I was wholly unprepared for that statement! It came from a class assignment I had given to the students of my sophomore Bible class when I was teaching. The assignment was for the student to pick out a church, other than an Adventist one, from the yellow pages (some of you might not even know what yellow pages are, but I digress …), call up their pastor, and ask them what their view and understanding of the Second Coming was.

Having grown up in a faithful Seventh-day Adventist home, this was a real shock to one student. I still remember the look of almost confused disbelief she had on her face as she was telling me about it. Surely it was unthinkable to not think about the Second Coming!

My Seventh-day Adventist faith tradition is steeped in thinking about it. After all, it’s part of our very name. How could anyone not think about it?

I guess I was more sheltered myself than I thought I was. Surely everyone thought about it, at least once in a while. I mean, the entire Bible builds toward the Second Coming as the climax of history bringing in its wake the redemption of God’s beloved.

For me, the knowledge that all of history, all of the things that happen, all the machinations of powers seen and unseen, were working toward this ultimate reality has shaped so much of my life and my life’s focus.

And it runs from the childish to the very serious. Here’s what I mean:

Who among us did not pray at some point when we were younger, “Lord, please come quickly. But could you at least wait until I have a chance to get married first?” Maybe I’m the only one who prayed such a prayer, but I have a hunch I’m not alone. Paradoxically, I also told people who asked me when I was an eighth grader what I was going to do with my life when I grew up: “that it doesn’t matter what I want to be. Jesus will be here before I have grown up.”

In some ways, knowing what we know to be the future can inhibit our doing what we should do now. For example, if fire is going to burn this place up at some point, what’s the point in being careful with our environment? And if Jesus is coming soon, why plan for retirement? If His return is just around the corner, why bother getting involved in my community since most of the people in our community don’t seem to care about such things and wouldn’t pay attention anyway? Why bother starting a family or going to school?

I hope we don’t ever lose the Second Coming as a central focus of our life and our church’s life and intentionality in spite of all the ways that it can make us less connected and maybe even less concerned about the world around us.

The preciousness of the knowledge of the Second Coming really comes in knowing that the life we have here is not all there is. It helps remind us that there is an explanation for the truly terrible things that happen to us in this life. They aren’t just some cosmic whim acting out against us, but rather there’s a real, explainable cause for the sin and garbage in this life, and that the Second Coming is the end of all that nastiness. There is an end in sight. A glorious, inescapable, all-consuming end. Evil will not reign supreme forever. All that’s bad will not be allowed to be a ball and chain always holding us captive.

Because every day is a gift until the Day comes, I have freedoms that I didn’t have before. For example, now I’m free to care about my environment, not because I have to worry that if I don’t do my part, it will all collapse. I can do it because I love the beauty of God’s creation, and, by doing what I can to keep it clean and lovely, I get to have a constant reminder of God’s creative genius and relish in the wonderful things He provided for me to enjoy.

I have a way of understanding evil and its intent. I can see that all creation groans under its weight, but I don’t become consumed by it because I know evil’s time is short.

I don’t have to worry about who gets elected president or what party is in power because their power pales in comparison to the weight of glory that will soon be revealed.

So, I am free to invest myself for the betterment of those around me. If God opens a chance to share the Good News, that’s wonderful. Even if not, I can make a friend and make their and my life a little better. While I have time, I have opportunities the live a more abundant life, the very kind Jesus said He came to make possible.

So, our central tenet of the Second Coming can mark us and free us in all kinds of significant ways. Let’s just not use it as an excuse to withdraw or isolate ourselves. As someone has once famously said about church folk: “they are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good.” May that never be truthfully said of us!

Is there more that forms my Adventist worldview? Of course. But the Second Coming is one core part of my very being that has such a profound impact on me and my place in this world. And maybe I should be asking this question more often: “So, what do you think about the Second Coming?”  While I realize that different ones of us might answer that question differently. I just hope and pray that, however, that no one in our conference will ever say, “oh, we don’t think much about that here.”

Mic Thurber is president of the Rocky Mountain Conference. Email him at: [email protected]