I write on diverse religious issues, often analysing perspectives from the Abrahamic faiths (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Bahá’í).
Elephant in the Room
Man is now living in the opening decades of the 21st century, a very different world from even a few decades ago. From the mid-19th century until the present day, we have been witnesses to a dizzying array of innovative technological inventions and mindboggling scientific breakthroughs. Over the course of the 20th century, we stridently traversed the Machine Age (1880-1945), stormed the Atomic Age with a bang (from 1945), entered the Space Age (in 1957) with heightened exuberance, and are now giddily riding out the Digital Age (otherwise known as the Information Age) which began before the 1980s and is yet to run its course.
The rapidity with which these monumental technological milestones have been traversed is truly unprecedented in the entire history of humankind.
Yet while savouring all these extraordinary accomplishments in the scientific sphere, there remains for the religious communities an elephant in the room. For how long can it be ignored?
The issue centres around a Messianic figure, a Holy One, whose incarnation on earth is highly anticipated by the diverse religious communities—and has been so for millennia. The nature of his mission is not always clearly articulated by devotees, but it is generally understood that his advent will usher in a great spiritual revolution of some sort across the globe.
In summary, while his coming is eagerly anticipated by the diverse religious groups, the circumstances of his advent and the nature of his mission differ from religion to religion.
1. The Abrahamic Faiths
There seems little doubt that the Messianic figure awaited by Christians is the same personage awaited by both Jews and Muslims. The only difference in expectations appears to be in the detail.
Jews, for instance, expect their Messiah, the Mashiach, to be made manifest in the biblical Land of Israel. His appearance is to synchronise with their ingathering in that same Holy Land from their millennia-long exile abroad. The Jews have not only returned to their ancestral homeland (we focus here only on the prophecy and leave out the politics and controversies) but have also even succeeded in re-establishing the Jewish state. What is missing for them is the palpable presence of the Mashiach.
Muslims have a different expectation. They expect to welcome Nabi Isa (Arabic title and name for Jesus) in the Middle East preceded by another holy personage known to them as the Mahdi. The lookout by Muslims for these two holy personages has yet to yield any tangible fruit.
But the Christian expectation goes further and is more elaborate than the other two, and it centres on the person of Jesus the Christ, the Founder of the Christian faith. Christians look forward to his return to earth (in a somewhat dramatic fashion) for an exclusive but rapturous encounter with his own flock of believers. The faithful are yet to see this hope realised.
2. The Non-Abrahamic Faiths
What might not be well known outside the Abrahamic faiths is that other religions are also in anticipation of a Great Being—an Avatar, a Shah, or a Buddha—to come:
Hindus know him as Kalki Avatar, whose coming is to engender the eradication of ungodliness and the revival of the spirit of righteousness everywhere.
To Zoroastrians, he appears in the ancient land of Persia (now known as Iran) in the person of Shah Bahram.
With Buddhists, on the other hand, their wait is for the Fifth Buddha, known as Maitreya, whose mission is epitomised by his other title as “the Buddha of universal fellowship”.
Like the members of the Abrahamic faiths, the members of these other faiths are wondering why their Promised One has yet to make an appearance.
Many of the long-held expectations of the religious groups are based on prophecies preserved in their respective holy books. In their eagerness to encompass the meaning of these prophecies, however, many worshippers will zealously grasp every religious dogma thrown at them and gullibly assimilate the litany of prevailing myths, man-made interpretations, and outright superstitions.
Of all the eschatological predictions and prophecies of the religions, the Christian version is the most elaborate and detailed. It ranges from forecasts from the Old Testament prophets to Jesus’ own prophecies; it culminates in an entire book dedicated to the subject—The Revelation of St John the Divine (the last book of the Bible, a book most believers struggle to understand because of its copious use of obscure symbols and unexplained allegories).
Some of the signs given by Jesus—to point Christians towards the emergence of the Last Day and hence the occasion for the heavenly visitation of the Christ—can be found in Matthew 24.
