Today I took a picture of a famous pile of dirt. It was the “launch site” for an infamous jump made by an infamous figure of the ’60s, ’70’s, and ’80s. On September 8, 1974, almost 40 years ago, Evel Knievel used a rocket-powered cycle known as the Skycycle X-2 to jump the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho. Having now seen this foreboding span between the north and south rim with my own two eyes, I can only wonder why he would have even attempted it. If you aren’t familiar with how it turned out, it was a dud. His chute deployed at the beginning of the jump and he fell to the canyon floor narrowly missing the river in what would have been a certain drowning due to a malfunctioning harness. Tim Woodward, a now retired columnist for Boise’s Idaho Statesman newspaper, was there covering the event. He describes the atmosphere, saying, “It was, in the terminology of the day, a ‘happening.’ Spectators and groupies came by the thousands from all over the country, bringing drugs, alcohol and nudity in profusion. It was Woodstock without the music. Or the peace and love” (Woodward, Idaho Statesman, 12/1/07). A local member of the church says that the event cost the city untold money, due to vandalism, theft, and other destructive acts. He also says the common belief is that the daredevil lost his nerve and panicked, triggering the parachute himself. Whether that was the case or not, it was a much-anticipated event at which many raucous spectators gathered only to be disappointed.
As I heard and read these details, it made me think of an event that will be far different from this one. It will involve a figure who has been the center of far greater controversy than any other—one who some love but many more hate. It will involve a promised event infinitely more spectacular than anything man has devised. It will include the largest crowd ever assembled to witness any other event, and it will include raucous rabble-rousers as well as righteous religious people. But it will be neither a dud nor a flop. Its magnificence defies adequate words of description. The second coming of Christ will be no mere “publicity stunt.” It will be at the center of the ending of time and the ushering in of eternity. It will draw every person from every nation for all time. It will bring everyone to our knees. God has foretold us of this day and we cannot afford to take it lightly (cf. John 5:28-29; 2 Pe. 3:10). We must be prepared for it (Mat. 24:44). We have never seen anything like it, but we can be ready for it!