by the flood. Some people today will be reveling and satiating themselves in worldly pleasures all the while ignoring the warnings of the Bible. Some will even mock Christians who are readying themselves for Jesus’ return.
We must use this season to get ready. We must prepare. If we have ever been stuck in non-moving interstate traffic, we may have described that event to someone by saying, “I was stuck in hell.” Clearly, of course, that is an exaggeration. Hell is a state of unimaginable horror. We don’t know exactly what hell will be like.
Dante described hell as a frozen lake with Satan encased in ice staring at his own reflection forever, hopelessly self-absorbed and utterly alone. Let us pray that we do not willingly separate from the love and mercy of God, frozen forever in a narcissistic stare of our own making – uncaring, despising and in complete rejection of God’s embrace.
The Bible depicts hell as a lake of fire. Is this what it will actually be like or is this symbolic metaphorical language used to describe the terror of hell? I don’t know. However, what I do pray is that none of us chooses to be this sad, miserable and alone for all of eternity.
In his book “Kingdom, Grace, Judgment” author Robert Farrar Capon describes hell this way. The difference between the blessed and the cursed is one thing and one thing only: the blessed accept their acceptance and the cursed reject it; but the acceptance is already in place for both groups before either does anything about it. To put it another way, heaven is populated by nothing but forgiven sinners and hell is populated by nothing but forgiven sinners: the Lamb of God takes away the sin of the kosmos, not just of the chosen few (John 1:29); Jesus said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all to me” (John 12:32). The difference between heaven and hell, accordingly, is simply that those in heaven accept the endless forgiveness, while those in hell reject it. Indeed, the precise hell of hell is its endless refusal to open the door to the reconciled and reconciling party that stands forever on its porch and knocks, equally endlessly, for permission to bring in the Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 3:20).”
What we know for certain is hell is a place where souls are forever deprived of God’s light and presence. Regardless of what we imagine hell to be like, one thing is for certain, none of us wants to end up there!
Imagine that today, God granted each of us a premonition that the second coming of Jesus, and the end of the world, were definitely going to occur prior to Christmas this year. I suspect we would all change some of our upcoming planned activities. I suspect we might all need to recalculate the route we are traveling.
Just for a moment let’s reflect on a modern-day representation of Matthew 24:39-44. When the Son of Man comes, two women will be shopping at the mall; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two men will be buying Christmas trees; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two woman will be baking Christmas cookies; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two men will be hanging Christmas lights; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
The fact is, we need to be ready and prepared at all times. The reality is, we spend most of our time during this season focused on the first coming of our Lord on Christmas Day, and far too little of our time making sure we are ready for His return. Certainly, celebrating Christmas is important! On Christmas we celebrate our Saviors birth. On that special day God became man like us in order to eventually, at His death, save us from our sins. So yes, it deserves all the attention it gets, but not at the risk of distracting us from our focus on His second coming.
I am not for a minute suggesting that we live our lives in fear of hell and judgement day. Quite the contrary, I am suggesting we live our lives with the hope, love, joy, and peace that only Christ can give. These are gifts to us from our Lord. When our faith is firmly rooted in Him, when we accept His freely offered mercy, when we live our lives according to His commands, and when we love others like He loves us, then hope, joy, and peace spring eternal. Only then can we look with jubilant anticipation for the second coming of Jesus and judgement day without any fear.
As I close, allow me to make a few suggestions. This year, each time we purchase a Christmas gift for someone, let’s offer up this prayer, “Lord let my life be a pleasing gift to you.” With every batch of Christmas cookies we bake, and every time we go to the grocery store to buy something for our Christmas meal, let’s pray, “Lord prepare me to one day feast forever at your heavenly banquet.” And finally, every time we hang up another Christmas decoration let’s pray, “Lord, as I hang this up, remove everything that I am hanging onto in life, that distracts me from you.”
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the Season of Advent. Help me to keep my thoughts on your Son Jesus. Help me to reflect on the joyous day of His birth. And Father, help me to always be ready for His return. Amen!
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