Me: “I am coming to your house soon.”
You: “Great! When?”
Me: “I have no idea. I don’t even know what day.”
You: “Um, okay.”
Me: “You’ll have to wait a really long time.”
You: “But you said you’d be here soon.”
Me: “Soon, sure! But it could be centuries.”
If I delivered mixed messages like this, you would think I’m unreliable. Untrustworthy, even. “Paul doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I wouldn’t believe anything he says.” Yet apparently this is how Jesus talks. According to some, Jesus is confused and unreliable.
Let me ask you a serious question: Is Jesus coming soon? Yes or no?
The Bible offers a straight answer to this question, and it may not be what you think:
“I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:20, NIV)
There you go. Case settled. Jesus is coming soon. He said so. But wait a sec… Didn’t Jesus also say he did not know the hour or day of his return (Matt 24:36)? And didn’t Jesus also tell parables about servants having to wait a long time for their masters’ return?
See the problem? Jesus seems to say he’s coming soon and not soon. He’ll be here in a jiffy, but you could be waiting thousands of years. What are we to make of these mixed messages?
Mr. Preterist: “Jesus did come soon, when he unleashed hell on Jerusalem in AD70.”
Mr. Paradox: “Soon means not soon because a day with the Lord is like a thousand years.”
Mr. Prophet: “Soon means this year or next year because Jesus was speaking of our generation when he spoke to the disciples.”
There’s a simple solution to this soon puzzle, and it’s this: Jesus never said he was coming soon.
But Jesus did say his servants might be waiting a long time (Matthew 24:48, 25:5, 25:19). Having to wait for the Lord’s return is a message often repeated in scripture (see Luke 12:36, Romans 8:23, 8:25, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 4:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Philippians 3:20, James 5:7, Jude 1:21).
But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. (Hebrews 10:12–13)
Jesus is waiting, not coming, but the wait will not be forever. One day he will return to earth in glory.
“So why did Jesus say he was coming soon?” He never did. That verse at the top of this article is a terrible translation. Jesus actually says this:
“I am coming quickly.” (Rev 22:20)
Only the Father knows when Jesus will return. The Son does not know the day or hour. But when the Father gives the word, Jesus will come quickly, without delay.
In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay. (Hebrews 10:37)
“Okay, so we don’t know the day of the Lord’s return, but surely we are in the final season.”
Who knows? Jesus told the disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons” (Acts 1:7). This could be the final season; it might not be. We don’t know. When it comes to the timing of the Lord’s return, we are like Sergeant Schultz. We know nothing.
If someone asks you, “When will the Lord return?” the best answer is the one Christ gave. “No one knows the day or hour, but be ready.” Jesus could come at any time.
“But what about Matt. 10:23, 16:28, 26:64, Mark 13:26, 14:62? These scriptures seem to suggest Jesus is coming soon.” True, but not to earth. When Jesus talks about coming in the clouds to his kingdom, he is referring to his ascension and return to heaven.
(Sidebar: The scriptures discuss no less than five comings of Jesus and it’s easy to get them confused. Here we are concerned with his final return to earth.)
“But didn’t the early Christians think Jesus would return soon? Check out this verse:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)
“See? The early Christians expected to still be in their bodies when Jesus returned in the first century.”
Except Jesus didn’t return in the first century and the early Christians all died. Every last one of them.
(What is Paul saying in the passage above? He is exhorting the Thessalonians to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22). It’s a mistake to think that because our spirits are saved we can treat our bodies like they don’t matter.)
The early church used to greet one another with the word Maranatha, which can be translated, “Lord, come” (see 1 Cor. 16:22). It was an expression of longing similar to the one uttered by Jews at Passover: “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Maranatha does not mean, “I expect Jesus to return by September.” It means, “I am looking forward to his coming, and the sooner the better.”
For 2000 years, people have believed that Jesus was returning soon. For 2000 years they have been wrong.
It is foolish to think we know more than the Lord on this subject, yet whenever something happens – a tsunami, an earthquake, a war, a pandemic – the false prophets get on their soapboxes and the fearful run around like headless chickens. It’s embarrassing, and a bad advertisement for Jesus.
How can you avoid being suckered into dodgy end times’ predictions? Easy. Put your faith in what Jesus said. Don’t let anyone convince you they know more than he does.
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