Years ago, I remember watching a video of a particular speaker, who believed that the earth had been created around 4000 BC. This speaker proposed that maybe God had designed the timeline of the world around a “week” of thousand-year days. This was based on a fairly literal interpretation of the following passage:
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.
2 Peter 3:8 NASB
Of course, we don’t know when Jesus is returning (only that He is), and we should be ready every day. (Reference Matthew 24, especially Matthew 24:36.) However, let’s run with this hypothesis for a little bit, just to make a more significant point.
James Ussher (a 17th-century historian) wrote that Creation took place on October 23 (actually, the evening before), 4004 BC1. Isaac Newton, a few decades later, calculated that the crucifixion of Jesus took place on Friday, April 3, 34 A.D.2
Those are far more precise dates and times that I care to be dogmatic about (I can’t prove either one right or wrong, although I did find Newton’s historical study of this topic to be interesting). Given the inherent variability of predicting events this far back in history, though, the hypothesis is that (within some reasonable tolerances) time can be divided into several millennia. In this scenario, the first four millennium-long “days” (in this historical “week”) would have run from the creation to Jesus’ death, while the next two days would be the time from His death until the present (that is, we’d be finishing up the sixth day, and approaching the “sabbath” of time).
Again, I must emphasize that I’m not trying to predict the return of Jesus (see Acts 1:7). However, I was considering the other day that – if this model was even close, Jesus could return at the end of the sixth day, leading His followers into an eternal day of rest around April 3, 2034. (This was probably just non-productive musing on my part – after all, we should be of the business of God’s Kingdom while here on earth, not trying to second-guess God about timing.)
Still, can you imagine how much I looked forward to that possibility? How much I looked forward to the day when pain, fear, and death would be gone? How excited I was to leave this fallen world and spend eternity with my Creator and Savior?
Unfortunately, I’m not that sanctified, yet. Instead, I thought, “That would really mess up my plans!” After all, I’d like to retire about that time. I expect a pretty good chance of having the kids out of the house and maybe even having some grandchildren by then. Why am I going to work day after day, and saving money to enjoy life after my time in the conventional workforce is complete, if Jesus is going to return before I get to savor what I’ve earned? (Don’t judge me, now. I warned you that I’m still working my way through Christian maturity!)
My challenge is this: I know that – whether Jesus does return in 10-20 years, or if I am called home before then for any other reason – Heaven will be far greater than anything I can predict or imagine (see 1 Corinthians 2:9). But, I spend a fair amount of time preparing for a future here on earth (as transient as it may be, in the light of eternity – see James 4:14). As a result, thinking about eternity that morning sort of collided with my normal train of thought, which was focused on the corporeal.
I had to ask myself, would I regret going to Heaven, and not doing the things I had planned for in retirement? Was I really going to miss doing things on my “bucket list” if Jesus returns before I expire? These are questions that I can wrestle with on my own, but here’s the bigger question:
Would I invest my money, efforts, and time differently if I knew that Jesus was coming back in the next 10 or 20 years? I don’t think that it’s wrong to save wisely for the future, here on earth. Nor do I think that it’s wrong to contribute differently over time to God’s kingdom, depending on our circumstances or our various seasons of life. However, if I hold on to the possibility of Jesus’ return being sooner, rather than later, I might make different – and better – choices.
For instance, that friend or family member that I need to talk with might be young and healthy on the outside, but still need to be spiritually re-born. The money I was saving for a nice, single-story house (with no stairs) in retirement might be better invested in other souls around me today (and managing my expectations for a simpler life in the future). I might spend less time doing things that “waste time” or are only for my own leisure, and more time working – even if I’m less-rested as a result – on things of lasting significance.
Hopefully, you’re more spiritually mature than me. Regardless, consider how your investments might change if Jesus were coming soon. After all, whether in our lifetimes or afterwards, He is coming back!
- The Annals of the World, James Ussher, 1658 (I referenced an updated version by Pierce, et. al., Master Books, 2012). ↩
- Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John, Isaac Newton, 1733, Chapter XI. https://www.amazon.com/Observations-upon-Prophecies-Daniel-Apocalypse-ebook/dp/B004TQHASG/ and http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16878/16878-h/16878-h.htm, et. al. ↩