Jesus—so close when we rejoice. Is He actually here?
Remember, the LORD is coming soon. —Philippians 4:5b
Paul shares this apocalyptic zinger just after having shared this verse for those who love to cheer for God: “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)”
Some wonder why Paul stands firm in the theology of Christ’s quickly approaching return. After all, Christ has not yet returned, and it’s been some 2,000 years since Paul wrote this text. Do we choose to rejoice actively and downplay Paul’s goof?
It’s not that simple. Rather than highlighting some scripture and glancing over others, Dr. Wendy L. Widder offers an enhancing pearl of wisdom. She posits, “One thing to remember about apocalyptic literature is that it’s highly symbolic, and part of the reason for that symbolism is to evoke emotion about the message. When you read apocalyptic literature, pay special attention to the symbolism and the emotions it’s intended to evoke (https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/apocalyptic-literature, copyright © 2020 HarperCollins Publishers).
What Paul evokes is a proximity to Christ. The King of Kings is close and, as we celebrate Him, He comes far, far closer. Paul believes when we purposefully practice being full of joy in the Lord; and this is a pursuit for the Christian; then we experience through the living Holy Spirit Jesus’ life with us.
Perhaps Paul isn’t being literal here. Remember, he is speaking to new, hard-pressed Christians who, much like the cultural climate we experience today, are being metaphorically stepped over and most definitely marginalized. Why wouldn’t he suggest Christ’s quick return?
I get Paul when I’m behind the pulpit. Every time we joyfully cheer at the works of the Lord in our lives again and again, one thing clearly makes the rejoicing obvious and vital: Jesus Christ is not far away.
PRAYER: The day Christ returns is a mystery to us. What is certain, however, is that endless, abounding joy in Christ does bring our Savior closer. And this? Yes, this needs to be celebrated. Amen.