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Why Jesus Isn't Coming Back
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In the gospels, Jesus seems to speak of his Second Coming as something that would happen fairly soon. His testimony was understood by the early church in those terms.
The apostle Paul referred to an imminent coming in his writings. In I Corinthians he refers to the Second Coming in traditional imagery, with resurrected bodies floating upward to meet Christ in the clouds at the sound of the seventh trumpet.
However, a year later, at the time of the writing of II Corinthians, Paul changes his mind, abandons Biblical imagery of clouds and trumpets, and now speaks not unlike one who has become privy to the "scientific evidence of the afterlife."
See Dr. F.F. Bruce's scholarly and insightful research on II Corinthians 5.
I will leave this area of Biblical textual analysis to others. I prefer to view the Second Coming from another perspective.
how to bring peace to the world
Those who preach a literal Second Coming usually speak of the need for Jesus to bring world peace. Only Jesus, they say, can save us from ourselves. He must come to rule with a rod of iron and bring the tribes of humanity under his strict control.
I will suggest, however, this "iron fist" solution has often been tried by a great many dictators in history. This draconian measure, in the long run, has always resulted in more hatred, more enmity, more pent-up desire for vengeance, more death and chaos.
But, some say, Jesus has all power at his disposal so there will be no rebellions. Total power at one's fingertips, it is true, can clean the house quickly of dissent; overt and open challenge to totalitarian control might be stifled; but the seething grievances of the heart will not succumb so easily.
turning swords into plowshares, and enemies into friends
General Douglas MacArthur
on the USS Missouri accepting Japan's surrender
In his memoirs, Reminiscences, General MacArthur discusses his role as post-war military governor of Japan. He understood that, if he were to "rule with a rod of iron," two outcomes might be the result; either his subjects would (1) descend into a spirit of servility and co-dependency, or (2) nurture a hidden vengeance, would plot in the dark, leading to a future war.
MacArthur wisely instituted policies which would transform cultishly-minded Japan into a free democratic society. First, he strictly forbad US soldiers from engaging in any activity which would demean the conquered. Then, he supervised the drafting of a national constitution which created a "rule of law," rather than "rule by whim-of-guru"; secured and promoted individual rights and liberties for all, including women; and led the Japanese into a more mature and humanistic worldview, based on personal responsibility and industry. Remarkably, within less than a year, the former enemies at Pearl Harbor were playing and enjoying, as a new national pastime, their own version of American major-league baseball!
General MacArthur is an outstanding real life example of Lincoln's wisdom - that, the best way to destroy your enemies is to turn them into friends! - no short-sighted "ruling with a rod of iron" from MacArthur's generalship.
"It is better for you if I leave"
These words of Jesus - and I speak from personal experience - are interpreted by fundamentalists to mean, "It is better if I leave for a while, but when I return, in bodily presence, then we will rule the Earth with a rod of iron."
I believe this view to be patently wrong. If Jesus were able to better serve humankind with his bodily presence, then - he never would have left! There are tortured explanations of his departure as fulfilling some convoluted plan of God, but these must be rejected as mere "Snowballs in July, Doc!"
the apostles, including Paul, the entire early church - misinterpreted the Second Coming statements; obviously, he didn't come back - or did he
In my youth, in discussing the Second Coming with fellow students, we would decry any notion of a "spiritual Second Coming" as blatant watering-down of Jesus' statements. We wanted armies descending from the clouds, we wanted boots-on-the-ground, and a militaristic Jesus in-command of the whole Earth.
To my youthful self of long-ago, and to my then-associates along with today's believers, I would now address this view with other words of Jesus - once directed toward a militaristic Peter - "You don't know what spirit is influencing you!"
Will & Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History: "The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionists are philosophers and saints."
Yes, this is one of the very greatest lessons of history.
"Ruling with a rod of iron" can seem very efficient in the short-term, and will quickly tidy-up a disheveled landscape replete with rebels - but the lesson of history teaches us that a militaristic and imperialistic policy only fosters more war and violence.
- Editor's note: A microcosm as case study: It is my observation that families which are "ruled with a rod of iron," each in its own way, eventually come to nothing. There is no sweet loyalty, no home-and-hearth yearning, no fond memories. Little children will be kept in straight-line, for a time, under dire threat of penal action, but this seeming-peace and orderliness in the family exists as mere illusion; these young ones, too, will seethe in the darkness, plotting their coming-of-age vengeful plans - as Lincoln warned, they will yet have the last word on all that the parents do. By the way, regarding Lincoln, consider how quickly he sought to bring the South back into the American fold - amidst great criticism by those who advocated the "iron fist." But Lincoln understood that it was best to heal wounds without delay, lest the end be worse than the beginning.