When in Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked him: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Jesus referred them to the following signs, among others:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. (Matthew 24:6-7)
(Note: All biblical references in this writeup are from the King James Version)
The Significance of the End-Time Signs
By themselves, the above end-time signs appear rather underwhelming. For, no one can dispute that wars and rumours of wars have been with us since the dawn of history, as have famines, pestilences (epidemics), and earthquakes. What then could have been so significant about such happenings as to be included in the signs of the Last Day?
The answer to the question must lie less in the events themselves and more in related developments. It has to do with that point in time whereby any major occurrence in one part of the globe would be quickly known in other parts (and hence by Christians worldwide). Of course, a development such as this would be in contradistinction to earlier times when news of major happenings would have largely remained hidden to all but those in the immediate vicinity of the incident (except for what little would have trickled further out over months and years).
As an example, in earlier times, an earthquake in one region could have gone unnoticed in regions a bit farther afield. All that was to change in the second half of the 19th century with two critical developments:
Two Far-Reaching Developments of the 19th Century
1. Technological Change
There was, in the 19th century, a sudden acceleration in technological acumen, creativity, ingenuity, and innovation in many fields of human endeavour, including in communication and transportation (an acceleration that was largely being driven at this stage by the Christian west). The tipping point, in the context of this discussion, must have been the field-testing of the electrical telegraph in the early 1840s in the USA. The deployment of such an invention and others that soon followed in its wake—telephone, automobile, aeroplane, radio, television, etc.—made it possible for information to travel quickly from one region to another.
In practical terms, it progressively came to mean that an earthquake in one area of the globe could be quickly (if not instantly) communicated to another.
Concurrently, the dual mission espoused by European nations—of subjugating and colonising populations from across the globe (on one hand) while also evangelising them with the gospel message (on the other)—was reaching its culmination. Mind you, this was at the time Europe saw itself as the undisputed heartland and bastion of Christianity.
So, by setting foot almost everywhere on the planet (through migration, exploration, colonisation, and Christian missionary expeditions) Europeans found themselves in a unique position—that of instantly knowing whenever major events occurred practically anywhere on the planet and being able to share the news with the rest of the world. At that stage, the relevant gospel prophecies became alive and able to talk to Christians everywhere.
For, news of events, big and small—whether of wars, famines, epidemics, earthquakes, or any others—could now be quickly transmitted across the globe rather than confined to the remote areas where they actually occurred. The overall effect was to give the appearance of regularity in the occurrence of such events—because no major happening in any part of the globe could now remain hidden from the gaze of the world.
The Technological Revolution
There is a distinct correlation between the worldwide exploits of Christian Europe and the technological revolution underway at the time. Notwithstanding, whereas those European exploits have long fizzled out with the blossoming of indigenous Christian communities in all corners of the globe in parallel with the decolonisation of newly fledged nation-states, the technological revolution has only deepened and is not expected to ever run its course.
From the Atomic to the Digital Ages
The 20th century witnessed some of the most mindboggling technological innovations the world had ever witnessed—with seemingly insuperable scientific barriers being shattered one after the other over the span of mere decades.
1945 was a year like no other. It was in this year, in the closing stages of World War II, that the dawn of the Atomic Age was loudly proclaimed with two earthshaking explosions in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Then as its potential became better understood with time, the atom bomb began to stand apart, not just as the most ferocious weapon known to man but also as a destructive beast capable of bringing an end to civilisation as we know it.
Within only a couple of decades, before man had even had time to absorb what the breathtaking developments in the field of nuclear energy could mean, something equally (if not more) breathtaking happened. Man travelled to the moon, walked on the lunar surface, returned afterwards to earth, and was none the worse for the experience. This achievement was the most enduring symbol of the Space Age—an Age that had begun less than twelve years earlier, in 1957, with the launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite.
In all, there were six successful landings of humans on the moon (between 1969 and 1972). Man has since been living semi-permanently on space stations some 400 km above the earth and has regularly sent space probes to other planets and heavenly bodies in and beyond our solar system.
Then over the course of the 1970s and '80s man slid quietly and with little fanfare into the Digital Age. This Age has been associated with the development of the computer and the internet. And with those came cyberspace, enabling ordinary citizens to interact with each other in real-time from every corner of the globe.
The Digital Age it is that accelerated the process of globalisation to the point where the concept of the world as a Global Village is now imprinted in the consciousness of mankind and more or less universally acknowledged.
