As the new year dawns, we are focused on the future. The past is written and although it will continue to be reinterpreted in our minds through selective memory, we know what it is. The future, however, is always difficult to predict.
Some things seem quite predictable on the near horizon. We will continue to fight the ever-evolving, ever-changing COVID. We hope the omicron variant will die out soon and we’ll be back to normal in 2022, but we don’t know. People will get married and babies will be born. We will continue to educate our children and youth whether at home, online, in person, masked or unmasked. Innovations and technological changes will continue. Electric cars are coming. The iPhone, iPad and iWhatever will continue their march towards ubiquity.
The Bible teaches us two things about looking ahead. First, take a long look. The future may be much longer than we ever imagined. The Bible says, “To the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. And “He keeps his covenant for a thousand generations. If a generation is 20 years, the average length of time between the birth of a generation and the birth of its children, then each century contains five generations. Based on this assumption, one hundred and forty generations have lived since Isaiah wrote this prophecy and only 101 generations since the birth of Jesus. A thousand generations would stretch human history to the year 20,000.
I’m not suggesting that we take the thousand generations at face value or extrapolate the thousand years as a day to project how long the human race might survive, but I think it’s fair to conclude that the vision of God on the story could be much longer than we ever imagined. Rutger Bregman postulated in his book, Humankind, that if all of creation was considered a year, human civilization would appear in the last 60 seconds before midnight of the last day.
Second, the Bible teaches that Jesus’ return is always imminent. He can come back to earth at any hour of any day. Jesus said, “You too must be ready, for the Son of Man will come at an hour when you least expect him” (Matthew 24:44). To do this, we must lead a generous, kind, forgiving, honest and responsible life. We must clothe the naked, feed the hungry, provide clean water to the thirsty, shelter the stranger and care for those in prison. (Matthew 25:34-46).
As we look to the future, we must prepare and plan as if many generations will follow. We must pass on to the next generation a better planet and a better world. At the same time, we must live as if Christ were returning today.
The interesting conclusion to all of this is that if we live as if Christ could return today, we will also live in such a way as to pass on to the next generation a better world.