Last week, as 2010 faded into memory, I wrote on Looking Back. This week, as the New Year and the new decade dawn, we will focus on Looking Forward. The past is written, and, although it will continue to be reinterpreted in our minds by selective memory, we know what it is. The future, however, is always difficult to predict.
Some things seem fairly predictable on the near horizon. The economy is improving. Financial experts predict a slowly strengthening economy with more jobs, better income and growing investments. The war in Afghanistan will continue. No one has come up with a clear way out of the conflict. Terrorism will continue. Al Qaida is not going away. People will marry and babies will be born. We will continue to educate our children and our youth. Innovations and changes in technology will continue. The iPhone, iPad and iWhatever will continue their march toward ubiquity.
The Bible teaches us two things about looking forward. First, take the long look. The future may be much longer than we ever imagined. The Bible says, “A day to the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” And “He keeps his covenant to a thousand generations.” If a generation is 20 years, the average length of time between the birth of a generation and the birth of their children, then each century contains five generations. Based on that assumption, One hundred forty generations have lived since Isaiah wrote this prophecy and only 100 generations have lived since Jesus was born. A thousand generations would stretch human history to the year 20,000.
I am not proposing that we take the thousand generations literally or that we extrapolate the thousand years as one day to project the length of time the human race might survive, but I think it is fair to conclude that God’s view of history might be much longer than we ever imagined.
Secondly, the Bible teaches that Jesus’ return is always imminent. He will come in a day when we do not suspect. He can return to earth at any hour of any day. Jesus said, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour that you do not expect him.”
As we look forward, we need to prepare and plan as if many generations will follow. We need to be stewards of the resources given us. We need to pass to the next generation a better planet and a better world, just as our forefathers have sought to pass to us a better planet and a better world. At the same time we need to live as if Christ will return today.
The interesting conclusion from all of this, it seems to me, is that if we live as if Christ might return today we will also live in such a way that we pass forward to the next generation a better world if he delays his coming.