The Second Coming Paradox
Though very commonplace today, so mindboggling and unprecedented are these developments that no man living before the 20th century could have believed them possible. Never in the history of mankind have there been developments as earthshattering, world-shaking, world-shaping, and world-embracing as the above-cited scientific and technological breakthroughs.
But there looms an obvious paradox in recounting them:
How come these distinguishing modern-day technological triumphs—encompassing nuclear energy, space travel, air flight, automobile travel, radio and television broadcasts, photography, etc.—were never foreseen and alluded to by Jesus as sure signs of his return, in parallel with (or in place of) mundane occurrences like wars, rumours of wars, diseases, famines, and earthquakes? In particular, how could Jesus have omitted to mention the moon landings as one of the signs of the Advent given that the moon came up for mention in his predictions anyway (in Matthew 24:29 and Luke 21:25)?
The Chronology of the Advent
The answer might surprise some believers, evoke complete bewilderment and confusion in others, and leave the rest angry and in denial. But it might also inspire a few to fill their lamps with oil and set off on a determined mission of search and investigation.
The reason for that seeming omission can only be because the Second Advent comes before, and not after, these technological attainments, which is the reason Jesus omitted to even hint at them. As he himself had presaged:
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:14)
The “gospel” was deemed to have been “preached in all the world” when European colonisers (of mostly Christian background), reinforced by Christian evangelists and missionaries, invaded all the uncontacted areas of the globe to bring them under colonial rule while exposing the inhabitants to the gospel message. Incidentally, the technological change seemed to be accelerating at the same time that the colonial enterprise was also reaching its climax in the closing decades of the 19th and opening decades of the 20th centuries.
The climax of the colonial enterprise can be identified with the inauguration of the “Scramble for Africa” campaign in the early 1880s. This was when the continent of Africa was divided up by European powers for invasion, annexation, and colonisation.
There Is No Paradox
Now, once the message of Christ had gone round the world—mostly on the back of European and Western colonisation and evangelisation of native peoples— “the end” had come. "The end" here simply means the end of the Christian dispensation and, therefore, of the long wait for the Second Advent!
So, there is no paradox. The atom bomb, space travel, moon landing, and all the other extraordinary technological novelties were outside the timeframe of the Christian dispensation.
In simple language, the Second Coming has already occurred!
This may sound shocking to diehard devotees of the diverse religions, but a sober reflection over the gospel prophecies themselves would show the followers of Christ that such a situation was hinted at:
The gospel prophecies presage that the Advent would not be immediately obvious to and acknowledged by believers. Consequently, the Promised One would initially be denied and shunned. The chief reason is that the Advent would occur in a manner contrary to the expectations of the vast majority of worshippers. A few examples would suffice to highlight the point.
1. The Promised One comes stealthily as a thief:
Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)
2. He would no more be called Jesus Christ:
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God… and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God… and I will write upon him my new name. (Revelation 3:12)
3. Faith on earth would be in short supply:
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
4. The manner of his reception would mirror the heedlessness and disbelief of people in the times of Noah and of Lot:
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man...
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot… (Luke 17:26, 28)
5. Not all the “virgins” (sincere believers) would successfully encounter the Christ:
…the bridegroom [the Son of man] came; and they [the virgins] that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. (Matthew 25:10-12)
Time to Grow Up
To allow one's gaze to be obscured by the man-made doctrines of the past cannot be an acceptable proposition in this day. Encountering the Christ of the Return is a deeply spiritual matter, not a matter of trumpet blasts and white fluffy clouds, of hovering angels and resuscitating corpses. Having reached this far in human evolution, development, and maturity, we are required to outgrow the childish myths, illusions, and superstitions of yesteryears. For all they have succeeded in doing is draw a thick veil over our eyes.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (I Corinthians 13:11)
By setting aside the fanciful interpretations of the past, truth-seekers can re-initiate their search for the promised Christ with receptive hearts and renewed vigour.
For more discussion of the subject, check out some of my other articles on the Second Coming, such as “The Second Coming and Five Messianic Claimants” at: https://hubpages.com/@kobby95
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Kobina Amissah-Fynn