Monday, May 18, 2015

Previews of Coming Attractions

When my wife and I go to a movie, she hates sitting through the “coming attractions,” but I enjoy them. They offer a good clue as to whether I’d want to see an upcoming film. To me, they’re as much a part of the experience as popcorn.

When I was a boy, long before the advent of cable TV, DVDs and the Internet, my friends and I would go to the movies frequently, always certain to arrive in time for the “previews,” as we called them back then. Now they call them "trailers" for some reason, although I can't figure out how they can "trail" when they come before the feature film. Nevertheless, I remember the anticipation we felt upon learning some new western, sci-fi or adventure film, or Disney production was coming soon. Those early glimpses were almost worth the price of admission.

Of course, we experience the thrill of coming attractions in other ways: perusing a travel brochure and discovering what we might find in visiting a new city or country; hearing the announcement of a new technological innovation (as I write this, many people have been counting the days until they can buy their first Apple watch); hearing about an exciting new automobile about to come off the assembly line; or seeing an ad or commercial about a favorite musical group coming to town.

TV series offer previews at the end of each episode to motivate us to tune in again next week. Radio talk shows give “teasers” at the close of every segment to keep us listening through the commercials. Even newspapers (if you still read them) and magazines use previews to get readers to look forward to the next issue.

One reason previews of coming attractions are so appealing is because of past experience. Encouraged by the preview, we went to the event, watched the show or bought the product and enjoyed it. Our anticipation was justified, so we trust future previews will be just as accurate in alerting us about what’s to come.

Maybe that’s the Bible also offers “previews of coming attractions.” Jesus used them often with His followers. For instance, He declared, In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). It was His way of assuring them of a bright, eternal future.

Jesus used that assurance to help His disciples in clarifying what their priorities should be and where to focus their efforts: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

The Old Testament is filled with previews – referred to as prophesies. Hundreds of them point to the coming Messiah, which were fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. Nowhere in the Scriptures, however, are “previews of coming attractions” more plentiful than the Book of Revelation.

It describes in vivid detail what Heaven will be like, some of the events that will take place there, and what those who have been “redeemed by the blood of the Lamb” can expect. It talks of “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…. Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:1-3).

We currently live in a world often filled with pain and sorrow. The world to come, the passage continues, promises an end to that. “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 21:5). Can you imagine that?

That’s why, the way I see it, the Bible offers hope – confident assurance – for both the present and the infinite future. It teaches us how to live in this life, and also assures us of a glorious existence on what I like to call “the other side of eternity,” one that we can’t even imagine.

But ever since I became a follower of Christ, the previews of coming attractions I’ve read about have proved to be as good as promised, often even better. So based on past and present experience, I’m excited by the previews I’ve seen about the life to come. They’re like God is saying, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” 

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