How scripturally-selective is the view of fundamentalists - as the Bible also teaches that those who "live by the sword will also die by it." This means, in the case of a Warlord Conquering Jesus, he would assuredly fail in his attempt to bring world peace, in any meaningful sense - because, as MacArthur discerned, an "iron fist' policy would create either a world of co-dependent, childlike vassals, or stewing-in-their-juices latent rebels, biding their time for attack.
And for those who say, "then Jesus will wipe them out," why would we honor and respect the dark-spirited mind behind such a program, as a "kill them all" directive is just what every evil despot of history has tried to do!
Will and Ariel are right.
It is only an enlightenment of the mind that might begin to bring true and lasting change to the world.
It is only the "spiritual" Second Coming that will make any difference for the good.
Jesus, in bodily form - even, energy-body form - cannot really help us that much. He told his students that his departure was better for them. He wanted them to grow up, to stand on their own two feet, and not become co-dependent. He said he would send "the Purified Consciousness." This is the "Second Coming" to which he referred. He meant that they could begin to see life and the world as he sees it.
Paul, too, came to understand this as the true plan of God. It is only "Christ formed in us," the "Christ Consciousness," that will bring that long sought-for world peace.
Editor's note: In an earlier article, I began to explain that "Christ formed in us," the "Christ Consciousness," is not trying to figure out "What would Jesus do?" It is not despising and minimizing oneself thereby allowing Jesus to "shine through me." These are predictable viewpoints based on a self-devaluation inculcated by Big Religion to serve an agenda of power and control.
The "spiritual" Second Coming is directly linked to "Christ formed in us," the "Christ Consciousness." What do these phrases mean?
A major stumbling block here is to equate "Christ" with the human Jesus. We are not to become like the man Jesus - though we could do worse. The mandate, however, is to imbibe of the "Christ" perspective. Recall that the word "Christ" means "agent" or "representative," in this case, in reference to God. The implications are profound.
To acquire a meta-paradigm of "Christ formed in us," the "Christ Consciousness," is to see the world through the eyes of one devoted to God. He or she will "see" or sense the activity and mind of God in a godless world. Jesus in his mortal time on the Earth did this for himself; he cannot transfer this heightened sense of consciousness to us. But then, he doesn't need to.
We too, as human beings, "made in the image," harbor the same inner riches as did our Elder Brother. We too, by going within, can tap the same Universal Consciousness as did he.
Recall, from our discussions of Goswami and Tolle, that there is but one subsuming Consciousness in the universe. Like wheel-spokes joined to a central hub, each human being, on this side of life and the next, is linked to that hub of Universal Consciousness.
And when we perceive that this "monitoring, background presence" is also the essence of God, then our consciousness becomes a "Christ Consciousness" - not because Jesus had it too or before us, but because it is the destiny of each human being to access his or her own riches within and to perceive one's own place in the Family of God.
Editor's last word:
I'd like to recommend that you compare the above discussion with the afterlife-testimony of Abu the Egyptian, a most profound treatise of the nature of God. See at the "afterlife page."
It strikes me more forcibly now that a primary reason why so many churches delight in a doctrine of a returning bodily-Jesus with an "iron fist" centers about their own inability to effect real change in the human condition.
For all of their vaunted ritualistic pageantry - the sprinklings, the confirmations, the sin-absolvings, the prayer sessions and masses, the endless blessings with magic words and magic hand-signs - the fact of the matter is, they stand utterly powerless to produce one atom of evolved human consciousness.
Big Religion reflects the mindset of the immature apostles who pestered Jesus about when he'd set up a military government and remove the Romans from their homeland. But such agenda was far from The Beloved Teacher's purpose.
So impressed with the efficiency of Evil and brute force, Big Religion longs for the "iron first" to finally bring law-and-order to the world - with themselves promoted as first-lieutenants in Jesus' regime, of course; law-and-order to a hapless world, which, they so often proclaim, Jesus has already saved by virtue of a blood sacrifice.
But they want to have it both ways - a world already saved and also a hopeless world, suitable only for the "iron fist."