Promise Made, Promise Kept

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isa 7:14, 700 BC)

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thess 5:16, AD 51)

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Truth no longer means what it did a few generations ago. Western culture has developed a disdain for absolutes—the conception that there is something behind the beliefs we hold dear. Morals have become a matter of preference. Religion is treated as mere opinion. Science now defines truth as our best explanation for the things we observe, to be conveniently replaced by a new “truth” the moment we see things differently. “Facts” are merely talking points used to support an ideology, and are easily manipulated. In public discourse, politicians make promises they not only break, but ones they never intend to keep in the first place. We've grown accustomed to viewing every statement of fact as a well-dressed lie, every promise as an attempt to manipulate our feelings.

My father came from a bygone generation. In his day, someone's word was their bond. A handshake-commitment meant everything to him. I watched him accept a loss in some business dealings simply because he refused to break a verbal promise he had made. I don't know many people like my father. As a result, I don't trust people the way I trusted him. That kind of trust is increasingly rare in today's world because promises are made to be broken.

When we come to the Bible with our modern sensibilities, we often adopt that same suspicion. We read its promises as if they're generalizations intended to motivate us but not meant to be taken literally. If Jesus is coming back, we're told, we need to live faithful lives. We might regard this promise as nothing more than an attempt to curb our behavior. It serves a purpose whether he comes back at all. At least, that's how we're tempted to think of it. But this is only if we separate the statement from the trustworthiness of the one who promises it.

God promised the coming of Jesus Christ many centuries before the events we read of in the gospels. The number of relevant verses is too great to survey, but Isaiah 7:14's prediction of the virgin birth and the one who would be designated immanuel (i.e., “God is among us") more than 700 years before the birth of Christ is enough to remind us of a simple fact: God's word is guaranteed. It is truth—not in the sense we think of it today, but as an absolute. It cannot be wrong, and we are rational if we stake our entire purpose and existence on his promise, because the one who promises us is faithful (Heb 10:23). We can gauge the promises he has not yet kept based on his past performance. Jesus is returning again, as Paul reminds us in 1 Thess 5:16, in fulfillment of the same words that were proven true 2000 years ago.

If his promises are true and he is coming back, living in light of his return is a rational choice. Keeping our eyes focused on him and not distracted by the temporary fixes the world offers makes sense. Our culture tells us to live for the moment and enjoy ourselves, but sacrifices we make out of love will stand the test of time. On the day of his return, I will regret all the wasted moments when I could have done something to help others and live out Jesus's values. I won't regret the thousands of hours of television I passed on, or the million other selfish diversions I avoided that our culture offers all of us.

In Luke 18:8, Jesus is speaking about his return. He asks a simple question: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The question is not whether he would return, or whether justice would swiftly be rendered when he did. The question is how many of us will be here, living faithful lives, on the day he comes back. If you would be numbered among them, you only need to take him at his word. In a world of false narratives and broken promises, there is one word that can be believed, one destiny that is worth living for.

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