These are puzzling words from Scripture. We are told that the coming of Christ is in the future yet Scripture says that “He comes quickly.” I believe that the second epistle of Peter deals with this issue. The first chapter is about the way of truth through Christ in our heart. The second chapter deals with false teachers that would confuse this truth. And the third chapter deals with the question of the coming of Christ, and necessity to grow in grace.
I have pondered these words for decades and have felt that they go much deeper than our limited linear thinking in time and space is led us to believe. Fr. John Behr, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary challenges us to rethink about who we are, as male and female, what we are called to become, and the relation between life and death in this journey.
Paul wrote that we no longer know Christ in the physical body, “according to the flesh” (2 Co 5:16) When we finally come to “see” him, it is as he passes out of this world. As such, we do not now live by sight, but by faith (2 Co 5:7), Faith in the one who has conquered death and is seated at the right hand of God and Father. We wait in anticipation of his coming, striving forwards to meet the coming one.
And we do this knowing that in his coming, we will be conformed to his image, with our bodies transformed to the stature of his glorious body (Phil 4:20-21). And, furthermore, this is already happening in those who confess their faith in baptism and take up the cross, in anticipation of the resurrection (Rm 6:1-11, 1 Co 15).
NOTE: Baptism as used in this article is in context of (Rm 6:1-11) meaning the real spiritual participation with Jesus in his death burial and resurrection and real transformation of our bodies (Rm 12:1-2).
In all this, there is, as it were, a “reciprocating Exodus”: to the extent that we follow Christ in his own passage, His Exodus or his transitus, he returned in us (theosis).
“Approach the Lord and he will approach you” (Ja 4:8). The withdrawals and approaches mentioned involve not place but disposition and attitude. Return to me, and I shall return to you.
Didymus the Blind.
As the Baptist said, “I must decrease so that he might increase” (Jn 3:30), to the point that we can say with the apostle Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2:20).
Rather than thinking of the incarnation of Christ as an event restricted to a long – gone past and a far – remove land, we should instead think of it as a possibility that is to be lived as and ever – contemporary reality, HERE and NOW in those who respond to him.
As Israel leaving Egypt (The Bible image of a world has to do with the God of Israel), sacrificing the lamb, passing through the waters, entering the desert, being nourished by manna, and journeying to the promised land – we now follow Christ by leaving the “Egypt” of this world, through baptism, nourished by the bread of life, and striving to enter into the promised land.
And when it was completed, the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle (Ex 40:34), is it also latter came to fill the Temple (1 Ki 8:11).
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3). As the epistle to the Hebrews tells us, this was a sketch, a preliminary model of the reality that was enacted in, through, and by Christ. He is the high priest of the good things that have come. He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, entering once and for all into the holy place by offering his own blood and so secured an eternal redemption (Heb 9:11-12).
So, now, those who dwell in this world as in a desert, themselves become the temple of God, the temple in which the Spirit dwells, making present throughout the world the glory of God: living human beings who have by grace become human. Leaving this world as “Egypt” and dwelling in this world as a desert, we return to this world as Eden.
Taking up the cross does not mean becoming “other – worldly,” for Christ comes to bring us life and life in abundance. But as we have seen, neither is this life simply an affirmation of all things natural, “all that it is, is to be alive.”
“The first Adam was a living soul, the second Adam was a life giving Spirit” (1 Co 15:45) in this way through Christ ,God becomes the Father of spirits (Heb 12:9) as we increasingly become living HU-man beings to the glory of God! And in so doing, we discover that the tree of life planted in the center of Eden is, in fact, the cross and that by this cross, we come to dwell in God’s paradise.
Our journey through this world, dying to this world as “Egypt,” through baptism, then dying as we sojourn in the desert of this world but taking up the cross daily, refashions us as living human beings, human beings living in this world as God’s paradise at the center of which stands the cross, the tree of life. “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise,” says Christ to the one willing to be crucified with him (Lk 23:43).
ARE WE NOW READY TO LIVE?
“Whoever loses his life will find it” (Mt 10:39) “Behold, I come quickly” (Rev 22:12-14)