For two millennia Christians have been waiting for Christ to return to earth and establish His kingdom. And for just as long His followers have viewed His second coming as very near – either on the doorstep or just around the corner. Yet time and again those expectations have been disproved with the passage of time – as the Lord remains in heaven.
But the repeated failure of earlier prognosticators hasn’t discouraged a new generation of voices from issuing their own proclamations about Jesus’ imminent return. In fact, there exists a growing consensus among many Christian leaders that the Lord is on the cusp of returning. And nothing can dampen their enthusiasm for broadcasting this fait accompli to all who would listen.
This current crop of self-styled seers avoids identifying a specific date for Jesus’ return. Instead, they employ language that asserts authoritatively that Jesus’ second coming will occur within a specific window of time, saying things like:
- Jesus will return in my lifetime.
- The current generation will see Jesus descend from the heavens.
- This generation will usher in Jesus’ millennial rule.
This view has become widespread across much of Christendom. Not only are a growing number of voices with national platforms professing this perspective, more and more pastors and parishioners are embracing it as well. It has become a sort of Zeitgeist within the church. The frequency with which the topic arises during casual conversation with believers seems to grow every week.
Evidence of this trend is borne out in the marketplace. Go to any Christian bookstore and you’ll quickly realize few topics generate as much attention. The growth in resources, Bible studies, and novels focused on end times reflect an escalating interest in the subject. Indeed, a veritable cottage industry has sprung up on the subject with an increasing number of Christians claiming expertise on the topic.
Not surprisingly, a great many men and women earn a great deal of income capitalizing on this interest by marketing themselves as authorities on the subject. But whenever a subject generates substantial fame and fortune for those who set themselves up as experts, the risk of false teaching increases exponentially.
What, then, can we say with absolute certainty about Jesus’ return? What counsel does the Bible offer us about the end times? More importantly, what truths about the topic will stimulate and strengthen our faith? Let’s examine four.
1] He is coming back. Jesus alluded to His return in numerous parables and spoke of it specifically on many occasions. His lengthiest discourse on the subject occurred shortly before His crucifixion (see Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21). These passages offer a smorgasbord of insights and warnings about His return and we would do well to anchor our eschatology to them.
In the book of Revelation Jesus informs us, “Behold, I am coming quickly.” He shares this truth three times with the apostle John to emphasize its importance and give us urgency in our lives (see Revelation 22:7, 12, 20). Jesus reiterates the point to remove any doubt about whether He will return. And that great news is worth sharing with everyone. Is there someone you know who needs to hear it?
2] No one knows the date or time. Knowing that false prophets/pastors/priests would attempt to deceive people and accumulate power by claiming to know the mystery of His return, Jesus declares, “of that day and hour no one knows; neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is” (Mark 13:32-33, NKJV).
Many of the voices proclaiming Christ’s imminent return avoid identifying a specific date but categorically insist it will happen in this generation. But Jesus warns against those types of pronouncements as well. “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying … ‘The time has drawn near’. Do not follow them” (Luke 21:8, NKJV).
Some argue that Jesus provided signs to indicate when the end days are near. And indeed He did. But He provided those as reminders His return might occur at any moment, so we remain alert and vigilant, not as hints to solve the mystery of ‘when’.
3] Be prepared. Jesus communicated several parables that warned of the dangers of being unprepared for His return. Each lesson highlighted individuals who thought they would enjoy eternity with Christ but were instead cast into outer darkness.
In one parable the unprepared come to Jesus on His return, saying, “Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!” They want into the kingdom of heaven despite their unpreparedness. Jesus answers them, “Believe Me, I don’t know you!” (Matthew 25:11-12, NLT). Despite confessing Him Lord, these individuals are refused entry into heaven. Why? They never knew Jesus. Their hearts did not align with their words; their lives revealed the fiction of their claim.
Let’s consider that for a moment. How could someone who claims Jesus as Lord later learn He never knew them? Jesus provides a succinct explanation that also serves as an admonition. “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34, NKJV). Their words professed Jesus Lord but their lives revealed the truth: the world and its pleasures were what they truly desired. How we live says far more about our faith than our words.
Don’t presume your salvation simply because you claim ‘Jesus is Lord’ with your lips. Look at your life, your priorities, and how you invest your time. If they do not align with God’s word and reflect the model of discipleship He taught, you may find yourself unprepared for His return.
4] Redeem the time. Irrespective of when the Lord returns, we need to maximize our time here. We accomplish this by following the model Jesus provided during His brief life. His first priority was always time with the Father. Over and over we see that in the Scriptures:
“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed” (Mark 1:35, NKJV).
“And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on a mountain by Himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23, NKJV).
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12, NKJV).
“So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (Luke 5:16, NKJV).
Though Jesus’ days were packed from start to finish (serving, healing, teaching, forgiving, casting out demons, and rebuking religious leaders) He always carved out significant blocks of time for prayer. Maintaining a healthy, vibrant relationship with the Father was paramount to redeeming His time on earth.
We ought to take a cue from Jesus and follow His example. Regardless of how busy we are or how much good we want to accomplish with our time, our first priority must always be cultivating a relationship with Christ, nurturing our love for Him, and offering Him the praise and worship He deserves. Absent that, nothing else matters.
Second, we need to understand what Jesus said about His purpose on earth.
“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34, NKJV).
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38, NKJV).
“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4, NKJV).
We should adopt a similar focus in our lives by pursuing God’s will, implementing His agenda, and advancing His kingdom. Since details of carrying out His mission will vary by person, we need to draw near to Him on a regular basis – for only as we spend time alone with God will our ears be trained to hear His voice clearly.
So next time you hear someone exclaim how little time exists before the Lord returns, take a moment to rejoice in the good news that Jesus will indeed return. Then remind them to be about the business of redeeming their time on earth and ensuring they are properly prepared, “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:27, NKJV).