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Awaiting the Second Coming

The main purpose of our earthly existence is to prepare for eternity. Christian wisdom dictates that the precious gift of time be exploited to its maximum in order to inherit eternal life. Our Lord Jesus Christ in His many sermons called upon His followers to value time and to live in constant readiness to give account of our life:"Watch therefore, for or you do not know at what hour your Lord is coming" (Mt. 24:42). See also the description of the Last Judgment in Mt. 25:31-46; the parables of the Lord about the wheat and the chaff (Mt. 13:24-30), about the workers awaiting for their master to come (Lk. 12:35-40), about the unjust steward (Lk. 16:1-13), about the great supper (Lk. 14:16-24), about the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), about the workers in the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16), about the ten virgins (Mt. 25:1-13) and other sermons. Although most people fear death and avoid thinking about it, the apostles instruct Christians to meditate often about the impending meeting with the Lord because such thoughts lead them to a more alert and pious way of life. "Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near," wrote the Apostle James. "Behold, the Judge is standing at the door" (James 5:8-9).

From the ancient Christian writings we conclude that the majority of the early Christians anxiously awaited the return to earth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their expectations were supported, on the one hand, by the atmosphere of constant persecutions and martyrdom which surrounded them. The intensity of these persecutions reminded the Christians of the Savior's predictions about the last days. No one could guarantee even a single day of safe existence. It is sufficient to remember the examples of the first martyr deacon Stephen, of the apostles Peter and Paul, the young sisters Faith, Hope and Charity, and their mother Sophia, the great martyr Barbara, the victorious Saint George, and other innumerable martyrs of the early Christian period in order to ascertain that the lives of believers in that early period were in constant peril. In Roman emperors like Nero, Domitian, Decius, Diocletian, and similar persecutors, Christians saw features in common with the apocalyptic beast. On the other hand, many Christians of the early period had such a burning faith and diligence towards a righteous life that the Second Coming of Christ was not regarded as a time of judgment and punishment but as a joyous meeting with their beloved Savior. They truly wished for the swift return of Christ.

With the end of persecutions and paganism in the beginning of the 4th Century, the faith of Christians began to cool, and with this the expectations of the Second Coming of Christ became more serene and relaxed. A systematic study of the Scriptures convinced theologians that prior to the great Day of the Lord a series of significant spiritual processes and social changes must happen.

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