Why Are We Waiting So Long?
Title Why Are We Waiting So Long?
Theme The Second Coming of Christ - is it delayed?
By John L Morris
John I Tay couldn't have picked a better spot for his grave. The grave is found on a hillside in Suva's Korovou Cemetery some 3km west of the Suva Central Business District with an excellent view out over Suva Bay and the yacht club.
Tay went to sea as a 16 year old accompanied by a Bible that his mother gave him and a copy of the book 'The Mutiny on Board the Bounty'. At the end of the American Civil War John Tay married and settled down in Oakland, California, but still maintained his interest in things nautical. Seeking to recover from ill health he took his doctor's advice and took a sea voyage. In various ships including a US Navy vessel he arrived at Pitcairn Island, where he expanded the islanders' knowledge of the love of God and of the validity of all of the Ten Commandments.
On his return to the USA John expanded the horizons of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and eventually, on board the purpose built vessel 'The Pitcairn', returned to the South Pacific. He visited Pitcairn once again and then traveled on to Fiji where he made his base. Sad to say John died at the age of 61 in 1892. Given his interest in the South Pacific and the use of the sailing vessels the grave site in the Suva Cemetery is located in a most appropriate position.
On the western side of Suva Bay is the Fiji Mission Headquarters at Suvavou. Here you will find another but smaller cemetery where are buried a number of members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The site is quite beautiful with another excellent tree framed view over Suva harbour.
Georgie Fulton was born in 1897 in Suva, one day before his mother's birthday. There is little on the record books to indicate that Georgie was other than a normal happy child who loved Jesus and looked for His Second Coming. At the age of seven he was stricken with an illness that took his life in 1904. The inscription on the tomb reads, "Until the day breaks".
Adjacent to Georgie Fulton's grave is another grave with two occupants, Ronnie and Jeannie Ferris. Jeannie was born in a hospital in Suva but the doctor was drunk and could not untangle the cord around the baby's neck and the baby died in the birth process. Ronnie died when his mother fell out of a bunk onto the floor of the mission boat during a cyclone. A voyage to Suva to put Mrs. Ferris in reach of the main hospital for the birth of the baby was delayed because of an earlier boat problem where the boat had sunk on an atoll off one of the northern islands in the Lau group. After fixing the problems and raising the boat, on the trip to Suva the boat was caught in a cyclone and the mother fell out of the bunk face first. The baby was stillborn.
A hundred and fourteen years have passed since John I Tay was laid to rest in Suva and one is tempted to ask what he might have thought about the time delay between. Georgie Fulton has been waiting for 102 years for the day break. The Ferris's have been waiting over 70 years.
The early Christian church at Thessalonica expected Jesus to return in their day mistaking Paul's encouraging words about death. It was not eternal separation. "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope". Those who die, "who have fallen asleep in Him" will be raised to life and together with those who are alive when Jesus comes will "meet the Lord in the air". Paul told the church members to "encourage each other with these words". (1 Thess 4:13-18)
Paul then wrote the second letter to the church at Thessalonica and corrected the assumption the church made. "We ask you brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of he Lord has already come…that day will not come, until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed".
Interestingly enough, the Lord himself regarded his return as soon, "behold, I am coming soon" and "Yes I am coming soon" (Rev 22:7 and 20). He was critical of those who would say "My Lord delayeth his coming" (Matt 24:48 KJV). Even though only God the Father knows the hour of Jesus' return (Matt 24:36), the angels have not been let into the secret, Jesus asks his followers to regard the time as imminent and to be ready. "Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come" Matt 24:42).
In the cosmic setting where a day is as a thousand years, the time that has passed since Jesus encouraged the believers to think beyond this world is really nothing. God is working as per the timetable. Paul on Jesus' first advent referred to God's timetable in this way, ".when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son". (Gal 4:4 KJV). If you look in Daniel chapter 12 the timetable is again referred to. Daniel was told to seal the words of the prophecy given to him "until the time of the end" a time when "Michael the great prince who protects your people, will arise" and your people, God's people, "will be delivered".
Is Jesus' return delayed? Is God reneging on the deal? To the contrary, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Pet 3:9). Ezekiel made similar statements (Ezek 33:11) "as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die" and (Ezek 18:32) "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live"
Our answer to John I Tay - in earth terms it is taking a while to wrap up the history of this world, possibly longer than you expected. But rest assured God has our best interests at heart. The invitation is extended to all to take up God's offer of life. Jesus' return won't be too long. "Behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man as his work shall be" (Rev 22:12 KJV)
Bible texts are from the NIV unless otherwise indicated. This article is Copyright © 2007 by John L Morris. Used by permission.
Editor's note - John Morris often visits Fiji in the interests of Mission Building maintenance and services for the people of Fiji.
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