You see, they assumed Jesus would have returned long before now. But as the Lord tarries, their patiences wanes.
You might expect Adventists to celebrate their success while marking their church’s 150th anniversary this May. There’s just one problem: the church wasn’t supposed to last this long.
Back in the 1860s, the founders of Seventh-day Adventism preached that Jesus would return – and soon. That’s why they called themselves “Adventists.” By Second-Coming standards, the church’s long life could be considered a dismal sign of failure.
“If you took a time machine and visited our founders in May 1863, they’d be disconcerted, to say the least, that we’re still here,” said David Trim, the church’s director of archives and research.
Current Adventists aren’t exactly excited about the anniversary, either.
“It’s almost an embarrassment to be celebrating 150 years,” said Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, the church’s director of education. “But it’s also an affirmation of faith in Christ’s return.”
Hang in there! Your frustration is by no means unheard of in the annals of church history: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 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.” (2 Peter 3:8-9) There were many in the early church who no doubt were expecting the new Jerusalem to flatten Rome and the rest of the principalities and powers that oppressed them within a generation. Didn’t quite work out that way. Because the world was a much bigger place than first-century Christians could possibly have apprehended. And God desires all to come to repentance. Including particle physicists at MIT, sociologists at Berkeley, and the bishops of the Episcopal Church.
So I wouldn’t hold my breath.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
The Sun will expand to a size that will overlap Earth’s orbit and shine 3,000 times brighter in 7.6 billion years. This will spell doom for many planets including the Earth in our Solar system.
A British mathematician came up with this theory in 1924, believing the Sun’s red giant phase will expand and eventually envelop Earth.
Works for me. (Although, science, like the president, tends to evolve on issues, and so next thing we’ll be reading is that the solar system will fold up like an accordion, only to expand again to the tune of “Purple Rain.”)
I do believe that sects that emphasize the imminent, as in “Next Thursday @ 4pm EST,” return of Christ tend* to play on the frailties and desperation of the poor and powerless. It massages a kind of Nietzschean ressentiment. “Don’t worry about not having a job, or status, or good health, or good looks, or fame: Jesus is coming soon to level the playing field! Yes, sir: Bill Gates and Jennifer Aniston and Charlie Sheen will really get theirs!”
Among the more famous Seventh-Day Adventists: Dr. Ben Carson, Angus T. Jones (Two and a Half Men), the late great W.K. Kellogg (yes, the corn flakes guy who was the rough model for the Anthony Hopkins’s character in The Road to Wellville), “open theism” theologian Richard Rice, and Magic Johnson.
So a happy anniversary to our Adventist friends! And try and cheer the hell up. You’re harshing my mellow. And the guy who unharshes mellow in Delaware isn’t up for parole until June.
* Note I said “tend,” as in not absolutely true in each and every church that teaches this. Some may not even be conscious of cultivating such an attitude. And yes, we are to be vigilant, BECAUSE that day comes as a thief in the night. So everybody calm down. But be alert! And please stop yelling!