Dad’s Return

 
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I lived under a communist regime in Romania until I was eight. The borders were closed for most people, so we did not get to visit other countries until after the Revolution of 1989. Yet despite strict travel rules, my father was able to get a visa for work in Germany. He’d drive there every few months and spend half a year working with his uncle. I don’t recall much about how I felt during his absence. At that age, six months was a very long time that was hard to measure. However, one thing that will forever be etched in my memory, is his return.

The real countdown began when he was a month away from driving back. I recall how eagerly I was waiting to hear those two words on the phone: “I left.”

After crossing the border into Romania, I counted the hours and could hardly sleep at night. As he got closer to our hometown (I probably asked my mum dozens of times to figure out the timing), I would go into the balcony of our fourth-floor apartment and wait there, looking for his car to turn the corner onto our street, annoyed at the trees that partly blocked my view. If he happened to arrive at night, I was still on the balcony, looking for the headlights of our car and his driving pattern, which I was confident I could recognise. My eyes would trace car after car passing by, waiting for the one that would slow down in front of our apartment building and park there. I listened for the car door­—I knew exactly how my dad closed the door. This was the last confirmation it was him—I’d watch his silhouette slip into the building and, once he disappeared inside, I’d run to the door and listen for his footsteps approaching our floor. I could distinguish his footsteps from a million others. When he was just about to turn the stairway onto the last level, I’d open the door and my arms and shout: “You’ve arrived!”

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I was absolutely delighted to see him, to hug him. But there was more! Every time my dad came back, his car was jam-packed with goodies—lollies, toys, nice clothes—things that were scarce in Romania at the time. If he came at night, we had to wait until the next day to unload the car. Needless to say, my sleep was greatly compromised on those occasions. Unloading the car was a ridiculously fun time as we discovered, one after another, all the attractive treats he had purchased, packed and transported for us. My sister and I divided the lollies and the similar toys equally. But he also brought us unique gifts, and it was awesome to see what he had purchased specifically for each of us.

Those two brief sentences, “I left” and “You’ve arrived” and the tension in between their utterance, hold a unique place in my memory. But this experience is highly valuable to me for another reason: it illustrates the moment when another Father makes His appearance.

A reunion between God and His children—the crown of His creation, has been planned by God since time unfathomable to us. You see, God loves coming to us. According to the Bible, God initially came to humankind in the garden of Eden to be with Adam and Eve after creating them. And just like I knew the footsteps of my father, they recognised “the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden” (Genesis 3:8).

Sadly, rebellion and sin separated humankind from God and disrupted this face-to-face communication. But God’s plan unfolded in the course of Earth’s history, bringing the God-man Jesus Christ to our planet for a different kind of face-to-face communion. As Jesus restored the character of God through His life and death, He also restored the possibility of future comings of God. He even foretold His return when He left Earth:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

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So, following Jesus’ life on Earth some 2000 years ago God’s word, the Bible, speaks of two more comings of God that are yet in the future: one to reunite all humans who want to be with the Father and experience a transformed and eternal life, and a final coming when God will destroy evil and establish the headquarters of His everlasting kingdom on our recreated planet so there won’t have to be any separation for God’s people again.

I’d love to dwell a little on these two returns of God the Father to humanity, for these are the two highlighted in Bible prophecy that we are still waiting for. The event often known as the second coming, the time of Jesus’ return, will be a great day—a time of reunion and resurrection for people who believe in Christ’s return from all nations. The “righteous dead” (those who died waiting and wanting to be reunited with Jesus) will be resurrected and taken to heaven along with the living, who are still waiting for Him (1 Peter 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 1 Corinthians 15). These are the people who chose to accept God’s gift of life and relationship through the Jesus’ words and ministry. Christ’s holiness will destroy all evil, leaving Earth desolate for one thousand years (in the Bible called the “millennium”). During this time Satan will be bound to Earth in the sense of not being able to deceive anyone because Earth will be uninhabited (Revelation 20:1–3). Meanwhile the saved will be in heaven with God, examining the records of lives and understanding God’s justice and goodness demonstrated by His decisions through history. It will be a time when sadness has not yet passed completely into shadow, for love mourns the lost and evil is still present, though bound. As God the Father comes for the last time to our planet, “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 21:4). At this final coming, all those who refused God’s gift of rescue will receive their punishment: eternal death (Revelation 21:8, Matthew 25:46, Revelation 2:11, Daniel 12:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:8, Revelation 20:9, 14,15), and Satan himself will be destroyed (Revelation 20:7–9). Thus, at the end times, evil will be fully and permanently eradicated from the universe.

Then, God will create “a new heaven and a new earth” with the New Jerusalem as capital (Revelation 21:1, 5, Isaiah 65:17, Isaiah 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13). This will be our new home forever (Revelation 21:1,2), and God will dwell among us there permanently:

“God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 4:3,4).

Although these events are given in few details, we have enough to build our anticipation about all the good that is to come. God is a personal God, and when He returns, I believe He will greet each one of us individually. We will feel like children whose father has returned after a long absence. And if the return of an earthly father, or mother, if you wish, can cause as much joy as I felt, I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like to meet our God—the One who created us and died for us because He loved us so much that the richness of His existence was tapered by our loss. Some people think God is self-sufficient; He doesn’t need anyone but Himself. But it seems to me that maybe He chose to value us so much that our existence enriches His own existence, so much so that He desires to dwell with us for eternity. The question is: how will we go about our lives knowing that this soon-coming great God is also our Father who is bringing the gift of an eternally happy life to us?

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Adelina Alexe is a systematic theology student at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts and meaningful conversations.