Years ago I saw a TV commercial that started with someone announcing the inauguration of the 57th president of the USA. A camera zooms in on the president’s proud elderly parents, then it rewinds first to show the president playing as a boy, then to his mom pregnant with him, then to his parents getting married, then to them dating, finally ending with the glorious moment when his father sees his mother for the first time and impulsively switches trains in order to meet her.
It’s a great walk backward through time, highlighting the fact that one split-second decision can affect an entire nation 50 years later. Reading the New Testament gives the same kind of perspective. We read passages that hearken back to the prophets, David, Moses, the patriarchs, Noah and finally Adam and Eve, all of whom played an important role in the drama that led to the pivotal moment in history when Jesus Christ came to this earth. But the story doesn’t end there. It also fast forwards through the lives and teaching of the disciples giving a snapshot of the end – God’s ultimate goal for the earth. And what is that goal? Revelation 21: 1- 4 reads:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
What an incredible future to look forward to! But while it’s easy to see how the biblical characters played their roles in the coming of Christ, it’s harder to imagine how we fit into this far-reaching drama. Often I’m so stuck in the present that I don’t have a vision for the future. And a future as good as “the dwelling of God… with men” should figure into what I do today.
So how does the behavior of an insignificant person like me either hasten or delay the forming of “a new heaven and a new earth?” By now practically everyone is familiar with the Butterfly Effect. This little theory hypothesizes that a small change at one place in a system can result in large differences in a later state, thus the possibility that a hurricane could form because a distant butterfly flapped its wings several weeks earlier.
Hasn’t this been shown to be true in your life?
Almost 100 years ago someone helped a poor Italian immigrant trust in the reality of the risen Christ. That act changed the course of our family all the way down to my littlest grandchild. I never met that man but he flapped his wings and a holy hurricane hit me.
What we do matters. Every act of righteousness advances the kingdom of God and brings the second coming of Christ nearer. We can actually hasten his coming by the way we love others, study his word, pray, and fight for what’s right. I’m learning to look both ways: to the past where the choices of others impacted me and to the future where my choices will impact others. Somebody started cutting a path through the rain forest, and then handed the machete to me. Soon I’ll be handing it off to someone else. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”