We are living in between two parentheses. We are living in the middle of a particular time – a brief interlude – but a critical era. We are living between the ascension of the God-Man to Heaven and the return of Him back to this broken world.
Picture, if you will, all of history from Adam and Eve to the resurrection of Jesus as one, messy timeline. At the end of that line, put a parenthesis. Then, in your mind, leave a space and put the second parenthesis. After that mark, begin another timeline. It will start when Jesus returns, and that line will continue infinitely, as the New Heaven and New Earth under the perfect reign of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, we live in that space – the one right between the parentheses.
I often ask myself why Jesus just doesn’t come back right now? Why won’t He break into human history and show Himself to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Why won’t He come back today to destroy all powers of evil and make things right?
There is a reason for the parentheses, and it is given clearly in 2 Peter 3:9, “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.” We see here that the reason Jesus is waiting to come back is that He wants as many people as will be saved to be saved. God patiently waits to bring about His eternal plan because He wants the maximum number of people to be a part of that glorious kingdom. It’s that simple.
But wait. While it may be straightforward; it is also convicting. If the one reason that Jesus is waiting to return is that He wants every last person who will respond to the Gospel to be brought in, then that should be the reason I live! My time in the parentheses – though difficult – has a purpose. God is not keeping us in the parentheses era just to have fun, be entertained, achieve selfish goals, or build up an earthly kingdom of our own; we are in the parentheses to help see as many souls come to salvation as possible. We should desire – as God does – that people in the parentheses will live eternally after we exit the second parenthesis mark. We should be praying, living, working, and interacting in such a way that as many as possible are made aware of the reality of Jesus, His Word, and His salvation, so that they are spared eternal judgment beyond the second parenthesis.
I guess that’s why Jesus described a “wicked servant” as one who says in his heart, “My master is delayed” (Matthew 24:48). Wickedness begins with the thought that the return of Jesus is not near and not a priority. 2 Peter 3: 3-4 declares, “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For … all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.’” Wicked servants do the same as scoffers; they give little credence to the promise of the imminent return of Jesus. This disbelief results in sinful behavior. Matthew 24:49 informs us that the wicked servant – after declaring that the coming of Jesus is delayed – “begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards.” Living for the glory of God and spreading His Gospel are not anymore the priority for this mocker. Instead, he lives selfishly – even brutally – towards God and others.
We are in the parentheses … for a reason! We are to live expectantly. We are to be wide awake. We are to be waiting – and working – until He comes. God has an infinitely good reason for allowing this season between the comings of Jesus. Is that your reason for living, too?
– Shelli S. Prindle